Shizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki daisho katana and tosoguShizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki

periodLate Kamakura Koto (swords), Late Edo (tosogu)
designationJuyo Token katana (Shizu)
Hozon Token wakizashi (den Shizu)
ratingSai-jo saku
nakagoo-suriage, katana 19.8cm, wakizashi 14.5cm
nagasakatana 74.2cm, wakizashi 51.2cm
katana sori1.4cm
motohabakatana 3.0cm, wakizashi 2.9cm
sakihabakatana 2.0cm, wakizashi 2.0cm
kissakikatana 3.0cm, wakizashi 3.0cm
tosoguHozon daisho tosogu
meiKikuoka Mitsuaki (kao)
price -hold-

Aside from Sadamune, I believe Shizu, Samonji, and this Go should form the top three among the ten [great students of Masamune]. Dr. Honma Junji

Shizu Saburo Kaneuji is a grand master swordsmith working from the end of the Kamakura period into the beginning of the Nanbokucho period. He was highly influential, and is the founder of the Mino tradition - one of the five major traditions. His path through life lead him from his beginnings in Yamato as a Tegai smith (most likely working under Kanenaga), to study under Masamune in Kamakura, and finally settling in Mino. He settled in a place called Shizu (which gives him his nickname), and here his mastery of Yamato and Soshu techniques merged to seed the Mino tradition.

Though he signed as Kaneuji (兼氏), he is most often referred to as Shizu (志津) for the place in Mino province (also called Noshu) in which he settled. Prior to his move to Kamakura he signed with Kaneuji (包氏) which is read the same but written differently. It's thought that he changed his name but preserved the reading in this manner in order to mark his transition from Yamato to Soshu style.

Swords from his time period in Yamato are designated as Yamato Shizu. The work after his time with Masamune are simply referred to as Shizu. This makes for some points of confusion, because the students he left behind in Yamato are collectively referred to as Yamato Shizu which overlaps with his own work. So, some care is necessary in dealing with Yamato Shizu designated work to determine whether or not they are by Kaneuji or by his students.

Detail of Hozon Tosogu, Juyo Token, Hozon Shizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki daisho katana and tosogu

Best scholarship today indicates there was a Nidai Kaneuji (包氏) working in Yamato after he left. The students who followed him in Mino are called Naoe Shizu, as they moved and settled in Naoe, in Mino province. These Naoe Shizu smiths are known individually as Kanetsugu, Kanenobu, Kanetomo, and Kanetoshi and may also have been sons of his. Among them was a second and third generation Kaneuji (兼氏), though signed work is hard to find, there is at least one signed Juyo Bijutsuhin Mino Kaneuji that is thought to be the third generation.

Since the students typically made Nanbokucho style sugata that have been cut down, their signatures are mostly lost. It is particularly difficult to establish enough differences in their work to make specific determinations between the Naoe Shizu smiths. This leads to the frequent use of the school classification when attributing to them instead of individual designations. Shizu or Den Shizu attributed swords however always by the grand master Kaneuji.

Although mu-mei, the [famous meito sword] Inaba Shizu is undoubtedly [Shizu's] work. It is definitely the best among all his works, and I can dare to say with this single work alone we could verify his immediate relationship with Masamune. Dr. Honma Junji

While Shizu was not the first swordsmith in Mino province, the work style of the smiths who preceded him was lost in the Soshu revolution he brought with him from Kamakura. Work from earlier periods is not found, though the names of older smiths in Mino survive in old books. It's possible that some of the older work generally attributed to Yamato schools like Senjuin may be from some of these documented smiths. What we do know however is that Shizu's style and the students he left became the dominant force in swordmaking in Mino province, and Mino would be the primary influence in the Shinto tradition which followed the Koto period.

In spite of his fame as founder of the Mino tradition, his own work style when classified as Shizu is almost entirely Soshu with inspired contributions from Yamato. As such it tends to be a hybrid of the two. It is only with the passage of time that the work of his students and school passed through an evolutionary process to become distinct from Soshu and differentiate into what we now call the Mino tradition.

