Awataguchi Kuniyoshi KatanaAwataguchi Kuniyoshi

periodMiddle Kamakura (ca. 1260 – 1280)
designationNBTHK Tokubetsu Juyo Token
nakagoo-suriage, mumei
nagasa69.7 cm
sori2.4 cm
motohaba2.8 cm
sakihaba1.8 cm
kissaki3.0 cm
nakago nagasa19.7 cm
nakago sorislight
price -sold-

The Awataguchi school of Kyoto in Yamashiro province has been hailed for centuries as one of the brightest lights in the world of Japanese swords. Its roots are a bit misty but it takes its place after Sanjo and Gojo schools of the end of the Heian period and begins somewhere around the middle to late 1100s, likely concurrent with Ayanokoji. Awataguchi is one of the seven gates to Kyoto, and the school takes its name from this. The founder is Kuniie, who belonged to the Fujiwara clan and had the family name Hayashi. He would have six sons, each of which would achieve great heights in the craft of sword making. They are Kunitomo, Hisakuni, Kuniyasu, Kunikiyo, Arikuni and Kunitsuna. Kunitomo represents the main line, having handed the school down to his son Norikuni, grandson Kuniyoshi, and great grandson the very famous Yoshimitsu. Rounding out the top Awataguchi smiths is Kunimitsu who is likely the younger brother of Kuniyoshi.

Hisakuni is the most skillful smith in the [Awataguchi] school then followed by Kuniyoshi and Yoshimitsu. Dr. Honma Junji

There are other Awataguchi smiths of great skill: working at the same time as Norikuni are Kunizane, Kunisuke, Tomosue, Kagekuni, Kunisue, Ienori, Kunihide and Kunihisa. At the same time as Kuniyoshi are Kuninobu and Masamitsu who are likely to be his brothers as he is said to be the oldest of six like his grandfather was. And following Yoshimitsu are Yoshimasa and Yoshikuni. Yamanaka goes on to mention several more peripheral Awataguchi students: Hisamoto, Masasue, Hisayoshi, Arimitsu, Arimoto and Arinaga.

Kunitomo, Kuniyasu and Hisakuni would serve Emperor Gotoba as three of the first twelve Go-ban Kaji (swordsmiths summoned to teach sword smithing to the Emperor). We can assume that these smiths were considered best in the land, and similarly honored were smiths of Fukuoka Ichimonji and Ko-Aoe. Hisakuni is considered to be one of the two principle organizers and captains of the first twelve and the administrator who arranged the next 24 swordsmith tutors. Among those 24, Kunitomo would again serve. The last group of six tutors after Gotoba was banished to the island of Oki included Awataguchi Kunitsuna and Awataguchi Norikuni. Kunitsuna would be summoned to Kamakura by the Hojo regent some time after this along with Ichimonji Sukezane and Saburo Kunimune. Together they would found the Soshu tradition.

Yoshimitsu of course is famous as one of the Nihon San Saku (Three Great Smiths of Japan), along with Masamune and Go Yoshihiro. At the time of Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the end of the Muromachi period these three smiths were thought to represent the very pinnacle of the art form.

Presentation Swords

In the 1500s standards were laid out as to what smiths were acceptable for gifts to and from daimyo and shogun. From these lists it is possible to determine at the time which blades and makers were held to be the ultimate craftsmen. Markus Sesko documents several of these in one of his excellent books. The Sōgo-ōzō-shi (宗吾大艸紙) Kyōroku 1 (享禄, 1528) lists acceptable makers to be used as presentation items. Explicitly 23 makers are named, and include Hisakuni, Kuniyoshi, Arikuni, Yoshimitsu, Kunitsuna, Norikuni and Kunitomo of the Awataguchi school (comprising about 33% of the list). Also in the list are Kiku blades (those of Gotoba), Ko-Bizen Tomonari, Ko-Bizen Masatsune, Soshu Masamune, and Soshu Sadamune, among others.

