Yoshimichi Daisho TokenYoshimichi

periodMiddle Edo (ca. 1671)
designationNBTHK Hozon Hozon Katana and Wakizashi
ratingChu-jo saku
katanaYondai Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi
mei「菊」丹波守吉道 — (Kiku) Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi
nakagoubu
nagasa69.1 cm
motohaba3.2 cm
sakihaba2.2 cm
kissaki3.5 cm
nakago nagasa18.8 cm
nakago sorinone
wakizashiNidai Yamato no Kami Yoshimichi
mei大和守吉道 —(Kiku) Yamato no Kami Yoshimichi
nakagoubu
nagasa51.2 cm
motohaba3.0 cm
sakihaba2.0 cm
kissaki3.5 cm
nakago nagasa15.2 cm
nakago sorinone
price$35,000 -new-

The Mishina school of the Edo period was founded by Mino Kanemichi and his sons from the time of their arrival in Kyoto in 1615. The brothers were all quite talented. Iga no Kami Kunimichi was the first son and recently one of his katana was accepted at Tokubetsu Juyo. Rai Kinmichi was the second son and is also very well regarded with several Juyo. Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi is highly regarded for his Soshu inspired works, and also has several Juyo. The fourth of the sons was Etchu no Kami Masatoshi, also a well regarded smith.

Kanemichi originally came from Mino and he had a reputation as being the 9th generation from Shizu, the founder of the Mino tradition and one of the Masamune Juttetsu.

Sudareba
Sudareba

Yoshimichi seems to have taken this to heart as he seems to have worked very diligently at producing sunagashi and kinsuji in wide midareba hamon. Two of his blades have passed Tokuju. Only 33 smiths that worked in the last 300 years of samurai era Japan have works that have passed Tokuju at this time. He furthermore has a Juyo Bijutsuhin to his credit.

Yoshimichi while striving to match Shizu came up with some techniques for creating his sunagashi, that the second generation further elaborated on. This resulted in the creation of a new hamon pattern, something that hasn't happened very often in sword history, and it is one of the distinctive styles of the Shinto period.

This pattern resembles traditional screens called sudare which are made of bamboo, or wood or other natural materials, and so takes its name as sudareba

Detail of Hozon Yoshimichi Daisho TokenDetail of Hozon Yoshimichi Daisho Token
Yoshimichi Daisho Token Shodai Yoshimichi ExampleYoshimichi Daisho Token Nidai Yoshimichi Example
Juyo Shodai and Nidai Yoshimichi Examples

Note the first character of the Shodai's signature particularly looks like a boat sail, and this gives him the nickname of Hokake Tanba. It can be difficult sometimes when trying to distinguish first and second generation work, and sometimes this is true between other smiths of the school. They were talented makers and stuck to school styles, and almost never dated their work which makes it hard to sort out the easy way.

The second generation who was named Mishina Toshiichiro gained the right to use the 16 petal Kiku mon in 1639 so it stands to reason his swords were well received. Both the first and second generations are ranked Jo-saku though their swords have passed quite high with the NBTHK. The Kiku mon required permission from the Emperor, so we don't see that on so many smith's work as a result. It is strongly associated with this school however. Also associated with this school is a boshi shape that we simply call Mishina boshi. The refinements of the shodai's techniques into a typical style for this lineage was accomplished by this second generation.

Detail of Hozon Yoshimichi Daisho Token

The third generation Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi was Mishina Tokuzaemon, and died young and left few works.

The fourth generation Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi also worked in kikusui themes into his hamon sometimes. In this we can see the hamon implying a kiku flower at times. By this point in the school the sudareba style has been clarified and though the general background of the work is rooted still in the Soshu tradition of Shizu, the style of the Yoshimichi school is now distinct. Generations 5 through 7 would continue the line in Kyoto, and with the death of the 7th generation in 1803 would disappear.

Osaka Branch

The second son of Shodai Yoshimichi shared his father's art name with his brother the nidai Yoshimichi. This is somewhat confusing but this Mishina Kaneuemon moved to Osaka and signed swords as Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi like his brother. He never signed with the Kiku mon though but maintained a high level of craftsmanship. We call him Osaka Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi.

Detail of Hozon Yoshimichi Daisho Token

His first son was Mishina Gorobei and became the 2nd generation Osaka Tanba. He in turn had a son who retained the same signature of Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi, making him the 3rd generation Osaka Tanba.

The first generation Osaka Tanba's second son also signed with the name Yoshimichi (this school must have had a hell of a time keeping track of who made the swords). But, he gained the title of Yamato no Kami, and used this in his signatures. Thus, he is in a funny situation of being the first Yamato no Kami Yoshimichi, a second generation Osaka Yoshimichi, and a third generation Yoshimichi. Because of this we need to speak carefully when trying to address generations in this school.

His son was Mishina Shirobei and their styles are very similar. This smith is then the Nidai Yamato no Kami Yoshimichi, and is the end of the line for the Osaka branch of the Yoshimichi school.

Detail of Hozon Yoshimichi Daisho Token

Overall the Yoshimichi school focused on Soshu derived works and became famous for their sudareba. They seem to have concentrated on functionality as well, as many of the smiths in the school have wazamono rankings it reflects back on their heritage from Mino where the focus was always on sharp, functional swords. Since every smith in this lineage used the name Yoshimichi, it probably had gained some fame as being beautiful but functional work swords. I think they kept with this name to promote the brand.

Detail of Hozon Yoshimichi Daisho Token
Yoshimichi Daisho Token Presentation KatanaYoshimichi Daisho Token Origami Katana

Hozon Yondai Yoshimichi katana

This katana is by the fourth generation Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi from Kyoto. He has a ranking of Chu-jo saku for above average skill and was the head of the Yoshimichi school at the time of his work. He also has a reputation for sharp swords, taking the ranking of wazamono.He had the name of Kichinojo, and received his Tanba no Kami title in the first year of Enpo (1673). It's not clear when he received the right to use the Kiku mon (the imperial symbol) but he had it at the time this sword was made.

