Mei: Yasunori (can be pronounced Yasutoku). Dated on the reverse August, Showa 16.
Sugata: Shinogi-zukuri, tori-zori, iori-mune.
Overall length: 34.49 inches (876.00 mm)
Nagasa: 26.22 inches (666.00 cm) long.
Nakago: Ubu, 8.27 inches (210.00 mm), ha agarikuri-jiri, one mekugi-ana. The yasurime are kiri.
Kissaki: Chu-kissaki, 1.34 inches (33.88 mm). The boshi is ko-maru.
Moto-haba: 1.20 inches (30.45 mm). Moto-gasane: 0.29 inches (7.43 mm). Saki-haba: 0.78 inches (19.76 mm). Saki-gasane: 0.25 inches (6.30 mm).
Sori: 0.56 inches (14.62 mm)
Hamon: Choji-midare with some gunome and lots of ashi.
Hada: A very tight and fine mokume/itame. You need a magnifying glass to see the details it is that fine.
In recent polish. No flaws, ware, chips, hagirae or bends.
In shirasaya. Silver one-piece habaki.
This has been in my collection for six years now. It is time to part with it. The workmanship is typical of this smith.
Yasutoku was born Kajiyama Tokutaro in Meiji 14 (1881) in Nikata Town, Kamo county, Hiroshima prefecture. He learned Bizen-den from his father, after which he trained under Yokoyama Sukeyoshi (58th gen Bizen Tomonari) and gained the smith name Ujimasa. The Yokoyama Bizen smiths were known for gunome choji hamon in nioi. Sometimes ara nie can be seen in their work, particularly in that done by Yasunori and his nephew.
The Army and Navy were, at this time, concerned that the number of swords available were insufficient to meet the needs of the growing officer corps. The Army Ministry and the Ministry of Culture, together with the Household Ministry, decided to set up a new centre for sword forging with its own tatara at the Yasukuni Shrine. The Nihonto Tanren Kai was established on 8 July 1933.
Kajiyama Tokutaro was appointed to the Nihonto Tanren Kai as an instructor by the Army Minister, General Sadao Araki. The Minister also gave him the smith name Yasunori. For the first six months there were just two smiths at the Yasukuni forge, Kajiyama Yasunori and Yasuhiro, plus two sakite - Yasunori’s nephew and apprentice, Kenzo Kotani, and his cousin, Kajiyama Toshimichi, later Yasutoshi. Yasunori Kajiyama produced about 1250 blades at Yasukuni. He also made blades at his own shop outside Yasukuni during this period, which he signed Taketoku. The 'Take' kanji was awarded by General Nara Taketsugu, aide-de-camp to the Emperor.
The Yasukuni system required the smiths to submit their swords to a shinsa panel on a regular basis. Most Yasukuni-to had a suguha hamon, which was the style preferred by the Army; it was quicker to make than other styles, time was a very important factor, and it was therefore a requirement of the shinsa panel. Some of the smiths – in particular Yasunori Kajiyama – were unhappy with these restrictions. Yasunori Kajiyama would frequently push the limits of the panel’s tolerance by adding tobiyaki or doing a choji-midare hamon with many ashi, like this sword. Such hamon were more ornate than the design brief required by the panel. Other styles of hamon such as gunome and sanbon-tsugi are occasionally seen in Yasukuni-to.
In 1935 Kajiyama Yasunori’s nephew, Kenzo Kotani, became a smith and was awarded the smith’s name Yasunori, thus causing potential confusion. Fortunately Kotani Yasunori used a different second character in his mei to distinguish his work from that of his uncle; Kajiyama Yasunori’s mei can also be pronounced Yasutoku. It has also been reported that, from 1935, Kajiyama Yasunori changed the style of his tang to kiji-mono, again to differentiate his Yasukuni swords (but not his Taketoku swords) from those of his nephew, Kotani Yasunori. However there are known and dated exceptions to this rule, for example an award sword in Slough page 189. However I have seen swords by Yasunori Kajiyama with a futsu tang (or at least, the kiji-mono is not obvious) that do not have dedications on them, as award swords would do, which begs the question whether he did futsu nakago for private commissions as well.
The position is further complicated by Yasunori Kajiyama signing as dai-saku, although he varied his mei in these cases, and by his students signing dai-mei. Given the proximity of his forge to the shrine, there is also no guarantee that work started in his private forge wasn't finished at the shrine and vice versa. That this happened is demonstrated by one of his nephew's swords, the mei of which reads "Takenori Yasunori kaimu yoka oite shitaku tsukuru kore kuokoku betsumei" (Yasunori made this sword and signed it Takenori at my workshop when I was off duty) (Kishida & Mishina, page 62). It is therefore possible that some swords that were started in Kajiyama Yasunori's private forge were finished at the shrine, and thus signed Yasenori (Yasutoku) rather than Taketoku.
All things considered, a kiji-momo tang may not be a reliable indication of his Yasukuni swords in all cases because they only indicate swords both started and finished at Yasukuni, and even then there are exceptions. More research is needed. Unfortunately the smith is long dead and therefore unable to answer these questions.
Yasunori Kajiyama died in Showa 32 (1957) at the age of 77.
TK 701 Toko Taikan
YAS 1044, 1043 Hawley
NMK 1087 Nihonto Meikan
Kishida T & K Mishina (2004), The Yasukuni Swords: Rare Weapons of Japan 1933-1945, Kodansha International.
Slough J S (2001), An Oshigata Book of Modern Japanese Swordsmiths 1868-1945,Rivanna River Company.
SOLD. Free shipping, bag included. Currency conversion.