|period||Nanbokucho (ca. 1362)|
|designation||NBTHK Juyo Token Naginata Naoshi|
|rating||Jo saku, Ryo-wazamono|
Kashu Sanekage is a smith from the northern central reaches of Japan and is thought to be a primary student of Norishige, the co-worker of Masamune. His work is flavored with the same styles as Norishige and Go Yoshihiro, and we have signed work that helps us establish his style. There is kind of a triangle with these smiths, the uppermost work should be considered Norishige and Go, and if the skill is a bit lacking from those levels the candidate is Sanekage. This is not derogatory toward the smith, rather it's being compared to Mozart and Beethoven and it is OK to come in second to those masters.
Sanekage who is said to be a student of Norishige lived in this province [Kaga] and there is a fine extant tanto with the mei of ‘Kashu Ju Sanekane’ in thin chiselling and a production date of the Joji. The jihada of the tanto is itame-hada with many chikei like Norishige’s in Soshu-den. Dr. Honma Junji, History of Koto
His home province is Kaga which is beside Etchu, from which hail Norishige and Go Yoshihiro so the connection in style between the smiths is easy to see on the surface. He is thought to have been born in Kaga, trained in Etchu and returned back to Kaga, possibly after the death of Norishige. Most old authors have him as a student of Norishige but the current NBTHK writing puts more separation between the two.
Also, it is said that the renowned [Go] YOSHIHIRO died at the young age of 30; SANEKAGE, the best pupil of NORISHIGE, returned to his birth kuni of KAGA; and because TAMETSUGU returned to his birth kuni of NOSHU, after the deaths of these two master craftsmen [i.e. Go and Norishige], as far as families of smiths in this kuni [i.e. Etchu] are concerned, the UDA Ke just about assumed the appearance of an unchallenged position. Nihonto Koza
In regard to SANEKAGE, due to the fact that he also was pupil of NORISHIGE, his work closely resembles that of NORISHIGE in the appearance of the jihada and the nie hakkake yakiba, and his well made pieces are mistaken for NORISHIGE. The yakiba is not as large and vigorous as that of NORISHIGE. The shioiai (nie and nioi) are also clumped or uneven. Nihonto Koza
Yamanaka is of the opinion that some of the work of Sanekage is so good that they were used to make mumei Norishige.
There have been TANTO by SANEKAGE which are very outstanding and these very closely resemble the work of NORISHIGE and many of these probably may have been converted to NORISHIGE. Albert Yamanaka, Nihonto Newsletters
Sanekage's style is pretty much pure Soshu tradition in the style of Norishige with vibrant nie and jigane. Gunome and ko-kunome should be the basis of a midareba hamon in nie. Yubashiri and chikei will appear in the ji and the overall work will be vibrant. There is one Go Yoshihiro that came to the NBTHK and in their conservative early years it was re-attributed to Sanekage. In later years when it went to Tokubetsu Juyo this blade was returned to its Edo period attribution of Go Yoshihiro. This illustrates the overlap of Sanekage with the higher ranked smiths.
Sanekage, in the era of Kenmu; a disciple of Norishige; lived in Kaga. The short sword is bent (curved); Iori common; back triangular; midare combined with 'Gunome,' or with 'boiling notare,' or with 'straight edge,' or with one like the work of Fujishima; cap round and deep; kayeri. The long sword is rarely seen. The back of the nakago is angular; file crosswise; head round; signed Fujiwara. Sanekage was born in Etchu, but afterward moved to Hoki and Echigo. The Complete Manual of the Old Sword
Sanekage left behind a school of smiths, the Hashizume school, and there were several master smiths in this lineage.
We figure his work period is around 1356-1375. He is ranked as Jo-saku by Fujishiro for superior work and Ryo-wazamono for excellent cutting ability.
