Kencho Wakizashi

Hoshizukiyo — Kencho

periodNanbokucho (ca. 1360)
designationNBTHK Juyo Token Wakizashi
ratingJo-saku
nakagoo-suriage mumei
nagasa58.7 cm
sori0.9 cm
motohaba2.9 cm
sakihaba2.4 cm
kissaki6.0 cm
nakago nagasa14.8 cm
nakago sorinone
price -sold-

The Osafune group in Bizen province represents the longest running school of swordsmiths, with the most talent, out of all schools and traditions. The main line of Osafune is founded by Mitsutada in the middle of the Kamakura period, around 1250. He and his son Nagamitsu, his grandson Kagemitsu, and his great grandson Kanemitsu, represent the top ranking four smith lineage in history... when they look to the side the only line that they can see as a peer is Awataguchi from Kunitomo, to Norikuni, Kuniyoshi and Yoshimitsu.

At the end of the Kamakura period, in Yamashiro province the Rai school rose to eminence and around this time Shintogo Kunimitsu in Sagami province made the first Soshu tradition blade. It is a tanto known as the Midare Shintogo and set the bar very high as it broke new ground in the development of the Japanese sword. The Soshu tradition would rise and through Yukimitsu, Norishige and Masamune, become very popular with the warrior elite in Kamakura. With the passing of Masamune, this style of sword making was expanded and transformed by Sadamune, Hiromitsu and Akihiro. During their time the country was at war between the Northern and Southern Courts, and most of the long swords made directly in Kamakura were destroyed.

The popularity of the Soshu tradition at this time caused a migration of smiths to come to Kamakura, and learn Soshu techniques, and take them home again or else find a new home and bring the Soshu tradition along with them. Smiths like Kaneuji and maybe Kinju came from Yamato and then took Soshu tradition techniques to Mino province. Norishige departed Kamakura for his home in Etchu and made Soshu works there. Hasebe Kunishige brought Soshu tradition works to Kyoto in Yamashiro and the school he founded was popular and dominant. Long off into the Muromachi period, Hasebe's work was handed down to the famous smith Muramasa who made some hitatsura blades with these techniques. Sadamune himself eventually left Kamakura and took up residence in Takagi, and his son kept the Sadamune name alive (today he is known as Takagi Sadamune). Samonji came from far away in Kyushu, learned Soshu techniques and brought them back home to invigorate and modernize the countryside ways of his father and grandfather. The school he built there fostered many master smiths.

Detail of Juyo Kencho Wakizashi

Smiths coming and going to and from Kamakura lead rise to the story of the Masamune Juttetsu, which are the ten great students of Masamune. These students are basically all transient, the Juttetsu does not include any purely Kamakura resident smiths. These smiths are all master craftsmen. They are Shizu Kaneuji, Go Yoshihiro, Samonji, Hasebe Kunishige, Naotsuna, Kinju, Rai Kunitsugu, Kanemitsu and Chogi. Norishige is the last name in this group of ten, who we now know to be working side by side with Masamune in Kamakura. In this list there are arguments for and against some of them being students in Kamakura, but all of these names go back to old books and in each one of their works we see a thread that connects back to the Soshu tradition.

Two smiths who were certainly not students of Masamune in this list are Kanemitsu and Chogi, both Osafune school smiths. Kanemitsu inherited a prosperous school from his father Kagemitsu, and had many excellent students. He had little reason to make the trip and all the reason to stay put and manage the shop. Bizen works have never gone out of style from the moment they come on the scene a thousand years ago and are still popular today. Chogi is an unusual smith in that his style is the least Bizen-like out of all Bizen smiths. His name is sometimes transliterated as Nagashige but he is given the honorific pronunciation of Chogi... the original reason seems to be lost in time.

Detail of Juyo Kencho Wakizashi

These smiths were very likely influenced by Nagashige, who is the older brother of Chogi. Nagashige has a dated tanto with the year 1334 on it, and the blade is clearly made using the Soshu tradition. This blade is the first of what we call Soden-Bizen or hybridized Soshu and Bizen traditions. In these we see Soshu style fabrication complete with Bizen style highlights such as utsuri or hamon patterns. Around 1350 we see a fairly dramatic change in the work of the Osafune smiths, so much so that it had been thought for centuries that there were two generations of Kanemitsu, one before and one after this sea change in style.