Juyo Bunkazai Reference
Juyo Bunkazai Reference

In terms of his own work style, he spans a time period from the end of the Kamakura into the beginning of the Nanbokucho and this is seen in the changing sugata of his work. There are many features found in his swords. There are those with a chu-kissaki and much curvature to very straight seeming blades with O-kissaki, which are of course the remnants of the massive swords we find in the mid to late Nanbokucho period. At least one of these still exists with his signature on it. This particular sword is Juyo Token and also Juyo Bunkazai (one step below National Treasure).

Thus by looking at the sugata we can classify his work as being early or late in his own period, and by the style whether it comes before or after Masamune.

Shizu also made tanto fairly frequently and his signature exists on several. These are often with mitsu-mune and exhibit characteristics of the Soshu den. His work has in the past often been judged as Masamune due to the strong resemblance between their work styles. He is in general, the closest craftsman to Masamune in terms of style, and is usually considered one of one of the leading Masamune Juttetsu. His work in tanto is generally of a form closer to smiths like Masamune, Norishige and Yukimitsu rather than those that came a bit later like Hasebe, Hiromitsu, Sadamune and Akihiro.

One of the traits that is common in the works of Shizu that is used to differentiate from Masamune is the presence of masame or straightish grain near the ha and shinogi, with itame between. This leads to frequent sunagashi and kinsuji in the hamon, as these activities will follow the grain under the yakiba. His work is usually marked with togariba, though in practice these are also seen in Masamune and not all Shizu blades bear togariba (pointed gunome). The hamon though is usually based in some type of mix of midare and gunome, in nie with these activities as mentioned. As well, when his blades are signed they are done so with a very rustic looking and lightly made signature. Fujishiro theorizes that this was a trait done to preserve the integrity of the sword during impact. He cites an example where a sword fractured in the nakago with a fault line running through the strokes of the mei. It's possible that the lack of signature on koto Soshu blades and the rustic looking and light signatures that do exist in the older period blades were in fact a feature meant to defeat this kind of failure. Fujishiro concludes that the various signatures of Choji, Kanemitsu, Samonji, and the fine small mei that are seen in the Muromachi Bizen blades at the beginning of this period, were in fact all design elements meant to preserve the integrity of the nakago as much as possible.

[In regard to a masterpiece Tokubetsu Juyo Shizu, it] has long been in the state of o-suriage and mumei. It was once attributed to Sadamune and was evaluated a worth 5,000 gan by Hon'ami Koyu, and then a later Hon'ami raised its rank to Masamune. The attribution to Shizu was made by Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokain after extensive studies. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

Detail of Hozon Tosogu, Juyo Token, Hozon Shizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki daisho katana and tosogu

Regardless of the period of work, he seems to have experimented, along with Sadamune, more than other smiths in the variety of shapes of sword he made. He was surely not conservative, with his mixed background and various styles of sugata he produced. We see every type of shape, kissaki, hi, horimono and sori in his work, but always they are linked somehow to a seed of Yamato and strong presence of Soshu traits in the ji and ha, with very clear steel and a wet, black and formidable look that is very pleasing.

The sobriquet Wakebe Shizu [on the famous sword of this name] was derived from the fact that it originally belonged to the Wakebe in Ise. Later, it fell in [Tokugawa Shogun] Ieyasu's hand to be worn by him. It was then transmitted to one of his sons, Kishu [Tokugawa] Yorinobu. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

These works of his have been treasured for centuries in Japan, and were held in high esteem by many daimyo and powerful families. Today his works rank from Juyo and Tokubetsu Juyo, to Juyo Bijutsuhin and Juyo Bunkazai. He is of course regarded by Fujishiro as Sai-jo Saku, the rating of a grandmaster swordsmith and he has also a high cutting test ranking of Ryo-wazamono.

