Chounsai Tsunatoshi Katana

Chounsai Tsunatoshi

periodLate Edo (1836)
designationNBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Token Katana
Katō Hachirō Tsunatoshi kore o tsukuru
Tenpō shichinen sarudoshi nigatsu kichijitsu Gimura-kimi no motome ni ōjite
nagasa84.0 cm
sori2.5 cm
motohaba4.0 cm
kissaki5.2 cm
nakago nagasa26.0 cm
nakago sorislight
price$34,000 -new- -consignment-

Chounsai Tsunatoshi was a smith of the Shinshinto period, working around 1830 in Musashi province. He was born as Kato Hachiro around 1796 in the north of Japan in Yonezawa of Dewa province. He moved to Edo, making swords there and died at 66 in 1862. He used the family name Kato in the beginning and other smiths of this line have this family name, such as Kato Tsunehide who was his older brother. We see Yonezawa associated with the smiths of this lineage as well. Chounsai was granted to him as a title in 1854, and he later signed with Chojusai.

Tsunatoshi's father and teacher was Yonezawa Kunihide who was a student of Suishinshi Masahide. Masahide was responsible for re-introducing the desire to produce works in koto styles and is regarded as the father of the Shinshinto period.

Detail of Tokubetsu Hozon Chounsai Tsunatoshi Katana

Tsunatoshi's work style initially looked like Tsuda Sukehiro and evolved over time to a style based on Bizen. He passed this style along to one of his students, who was the very outstanding Shinshinto master Koyama Munetsugu. Munetsugu is often recorded as a student of Tsunatoshi's older brother Tsunehide, but as his work style doesn't look like Tsunehide and is very close to Tsunetoshi, modern scholarship places him in Tsunatoshi's line and Fujishiro and the NBTHK both confirm this. Tsunatoshi also was responsible for training another Shinshinto master, Unju Korekazu who was also his nephew. These two of his students are in the top ten of all Shinshinto smiths so Tsunatoshi maintains a reputation as a most excellent teacher.

Detail of Tokubetsu Hozon Chounsai Tsunatoshi Katana

Tsunehide and Tsunatoshi were retained by the Uesugi clan who ruled the Yonezawa fief in Dewa. The Uesugi have a famous history as warlords in the Muromachi period and had one of the best collections of swords. Uesugi Kenshin was known as the God of War and his son Kagekatsu listed the San-ju-go or the 35 masterpieces of the family in the early Edo period. These swords showed off the Uesugi clan's liking for maintaining ubu tachi of large size. In this list is the magnificent Sanchomo Ichimonji tachi which is now kokuho and there is no sword in this list that is less than magnificent.

Suishinshi Masahide campaigned a thought of Fukko-to’ (Sword making should return to the method of the Nambokucho and the Kamakura Period) and it had an influence on many swordsmiths in the shinshinto times and they challenged old sword making traditions. Among then, Bizen-den was most popular and were demonstrated by many smiths across the country.

In particular, Chounsai Tsunatoshi tempers choji-midare with many long ashi and short sugu yaki-dashi in tight nioi-deki and small pattern. In addition, his nakago has o-sujikai-yasuri, ha-agari-kuri-jiri (roundish iriyamagata in early years). He occasionally makes relatively wide mi-haba when he practises this kind of workmanship but he usually makes normal or relatively narrow mi-haba, deep son and tapering sugata with chu-kissaki, which looks like koto blade.

In addition, Tsunatoshi has a habit to repeat a certain pattern of hamon at intervals of 10 to 12 cm., as Koyama Munetsugu does. The habit is recognized in this hamon too. [...] Koyama Munetsugu is believed to be a student of Tsunatoshi therefore his workmanship resembles to Tsunatoshi’s particularly when he tempers choji-midare. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

Detail of Tokubetsu Hozon Chounsai Tsunatoshi Katana

Also among his students is the nidai Tsunatoshi who originally signed as Koretoshi, Chounsai Toshimune, Kato Yoshikuni, Kato Yoshimasa, Yonezawa Tsunatomo, Akama Tsunanobu, Takahashi Naganobu, and Iwamoto Moritoshi among others. Yonezawa Hoju is also likely his student due to the Yonezawa name, and he is considered the end of the Hoju line.

It has been generally difficult for Shinshinto works outside of the top handful of makers to pass Juyo, but Tsunatoshi's works have passed three times. These include a katana in Sukehiro's style, and a wakizashi and a daisho in Bizen style. Fujishiro ranks him at Jo-saku for superior skill.