Nagashige Kokuho
Nagashige Kokuho

We now know that the Soshu tradition's reach got as far as Osafune, which some call the capital of swordmaking. Nagashige seems to be the earliest smith to utilize it, and Dr. Honma was of the opinion that he worked directly with Masamune. As such it is probably his name that should be in the list of the Juttetsu instead of Kanemitsu and Chogi. Chogi was likely too young, and Kanemitsu as mentioned, too busy, to go to Kamakura to learn and Nagashige would be a well studied smith of high skill who could go, learn, and bring back new techniques to Osafune. This tanto which survived and is the earliest Soden-Bizen work is now Kokuho (National Treasure).

This [Kinoe Inu] tanto has an even more florid midare pattern [than Chogi] as well as nie and chikei, presenting a style entirely different from the Bizen style. This example with this date and style is directly associable with Masamune.Dr. Honma Junji

To understand why that might happen, you can look at any technology revolution, such as smart phones. There is always a pioneer, and then if the technology is embraced by the public, anyone providing such technology as mobile phones has to adapt or die. With Soshu becoming popular it would make sense for Osafune to get a toe in that water to just keep up to date. We know they did it, because we see the sweeping change in style of Osafune works from the traditional Bizen tradition to the hybrid Soshu-Bizen works that dominate in the mid to late 1300s.

For reasons unknown, the Soshu tradition burned very bright and then the light went out soon into the Muromachi period. There are no great Soshu makers past 1390 and the Bizen tradition reverted back to traditional forms at this time. Some smiths in the later 1500s played from time to time with hitatsura, but there is not that much in these that is tied to Soshu as the material is different and the execution different. We can consider them tips of the hat to what great Soshu works were like in the Nanbokucho period.

Tokubetsu Juyo Kencho Reference
Tokubetsu Juyo Kencho Reference

Kencho

Kencho is transliterated as Osafune Kanenaga, and for the same lost reasons as Chogi, we pronounce his name Chinese style. Maybe it is because the work of these two smiths is so different from standard Bizen work that we do this. Anyway, he is grouped with Chogi by his work style and generally it is a bit difficult to tell them apart. Some references state that he is a son of Chogi, but I think that over time the references came to aggrandize Chogi at the detriment to Nagashige and Kencho. The best works of these two smiths can be taken and considered to be Chogi and as a result they increase the reputation of Chogi.

We see that in the rankings as Kencho is Jo-saku, Chogi is Sai-jo saku, and Nagashige is Jo-jo saku by Fujishiro's determinations. But when we look at the work, Nagashige has a Kokuho and Chogi has none, while Kencho has 79 Juyo Token, 8 of which are Tokubetsu Juyo and another four Juyo Bijutsuhin. This is performance more in keeping with a Sai-jo saku smith. Chogi of course has a phenomenal record, with 81 blades passing Juyo, 28 of those went on to Tokubetsu Juyo and many Jubi and Juyo Bunkazai blades. However you look at these three smiths, the appreciation of the swords speaks very highly to their work. As well, they carry good reputations for cutting ability as Chogi is ranked Ryo-wazamono and Kencho is O-wazamono (higher than Chogi and just one step from the top rank of Sai-jo O-wazamono).

There is reason to doubt that Kencho is the student of Chogi, because old books also have Nagashige as a younger brother and student of Chogi. I think this ends up being a self fulfilling prophecy once the work of Chogi got placed in such high regard. When we look at the dates though, we see this:

  1. 長重 Nagashige: 1334, 1335, 1337, 1342
  2. 長義 Chogi: 1356, 1360, 1362, 1363, 1364, 1365, 1367 (x3), 1368, 1369, 1372 (x2), 1373, 1374, 1379 (x2), 1380
  3. 兼長 Kencho: 1366, 1387, 1388

From the dates, the relationship is now much more clear, Nagashige is certainly the oldest of three brothers and not the younger brother of Chogi. Since there are only about 10 years separating the oldest works of Chogi and Kencho, and their youngest works, these two appear to be much closer in age and working together as brothers rather than a father and son. The father of these three is Osafune Mitsunaga (光長), from whom they get the common character of Naga in their names.

Even though Chogi is said to be the least-Bizen like Bizen smith, it is the work of Kencho which departs the furthest from Bizen.

