Ryujin swords

Koto Ko-Wakizashi by 3rd generation Shimada Yoshisuke NBTHK Hozon

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Period: Tenmon period (1532-1554)

Mei: Yoshisuke

Sugata: Hira-zukuri, futasuji on one side and tsume-tsuki-ken horimono on the other.

Overall length: 18.27 inches (464.00 mm)

Nagasa: 13.86 inches (352.00 mm) long.

Nakago: Ubu, 4.41 inches (112.00 mm), two mekugi-ana. Can't make out the yasurime due to the patination.

Moto-haba: 1.15 inches (29.20 mm). Moto-gasane: 0.24 inches (6.00 mm).

Sori: 0.26 inches (6.70 mm)

Hamon: Ko-notare mixed with hako-midare and sugu-ha. Yubashiri, sunagashi and kinsuji are seen.

Hada: Itame-hada with ji-nie and chikei that slightly stands out.

Blade condition: No fatal flaws and no cracks. In quite good condition for a blade that is nearly 500 years old. Note: those aren't flaws up by the kissaki, but a couple of minor scuffs left by someone. The blade has just come back from the NBTHK and was in this condition when it went to shinsa. It would have been rejected if those were cracks.

The tsume-tsuki-ken horimono has unfortunately been partly polished away over the centuries.


In shirasaya with plain copper habaki.


The sword has NBTHK Hozon papers.

The Shimada school thrived in Shimada, Suruga Province, from the middle of the Muromachi Period until the Edo period, and had quite a reputation in the Sue-Koto. It was founded by the first generation Yoshisuke (aka "Gisuke") circa 1450, who was active around the Kosei Era (1455-1456). Some records state that the first generation Yoshisuke was Soshu Tomishi, a student of Masamune's. There is however no truth in this, although it does indicate the high esteem in which Yoshisuke's blades were held at the time. In fact Yoshisuke had learned the Bizen tradition from Iyetsugu. Subsequent generations of the Shimada school used the smith name of Yoshisuke until the the Keicho era in the Edo Period. The kanji 'suke' appears in the names of the mainline smiths (e.g Sukemune, Hirosuke, Motosuke).

The second generation Yoshisuke was invited to move to the neighbouring Sagami Province by the Hojo clan. He worked at Odawara, hence his alternative name of Odawara Soshu Yoshisuke. The second generation Yoshisuke worked in different styles, but seemed to have preferred the Mino Den.

The second generation's move to Odawara is probably the cause of the close association between the Shimada group and the Odawara Soshu. The Odawara Soshu are the representatives smiths of Soshu-den at the end of the Muromachi period. This association took the form of teacher-pupil relationships, marriages and technical exchanges.

It is thought that the third generation Yoshisuke initially signed himself Teruyoshi. A reference mentions he that learned Bizen-style forging techniques from the father and son team of Iyetoshi and Iyetsugu. The swords of third generation Yoshisuke are rated Jo-saku and similar to those of the second generation Yoshisuke in their unique style of blending the evolving Soshu tradition with the Bizen tradition, such as a Mino/Sengo hako-midare ba. Muramasa was a profound influence on contemporary swordmaking and hako-midare was one of his hamons. The third generation's blades are, however, differentiated from those of the second generation by his wider blades. The third generation Yoshisuke went on to teach Hirosuke, one of the most skilful smiths of the Shimada school, and one of its representative smiths.

The fourth generation, and some later Shimada smiths, were retained by the Takeda family of Kai Province. The Takeda family were amongst the most powerful warlords of the Sengoku Period. The fourth generation also learned the Bizen style from Iyetoshi and his son Iyetsugu.

Incidentally research indicates that Hawley appears to be incorrect in his labelling of the generations. YOS 1673 and YOS 1674 seem to be the first generation Yoshisuke, whilst YOS 1668 is definitely the second generation. The third generation is almost certainly Hawley's YOS 1675, whilst the fourth generation is YOS 1676. The statement in some records that the first generation was taught by Masamune has the effect of making the first generation 100-200 years too early, with consequent confusion for the chronology of the school.


Hawley's Japanese Swordsmiths

Cole R (1998), Tokaido - the Eight Roads of Koto: Surugu-Shimada School