Historical Forms

Awataguchi tachi come in two forms generally. One is a gentle sugata that comes from the earliest times and is similar to that made by Sanjo and Gojo schools. Later work has bōhi and ikubi kissaki and a wider blade. Beautifully forged jihada packed with sparkling ji nie is the hallmark of this school, as it is usually considered to be the very best of all swords and “it looks like Awataguchi” is a very high compliment to pay the kitae of any sword. The hamon is usually suguba with many small details including ko-choji and Kuniyoshi in particular is known for making nijuba. The nie activities and beautiful jigane of the Awataguchi school is the pathway from which we see the flowering of Soshu through the work of Shintogo Kunimitsu, Yukimitsu, Masamune and Sadamune. Nagayama in fact has Shintogo Kunimitsu as a son of Awataguchi Kunitsuna. This does make sense given that his work is extremely similar to Awataguchi and it fits name inheritance. Whether it is so or not, it is absolutely clear that Awataguchi is a major influence in the composition of the Soshu tradition.

There are many famous named blades from the Awataguchi school. An example of how this comes to pass is documented by Markus Sesko.

Once Hōjō Tokiyori (北条時頼, 1227-1263), regent in the name of the Minamoto, invited excellent swordsmiths to Kamakura to have them work officially for the bakufu. One of them was Kunitsuna who came originally from Kyōto´s Awataguchi school (粟田口). When Tokiyori was one day afflicted by a mysterious disease — a small demon appeared every night in his bed-chamber — he dreamed of an old man who said to him: “I am your sword of Kunitsuna. Someone touched me with dirty hands and now I can't be drawn out of my scabbard because I am so rusty. When you want to get rid off this demon, you should quickly free me from rust.” Right at the next morning Tokiyori cleaned the blade and stored it at its rack, but as if by magic it fell down, slid out of its scabbard, and cut off a foot of the nearby brazier. This foot was made of silver and shaped like a demon. From that day on Tokiyori was never again pestered by the small demon and so he gave the blade the name “Onimaru” [Demonblade]. Markus Sesko, Legends and Stories Around the Japanese Sword

Work of the Awataguchi school today is quite rare, and what exists almost always passes to the higher ranks beginning with Juyo. Awataguchi is very well represented at the highest ranks of Tokubetsu Juyo, Juyo Bijutsuhin, Juyo Bunkazai and Kokuho. 27 of the 313 blades of the Kyoho Meibutsu Cho (catalog of famous swords written in the Edo period) are from Awataguchi. At current count there are 77 Juyo works of Awataguchi and 39 Tokubetsu Juyo, in which there are only 15 Tachi and 43 Mumei katana to describe the entire school. This is also a very high percentage of Tokubetsu Juyo which speaks highly to the school. I count a further 37 Kokuho which is also quite remarkable. In total though, the work of the entire school numbers less than the Juyo blades made by Kanemitsu himself, which is something to keep in mind about Awataguchi. It represents the very topmost line for quality and appreciation in Nihonto and at the same time remains rare.

At the end of the Kamakura period, and just after one of its greatest makers Yoshimitsu put down his hammer, the Awataguchi school seems to have suddenly extinguished. This is a bit of a mystery, but after this period the Rai school assumes the dominant position in Yamashiro. It is possible that the schools were more strongly related than currently thought or that they merged. It's hard to say. Shinto swordsmiths like Awataguchi Omi no Kami Tadatsuna trace their lineage back to the Kamakura Awataguchi school so we can speculate that somehow smithing continued though it never again reached the glory that it had in the middle Kamakura period.

Awataguchi Kuniyoshi

Awataguchi Kuniyoshi ranks as second most skilled of all Awataguchi smiths according to Dr. Honma and Yamanaka says that his suguba is the most gentle of them all. He is also universally acclaimed as a master tanto maker though somewhat overshadowed by his son who most rank as the number one of all time in this regard (which makes Kuniyoshi the best teacher of all time I suppose!)

His dated work has historically been found with dates between Shogen (1259) and Koan (1278), but at this point in time we must rely on old oshigata as many of these swords have been lost or destroyed.