Kanenaga's workmanship is even more tending towards Soshu than that of Chogi, and the Soshu tradition is quite prominent along the jiba of this blade. And in accordance with the overall workmanship, in particular the flamboyant o-midare, we were in agreement that the attribution should be to Kencho. NBTHK Juyo Token Nado Zufu

Juyo Bijutsuhin KenchoYamanouchi Daimyo heirloom
Juyo Bijutsuhin Kencho
Yamanouchi Daimyo heirloom

This close association with the Soshu tradition is based on the earliest Kencho work being done flat out in hitatsura, and the other signed and dated pieces having extremely flamboyant hamon in nie deki. This ends up being a kantei point then, that given a particular work that feels it can go to either Kencho or Chogi, the more highly active it is the more likely it will go to Kencho. Overall the sugata that is made by these two smiths is rather identical. They both made traditionally dimensioned tachi, as well as extremely masculine blades with wide body and o-kissaki. It is this latter type of blade that forms the archetype for the best Soden-Bizen works, and the reason to be excited about either smith.

The [Juyo Bijutsuhin] wakizashi [dated 1366] is very nie laden and its jiba displays an abundance of hataraki which makes it come close to the work style of Chogi, but its deki overall leans even more toward Soshu than Chogi does. NBTHK Juyo Token Nado Zufu

What the Soden-Bizen smiths did, with Kanemitsu at probably the least extreme of adopting Soshu and Kencho at the most extreme, was to layer on Bizen features on the body of a Soshu blade. In the case of Kencho, he goes even further and the body of the blade can be filled with a lot of chikei and then we see the corresponding features of sunagashi appearing in the hamon. This is something that indicates he probably has access to Soshu material where Kanemitsu continued using traditional Bizen material. Kencho, it would seem, is more taking Soshu and layering Bizen into it, rather than the other way around, of taking Bizen and layering Soshu into it which is what we see with Kanemitsu. In either event, it is the presence of these Bizen hallmarks that places a blade into this group instead of with a smith like Shizu. The more Soshu techniques that go in though, the harder it is for these works to show the traditional Bizen hallmarks such as utsuri. So in Chogi and Kencho we look for utsuri but it often becomes faint as the intensity of nie and chikei increase.

Overall in work of Kencho we will be looking for these works on the very edge of the Bizen tradition, stepping well into Soshu, and filled with enthusiastic activities. There is within the scope of work of Kencho different extremes, some being more Soshu like and some being more Bizen like, as these smiths always show variation in the work based on the needs and desires of customers. It is the archetype kind of blade that shows the highest ambition that is most precious.

Detail of Juyo Kencho Wakizashi
Juyo Token Kencho Wakizashi

Juyo Token Kencho Wakizashi

This blade has been discovered to have a past history as a well known Masamune, called the Hoshizukiyo Masamune (the Starry Night). While the old attribution to Masamune is spurious, it did have a Honami paper to this smith along with a 5,000 kan valuation in the Edo period. It was handed down while later being thought to be Hasebe Kunishige. It passed through many famous owners such as Takeda Shingen who wore it to battle during the Kawanakajima wars, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and eventually ended up with the Tsuchiya daimyo family who were a branch of the greater Tokugawa clan who contracted Hagiya Katsuhira to make a magnificent koshirae for it, given their knowledge of the history of the blade.

After the Meiji period the blade fell into the care of Yoshikawa Koen, the founder of the NTHK. He felt it to be best attributed to Kencho. The NBTHK later passed it up through Juyo as den Kencho along with the koshirae which has also passed Juyo.

Of note the Tsuchiya had this blade documented in their collection as a Masamune, and the measurements are known and recorded in several books along with the thought that this was a Hasebe and later on Kencho as this blade is now considered.

Kencho is the most Soshu like of all the Soden Bizen smiths and his signed work is even more Soshu like than those blades attributed to him. The den in the attribution is referring either to a possibility of Hasebe as the ji structure in this blade is the same as the Kokuho Heshikiri Hasebe, or alternatively to Chogi who would also be capable of making this sword.

This history has been only recently re-established after this sword returned to the market via auction. The blade at the time was in Sashikomi polish which did not suit it very well. Ted Tenold did a beautiful shiage to restore this blade to its former glory.

Detail of Juyo Kencho Wakizashi

The name of the blade, the Starry Night, was a mystery for the writers because they did not have access to the blade and then it was essentially lost under the new attribution. But after examining the sword, it has very natural and clear tobiyaki which are very Soshu like and so make the thoughts of Hasebe come up. But these tobiyaki which twinkle like stars in the night now can be very clearly understood as the origin of the name of the blade.

Hoshizukiyo Masamune

This is a translation of the research assembled at Meitou.info

Wakizashi, Ō-suriage mumei, Attributed to Masamune

1 shaku 9 sun 4 bu (~ 58.8 cm)

  1. Also referred to as Hoshizukiyo.
  2. Bōhi on both sides
  3. Comes with a Hon’ami origami attributing the blade to Sōshū Masamune and evaluating it with 5,000 kan but it is said that it was handed down within the Mito fief as possibly being a work of Hasebe Kunishige.

