Ryujin Swords

Star stamped gendaito by Shigemasa in presentation koshirae



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Blade

Period: Showa.

Mei: Shigemasa saku in tachi mei. The obverse of the nakago reads 'Showa 19 nen 1 Gatsu hi'; January 1944.

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

Overall length: 35.16 inches (893.00 mm).

Nagasa: 26.34 inches (669.00 mm).

Nakago: Ubu, 8.82 inches (224.00 mm). Kiri yasurime, ha-agari kurijiri nakago-jiri, one mekugi-ana.

Kissaki: Chu-kissaki, 1.38 inches (35.10 mm). O-maru boshi with some 'feathering'.

Moto-haba: 1.30 inches (33.10 mm). Saki-haba: 0.89 inches (22.50 mm). Moto-gasane: 0.28 inches (7.20 mm). Saki-gasane: 0.24 inches (6.00 mm).

Sori: 0.75 inches (19.10 mm).

Hamon: Chu-suguha mixed with notare. Ara-nie and ashi.

Hada: Looks like a very fine itame.

Blade condition: Apart from one little nick in the kissaki, in superb condition. It doesn't need a polish, and any competent togishi can easily get rid of the nick.

The presence of a star stamp on the nakago of a WW II era sword blade indicates a blade made by swordsmiths of the Rikugun Jumei Tosho (Army Certified Swordsmith). To become Rikugun Jumei Tosho, a swordsmith had to pass tests and examination of his blades. Once accepted as a Rikugun Jumei Tosho, the smith was given a regular allocation of tamehagane with which to make sword blades. A complete list of Rikugun Jumei Tosho swordsmiths was published in Showa 17 as "Rikugun Jumei Tosho Meibo". The NBTHK is on record as passing and papering star stamped gendaito.

Mounts:

These would appear to be the original mounts. They are a highly unusual cross between a Western hanger and traditional katana koshirae; it can be worn either way. Such hybrid mounts were seen during the Bakumatsu period prior to the Meiji Restoration, and are therefore called Bakumatsu mounts. They are however rare; I have only ever seen one other example.

The workmanship is exceptional, and extremely expensive. All the metal fittings, including the kogai and seppa, are high quality silver; at a guess, 95.8% silver or better. There are 4-6 ounces of silver on this sword.

Comments:

This sword has been in a private collection for several years and is now being sold on commission.

Sakai Ikkansai Shigemasa was one of Kasama Shigetsugu's main pupils and the heir to the Kasama Shigetsugu no Mon (School). In fact many swords signed by Shigetsugu are in fact "daimei"; made by Shigemasa and signed by Shigetsugu.

The Kasama Shigetsugu School was very active in pre-war and wartime Japan, and considered by contemporaries to exhibit the highest level of craftsmanship. Both Shigemasa and his teacher - plus his cousin, the future Yasuhiro and another of Shigetsugu's pupils - frequently forged swords at a forge on the estate of Toyama Mitsuru, the patron of the Black Dragon Society. According to the Tokyo Kindai Tosho, Shigemasa also worked with Yasuhiro at the Yasukuni forge. In 1936 he accompanied Yasuhiro when the latter moved to the Okura Tanrensho Dojo. In 1942 Shigemasa was chosen to make ten highly prestigious presentation tanto commissioned by Admiral Yamamoto, one of which recently sold at Christies for £20k.

Shigemasa eventually became a Mukansa swordsmith and teacher of the present day Mukansa swordsmith Ikkansai Shigehisa. After WW2, he was commissioned to make a sacred treasure ken for the Ise Shrine and was still winning sword-making prizes in his old age. Some of Shigemasa's best swords have sold for $28k.

This particular sword has all the hallmarks of a presentation sword. Presentation swords became particularly popular in pre-war and wartime Japan. Shigemasa was commissioned to do several, including the ten tanto for Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto mentioned above.

The menuki are particularly interesting, since they combine a family mon with a particular version of the pawlonia mon. The latter is one of the Imperial mon, though these days it is used to indicate the Office of the Prime Minister.

The family mon engraving or piercing every fitting (there are a total of twenty mon) is that of the Shimazu family, the daimyo of Satsuma. The red colour of the saya is consistent with this; red saya were popular in Satsuma in the Bakumatsu period.

The Shimazu are more important, historically speaking, than they might at first seem. The present emperor is descended, on his motherís side from them. On 13 December 1889 Shimazu Chikako, the seventh daughter of Prince Shimazu Tadayoshi (the last daimyo of Satsuma Province and the first of the Japanese aristocracy to industrialise), married Prince Kuni Kuniyoshi. The marriage represented an alliance between the imperial family and the powerful Satsuma clan. The wife of the Showa Emperor was the daughter of Shimazu Chikako (Princess Kuni). Princess Kuniís brother, HIH Prince Kuni Asaakira was third head of the Kuni-no-miyaOke, a colateral branch of the Imperial family, and a vice admiral during WW2. It is not impossible that this was a presentation sword for one of the Shimazu or their descendants, particularly considering Shigemasa was commissioned to do other extremely important presentation nihont. At the very least the high quality workmanship, and the amount of silver used in the koshirae, indicates expensive koshirae and thus an important individual.

The Shimazu became commoners following the post-war constitutional settlement, along with a few other collateral branches of the Imperial family.

References

SOLD. Currency conversion.



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