Detail of Hozon Tosogu, Juyo Token, Hozon Shizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki daisho katana and tosogu
Shizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki daisho katana and tosogu Katana Presentation

Juyo Token Shizu

This is a large and magnificent katana at just over 74cm long. The blade is quite typically made in the style that Shizu was famous for, and the NBTHK made note that his style is the most similar of all of Masamune's students to Masamune himself.

The blade is filled with vibrant nie activities from top to bottom, and the jihada contains black chikei which are synonymous with Soshu tradition construction.

This blade was the first Juyo Token I bought for myself many years ago and started me on a long love affair with Soshu. The great size and state of preservation make it a really nice item to own, and I found that with this sword it felt particularly well balanced. Someone loved it well in the past as when it was shortened they filled the bottom mekugiana with solid gold. There is no reason to do such a thing, other than to demonstrate affection and respect for the sword.

The style of construction predates the extended kissaki of the Nanbokucho period and the shape tapers elegantly though the blade is quite wide. This places it at the end of the Kamakura period and would equate to the type of blade Kaneuji was making under his study time with Masamune.

Shizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki daisho katana and tosogu OshigataShizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki daisho katana and tosogu Katana Origami

Juyo Token Katana

Appointed on the 2nd of March, 1979

daisho katana and tosogu, Mumei, Shizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki

Keijo

shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, noticeable sori, chū-kissaki

Kitae

itame with chikei and plenty of ji-nie

Hamon

ko-notare-chō in nie-deki that is mixed with gunome-midare, togariba, ashi, some yubashiri, sunagashi, and kinsuji,

Bōshi

midare-komi with a roundish kaeri with hakikake and that thus tends to nie-kuzure

Horimono

on both sides a bōhi which runs as kaki-nagashi into the tang

Nakago

ō-suriage, kirijiri, on the sashi-omote gaku-sujikai and on the ura side sujikai-yasurime, two mekugi-ana (one plugged), mumei

Shizu was a place name in Mino province but later became the nickname of the Yamato Tegai School smith Kaneuji (兼氏) who moved there. Kaneuji was one of Masamune's student and his blades display a workmanship that is among all of his fellow students closest to that of the master. So, Kaneuji's workmanship may best be described as Masamune-style but with masame in the kitae and a ha that is mixed with connected gunome in places.

The jiba of this blade shows very well the characteristic features of Shizu and is of an excellent deki (construction).

Shizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki daisho katana and tosogu Wakizashi PresentationShizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki daisho katana and tosogu Wakizashi Origami

Hozon Token Wakizashi

I bought this wakizashi a long time ago to pair with the katana. I think the quality represents the upper end of Tokubetsu Hozon but to get a wakizashi through Juyo is not an easy task. This style of construction comes a bit later on from the katana, and the hamon is more of a rolling notare than the violent midareba shown in the larger blade.

The attachment to Shizu is clear in this style of hamon, which originates with Masamune as well and features prominently in the evolution of the Mino tradition through the Naoe Shizu smiths. The jigane is filled with dark chikei like the katana and the surface is scattered with ji nie. The jihada is itame and o-itame in the middle that stretches to masame on the ha which is one of the standard forms of construction we expect from Shizu, as it hybridizes his Yamato origin with his Soshu training. Futasujibi adorn this which is something we often see in nice Soshu work and they pass straight out the end of the nakago. The blade was made as a tachi originally and probably took some damage on the battlefield. When a blade like this was severely chipped or damaged in fighting, if the damage was low down on the blade it could be saved for future use by shortening. In this way we see koto tachi become wakizashi in later periods.

The rounded nakago jiri points to an earlier shortening than the katana, which is cut straight in kiri style, as more time and effort was applied in the middle to early Muromachi period when making a sword suriage to try to create an original looking nakago jiri. This though is time and effort and so expense, and by the Momoyama period they generally were cutting them straight across as in the katana.

The NBTHK attached DEN to the Shizu attribution indicating a little bit of leeway in the style, possibly one of the judges thought it could be Naoe Shizu, but the NBTHK settled on Shizu for the attribution.

