We are pleased to present an outstanding Kotô katana by one of the Bizen Sukesada (備前祐定) sword smiths. This blade is signed Bishu Osafune Sukesada (備州長船祐定). It is dated Eiroku hachi-nen hachi-gatsu hi (A day in August of 1565). Despite the lack of a given name for the particular Sujkesada smith, it is an extremely well-made blade. Also the fact that it is dated shows that it was a carefully made and specially ordered blade. The most overpowering fact, however, is the unusually long nagasa (length) and high quality of the sword itself.
Around 1490 the power of the Ashikaga Shogunate finally started to decline radically thus ushering in what is called the Sengoku Jidai or Age of the Country at War. This period of constant warfare lasted until 1600 when Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated the forces loyal to the Toyotomi, which were led by Ishida Mitsunari. This was perhaps the most crucial battle in Japanese history and led to the eventual unification of the country under the Tokugawa Shogunate and ushered in a period of peace lasting over 250 years.
During this period of constant warfare, the sword makers in various parts of the country were making swords in record numbers in virtual sword factories. These mass produced blades are known as kazu-uchi mono and were thought of as being disposable. Two of the largest production areas were Seki (関) in Mino (美濃) Province and Osafune (長船) in Bizen (備前) Province with Bizen (備前) Province by far being the largest. Within Osafune (長船) the Sukesada (祐定) group of smiths was the most prolific. Blades made in Bizen (備前) Province during this time period are called Sue Bizen (末 備前) meaning later Bizen.
It is the accepted theory that the swords made with this mass-production process generally have the signature beginning Bishu-Osafune (備州長船), while swords that were made to order or conscientiously often have the signature beginning Bizen (no) Kuni Ju Osafune (備前国住長船).
Additionally, made to order swords many times bear the fist name of the smith in the mei. Some of the most famous of the Sukesada smiths of this period are Yozozaemon, Hikobei, Gembei, and Gorozaemon. Often we will also find the name of the person who ordered the blade from the smith also engraved on the nakago.
This blade obviously pokes holes in this theory of styles of signature. We have here an obviously high quality, special ordered blade that has the signature beginning with Bishu Osafune (備州長船). The extreme length, exceptional craftsmanship, and the fact that it is dated are all qualities possessed only by well-made specially ordered swords such as this one.
What follows are some general characteristics of Sue Bizen blades:
Sugata: Uchigatana were the main long swords produced during the early and middle periods of the Sengoku Jidai, followed by the hira-zukuri wakizashi, tanto of either hira-zukuri or moroha-zukuri shape, and naginata. Uchigatana generally have a length of 63-66 cm, deep saki-zori, wide mihaba, thick kasane, full hiraniku, relatively small kissaki, and stout sugata. Longer blades were also produced. This was especially true of the special ordered blades that are not considered to be kazu-uchi mono. Also just before the start of the Shinto era, swords became longer ranging from 72 to 75 cm.
Jitetsu: Fine ko-mokume hada with jinie is found and the utsuri is often neither clear nor distinct.
Hamon: Usually we find a wide hamon of nioi deki but sometimes they were inclined toward nie deki. One of the most common hamon is koshi-no-hirata midare which is based on a wavy pattern and which is consistent in its width from bottom to top. Each top of the midare has a particular shape which is called “kane-no-hasami” (crab’s claw). Ô-midare, nie-kuzure, and hitatsura are also seen. Nioi–kuzure is seen on most Sue-Bizen swords. In the case of a moro ha-zukuri tanto, which is midareba, the kaeri is in proportion to the hamon or becomes suguha and extends right down to the bottom.
Bôshi: Ko-maru sagari (descending) when the hamon is suguba. When the bôshi is midare-ba, it is in proportion to the hamon, but the patterns on each side are different. The kaeri does not form a proper pattern, and it looks like hitatsura in the monouchi area extending down from the ko-shinogiabout 6-9cm
Nakago: The nakago of the uchi-gatana is short, to allow for single-handed use. Just before the start of the Shinto era, swords became longer ranging from 72 to 75 cm. At this time the saki–zori is relatively shallow. The nakago became longer for two-handed use.
Mei: It is the accepted theory that most swords made with mass-product process have the signature beginning Bishu-Osafune, while swords that were made to order or conscientiously have the signature beginning Bizen Koku Ju Osafune. Additionally, “made to order swords” many times bear the first name of the smith in the Mei. Some of the most famous of the Sukesada smiths of this period are Yozozaemon, Hikobei, Gembei, and Gorozaemon. Often we will also find the name of the person who ordered the blade from the smith also engraved on the nakago.
The description and the measurements of the blade presented here are as follows:
Length: 74.0 cm or 29.13 inches.
Sori: 3.0 cm or 1.18 inches.
Width at the hamachi : 3.2 cm or 1.26inches.
Width at the Kissaki : 2.08 cm or 0.82 inches.
The blade is wide and thick with deep and graceful sori an extended kissaki (point). It is well proportioned and has a very pleasing sugata. The jitetsu is ko–itame hada and mokume hada combined with abundant jinie to be found. The hamon is niedeki that is suguha based with active gunome midare mixed in with yo and ashi in the ha. There is also utsuri as one would expect from a well-made Bizen blade of this period.
The blade is ubu (unshortened) with only one mekugi-ana. This blade comes in excellent polish in a shirasaya with a solid silver habaki. It was recently awarded NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon papers which will be forwarded upon receipt from Japan. It will be forwarded to the new owner when received from Japan.
The blade is ubu (unshortened) with only one mekugi-ana. This blade comes in excellent polish in a shirasaya with a solid silver habaki. It was recently awarded NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon papers attesting its authenticity, quality, and condition. The fact that this 457 year old blade has survived many battles and is currently in this superb state of condition is a true rarity. We highly recommend his blade as it is an excellent example of a blade by this Sukesada smith that was made during the period of constant warfare and remains in excellent condition.