Origins

It is said that the nickname of the blade goes back to the fact that its hamon in ō-gunomemidare features many sunagashi, uchinoke, and kinsuji that evoke a starry night.

Detail of Juyo Kencho Wakizashi
Kencho Wakizashi Long Oshigata

History

Family of the Ashikaga Shōgun

Initially owned by the family of the Ashikaga Shōgun.

Takeda family

Said to have then been presented by Ashikaga Yoshiteru (⾜利義輝, 1536-1565) to Takeda Shingen (武⽥信⽞, 1521-1573). Origami: Masamune, mumei, soejō evaluating it with 5,000 kan, nagasa 1 shaku 9 sun 4 bu.

This blade was owned by the Muromachi Shōgun, Lord Kōgen (光源) (Ashikaga Yoshiteru), and presented during the Eiroku era (永禄, 1558-1570) to the shugo governor of Kai province, Minamoto no Harunobu (源晴信) (Takeda Shingen). Some years later, the bakufu (Lord Tōshō, i.e., Ieyasu) gave the blade to Lord Kōzuke no Suke (Matsudaira Tadateru).

It was then named Hoshizukiyo, but the origins of the name are unknown, although it is said that it goes back to star-like appearances between the protrusions of the ha. However, we could also face an erroneous notation of the blade’s nickname by Lord Kōzuke no Suke, but no earlier records on this matter exist and thus this is all that can be said at present. (unsourced)

At the time of the above quoted entry, the blade was attributed to Sōshū Masamune.

Tokugawa Ieyasu

After the downfall of the Takeda family, the blade came into the possession of Ieyasu.

Matsudaira Tadateru

Ieyasu presented the blade to his sixth son Matsudaira Tadateru (Kōzuke no Suke) but when Tadateru was exiled in the seventh month of Genna two (元和, 1617), it returned to the family of the Shōgun.

Mito family

The blade was then presented to Ieyasu’s eleventh son Yorifusa (徳川頼房, 1603-1661) who established the Mito branch of the Tokugawa family within which it was subsequently handed down. Incidentally, the same course of events were the reasons for the Mikazuki-Munechika being transferred from Matsudaira Tadateru to Mito Yorifusa.

The eighth Mito-Tokugawa daimyō Narinobu (徳川⻫脩, 1797-1829) then had the blade being featured in the Bunsei six (⽂政, 1823) publication Buko Tōsan (武庫⼑纂, Treasure Swords of the Mito-Tokugawa) wherein it is described as:

Masamune, mumei, soejō evaluating it with 5,000 kan, nagasa 1 shaku 9 sun 4 bu, motohaba 1 sun, sakihaba at the yokote 8 bu 3 rin, kasane 1 bu 8 rin, sori a little over 3 bu, bōhi on both sides.

The blade stayed with the Mito-Tokugawa until their ninth daimyō Nariaki (徳川⻫昭, 1800-1860).

Tsuchiya family

After Nariaki, the blade was handed down within the Tsuchiya (⼟屋) family, but it is unclear how it came into their possession. However, several theories exist, which are listed below:

  1. Went from Nariaki to his cousin Tsuchiya Tomonao (⼟屋寅直, 1820-1895).
  2. Went from Nariaki to his son Tsuchiya Shigenao (⼟屋挙直, 1852-1892).
  3. Went from Nariaki first to his son Ikeda Yoshinori (池⽥慶徳, 1837-1877) and then from Yoshinori to his younger brother Shigenao.

Details to these theories are provided in the following.

  1. In course of the traditional distribution of mementos after Tokugawa Nariaki’s death in the eighth month of Man’en one (万延, 1860), the blade was presented to his cousin Tsuchiya Tomonao. ((ref diagram 1))
  2. After Nariaki’s death, his sons, e.g., Ikeda Mochimasa (池⽥茂政, 1839-1899), who was the daimyō of the Okayama fief, and Ikeda Yoshinori (池⽥慶徳, 1837-1877), who was the daimyō of the Tottori fief, gathered to split up the relics as mementos. It is said that three of the brothers expressed their desires of receiving a Masamune but as the Tsuchiya family is descending from the Takeda, the Hoshizukiyo was given to Tsuchiya Shigenao. ((Tsuchiya Shigenao, born Tokugawa Shigenao, was adopted by Nariaki’s cousin Tsuchiya Tomonao in 1852.))
  3. One theory says that the blade was presented to Nariaki’s fifth son Tokugawa Yoshinori was adopted by the Ikeda family in 1850 to succeed, under the name Ikeda Yoshinori, as twelfth daimyō of the Tottori fief in Inaba province. Then when Yoshinori died in the eighth month of Meiji ten (明治, 1877), the blade was given to his younger brother Shigenao, Nariaki’s 17th son who had been the eleventh Tsuchiya daimyō of the Tsuchiura fief in Hitachi province. Note: Shigenao had retired as head of the Tsuchiya family in Keiō four (慶応, 1868) and died in Meiji 25 (明治, 1892).