SANEKAGE was a member the Mon of ETCHU NORISHIGE, and was a man of around Joji (1362-1368) and Oan (1368-1375), but zaimei tachi are few, and I have occasionally seen a tanto. As for the tone of the kitae, it resembles that of the master, NORISHIGE, and is one level more moderate. As for the hamon, gonome midare, and ko-midare in suguba, are the most common, there is nie which looks like sunagashi, the nioi line is wide, and well made pieces have a classic elegance. In some way or another the tone is high, and there are pieces which do not appear very inferior to the better works of the Soshu Kei. Nihonto Koza
This very complimentary quote from the Nihonto Koza would rather group him in with the great smiths of Soshu than to group him out. I have seen other attributions to this smith changed to Go Yoshihiro and vice versa, as well as Soshu Sadamune. Together it shows that his work is something that needs to be considered higher level and to pay close attention to.
The Nihonto Koza continues:
Also, it is said that the renowned YOSHIHIRO died at the young age of 30; SANEKAGE the best pupil of NORISHIGE returned to his birth kuni of KAGA and because TAMETSUGU returned to his birth kuni of NOSHU (Mino), after the deaths of these two master craftsmen [i.e. Go and Norishige], as far as families of smiths in this kuni [i.e. Etchu] are concerned, the UDA Ke just about assumed the appearance of an unchallenged position. Nihonto Koza
Today, Kashu Sanekage has 42 Juyo swords, and one of these was elevated to Tokubetsu Juyo and re-attributed to Go Yoshihiro. There is furthermore one Juyo Bijutsuhin work. There is one more Juyo Bunkazai tanto by the smith that belonged to the Maeda daimyo family. All of this certifies him as an excellent swordsmith. He is ranked Jo-saku by Fujishiro for superior skill, and he has the cutting test rank of Ryo-wazamono for great sharpness.
The Falling Leaf - Kashu Sanekage Naginata Naoshi
This very excellent naginata naoshi is a rare and special beast. In the Edo period it carried an attribution to Soshu Sadamune and has a name: Ochiba, The Falling Leaf. At a glance the relationship to Norishige is clear to see, the jihada has the same thick folding and black chikei, forming matsukawa hada in places. It is handed down as the property of Kiyokawa Hachiro, who was a particularly bad tempered Samurai of the late Edo period. This was affirmed by Honami Koson in 1938, not too long after the death of Hachiro so I am going on his work at verifying this.
Kiyokawa Hachiro (清河八郎) was born to the name Saito Masaaki (齋藤正明) and was a samurai from the Shonai clan. He opened a school in 1855 teaching samurai classic Confucian literature as well as sword arts. He was an opponent of the Tokugawa rule of Japan. His bad temper showed itself as he is documented as killing a man in the street in Edo for a small insult, and this caused him to have to abandon Edo. During his travels after this escape he wrote the book Saiyu so (the link leads to a purchase page on Amazon.com for this book).
His school went political and the Sonjo Roshi meeting there formed the Torao party, and these people assassinated Henry Heusken.
Hachiro had the ear of the Matsudaira and Shungaku under his influence, created the Roshigumi which were intended as a bodyguard to the Tokugawa Shogun, but under Hachiro's influence was filled with anti-Tokugawa attitude ronin.
This ultimately did not work out well, as Hachiro forced most of the Roshigumi to return to Edo. The remnants formed another political group , the Shinsengumi. After this the Tokugawa sent six assassins to kill Hachiro and he was murdered in Azabu, at the Akabane Bridge. He is enshrined now at the Kiyagawa shrine in Shonai, Yamagata prefecture.
The assassination of Hachiro was turned into a movie in 1964: Ansatu (Assassination) and you can read more about Kiokawa Hachiro on the Samurai Archives. There is a Kiyokawa Hachiro Memorial Hall that contains his memoirs and some artifacts from his life. He also appears in five novels, in manga, four movies and the TV drama Burning Sword and various others.
This blade contains no less than 15 kirikomi (sword scars), something I have never seen in my life, illustrating that it proved itself many times in battle. It is very rare to see a blade as tested in battle as this one. It has a remarkable history and interesting name and is a valuable addition to any collection. Not to mention the size, at 75cm with a 3.3cm motohaba, this is a large and intimidating sword. It bears original nakago on one side, which allows us to see that the naginata it was made from was not much more longer than the blade it is now. Most importantly, the boshi and the top of the sword have not been altered as is seen in most naginata naoshi. This lets us better understand the shape of Nanbokucho naginata, or at least one time, as so many were destroyed in the wars of the period.
