Ryujin Swords

Mumei katana, attributed to Hata Morihisa, in koshirae, NTHK kanteisho



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Blade

Period: Early Edo period (Keian era, 1648-1652 AD)

Mei: No signature.

Sugata: Shinogi-zukuri, tori-zori and iori-mune.

Overall length: 35.19 inches (894.00 mm).

Nagasa: 27.63 inches (702.00 mm).

Nakago: Ubu nakago, 7.56 inches (192.00 mm). No yasurime visible due to patination, ha agari kurijiri, one mekugi-ana.

Kissaki: Komaru boshi

Moto-haba: 1.25 inches (31.80 mm). Saki-haba: 0.80 inches (20.20 mm). Moto-gasane: 0.25 inches (6.30 mm). Saki-gasane: 0.20 inches (5.20 mm).

Sori: 0.71 inches (18.00 mm).

Hamon: Gunome choji and saka-choji, with ko-ashi, sunagashi and kinsuji.

Hada: Itame, with nie-utsuri and chikei.

Blade condition:

In excellent condition and good polish.

Mounts:

The blade is mounted in old original koshirae. I am informed that the mon on the saya is "Sumidate Yotsume", which was the crest of the Sasaki and Kyogoku clans.

The lacquer has been damaged at some point and repaired with paint. I have not attempted to repair the lacquer; I feel that it needs to be professionally restored in a manner that preserves the mon and the existing lacquer, which is after all part of the sword's history. I shall therefore leave it to someone far more skilled than I in lacquer repairs, and I have adjusted the price to take account of the cost of this repair.

The koiguchi also has some damage. I could repair this, but I feel that this is best dealt with when the lacquer is repaired.

The tsuba is decorated with what appear to be antique Chinese coins. More exactly, they appear to be of the sort used in I Ching divination. Early Tokugawa Shintoists studied the I Ching, employing the text extensively to interpret and enrich Shinto.

The shakudo and gold kashira portrays a boy riding a water buffalo whilst playing a flute. This is a common Chinese theme and has been adapted to various religious ideas, including Taoism and Confucianism. The most learned samurai were interested in the old Chinese classics, so these decorations may be an indication of the owner's education, or at least of his aspirations.

If it were not for the damage to the lacquer and the koiguchi, the koshirae would be in excellent condition.

Comments:

NTHK paper attributing this sword to Hata Morihisa of Musashi prefecture (MOR67 (15pts); Jo saku; TT p653, 3M). Morihisa was of the Ishidou school of Edo city. He is also known as "Toren" and "Yazaemon".

The fittings suggest that the owner was either educated, or wished to be considered educated. Both the blade and the fittings suggest a wealthy individual who could afford good work; Morihisa is rated jo-saku (superior work) by Fujishiro. However the sword, considered as a whole, is far more than a bit of expensive male jewellery advertising its owner's status. Having tried it, it is a very effective well-balanced and efficient weapon. Possibly not surprising; it pretty much sums up an educated samurai. In addition the mon, as previously mentioned, is that of the Sasaki and Kyogoku clans. One member of the Sasaki clan was Sasaki Kojiro, the famous swordsman and rival of Miyamoto Musashi.

The Sasaki clan were originally governors of Omi province, which is not far from where Morihisa made swords. They descended directly from Emperor Uda (868-897) by his grandson Minamoto no Masanobu (920-993) (Uda-Genji), but were adopted by the Seiwa Genji. The Seiwa Genji were the most successful and powerful branch of the Minamoto clan.

The name 'Sasaki' was first adopted by Minamoto no Nariyori, great-grandson of Masanobu, and is derived from the name of his domain in Omi province. However, the direct ancestor of the Sasaki, the Rokkaku, the Amago, the Kyogoku and the Kuroda clans is Nariyori's descendant, Hideyoshi (1112-1184), who was adopted by the then head of the Seiwa Genji, Minamoto no Tameyoshi. The Sasaki received from their Seiwa Genji cousins the title of shugo (governor) of Omi and other provinces, which they kept until the Sengoku Period (roughly 1467-1600). At the time that this sword was made - a few years after the date of Musashi's death - the Sasaki clan were a political obstacle to the Hosokawa clan. By the end of the shogunate, the Kyogoku branch of the Sasaki were daimyo of Marugame, Tadotsu (Sanuki province), Toyoka (Tajima province), and Mineyama (Tango province).

A branch of the Kyogoku was ranked among the Koke. The Koke had certain privileged missions, such as carrying the shogun's messages to the Imperial court in Kyoto; treating the Imperial envoys at Edo; representing the Shogun at certain ceremonies in Nikko; and regulating the ceremonies to be observed in the shogun's palace.

There was a certain Sasaki Shrine where Sasaki Yamagimi, a warlord, worshipped the god of ancestor's spirit. Following the middle of the Heian period (794 - 858), the shrine was used to worship the tutelary god of the Sasaki clan. It is said that through this, the "Omi-Genji Festival" is held every year on October 10th in respect of the Sasaki clan.

References

Koke.

Sasaki clan.

'The I Ching in the Shinto Thought of Tokugawa Japan' Wai-ming Ng (1998).

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