Kuniyoshi had the title Sahyōe-no-jō, and is one of the earliest to be documented with such. His grand uncle Hisakuni also had a title of Osumi Gon no Kami. Kuniyoshi's work is the most frequently found today of the Awataguchi smiths, though relative to other makers and schools they are still fairly rare and they also rank considerably highly among all other Japanese swords. Several famous works are in the collection of the Emperor of Japan (notably the Gifu Kuniyoshi that was owned by Tokugawa Ieyasu and the Juyo Bunkazai O-Kuniyoshi tanto which is 1.22 shaku in length). He seems to have been particularly interested in experimenting with tanto as he has made them in various shapes, widths and sizes, making them somewhat easy to identify in kantei. After his work period is over the Kamakura tanto form would standardize around the conservative shape we are familiar with from works of Rai Kunitoshi.

Nakigitsune

Nakigitsune Kuniyoshi

Four of the Kyoho Meibutsu Cho blades are by Kuniyoshi (the Gifu Kuniyoshi, the O-Kuniyoshi, the Taishiya Kuniyoshi and the Nuke Kuniyoshi and there are five Kokuho by my count. The famous “Crying Fox” Nakigitsune Kuniyoshi is a Juyo Bunkazai and is a remarkable example of a Kamakura period uchigatana. In form very similar to an extended hirazukuri wakizashi of the Nanbokucho period, but it is close to katana length at 54 cm. It also is one of the rare examples that bears his title Sahyōe-no-jō. He made a similar blade which is unsigned, Tokubetsu Juyo and 64 cm and further goes to his remarkable experimentation in sizes and shapes. These blades indicate that the origin of the katana goes back further than most references will state. Though tachi remained the primary weapon forged by these high level smiths for high level clients, these two blades do indicate that uchigatana existed and were in use, and even sometimes by someone high ranking enough to be a client of the Awataguchi forge in the middle Kamakura period.

Kuniyoshi's blades are recorded in the Tokugawa daybook as having been used as gifts to and from the Shogunate. The NBTHK has made 14 Kuniyoshi blades Juyo and a further 16 are Tokubetsu Juyo. As a percentage, this is I think the highest I have encountered for a smith. It is extremely unusual for the work of a smith to be so highly regarded that there are more Tokubetsu Juyo works than Juyo. By comparison, for Masamune there are 53 Juyo Token and 19 Tokubetsu Juyo Token and this is a very high percentage itself. Since there are roughly 1 Tokubetsu Juyo Token for every 11 or so Juyo Token, any smith who is placing more than 10% of his output into the Tokubetsu Juyo category has placed himself in the uppermost portion of the uppermost smiths.

Kuniyoshi would have been famous in his own time, much like Rai Kunitoshi who followed him. There is a legend of him making a ken for an old man who appeared at his forge one day:

One day he was visited by a noble old man in his forge in the Awataguchi district in north-eastern Kyōto. The stranger was well-dressed but especially the walking stick attracted the attention of Kuniyoshi. It was namely a so-called “hatozue” (鳩杖), lit. “dove cane”, which was awarded by the imperial court to meritorious followers when the reached the age of eighty. Markus Sesko, Legends and Stories Around the Japanese Sword

The rest of the story goes that after 37 days Kuniyoshi produced the ken and the old man, quite satisfied gave him 100 gold pieces presented on a mysterious lid of a box. Some time after this the priests of the Sumiyoshi shrine noticed that the lid of one of their writing boxes was missing. They received a direct response from one of the gods of the shrine that they should visit the Awataguchi forge and there would find the lid of the writing box. When the priests arrived, Kuniyoshi provided to them the lid of the box and explained that an old man with a dove cane had given it to them. At this point the priests revealed that the old man was the god of their shrine.

This story apparently dates back to the Kamakura period and was very popular, and seems also to have been a very early example of “viral marketing” and further enhanced the already high reputation of the forge, that even gods would shop there!