During the time of ownership of Hachiro and before that, this sword had a traditional attribution to Soshu Sadamune. While today we understand Sadamune's works to be calm and peaceful, during the Edo period more aggressive works were attributed to his hand. This blade has the name Ochiba-Sadamune which means the Falling Leaf Sadamune. The attribution to Sadamune was held by Honami Koson who issued a paper for it, and was later overturned by the NBTHK and the sword put to Kashu Sanekage.
Japanese names for blades often have double meanings as Japanese have traditionally enjoyed wordplay. This name, the Falling Leaf first brings to mind a gentle leaf falling slowly off of a tree.
However, the shape of the blade is shobu-zukuri, in the unaltered upper portion. Shobu-zukiri means “Leaf Shaped”. Once this is understood a different meaning of this blade is evident, when this blade falls, it is because a samurai is using it to strike. So the Falling Leaf is a reference to this sword striking its opponents. The two meanings can be thought to represent the sword that gives life / the sword that takes life, which is the duality of the sword and a reminder that the sword is a weapon and gives important choices to its owner but the responsibility for its use is with the owner.
This sword has a daimyo year torokusho as well, showing that after Hachiro's death it fell into the hands of someone important. Since the name on the koshirae is a Tachibana name (well known daimyo family) this would seem to confirm its provenance.
This sword comes with an excellent koshirae from the late 1800s which has tosogu made by Goto Kiyoaki of the famous Goto family. This was a special order koshirae and seems to have been made just after the death of Hachiro and possibly then to commemorate and care for this sword which was his legacy. In spite of the late time period, the tsuka shows a lot of hand aging and this was definitely a samurai's prized item for wear. The seppa are marked as well, one is clearly marked Ochiba Sadamune and the other two I cannot make out at the moment.
There is an inscription on the kojiri which documents this:
慶應三丁卯孟春 - Keiō san hinoto-u mōshun - First month of Keiō three (1867), year of the hare
應橘善松逹君之需 - Tachibana Yoshimatsutatsu kun no motome ni ōjite - Made on request/orders of Mr. Tachibana Yoshimatsutatsu
Goto Kiyoaki was the sixth student of Goto Seijo so came in the Seijo line. He was born in 1815 and died in 1887 at 72 years old. I don't currently have any information about the Tachibana member who owned the sword after Hachiro but I will try to dig more up. Since this got its torokusho in the daimyo year of Showa 26, and Tachibana is an old clan name, I would assume from this he was a man of prestige.
There is a signature on the saya as well, that says Isaburo Motoie (伊三郎基家) which I assume is the saya maker in this case. The koshirae is made to resemble bamboo and has a leather finishing with tosogu in iron and gold which compliment it perfectly and prove the words about it being a custom order.
The koshirae is not currently papered but I guarantee Tokubetsu Hozon papers on the koshirae with a 100% money back guarantee on the whole.
Overall this sword represents a rare, and complete set. A sword with history, excellent custom made koshirae, Juyo certification, battle scars, a great old Edo period attribution, and a name. It has been cared for and cherished and I hope you will find the same fascination for this set as me.
One note, the NBTHK in the setsumei indicated dated work of Norishige as being Showa and Geno eras (late Kamakura) and so there was a gap until the 1360s of Sanekage. I owned one of those dated Norishige and there are only three that exist. All three are very early work of Norishige before he formed his final style, and they are very close to Soshu Yukimitsu and Masamune. At this time Shintogo Kunimitsu, his teacher, was still alive and working so those blades represent only the beginning of his work and it is feasible that he worked into the Nanbokucho period by some decades. It is I think not a fair criticism to take the birth work of Norishige and use that to establish his period of manufacture, rather they just represent the beginning of his career and it's not a proper conclusion to make that the time span is too long to bridge the gap to Sanekage. This is just my opinion.