This katana is quite nice with a very typical and prominent sudareba hamon. This is the trademark of the school and since the school was so successful it seems to have been very popular at the time. The polish on both of these blades has very light hadori, almost sashikomi style, and was well executed by a good polisher in Japan recently.

His sudareba and kikusui ha have a clear hamon compared to the early period of the shodai Yoshimichi, and this is probably just a result of refinements in the yakiba. Also, the fact that this hamon was continued from generation to generation, beginning to end, can be viewed as a most remarkable expression of faithfully continuing the father's teachings. Fujishiro

The nie activities are beautiful and the forging pattern is a very fine itame. This blade has a lot of appreciation to give back to the owner.

Yoshimichi Daisho Token Presentation WakizashiYoshimichi Daisho Token Origami Wakizashi

Hozon Nidai Yoshimichi wakizashi

This katana is accompanied by a wakizashi from the second generation Yamato no Kami Yoshimichi. These smiths were working contemporaneously in 1771 so it is possible the daisho has been mounted together since its creation.

This is hard to know for sure, the NBTHK only rarely grants daisho token papers and the papers on this katana and wakizashi are sequential and the blades were found in their koshirae in the USA. The koshirae has some wear and a bit of damage on it and so seems to have been with the blades a long time. Regardless we cannot know now when these blades came together, but most daisho were not made specifically as a pair but were usually united in matched koshirae based on user preferences or gifts of one blade from his master and supplying the other from the samurai who was to wear them.

Both swords in this daisho were only papered to Hozon as the owner who found them was trying to reduce costs for restoration. There should be no problem with submission to Tokubetsu Hozon for one or both in the future should someone want that. Generally I skip Tokubetsu Hozon for this same reason.

The construction of this wakizashi is focused on notare and choji and gunome, and shows the alternate style of these Yoshimichi smiths quite well. The blade is very attractive with a wide hamon though there is a bit of roughness in the steel in the monouchi. The kitae is otherwise very tight ko-itame and matches the katana. The hamon is beautiful with ko-nie and reflects a high skill for this smith. Tanobe sensei called this blade a masterwork.

This 2nd generation had a reputation for sharpness, carrying a ranking of wazamono.

Koshirae LeftKoshirae Right

These blades were found in these koshirae which I think are from the Edo period. Quality wise they are medium and would be nice koshirae for a samurai rather than a daimyo. I'm not sure which schools are involved in the making of this koshirae, so I will leave it to the pictures and your own opinion. They have gold, iron and shakudo elements and would be nice for display.

I think this is a pretty nice set from a well known school. Daisho are not so easy to find, and this would let someone have a nice samurai relic for passing down in their own family.

Yoshimichi Daisho Token Sayagaki

Sayagaki

These two swords received their sayagaki at the same time by Tanobe Michihiro sensei. He is the retired former head researcher of the NBTHK.

  1. 城刕丹波守吉道
    Jōshū Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi
  2. 五字銘ニ菊紋ノ添フ京丹波四代也。年代延寳頃同家ノ傅統ナル簾刃ノ焼申候典型作也
    Goji-mei ni kiku-mon no sou Kyō-Tanba yondai nari. Nendai Enpō goro dōke no dentō-naru sudareba no yakimōshi-sōrō tenkei saku nari.
    [This blade bears a] Five-character signature which is accompanied by a chrysanthemum crest and is a work of the fourth Kyōto Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi generation. It dates around Enpō (1673-1681) and is a textbook example of his work, being hardened in the traditional sudareba of his lineage.
  3. 刃長弐尺二寸八分有之
    Hachō ni-shaku ni-sun hachi-bu kore ari
    Blade length ~ 69.1 cm
  4. 時在己亥清和月探山識「花押」
    Jizai tsuchinoto-i seiwazuki Tanzan shirusu + kaō
    Written by Tanzan [Tanobe Michihiro] in April of the year of the boar of this era (2019) + monogram
  5. 城刕大和守吉道
    Jōshū Yamato no Kami Yoshimichi
  6. 五字有銘而二代作也。同工ノ銘字ハ初代ニ比シテ大銘ナリテ和ノ字ノ五画ガ短キ點ニ見所有之。本作ハ刃幅廣ク湾レノ丁子ト互乃目ヲ交ヘ彼ノ一作風ヲ示ス佳品也
    Goji yūmei shikamo nidai saku nari. Dōkō no mei-ji wa shodai ni hi-shite ō-mei narite “Wa” no ji no gokaku ga mijikaku ten ni midokoro kore ari. Honsaku wa ha-haba hiroku notare no chōji to gunome o majie kare no issakufū o shimesu kahin nari.
    [This blade bears a] Five-character signature and is a work of the second generation. Compared to the first generation, the second master signed in a larger manner and the second character in “Yamato” with a shorter fifth stroke, features which are both present on this blade. It is hardened in a wide notare that is mixed with chōji and gunome and so this masterwork reflects one of the workmanships known by this smith.
  7. 長壱尺六寸九分
    Nagasa isshaku roku-sun kyū-bu
    Blade length ~ 51.2 cm
  8. 己亥暦卯月探山識「花押」
    Tsuchinoto-i uzuki Tanzan shirusu + kaō
    Written by Tanzan [Tanobe Michihiro] in April of the year of the boar of this era (2019) + monogram

Note: it is hard to document a daisho in a lineary photo gallery. The photos are organized with the koshirae first, then the katana (you will see its nakago), then katana pictures, then the wakizashi nakago marks the start of the wakizashi pictures.