Detail of Tokubetsu Hozon Chounsai Tsunatoshi Katana
Comparison to standard sized item.
Comparison to standard sized item.
Size ComparisonKoshirae LeftKoshirae Right
Tokubetsu Hozon Chounsai Tsunatoshi KatanaChounsai Tsunatoshi Katana Origami

Tokubetsu Hozon Katana

This amazing sword is early work of Chounsai Tsunatoshi, made in 1836 and bearing a kiritsuke-mei that indicates it was custom ordered by a certain Mr. Gimura. Due to the immense size of this blade, Tanobe sensei commented that Gimura must have been a very tall warrior. One can see this with the size comparison example above featuring a decent sized 70 cm comparison blade. This blade makes a normal blade look like a wakizashi. The nakago is even too long to be photographed in one shot on the papers.

This blade is extremely wide, heavy, and massive. It is unlike anything I have seen before, as can be seen by the habaki comparison photo above. It is accompanied by koshirae which were made for the blade in whole, because it is impossible to piece together parts for a blade of this size.

The work shows his dedication to the Bizen style and it looks a lot like his student Munetsugu, so represents his departure from the Sukehiro style which had great influence in the beginning of the Shinshinto period. Masahide, and Tsunatoshi as well as other smiths all worked in the Osaka toranba style that Sukehiro pioneered before moving into koto styles.

The hamon of this sword is very bright and the jihada is a tight mokume, and together they are beautiful and easily appreciated. Dr. Kanzan called this blade a magnificent masterwork of the smith. Tanobe sensei reflected on its excellence making it clear it represents his highest class efforts. I think that Juyo Token status is in the future for this blade. As a custom ordered work with the owner's name engraved, it is unusual as a collectible and reflects that he put his top efforts into this work.

The blade is in old polish but it is in good condition.

For someone who wants an example of the grand sugata that is found in the Shinshinto period, this is a great item to get.

Chounsai Tsunatoshi Katana Sayagaki


This sword bears two sayagaki. The front side is by Dr. Sato Kanzan, one of the founders of the NBTHK. On the back is an extensive inscription (sayagaki) by Tanobe Michihiro sensei. He is the retired former head researcher of the Nippon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK).

  1. 加藤八郎綱俊造之
    Katō Hachirō Tsunatoshi kore o tsukuru
  2. 天保七年申年丙二月吉日應儀村君需
    Tenpō shichinen sarudoshi nigatsu kichijitsu Gimura-kimi no motome ni ōjite
    On a lucky day in the second month of Tenpō seven (1836), year of the monkey, on request of Mr. Gimura.
  3. 蓋同作中之白眉而地刃出来見事也
    Kedashi dōsaku-chū no hakubi shikamo jiba deki migoto nari.
    An outstanding masterwork of Tsunatoshi with a magnificent jiba.
  4. 刃長貮尺七寸七分余有之
    Hachō 2 shaku 7 sun 7 bu yo kore ari
    Blade length 84.0 cm
  5. 昭和庚戌年新春吉日寒山誌「花押」
    Shōwa kanoe-inudoshi shinshun kichijitsu Kanzan shirusu + kaō
    Written by (Satō) Kanzan on a lucky day in January of the year of the dog of the Shōwa era (1970) + monogram
  6. 幅廣・長寸ノ頑健ナル姿態ヲ呈シ小板目ノ極ク詰ム精良ナル肌合ニ得意ノ丁子主調ノ刃文ヲ焼キ匂口明ルク普段ヨリ匂深デ良ク沸付キ一段ト出来優レ綱俊ノ渾身ノ所作ト云フベシ
    Haba-hiro, chōsun no ganken naru shitai o tei-shi ko-itame no goku tsumu seiryō naru hada-ai ni tokui no chōji shuchō no hamon o yaki nioiguchi akaruku fudan yori nioi-fukashi de yoku nie-tsuki ichidan to deki masare Tsunatoshi no konshin no shosa to iubeshi.
    This blade is with its wide mihaba and long nagasa of a robust shape and shows a very dense and finely forged ko-itame and the typical chōji-based hamon for this smith which displays a bright nioiguchi that is wider and more nie-laden than usual. With this and the excellent deki it is safe to say that Tsunatoshi put all his efforts into this blade.
  7. 蓋シ注文者ノ礒村某ハ偉大夫ノ武士でアリシコトガ偲バル
    Kedashi chūmonsha no Gimura bō wa idaifu no bushi de arishi koto ga shinobaru.
    Apart from that, its dimensions suggest that the client, a certain Gimura, was a very tall bushi.
  8. 刃長弐尺七寸七分有之
    Hachō 2 shaku 7 sun 7bu kore ari
    Blade length 84.0 cm
  9. 時在己亥季極月後学探山識「花押」
    Jizai tsuchinoto-idoshi gokugetsu kōgaku Tanzan kore o shirusu + kaō
    Addendum written by Tanzan (Tanobe Michihiro) in December of the year of the boar of this era (2019) + monogram
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