Shizu Kaneuji and Kikuoka Mitsuaki daisho katana and tosogu Tosogu Origami

Hozon Kikuoka Mitsuaki Tosogu

Kikuoka is considered one of the top Edo schools and was founded by Kikuoka Mitsuyuki who was born in 1750.

His father and his grandfather – according to transmission a friend of Matsuo Bashō (松尾芭蕉, 1644-1694) – were renowned haiku and waka poets. Their pseudonym Senryō (沾涼) was later passed on to Mitsuyuki and his art of metalwork was, to a great deal, inspired by poetry. Markus Sesko, Kinko Kodogu

Mitsuyuki studied under Yanagawa Naomitsu who inherited his craft from Naomasa, the senior student of Somin. Most of the top Edo machibori schools trace their lineage back to Somin.

Kikuoka Mitsuaki from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Kikuoka Mitsuaki from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Kikuoka Mitsuaki who made these works, came right at the end of the Edo period during the Meiji restoration and lived to see the sword ban. When the samurai were disenfranchised as a class, and the wearing of swords in public banned, it was economic catastrophe for all artisans working in and around the field of Japanese swords. So Mitsuaki was unlucky to live to see this day, and as a result very few of his works can be seen now. His work span was from 1850 to 1875, so this work is from around the middle time of this period. It is most likely before the sword ban as the katana tsuka was mounted.

His given name was Fukutaro and used the name Toryusai in his signatures sometimes. His father was Kikuoka Mitsutoshi, and his grandfather Kikuoka Mitsumasa who was the younger brother of the founder Mitsuyuki, and also studied under Naomasa.

Daisho Koshirae

I commissioned the mounting of the daisho koshirae and paired the swords up 15 years ago to my own taste, and hunted down the tosogu in Japan. It's very hard to find a good set of unmounted issaku daisho tosogu to use for a project like this and I was pretty thrilled to find this beautiful set. I chose elegant and simple black lacquer in authentic samurai tradition, allowing the tosogu to stand out and I think the result is very aesthetically pleasing. The tosogu are made with gold and shakudo primarily with some highlights in shibuichi. The sayas were made and lacquered by John Tirado about 15 years ago to fit the blades.

Daisho Tsuba FrontDaisho Tsuba Back

The theme of the tsubas reflects long life, as the small tsuba features a crane who lives for 1,000 years, and the large tsuba a dragon turtle who lives for 10,000 years. Recently there was some damage to the patina in the form of some verdegris and something was attacking the surface, so the patina was restored to halt the progress of the verdegris and save the tsuba from future damage.

Daisho Tsuka

The katana tsuka is pictured in the papers because it is antique from the Edo period and arrived intact. I don't think the wakizashi was ever mounted up so it's not clear what the status of the old tsuka is. To have all tosogu elements on one set of papers like this is quite precious, as it means they are issaku or made by one maker. Normally some elements are mixed and matched.

The katana tsuka luckily fit the Shizu katana perfectly and the wakizashi tsuka was made for the blade, and wrapped to match in Japan. There is a slight difference in tsuka ito color unfortunately as it was difficult to match the exact deep chocolate brown of the katana. It is possible to rewrap the wakizashi to better match.

KozukaOzaki Suketaka Kogatana

I chose the kogatana separately to mount in the kozuka, it is very fine work by Ozaki Suketaka who was a talented Jo-saku ranked swordsmith of the late Edo period. He has signed this work exquisitely and I guarantee Hozon papers for this blade if it is desired. Such nice kozuka are fairly expensive to acquire now.


Katana Fuchigashira
Wakizashi Fuchigashira

The rest of the ornaments are shimanawa-kazari which are New Year's decorations, so collectively represent long life and good fortune. It seems then that it is possibly something commissioned as a gift.

Mitsuaki's signature is on the two fuchi as shown, where he signed Kikuoka Mitsuaki (kao).