Juyo Token Naginata Naoshi
Appointed on the 20th of October, 2015
Naginata Naoshi, Mumei, Kashu Sanekage
naginata-naoshi-zukuri, iori-mune, wide mihaba, no widening towards the tip, thick kasane, high shinogi that makes the shinogi-ji drop off towards the mune, deep sori
standing-out itame that is mixed with mokume and nagare, in addition plenty of ji-nie and fine chikei, the steel is blackish
notare-chō in nie-deki that is mixed gunome, togariba, and yahazu-ba along the bottom half and along the monouchi, also ara-nie appear in places and there are hotsure, yubashiri, nijūba, tobiyaki, kinsuji, and sunagashi
shallow notare-komi with a pointed kaeri
on both sides a naginata-hi with futasuji-hi which end in marudome
ō-suriage, kurijiri, kiri-yasurime, two mekugi-ana, mumei
It is said that Kashū Sanekage (加州真景) was a student of Etchū Norishige (越中則重). As we know dated work from Norishige from the eras Shōwa (正和, 1312-1317) and Gen’ō (元応, 1319-1321) and from Sanekage from the noticeably later Jōji era (貞治, 1362-1368), it seems that Sanekage was not a direct student of Norishige but was rather influenced by his style indirectly.
This blade shows a standing-out itame that is mixed with mokume and nagare and that features plenty of ji-nie and fine chikei. The steel is blackish and the hamon is a notare-chō in nie-deki that is mixed with gunome, togariba, and yahazu-ba, and when we combine this with the abundance of hataraki along the habuchi, we recognize the typical characteristics of Kashū Sanekage. Therefore, the attribution to this smith was achieved unanimously. Both ji and ha are nie-laden and in particular the abundance of variety along the habuchi is not only very impressive but also excellently executed.
Honami Koson Origami
Honami Koson was one of the last great Honami judges and lived during the beginning part of the 1900s. He documented this sword and felt it was work of Soshu Sadamune, as it was handed down from the Edo period with this attribution. He confirmed it was owned by Kiyokawa Hachiro. There is a special lacquer box made for this paper with the name Ochiba Sadamune on it. The lacquer box label says Origami, Honami Koson, Showa 13 (1938). Circled in red on the box, it says Den Kiyogawa Hachiro, mumei Sadamune, Go (name): Ochiba Sadamune.
Below is a translation of the origami it contains.
- 傳清川八郎遺Den Kiyokawa Hachirō iai
- 愛之相州貞宗之no Sōshū Sadamune kore
- 御刀遂熟覧申o-katana tsui ni jukuran mōshisōrō
- 候處地刄出来宜dokoro jiba deki yoroshiku
- 敷同意可仕候能きdōi no tsukamatsurubeku sōrō yoki
- 御品につき永ニ御秘o-shina nitsuki nagai go-hihō
- 宝ト被成度候to nasaretaku sōrō.
- 神無月下浣 本阿弥光遜「花押」Kannazuki gekan – Hon’ami Kōson + kaō
Said to be a treasured relic from Kiyokawa Hachirō, a Sōshū Sadamune. Upon carefully inspecting the blade, I want to point out that its jiba is of an excellent deki and that I respectfully agree with its traditional attribution. A fine work that should be treasured for many many years.
Last third of October – Hon’ami Kōson + kaō
This sword bears a sayagaki from Honami Koson attributing the blade to Soshu Sadamune and naming it Ochiba Sadamune. The way he wrote it, the blade came to him with an older traditional attribution to Sadamune which he was in agreement with.
- 落葉貞宗Ochiba SadamuneThe Falling Leaf Sadamune
- 同意DōiIn agreement (with this attribution)
- 昭和拾参戊寅神無月Shōwa jūsan tsuchinoe-tora kannazukiOctober of Shōwa 13 (1938), year of the tiger
- 本阿弥光遜「花押」Hon’ami Kōson + kaō
- 長二尺四寸八分有之Nagasa 2 shaku 4 sun 8 bu kore ariNagasa 75.2 cm