|period||Koto (Nanbokucho ca. 1350)|
|designation||NBTHK Juyo Token (1967)|
|nakago||ubu, two mekugiana|
Hikoshiro Sadamune was a resident of Goshu, and traveled to Kamakura where he was taken into the mon of Masamune. He became the star pupil of the master smith, was adopted as his son, and was granted the use of the Mune character from his teacher's name. He achieved great fame as Soshu Sadamune and best represented his father's skill of all those said to have been taught by Masamune. Of all the famous meito gathered and recorded during the Edo period, the representation of Soshu Sadamune was second only to Masamune.
Late his his career, it is said that Sadamune was summoned back to Takagi in Goshu, in order to make a copy of a famous sword known as the
Ropecutter. He stayed and took up residence in Takagi. There is one signed tanto representing his work of this period, a piece that that was owned and cherished by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The signature read Goshu Takagi ju Sadamune.
He is said to have had a son whom he instructed and traveled with him. The son inherited the name of Sadamune when the father died, and is the Nidai Sadamune. He is also recorded as having signed Takagi Sadamune.
There are two competing theories about the generations of Takagi Sadamune, some say that it is simply Soshu Sadamune at the end of his days, and others say that there was a nidai, and use Takagi Sadamune to refer specifically to him. Some say Takagi Sadamune embraces both. As usual, when reading about these theories, authors are fond of using the phrase,
it is an area that needs more research. At this time there is no conclusion to the debate.
Regardless, those blades designated Takagi Sadamune are considered to be one step down in skill from Soshu Sadamune. This is not a criticism, it is quite like saying a composer is one step down in skill from Mozart... there are extremely few that operate at a peer relationship at this level. The Nihonto Koza puts Takagi Sadamune on an equivalence to the Shodai Nobukuni in skill, which is a very high ranking (Jo-jo saku).
This tanto is very similar in style to those produced in the late Kamakura. Close inspection of the nakago reveals the remains of shumei, and luckily the Japanese sword registration document has been preserved. Examining it reveals that the mumei tanto bore a Shumei to Masamune. Given its excellent kitae, elegant nie hamon and mitsu mune, it bears many of the hallmarks of high end Soshu work making the judgment quite understandable.
Another detail is that it was registered in 1953, and I believe it is number 1600 over all. Blades from Daimyo collections began registration in 1951 in order to set a precedent for all owners of swords. The early registration and the Shumei attribution are then indicators that this was part of a Daimyo collection. The location of the registration can be a strong hint as to which one, but it is usually a very difficult process to discover the original collection.
In spite of the previous judgment as Masamune, the NBTHK classified the work as Takagi Sadamune, so the shumei was removed some time in the past in order to comply with this judgment. In accepting it as one of the very early Juyo Token, the NBTHK made a clear statement as to the quality of the blade. Even today, these early Juyo coming before 1971 are highly sought after among collectors.
The tanto is in an old but very enjoyable state of polish. Uchiko over the years has dulled the chikei somewhat, but they are still very visible and the excellent nie in the hamon are uniform, controlled and cushioned by glowing nioi. The tight jigane, the delicate activities in the hamon along with an overall quiet feeling are all trademarks of Sadamune. Whether made by the son of Masamune, or his grandson, it is a blade made very faithfully to the Soshu den, embracing the teachings handed down from the great master in fine fashion.
This sword was still owned by the Maeda family when it passed Juyo in 1967 so it was probably thought for a long time in this family to be a work of Masamune. Maeda Ikuhiro's name is on the Juyo paper. It was very hard to pass Juyo in these days as there was not yet any Tokubetsu Juyo level, so a blade passing Juyo had to carry its own weight as representing the highest level. The Maeda family were one of the very important daimyo families in Edo period Japan.
It resides in an unadorned shirasaya with two piece gold foil habaki.
Juyo Token Katana
Appointed in 1967 - Juyo Token Session 15
Tanto, Mumei, Takagi Sadamune
hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, some sori
standing-out itame which appears as zanguri
Hamon (temper pattern)
ko-notare in rough nie mixed with gunome, sunagashi and kinsuji
shallow notare-komi with a short ko-maru-kaeri
ubu, ha-agari kurijiri, kiri-yasurime, two mekugi-ana, mumei
It is said that the Sadamune who lived in Takagi (高木) in Ōmi province was a student of the Sōshū smith Hikoshirō Sadamune (彦 四郎貞宗). He and another supposed student of Sōshū Sadamune, (Kyōto) Nobukuni (京信国), worked faithfully in the style of their master but there is also the theory that Sōshū Sadamune and Takagi Sadamune were the same smith. However, judging from the workmanship we can say that the jiba of Takagi Sadamune is a bit inferior to that of Sōshū Sadamune. This blade shows a ko-notare-chō mixed with gunome which sticks as mentioned faithfully to the style of Sōshū Sadamune, but the kitae stands out in zanguri manner which is rather a characteristic feature of Takagi Sadamune and what explains the attribution to this smith.