For Kuniyoshi's work available to non-spiritual beings, handed down through the ages and available to collectors today, the NBTHK rated swords of Juyo and higher total 30. There are three tachi, 12 katana, 12 tanto and 3 ken. One of the Kokuho blades is a ken as well and it forms the template for identifying the others. It shows that his remaining work, like the rest of the school is considerably rare. The rest of his work, owned by gods, the Emperor of Japan, in the Tokyo National Museum, or National Treasure / Important Cultural Property, are sadly beyond our reach.

Tokubetsu Juyo Token Awataguchi Kuniyoshi Katana

Tokubetsu Juyo Token Awataguchi Kuniyoshi Katana

This sword was a greatly loved possession of the Meiji era nobleman and major sword collector Count Ito Miyoji. Dr. Honma documents this sword in his book Kanto Hibisho and shows the oshigata beside the text. This is a masterpiece work of Kuniyoshi, placed at the highest level of Tokubetsu Juyo, and something that any collector would be proud to own.

It passed Juyo very early, in session 8, 1962 when there were multiple Juyo sessions per year. This was the very first Awataguchi Kuniyoshi accepted at Juyo Token. It passed in an unusual form, in an ensemble with its koshirae which are noted in the paper. I spoke to Bob Benson about this and he said that it means that the sword and koshirae are considered to be Juyo as a set.

The sword by itself was submitted to and accepted at Tokubetsu Juyo in 2010, taking its place among the ranks of the finest swords in the world.

This Kuniyoshi is one of 58 long swords that the NBTHK has placed at Juyo and higher for the entire Awataguchi school. This small number is due to the small numbers existing at this point in time, as the quality of Awataguchi is at the top line and passing them through Juyo is only a matter of condition being sufficient.

There is a very faint remnant of an old shumei left on the sword. It is on both sides so it appears to have been an attribution to Kuniyoshi and the appraiser would have been a Honami who signed on the other side. This was not removed but simply has worn down over the ages so it is quite old. The NBTHK noted it when it passed Juyo which indicates it is not the remains of something that was removed. The Tokubetsu Juyo setsumei does not mention it as I think in the 50 years between shinsa almost all of the remaining shumei has been lost. However on close inspection a bit of lacquer can still be seen.

The entire workmanship of the blade speaks for Yamashiro at a glance and the attribution to the smith in particular is explained by the presence of the nijūba. The blade was one of the beloved pieces of the noted sword collector Count Itō Miyoji (伊東巳代治, 1857-1934) and is thus of course of jūyō level. Dr. Honma Junji, Kanto Hibisho

As Dr. Honma says the sword is an exquisite piece that stands as a reference item for the entire Yamashiro tradition. It retains an elegant sugata and curvature, blazes with vibrant ko-nie in the ji and ha and shows the signature nijuba of Kuniyoshi prominently. The hamon is filled with small activities and ko-choji. The kissaki is a shortened chu-kissaki which is close to or synonymous with ikubi kissaki which places it firmly in the middle Kamakura period. It is a dignified and excellent masterpiece.

Koshirae

This sword is accompanied by a fabulous koshirae assembled in the late 1800s. It features top quality masterwork in gold, shakudo, shibuichi and silver by kodogu artisans from the Ishiguro, Omori and likely the Yokoya schools of the mid 1700s to the early 1800s. Dr. Honma's note above that this was a beloved item is borne out with a visual examination of all of this. We are very lucky that the koshirae is still with the sword, as koshirae of this very high quality are often taken away and sold separately. Dealers in Japan will net more on separate sales to koshirae collectors and sword collectors for the individual items, so this is a rare and lucky instance where they have been left together.

Awataguchi Kuniyoshi Katana Koshirae

The koshirae dates to the period of Count Ito's ownership and passed Juyo along with the sword as an ensemble. He apparently spared no expense as the habaki is two piece solid gold, the fuchi and kashira are signed by the grand master Omori Teruhide, and the tsuba is signed by the grand master Ishiguro Masatsune.

teruhide

The fuchi and kashira are matched and present shishi (lion-dogs). The fuchi bears the clear signature of Omori Teruhide, one of the grand masters of this art form. The work dates from the mid 1700s.