Regardless of which of the three theories is correct, it appears that the blade came into the possession of the Tsuchiya some time between 1860 and 1880.

Detail of Juyo Kencho Wakizashi

Hoshizukiyo Masamune: Markus Sesko

The below is quoted from Markus Sesko's books on Masamune and Legends and Stories about Japanese Swords. Not for reproduction.

This blade appears in the records as having being worn by Takeda Shingen (武田信玄, 1521-1573) at one of the Battles of Kawanakajima which took place between 1553 and 1564. Hoshizukiyo means a starry night, or to be more precise, a night where the stars shine as bright as the moon. However, the circumstances of the naming are unknown. Either he wore the sword during a starry night or some of the blade’s characteristics looked like shining stars.

Detail of Juyo Kencho Wakizashi

According to the records of the Tsuchiya family (土屋), who owned the Hoshizukiyo-Masamune after World War II, the Ashikaga-shōgun Yoshiteru (足利義輝, 1536-1565), trying to make peace between several daimyō like the Takeda and the Uesugi, gave it to Shingen during the early years of the Eiroku era (永禄, 1558-1570).

After the destruction of the Takeda, the sword was handed over to Tokugawa Ieyasu who presented it to his sixth son Matsudaira Tadateru (松平忠輝, 1592-1683) in Keichō 15 (慶長, 1610) when he appointed him daimyō of Echigo´s Takada fief (高田藩). But Tadateru showed improper behavior during the summer campaign against Ōsaka Castle and was reprimanded by the Tokugawa family. One year later his older brother Hidetada decided to confiscate all of Tadateru´s lands and to ban him to Asamayama (朝熊山) in Ise province. The Hoshizukiyo-Masamune was confiscated too and given to the Mito branch of the Tokugawa. There it remained until the death of Tokugawa Yoshiatsu (徳川慶篤, 1832-1868), the next to last daimyō of the Mito fief. When Yoshiatsu´s estate was divided-up the sword went into the possession of his younger brother Tsuchiya Shigenao (土屋挙直, 1852-1892) who was lord of the Tsuchiya fief neighboring Mito.

After World War II the Tsuchiya had to sell it but the present-day owner is unknown. The blade was sometime shortened to an ō-wakizashi measuring 58.7 cm with a bōhi on both sides and a sori of 0.9 cm. There existed an old accompanying letter which attributed the blade with a value of 5,000 kan. Yoshikawa Kentarō (吉川賢太郎), from the NTHK, who was entrusted with the care of the sword in the Tsuchiya family after the war, once said that the blade was probably not a Masamune and its selection as a present to Shingen shows us the scarce financial situation of the Ashikaga at that time. Incidentally, the blade was attributed to the Hasebe school (長谷部) by the Hon’ami family during the Edo period and, later during the Meiji period, to the Osafune smith Kanenaga (兼長). This speaks for Yoshikawa’s doubt about the attribution to Masamune.

It is said that Shingen wore at one of the Kawanakajima battles another blades by Masamune, namely the meibutsu Hoshizukiyo-Masamune (星月夜正宗).

Hoshizukiyo means a starry night, or to be more precise, a night where the stars shine as bright as the moon. However, the circumstances of the naming are unknown. Either he wore the sword during a starry night or some of the blade’s characteristics looked like shining stars.

According to the records of the Tsuchiya family (土屋), who owned the Hoshizukiyo-Masamune after World War II, the Ashikaga-shōgun Yoshiteru (足利義輝, 1536-1565), trying to make peace between several daimyō like the Takeda and the Uesugi, gave it to Shingen during the early years of the Eiroku era (永禄, 1558-1570). Yukitaka´s fourth son Nobutada (信尹, 1547-1632) also bore the first name Ichi´emon no Jō (市右衛門尉). So it could be that the letter was addressed to Nobutada. But the latter was just eleven years old in the first year of Eiroku (1558) which speak against a reward for military achievements.

