6.29.23 fred@nihonto.com

Nihonto.com is very pleased to present this beautiful daisho of antique Japanese swords that belonged to a high ranking Samurai who lived in the 19thcentury.  The katana is an outstanding Shin-shinto blade by the highly rated swordsmith, Naokatsu, from the Taikei Naotane school founded in the late 1700’s.  Naotane was not only one of the most talented students of the Suishinshi Masahide school, but also one of the finest swordsmiths of Shinshintô times.  Naokatsu was his adopted son and foremost student whose abilities rivaled those of his famous teacher.  The wakizashi is a gorgeous Shinto blade by the sixth generation Tadayoshi, the descendent of the premier line of smiths of the same name dating back to the late 1500’s.  The daisho koshirae (mountings) are exquisite and exemplify the quality of matched mountings worn by a high ranking Samurai of the 19thCentury.

The katana was made by Jirô Tarô Naokatsu (次郎太郎直勝)who was originally called Kazusa Jirô and later Jirô Tarô; and he lived in Shitaya in Edo (Tokyo).  He served the house of Akimoto of Jôshû Tatebayashi.  He became a student of Taikei Naotane and after he married a daughter of Naotane, he became employed by the Akimoto Daimyo.  He is regarded as the top student of Naotane and he worked assisting Naotane for most of his life so he produced a relatively small number of swords on his own.  He did his best work in the Bizen and Sôshû styles and is said to have rivaled, or even on occasion, to have surpassed Naotane in quality in those two styles of sword making.  It is unfortunate that he died young on July 22nd in the fifth year of Ansei (1858) when he was only 54 years of age.  In fact, he survived his teacher by only about one year since Naotane passed away in the 4th year of Ansei (1857).

Naokatsu is a highly rated smith and Fujishiro awarded him the rank of Jôjô-saku (only one rank is higher).  This katanais an excellent example of his work done in the Bizen style.  It has a strong and robust shape with some narrowing at the kissaki and a slightly stretched kissaki giving it a graceful overall sugata (shape).  The nagasa (length of the cutting edge) is 28.21 inches or 71.67 cm.  The sori (curvature) is 0.59 inches or 1.515 cm.  The width at the hamachi (base of the blade) is 1.157 inches or 2.94 cm and at the kissaki (width at the point) is 0.79 inches or 2.02 cm.  The kasane (thickness) is 0.22 inches or 0.57 cm.

The jitetsu (grain of the metal) is a beautiful and well grained ko-itame with abundant ji-nie.  There is also chikei in the jiand the blade has utsuri, a tradition of the Bizen style of swordmaking.  The hamon (temper-line) is ko-nie deki done in a chôji-midare and ko-gunome midare pattern with many ashi.  The hamon is bright and clear.  The bôshi (point) is midare-komi in style.  The nakago (tang) is ubu (unshortened) and in pristine condition.  The mei (signature) is signed on the tachi-mei side of the nakago as are all of his katana.  The signature reads Jirô Tarô Naokatsu (次郎太郎直勝)and the ura is dated Tenpô Jûni nen Chûshû (天保十二年仲秋).  This means made in the mid-autumn of the 12th year of Tenpo (1841).  At that time, Naokatsu would have been 37 years of age and at the height of his sword making abilities.

The wakizashi of this set of swords was made by the sixth generation Tadayoshi who worked around the Tenmei era (1781) in Hizen Province of Kyushû Island.  This smith has an excellent reputation and is rated as Jôsaku (upper class) by Fujishiro.  He was originally called Hashimoto Shinzaemon.  As is usual with the lineage of Tadayoshi smiths, while his father, the fifth generation Tadayoshi, was alive and active, he used the name Tadahiro when signing swords.  In 1790 he was given the title of Ômi no Kami and he succeeded to using the name, Tadayoshi, for his swords from that point onward.

The general characteristics of the Hizen school of swordmaking are as a follows:

SUGATA:      The sori is torii-zori or chu-zori.  The kissaki varies with ko-kissaki, chu-kissaki and o-kissaki, but the chu-kissaki is, by far, the most common.   With katana and wakizashi, iori-zukuri is usual, but in tantô, there are also mitsu-mune.

JITETSU:        It is extremely fine and tight.  It is comprised of a dense ko-mokume hada or ko-itame hada, which is known as konuka-hada (looks like rice bran).  Dark spots called sumigane resembling those seen in the work of Enju and Aoe appear here and there and are one of the characteristic features of Hizen swords.

