|period||Late Muromachi (ca. 1550)|
|designation||NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Token|
Sakakura Masatoshi is a Mino swordsmith, and there is also a Sengo (Muramasa school) swordsmith of the same name. It is thought that this split is a historical mistake and they are both references to the same man. Fujishiro notes this and indicates they both have Chu-jo saku skill.
He is part of the Seki group of smiths. Seki in the Muromachi period became the major factory of sword production, providing the weaponry that would allow Oda Nobunaga to conquer most of Japan. This process was finished by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and then plucked like a ripe fruit by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The spread of Mino smiths through Japan during the Muromachi period provided the foundation for the Shinto tradition which would eclipse all the old koto schools.
His technique inherits from Muramasa, and indeed his signature retains the same stylized
Masa character as the second generation Muramasa. The reason for this is that his father, Sakakura Masayoshi, was a direct student of the second generation Muramasa. Fujishiro states that Masayoshi was more advanced than the other Seki swordsmiths of his time.
I think that Masayoshi had a relationship with Muramasa. TheMASAof Masayoshi and theMASAof Muramasa very closely resemble each other, and the similarities of the mei are said to be one of the trends of the times, but in looking and comparing theMASAand theYOSHIof Masayoshi, you can see that the writing styles are clearly different. It can be seen thatMASAwas made with some special scheme. In other words, it is thought that theMASAof Masayoshi is something that was purposely introduced. Also, I think that Masayoshi was a pupil of Muramasa. Masayoshi could not have been Muramasa's teacher. In other words, this can be deduced when viewed both from the standpoint of the era and the structure of the mei. Fujishiro Yoshio
As can be seen in the signature, Sakakura Masatoshi obviously inherited this signing style from his father, and the inclusion among the Sengo school historically indicates that there is additional reason to believe in close association between the Muramasa line and the Sakakura smiths. The smith is well regarded and is included by Nagayama among the well known smiths of Seki.
Among the smiths of the Sue-Seki school of Mino province, Izumi no Kami Kanesada and Kanemoto are distinguished by their superior skill; their names were passed down for generations. Traditionally most Sue-Seki smiths used the Chinese characterkaneas part of their names. Well known members of this school included Zenjo Kaneyoshi, Kanemitsu, Kanetsune, Hachiya Kanesada, Sakakura Seki Masatoshi, and Kanefusa. Kokan Nagayama, Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords
Both father and son are ranked Ryo-wazamono by the Edo period cutting masters for excellent cutting ability, as we would expect from smiths instructed by Muramasa and in general from the Seki school.
Tokubetsu Hozon Sakakura Masatoshi Katana
This is a consignment sword from one of my clients, and it is a rather large sized Muromachi katana, reaching 78cm. The hamon is a nie based gunome midare that recalls one of the work styles of Muramasa, though this smith is generally thought to mostly produce suguba. There are fine sunagashi that unite the gunome and in places it seems to resemble Kanemoto as well and overall speaks to the relationship amongst these groups. Overall this style I think is most likely based on Shizu as was handed down in Mino, and was an influence on all of the above smiths.
The jigane of this sword shows small chikei which trace back through Muramasa to most likely the Hasebe school, where the Soshu tradition and Hitatsura techniques probably originated for this line. Traditionally Muramasa because of the Soshu styling of much of his work, was thought to be a Kamakura smith and somehow related to Masamune, being a negative pole in balance with Masamune's positive one. We now know this isn't the case of course, and when we look at the Muramasa lineage it seems to trace back through Heianjo Nagayoshi and Yamashiro smiths that learned Soshu techniques during the Nanbokucho period.
There is some loose grain in this sword, but this is pretty common for Muromachi Mino works. The hamon remains bright and the jigane is nice where it is clear. The NBTHK ranked the blade Tokubetsu Hozon which testifies to the accuracy of the signature and the quality of the sword.
This sword is accompanied by Edo period koshirae which are quite attractive, though the lacquer is starting to peel a bit. Lacquer repair is straight forward and I can arrange this for the new owner of this blade. The koshirae features a very long tsuka which was preferred by some samurai. Overall this would have been a very imposing sword to wear and I am surprised it didn't get shortened in the Edo period. Long katana like this are not common at all. The koshirae was quite difficult to photograph as it did not fit on my photo rig.
The sword layout photos here are provided by Nihonto Antiques, for which I owe a debt of thanks.