After the destruction of the Takeda, the sword was handed over to Tokugawa Ieyasu who presented it to his sixth son Matsudaira Tadateru (松平忠輝, 1592-1683) in Keichō 15 (慶長, 1610) when he appointed him daimyō of Echigo´s Takada fief (高田藩). But Tadateru showed improper behaviour during the summer campaign against Ōsaka Castle and was reprimanded by the Tokugawa family. One year later his older brother Hidetada decided to confiscate all of Tadateru´s lands and to ban him to Asamayama (朝熊山) in Ise province. The Hoshizukiyo-Masamune was confiscated too and given to the Mito branch of the Tokugawa. There it remained until the death of Tokugawa Yoshiatsu (徳川慶篤, 1832-1868), the next to last daimyō of the Mito fief.

When Yoshiatsu´s estate was divided-up the sword came into the possession of his younger brother Tsuchiya Shigenao (土屋挙直, 1852-1892) who was lord of the Tsuchiya fief neighbouring Mito. After World War II the Tsuchiya had to sell it but the present-day owner is unknown. The blade was sometime shortened to an ō-wakizashi measuring 58,7 cm with a bōhi on both sides and a sori of 0,9 cm. There existed an old accompanying letter which attributed the blade with a value of 5,000 kan.

Detail of Juyo Kencho Wakizashi

Original References

These two books and their entries on the Hoshizukiyo Masamune were the source material for Sesko's writings.

英雄と佩刀 – 羽皐隠史 著 (Heroes and Samurai Swords)
英雄と佩刀 – 羽皐隠史 著 (Heroes and Samurai Swords)
Nihontō Yomoyamabanashi (日本刀よもやま話) by Fukunaga Suiken (福永酔剣), Yūzankaku 1989
Nihontō Yomoyamabanashi (日本刀よもやま話) by Fukunaga Suiken (福永酔剣), Yūzankaku 1989
Kencho Wakizashi OshigataKencho Wakizashi Origami

Juyo Token Wakizashi

Appointed on the 30th of October, 1985 (Session 32)

Wakizashi, Mumei, Den Kencho

Keijo

shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, wide mihaba, thin kasane, rather shallow sori, ō-kissaki

Kitae

itame mixed with mokume, also chikei, ji-nie, and utsuri appear

Hamon

gunome-chōji that is mixed with ko-notare, tobiyaki, yubashiri and plenty of ashi, the ha tends to slant on the sashi-ura side

Boshi

midare-komi with a somewhat pointed kaeri

Horimono

on both sides a bōhi which runs as kaki-tōshi through the tang

Nakago

ō-suriage, kirijiri, kiri-yasurime, two mekugi-ana, mumei

Setsumei

The jiba of Chōgi’s workmanship is very strongly showing the influence of the Sōshū tradition. Since olden times there is the saying: If a Bizen work does not look like Bizen at all, it is a Chōgi, and thus his style is referred to as Sōden-Bizen. Kanenaga (also read Kenchō) was an outstanding student of Chōgi. There are very few signed blades of him extant, which are a jūyō-bijutsuhin wakizashi dated Jōji five (1366), a jūyō-tōken tantō dated Shitoku four (1387), and a tokubetsu-jūyō tantō dated Kakyō two (1388). Kanenaga’s workmanship is even more tending towards Sōshū than that of Chōgi and the Sōshū tradition is quite prominent along the jiba of this blade. And in accordance with the overall workmanship, in particular the flamboyant ō-midare, we were in agreement that the attribution should be to Kanenaga. The blade was once a heirloom of the Tsuchiya (土屋) family who were the daimyō of the Tsuchiura fief (土浦藩) of Hitachi province. It comes with a wakizashi-koshirae whose saya features mother-of-pearl particles and a cloud design makie and en suite fittings by the Mito-kinkō Hagiya Katsuhira.

Kencho Wakizashi Sayagaki

Sayagaki

This sword bears an extensive inscription (sayagaki) by Tanobe Michihiro sensei. He is the retired former head researcher of the Nippon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK).