HAMON:       Suguha, suguha hotsure, o-notare, and choji-midare are the most common.  Occasionally there are some with gunome-midare and o-midare.  Chu-suguba consisting of Yamashiro-tradition nie is most likely to be classified as a Hizen specialty.  In every case, there is ko-nie in the habuchi without any clustering, and the nioi line is wide.  When it is choji-midare, the kashira of the choji are round with long ashi.  When it is suguba, there are some with absolutely no ashi, but the usual is for ashi to be inserted here and there. Another interesting feature to be observed in some of the Hizen smith’s blades is the presence of what is known as abu-no-me (wasp eyes) present in the gunome.  These are pools of nie (yo) that are present within a double gunome structure.  Occasionally some of the generations of Tadayoshi smiths will have tobiyaki in the form of a sun (circle) of nie on one side of the blade and a moon (crescent) on the other side of the blade.  These are important kantei points to look for.

BÔSHI:           Those returning in ko-maru are the most common, but there are also some that are midare-komi.  The often-used term, “Hizen Bôshi” has a uniform width from the yokote to the tip and is a standard ko-maru bôshi.

 HORIMONO: There are various types, but shin no ryu, kurikata, sanko tsuka ken, and bonji are the most common.  They are skillfully executed.  Those of the early period are all beautifully done and the pattern is the Umetada style.  This can be attributed to the fact that the Shodai Tadayoshi studied with Umetada Myoju for about three years starting in 1596.

NAKAGO:     As for the mune, kaku-mune is the most common, but there are also ko-maru mune.  The saki is kurijiri, kengata, or katayamagata.  The yasurime is usually yoko or sujikai without any kessho yasuri.

 MEI:                Rarely there is a ni-ji mei (two-character signature), but usually a naga-mei is inscribed.  Customarily in wakizashi and tantô the mei is inscribed on the sashi omote which is the same as the works of various other schools.  Katana, however, are always inscribed on the sashi-ura, in other words, in the so-called tachi-mei.

MISC.:            Hizen blades are said to have the most stylish shape of all Shinto works, which opinion is probably based on their perfectly balanced curvature.  The most popular length was 2 shaku and 2-3 sun (66.7-69.7cm).  The Hizen works have a beautiful jihada, but since the kawagane (skin steel) is thin, there are sometimes works where shintetsu (core metal) has crept out.  Hizen blades have, throughout their history, been highly sought by both Samurai and modern day collectors.

The specific details of the wakizashi presented here are as follows.  The nagasa (length of the cutting edge) is 18.70 inches or 47.5 cm.  The sori (curvature) is 0.55 inches or 1.4 cm.  The overall shape is graceful with a fairly deep torii sori as one would expect from a Hizen school sword.  The kissaki is longer than usual giving this sword a feeling of extra strength.  The width at the hamachi (base) is 1.02 inches or 2.69 cm and the width at the kissaki (point) is 0.83 inches or 2.12 cm.  The kasane (thickness) of the blade is 0.22 inches or 0.58 cm.

The jitetsu is extremely fine and tight itame and mokume with ji-nie attached and overall it forms a beautiful Hizen style konuka hada. The hamon is nie deki in a chu-suguha form (medium width-straight temper line).  It also has a deep nioi-kuchi, similar to that of the famous Hizen smith Ômi Daijô Tadahiro.  The bôshi is the typical Hizen bôshi and has a uniform width from the yokote to the tip and returns down the back of the blade in the standard ko-maru shape. The nakago is ubu (unshortened) with one mekugi-ana (hole).  It is signed with the typical go-ji mei (five character signature), Hizen (no) Kuni Tadayoshi (肥前国忠吉).  It is not dated.

One of the best features of this daisho is that not only does it have two wonderful blades, but it also has a high class set of matching koshirae showing the wealth and position of its former Samurai owner.  The saya (scabbards) are done in fine black lacquer (roiro saya).  The daisho of tsuba are made of shakudo nanako and bear alternating golden kiku(chrysanthemum) and golden kiri (paulownia) crests on the obverse and reverse and many golden kiri (paulownia) crests on the mimi (edge).  The fuchi and kashira of both swords have matching golden geometric patterns inlaid into the shakudo bases.  The menuki of the koshirae for the katana are harnesses done in gold color on a shakudo background.  The menuki for the wakizashi koshirae is a court noble playing the koto on one side and a elegant court lady writing on the other.  All of these menuki are made of shakudo, gold, and silver.  The wakizashi has a matching set of kozuka and kogai of shakudo nanako with some interesting implements done in silver.  The ko-gatana (blade) in the kozuka is Yamashiro (no) Kami Fujiwara Tadô (山城守藤原太道).

All in all, we can truly say that this is a great daisho that once belonged to a high ranking Samurai.  Both of the blades are in excellent condition and are in perfect polish and pristine condition..  They have no problems or flaws.  They are by first class smiths and are excellent examples of their respective work.  Both come with NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon papers attesting to their quality and authenticity.  The koshirae for these swords is also in excellent condition and very tastefully made.  If you are looking for a truly great daisho, look no further.