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Nihonto.com is pleased to present this fine wakizashi by the Shodai (first generation) Nobukuni (信国).  The first generation Nobukuni (信国) was from Yamashiro Province (山城国) and is rated as a JôJô Saku smith.  He was the son of Ryôkai Hisanobu (了戒久信) who was also known as Ryo Hisanobu(了久信). Additionally, Nobukuni (信国) is considered to have been one of the three great students of Sôshû Sadamune (相州貞宗) (Sadamune San Tetsu).  He was active in from the early to mid 1300’s up to the beginning of the Oei era (1394-1428).  For more information about this lineage of smiths, please refer to the following article, Nobukuni Kei.

While old reference books record the shodai Nobukuni (初代信国) as having worked from around the Kenmu era (建武)(1334-1336), no dated works by him prior to the third year of Enbun (1358) are known.  Accordingly, it might be more accurate to record his working period as  from the Enbun-Kôan eras (1358-1361) up until around the beginning of the Ôei era (1394).  The works of the first Nobukuni (信国)are said to be extremely superior with the tsurikomi, shape, and such done in the Sôshû style.  The kitae resembles that of Sadamune(貞宗)and is fairly coarse.  It is mokume hadatachi, with ji-nie and chikei.  As for the hamon, notare-ba is the most common, the ko-nie is deep and there is kinsuji and inazuma.  The nakago saki has a hint of haru (tends not to be tapered), and the kurijiri is fairly deep.  As for the yasurime, kiri is the most common.  The horimono will be skillfully done.

This is a very interesting blade and is representative of the latter part of his sword making career.  If you examine his signature, you will see that while it follows the general style of the signature style of his earlier years, there are a couple of significant changes that allow us to more closely determine the time of its placement among his works.  There is an extant tantô that is signed and dated as being made in Kôô Gan nen (1389).  That signature shows significant changes to the style of the character “Kuni” (國).  The center line dividing the interior strokes now is more vertical than in the past.  Also, the three small lines on the left side of the character are more horizontal.  These small but important features are the same as are found on the blade featured for sale here.

Additionally, these small changes were noted by the NBTHK when they issued the Tokubetsu Hozon papers for this blade and led them to include the following description on the papers: JIDAI NANBOKUCHÔ SUE NASHI ÔEI.  This means, “Period is late Nanbokuchô to the beginning of Ôei”.  This notation was specifically used to designate this as the work of the Shodai (first generation) and to differentiate this sword from the swords of later generations of the Nobukuni (信国) line of smiths.

This blade has a nagasa (length) of 56.1 cm or 22.08 inches.  The sori (curvature is 2.2 cm or 0.86 inches.  The width at the kissaki (point) is 1.79 cm or 0.70 inches and the width at the hamachi (base) of the blade is 2.58 cm or 1.01 inches.  Thus showing a narrowing of the blade toward the point as one would expect from a sword of this time period.  The kasane (thickness) of the blade is 0.52 cm or 0.20 inches.

The shape of this blade is elegant with a deep sori (curvature) and it has been only slightly shortened. The jitetsu (grain of the metal) is ko-itame that is well grained with abundant fine ji-nie throughout.  There is shirake-utsuri present reflecting its Yamashiro heritage.  The shirake-utsuri on Nobukuni’s blades is said to look like rising smoke.

The hamon (temper-line) is ko-nie deki, gunome midare with a mixture of chôji midare.  The presence of a few gunome closely and orderly appearing in the overall irregular hamon is a common characteristic found among Nobukuni’s works produced between the late Nanbokuchô and Ôei days.  There are ko-ashi and yô within the temper-line.  These features reflect its Sôshû influences.  The bôshi (point) is slightly notare with a round turn-back.

Blades by the first generation Nobukuni only rarely find their way to market and usually not in this fine condition.  If you are looking for a blade that combines the gracefully elegant sori (curvature) and rare characteristic utsuri of the early Yamashiro school and the robust and vivid nie activities of the Sôshû school of Sadamune, do not miss out on this blade.  It comes in an aged shirasaya with a solid gold habaki, both of which are in excellent condition.