The Omori school has its roots in a swordsman Omori Shirobei from Sagami (Soshu). He began making fittings around 1700 but it is his son Omori Shigemitsu who is recognized as founder of the school so he is likely to be the first who received high level training as he studied under Masayoshi Ichirobei and Yasuchika of the Nara school. He died in 1726 and his work is all in Nara style. His son Terumasa studied under Yokoya Somin and Yanagawa Naomasa but his work is not as highly regarded. His nephew Teruhide though would rise to eminent levels and be considered the greatest of the Omori masters.

The tsuba is a magnificent masterwork bearing the signature of Ishiguro Masatsune, the founder of the Ishiguro school, born to the name Zenjo. He was remarkably skilled and trained under Yanagawa Naomasa and Kato Naotsune and combined their names into his own. The work on this tsuba is highly raised and features peonies. These usually accompany shishi so it compliments the fuchi, kashira and kojiri. It dates to the late 1700s to early 1800s.

The fittings made by the members of the Ishiguro school, which was founded by Masatsune Togakushi or Jukokusai (1759-1828), a pupil of Kato Naotsune, of the Yanagawa school, are generally such decorative pieces that the technical excellence is apt to be disregarded or rather taken for granted, as one concentrates his attention upon the meaning of the design.

The tsuba and other ornaments made by these artists [from the Ishiguro school] are typical of the elegance of the samurai of the early nineteenth century who, living in peace and luxury, delighted in the products of these masters whose work has been compared quite deservedly with that of the world's famous jewelers. Japanese Sword Mounts in the Collections of the Field Museum

tsuba

soyo The maker of the solid gold ki-rin menuki and gold on shakudo shishi kojiri is not yet identified, but one candidate is the Yokoya artists Soyo or Somin. These makers are related to the Ishiguro and Omori schools and share some designs and techniques. The nanako on this kojiri are arranged in vertical lines which is a hallmark of the Yokoya school, and I have several opinions from collectors that it is Yokoya school. This is really not my area of expertise however. I put a comparison up of the kojiri (left) on this sword to a work of Soyo (right) which uses the same basic design but done in different materials, technique and interpretation. It is an interesting study, and the quality is extremely good. It is certainly in keeping with the love shown to this sword by Count Ito and the signatures of the other grand masters on the kodogu.

Lastly, the maker of the saya and tsuka is unknown, but it appears that Ito may have worked with one sayashi who made mounts for several of his swords. With a bit more research it may be something that I can uncover.

In summary, to own something of this quality and importance, with extremely high quality koshirae and provenance, is at the very pinnacle of sword collecting. It is a world class item the likes of which is very rarely seen.

Awataguchi Kuniyoshi Katana Oshigata

Juyo Token Katana

Appointed on the 10th of March, 1962, Session 8

Katana, Mumei, Awataguchi Kuniyoshi accompanied by red kawarinuri uchigatana koshirae

Keijo

Shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, blade keeps despite the ō-suriage a deep koshizori, chū-kissaki.

Kitae

Very well and densely forged ko-itame which tends to nagare, plentiful ji-nie.

Hamon

Chū-suguha-chō mixed with ko-midare, ko-chōji, sunagashi and kinsuji, the nioiguchi is wide and the blade shows plentiful ko-nie.

Boshi

Sugu with a ko-maru-kaeri.

Horimono

Both sides have a bōhi which runs with kaki-tōshi through the nakago.

Nakago

O-suriage, kirijiri, very little sori, kiri-yasurime, three mekugi-ana, mumei but with traces of a shu-mei.