  1. 第三十二回重要刀剣指定品
    Dai sanjūni-kai jūyō-tōken shitei-hin
    Jūyō-tōken at 32nd jūyō shinsa
  2. 備前國長船兼長
    Bizen no Kuni Osafune Kenchō
  3. 附・第五十九回重要刀装青貝微塵雲蒔繪鞘萩谷勝平一作金具打刀拵
    Fu: Dai gojūkyū-kai jūyō-tōsō aogai-mijin kumo-makie saya Hagiya Katsuhira issaku kanagu uchigatana-koshirae
    With uchigatana-koshirae that features a saya with mother-of-pearl and cloud makie décor and en suite fittings by Hagiya Katsuhira and that passed jūyō-tōsō at the 59th jūyō-shinsa.
  4. 刃長壱尺九寸三分余
    Hachō isshaku kyū-sun san-bu yo
    Blade length ~ 58.5 cm
  5. 時在庚子卯月 探山識「花押」
    Jizai kanoe-ne uzuki Tanzan shirusu + kaō
    Written by Tanzan [Tanobe Michihiro] in April of the year of the rat of this era (2020) + monogram
  6. 大磨無銘而延文・貞治型ノ形状ヲ呈シ乱映ノ立ツ肌合ニ沸主調ノ起伏ニ富ム変化アル山形ノ互乃目乱ヲ焼キ突上ゲテ尖心ノ帽子ニ結ブナド相傳備前ノ旗頭ナル長義一類就中同工ト鑒スベキガ妥當ナル優品哉
    Ō-suriage mumei shikashite Enbun-Jōji-kei no keijō o tei-shi midare-utsuri no tatsu hada-ai ni nie shuchō no kifuku ni tomu henka aru yamagata no gunome-midare o yaki tsukiagete togari-gokoro no bōshi ni musubu nado Sōden-Bizen no hatagashira naru Chōgi ichirui nakanzuku dōkō to kangami-subeki ga datō naru yūhin kana.
    Although the blade is ō-suriage and mumei, this masterwork reflects with its Enbun-Jōji shape, its hada with midare-utsuri, its nie-laden and variety-rich gunome-midare with its yamagata elements and its ups and downs, and its rather pointed bōshi with its late starting kaeri the characteristic features of Sōden-Bizen, and within the group around the foremost master of this trend, Chōgi, the interpretation speaks in particular for the hand of Kenchō/Kanenaga.
  7. 興味深キハ本刀ニハ會テ星月夜正宗ナル名號アリシ點デ足利義輝-武田信玄-徳川家康ト傳ハリシト云ヒ更ニ家康ガ水戸徳川頼房ニ下贈シ降シテ水戸徳川斉昭逝去后ニ土浦藩主土屋家ニ移リシ経緯有之。蓋シ名號ノ所以ハ地ニ夥シク現ハレシ飛焼ヲ月夜ノ星ニ見立テシ者ナラン
    Kyōmibukaki wa hontō ni kaishite Hoshizukiyo-Masamune naru meigō ari-shi ten de Ashikaga Yoshiteru–Takeda Shingen–Tokugawa Ieyasu to tsutawari-shite to ii sara ni Ieyasu ga Mito-Tokugawa Yorifusa ni kashi-shi kudashite Mito-Tokugawa Nariaki seikyo ato ni Tsuchiura hanshu Tsuchiya-ke ni utsuri-shi keii kore ari. Kedashi meigō no yuen wa ji ni obutadashiku araware-shi tobiyaki o tsukiyo no hoshi ni mitate-shi mono naran.
    Of great interest is the fact that this blade was handed down from Ashikaga Yoshiteru (1536-1565) over Takeda Shingen (1521-1573) to Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) as Hoshizukiyo-Masamune. Ieyasu later presented the blade to Mito-Tokugawa Yorifusa (1603-1661) whereupon it was henceforth handed down within his family. After his descendant Mito-Tokugawa Nariaki’s (1800-1860) death, the blade came into the possession of the Tsuchiya family, who were the daimyō of thje Tsuchiura fief. It is assumed that the nickname of the blade goes back to the abundance of tobiyaki within the ji, which are reminiscent of stars (hoshi) in a moonlight night (tsukiyo, voiced zukiyo).
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Kencho Wakizashi Fuchi Mei

Hagiya Katsuhira

Hagiya Katsuhira is one of the luminary craftsmen of the Mito school, and was born in 1804 as Terakado Yasuke to Terakado Yoju in Mito. His older brother Yosaburo was a kodogu maker by the art name of Katsufusa, who taught him in the beginning. He would go on to be adopted by Hagiya Jinbei and take on teaching from the main line Mito master Shinozaki Katsushige, and Oyama Motozane, the first two of which combine for three of the four characters of his name. This line through Katsushige originates with the peerless artisan Tsuchiya Yasuchika, and Katsuhira would be fifth in line from Yasuchika.

Through his life he became a preeminent artist and taught many students, the most famous of which would be the great master Unno Shomin as well as Namegawa Sadakatsu. Both of these students took the katsu (勝) character from Katsuhira though in Shomin's name we use the alternate (Chinese style) pronunciation sho. Katsuhira as well had two sons of his own, Katsuhiro and Katsuyasu. Katsuhiro went on to marry into and become the head craftsman of the Suzuki family, and Katsuyasu carried on the Hagira lineage.

The artist who made this [referenced piece], Hagiya Katsuhira, was an outstanding talent representing the Mito school of goldsmiths at the end of the Shogunate Regime, turning to the Meiji era. His studio set forth Unno Shomin, Suzuki Shoyo, and so on. NBTHK English Token Bijutsu

In 1844 Katsuhira began working directly for the Mito clan (the third branch of the Tokugawa Gosanke, founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu's son Yorifusa and resident in Hitachi province). He took on the role of Goyo (御用), or official artisan for the Mito Tokugawa daimyo. Along with this position he may have been granted the same right as a samurai to wear a katana and been included amongst the daimyo's family for official purposes.

Katsuhira signed his work with the go or personal title of Seiroken (生涼軒) and lived to the age of 83 (dying in 1886, though some references state 1876). His work today can be found in the finest museums throughout the world such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Fourteen of his works have passed the high threshold of Juyo Tosogu with the NBTHK.

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Tsuba Front
Tsuba Back
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Kencho Wakizashi Koshirae OshigataKencho Wakizashi Koshirae Origami

Juyo Toso Koshirae

Appointed on the 11th of October, 2013 (Session 59)

Uchikatana-koshirae with saya which features a mother-of-pearl added lacquer and a cloud makie ornamentation (and matching fittings by Hagiya Katsuhira)

fuchi, mei

Carefully carved by Hagiya Katsuhira (萩谷勝平謹鐫)

In mid-spring of Meiji five (1872), year of the monkey (明治五壬申仲春)

tsuba, mei

Carefully carved by Seiryōken Hagiya Katsuhira (生涼軒萩谷勝平謹鐫)

At the beginning of summer of Meiji five (1872), year of the monkey (明治五壬申孟夏)

Measurements

overall length 89.0 cm, overall curvature 3.0 cm, hilt length 20.4 cm, hilt curvature 0.2 cm, saya length 67.0 cm, saya curvature 1.5 cm

Design

hilt wrapped in black-lacquered wrinkled leather katatemaki; all fittings (fuchigashira, koiguchi, kurigata with dōgane, and naga-kojiri) of pure silver and with cloud dragon design in sukidashi-takabori and marubori and with gold and shakudō-iroe accentuations; fuchi signed Hagiya Katsuhira kinsen – Meiji go mizunoe-saru chūshun; menuki of gold, depicting three unusually interpreted kuyō crests in katachibori; mekugi of gilded suaka and interpreted as kuyō crest; tsuba with cloud dragon design, nadekaku-gata, of silver, sukidashi-takabori, gold and shakudō iroe, nikuborimimi, no hitsu-ana, signed Seiryōken Hagiya Katsuhira kinsen – Meiji go mizunoe-saru mōka; saya with mother-of-pearl particles and cloud makie; two gilded suaka seppa; sageo is a light brown and purple shigeuchi braid

Jidai

Meiji era

Setsumei

This is an uchigatana-koshirae with matching fittings by Hagiya Katsuhira who was one of the best, and one of the most representative Mito-kinkō artists. Katsuhira was born in Bunka one (1804) as second son of Terakado Yojū (寺門与重) in Mito and was later adopted by Hagiya Jinbei (萩谷仁兵衛). His first name was Yasuke (弥介) and he later passed on the Ya character of his name to most of his students. Katsuhira had studied with the main line Mito-kinkō master Shinosaki Katsushige (篠崎勝茂) and was employed by the Mito fief as engraver in Tenpō 15 (1844). Katsuhira was one of the foremost authorities of the Mito-kinkō group in bakumatsu times and trained many students, for example famous masters like Namegawa Sadakatsu (滑川貞勝) and Unno Shōmin (海野勝珉).

This koshirae comes with a saya whose lacquer features fine mother-of-pearl particles and a gold and silver togidashi-makie ornamentation of clouds. The deeply carved, so to speak luxurious takabori cloud dragon ornamentation of Hagiya Katsuhira’s fittings form a contrast to the saya. The fittings are very powerful and the combination reflects very well the elegance of then Mito sword mountings.

[Translator’s note: The supplements chūshun and mōka do not only refer to mid-spring and beginning of summer, they can also be used to refer to the second and the fourth month respectively.]

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