Setsumei

Awataguchi Kuniyoshi was according to transmission the son of Norikuni (則国) and either the father or the master of Yoshimitsu (吉光). But there is also the theory that Kuniyoshi was in turn the student of Yoshimitsu. Anyway, we can confirm that he was directly connected with Norikuni and it is also possible that he and Yoshimitsu were fellow students under the latter. There exist niji-mei of Kuniyoshi but also naga-mei of the form “Sahyōe-no-jō Fujiwara Kuniyoshi” (左兵衛尉藤原国吉). He focused on a suguha mixed with ko-midare with plentiful of ko-nie and with kinsuji. His itame-hada is beautifully forged and shows ji-nie and some blades also have nijūba. This blade is ō-suriage and mumei but shows the typical characteristics of this smith very well. The deki is excellent and the blade comes with a red kawarinuri uchigatana-koshirae.

Awataguchi Kuniyoshi Katana Tokuju PhotoAwataguchi Kuniyoshi Katana Tokuju

Tokubetsu Juyo Token

Appointed on the 23rd of April, 2010, Session 21

Katana, Mumei, Awataguchi Kuniyoshi

Keijo

Shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, normal mihaba, rather noticeable taper and quite a deep koshizori, chū-kissaki.

Kitae

Very dense forged ko-itame, partially mixed with nagare, plentiful of ji-nie and many fine chikei, faint nie-utsuri, the steel is very bright and clear.

Hamon

Chū-suguha-chō mixed with ko-gunome, ko-midare, ko-chōji, ko-ashi, kinsuji and sunagashi, there is plentiful of ko-nie and some nijūba and fine yubashiri appear in places, the nioi-guchi is all through bright and clear.

Boshi

Sugu with a ko-maru-kaeri.

Horimono

Both sides have a bōhi which runs with kaki-tōshi through the nakago.

Nakago

O-suriage, kirijiri, kiri-yasurime, three mekugi-ana, mumei.

Craftsman

Awataguchi Kuniyoshi from Yamashiro province.

Period

Middle Kamakura.

Setsumei

Awataguchi Kuniyoshi was according to tradition the son of Norikuni (則国) and bore the honorary title “Sahyōe-no-jō” (左兵衛尉). It is also said that Tōshirō Yoshimitsu (藤四郎吉光) was either his son or his student and that Kunimitsu (国光) was his younger brother. As for extant signed blades, tachi are quite rare but there are relatively many zaimei tantō and several zaimei ken known. Also well-known is his ō-hira-zukuri wakizashi nicknamed “Nakigitsune” (鳴狐). Regarding his active period, there is a date signature of Kōan three (弘安, 1280) and old sword publications depict among others drawings of Kuniyoshi blades with date signatures of Kenji four (建治, 1278), Kōan six (1283) and Kōan ten (1287).

His workmanship consists of an excellent, dense and beautifully forged ko-itame with plentiful ji-nie. His hamon is a very ko-nie laden suguha mixed with some ko-midare and ko-gunome and the jiba is a hint more powerful than the jiba of the Rai school. A main characteristic of Kuniyoshi is the striking nijūba running parallel to the ha. In old days the Kaifun-ki (解紛記) already mentioned: “He applied a lot of nijūba which reminds one of silver lines coming to the surface like [the yakiba was] roasted in a pan.”

This katana is ō-suriage and mumei but shows the characteristic features of the Awataguchi school in general and Kuniyoshi in particular very well. These are a very dense and well forged ko-itame with plentiful ji-nie, nie-utsuri in combination with a chū-suguha-chō mixed with ko-gunome, ko-midare, and ko-chōji, nijūba running parallel to the ha, and a bright and clear jiba. So an attribution of this blade to Awataguchi Kuniyoshi is essentially inevitable. Moreover, the condition is extremely good and the blade is of outstanding quality.

Awataguchi Kuniyoshi Katana Miyoji

Count Ito Miyoji

Ito Miyoji was born to a samurai family in Nagasaki on the 7th of May 1857 and was one of the three drafters of the Meiji era constitution after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. After this he was appointed by Emperor Meiji to the House of Peers (equivalent to the House of Lords in the UK, or the Senate in the USA), and became the Chief Cabinet Secretary under Ito Hirobumi (where he became known as the Devil's Gate of the Cabinet) as well as serving in the Privy Council (advisers to the Emperor).

Throughout his career he had a reputation as a tough, opinionated politician and a difficult enemy to have, and he seems to have made many inside the government. In the late 1800s he also served as a negotiator in settling the peace treaty of Shimonoseki with China after the Sino-Japanese war. In 1895 the San Francisco Chronicle described him as one of the most influential men in the Japanese Empire. In 1887 he was responsible for influencing the overhaul of the Japanese tax system.

The Kazoku was the Japanese system of peerage that restored importance of noble ancestry and also merged with the daimyo class and granted titles modeled on European systems. The five ranks were:

  1. Prince (Duke): 公爵 Kōshaku
  2. Marquis: 侯爵 Kōshaku
  3. Count: 伯爵 Hakushaku
  4. Viscount: 子爵 Shishaku
  5. Baron: 男爵 Danshaku

In 1907 Emperor Meiji ennobled him as a Baron and in 1922 Emperor Taisho advanced him to Count.

Ito served as President of the Tokyo Nichinichi Shimbun which is now the Mainichi Shimbun, one of the major newspapers in Japan. He used this position with the newspaper to wield influence and actually brought about the collapse of the government of Prime Minister Wakatsuki Reijirō. He seems to have been a rather ruthless individual as other references note him as being hated by many due to his use of blackmail against businessmen and government officials. He died on the 19th of February 1934.

He was known in sword circles as a lover of Bizen swords, but he seems he had this Kuniyoshi and also a fantastic zaimei Kuniyoshi tanto of 30.5 cm. This is a particularly long tanto that maintained a Kamakura type sugata rather than looking like o-tanto of the Nanbokucho period, and qualifies as a wakizashi in fact. It goes along with what seems to be a habit of Kuniyoshi to experiment with sizes and shapes. I've seen photos of a Juyo Rin Tomomitsu at Ginza Choshuya that was owned by Count Ito and it too had wonderful koshirae made for it, and he has a reputation of having had top craftsmen put these together for swords in his collection.

imageKanto Hibisho

The following is the translation from the notation on this sword in the Kanto Hibisho. Note that the oshigata is shown to prove the provenance, it is on page 198. The text is on the preceding page. The text in this image to the left of the oshigata is for the oshigata on the following page (a Yoshifusa).

Katana (mumei): Awataguchi Kuniyoshi (粟田口国吉), ō-suriage

Nagasa 69,7 cm, three mekugi-ana, rather elegant blade which keeps despite of the ō-suriage a rather deep sori. The kitae is a very dense and well forged ko-itame with plentiful ji-nie and a nie-utsuri. The hamon is a hoso-suguha mixed with a small amount of ko-midare. The nioiguchi is wide, there is plentiful ko-nie, many ko-ashi, and on both sides there appears nijūba from the monouchi area towards the tip. The bōshi is sugu with a bit notare and a short ko-maru-kaeri which is precisely and excellently executed. A bōhi is cut on both sides which runs with kaki-tōshi through the tang.

The entire workmanship of the blade speaks for Yamashiro at a glance and the attribution to the smith in particular is explained by the presence of the nijūba. The blade was one of the beloved pieces of the noted sword collector Count Itō Miyoji (伊東巳代治, 1857-1934) and is thus of course of jūyō level.



Awataguchi Kuniyoshi Katana Sayagaki

Sayagaki

This sword bears an inscription (sayagaki) by Dr. Honma Junji, one of the founding directors and chairman of the Nippon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK). He was one of the premier sword scholars of the 20th century. It is his personal attribution. Unlike Tanobe sensei he does not write lengthy commentary on his sayagaki, and they retain a simple elegance.

  1. 粟田口左兵衛尉国吉
    Awataguchi Sahyōe-no-jō Kuniyoshi
  2. 大磨上
    O-suriage.
    Greatly shortened.
  3. 刀長二尺三寸
    Hacho ni shaku san sun.
    Blade length 69.7 cm.
  4. 昭和。。。
    Showa ...
  5. 君山
    Kunzan (kao)