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All original, superb quality Edo fittings and mounts [1596-1868]. Gold embellished dragon design, and signed, kozuka tana utility knife. The blade is Nambokochu and is in super polish with a typical thin suguha hamon of the period. Giant ray skin covered hilt with three clan mon menuki covered in pure in gold. Carved buffallo horn kashira and saya mounts. One patron mon will likely be the dominant mon and the others from conjoined allied clans, through marriage, and subserviant retainer families. Mon may have originated as fabric patterns to be used on clothes in order to distinguish individuals or signify membership of a specific clan or organization. But by twelfth century Japan, sources give a clear indication that heraldry had been implemented as a distinguishing feature, especially for use in battle. It is seen on flags, tents, weapons armour, and equipment.
Like European heraldry, mon were used on the battlefield and mon served as army standards, even though this usage was not universal and uniquely designed army standards were just as common as mon-based standards ( sashimono, uma-jirushi).
Japanese traditional formal attire generally displays the mon of the wearer.
Rules regulating the choice and use of mon were somewhat limited, though the selection of mon was generally determined by social customs. It was considered improper to use a mon that was known to be held by someone else, and offensive to use a mon that was held by someone of a high rank. When mon came into conflict, the lower-ranked person sometimes changed their mon to avoid offending their superior. The mon held by the ruling clans of Japan, such as Tokugawa's hollyhock mon and the Emperor's chrysanthemum mon, were legally protected from unauthorized usage.
Occasionally, patron clans granted the use of their mon to their retainers as a reward. Similar to the granting of the patron's surnames, this was considered a very high honour. Alternatively, the patron clan may have added elements of its mon to that of its retainer, or choose a completely different mon for them.
A simply stunning and most ancient blade, around 700 to 800 years old, in original Edo period fittings of pure gold inlaid copper fushi kashira, of birds and a wild boar, signed by the master craftsman, and a very good, early, iron kaga zogan tsuba, inlaid with sinshu decoration including twin demi-lune imperial chrysanthemum mon of the emperor. It is an o-sukashi tsuba in a pierced wheel spoke pattern, from the koto period, of circa 1580. The katana bears an original, early, nagamaki naganata long polearm blade shortened, as was tradition in the 1400's, to later mount as a samurai katana. It has wonderful brown and gold bi-colour silk deluxe hilt wrap, and a black ishime stone lacquer saya with buffalo horn kurigata and sayajiri. Nagamaki were weapons favoured by the Buddhist warrior monks that would have used these pole arms in service to protect and guard the Temples and surrounding land, which were under constant pressure by neighbouring warring clans attempting to jockey for power and expansion. To this end the sword smiths supplying weapons to this warrior class would have been very mindful to Buddhist beliefs of remaining unattached to material possessions, which explains why many of these weapons were never signed. The blade has the typical early, koto period, thin sugaha hamon that continues along the whole length of the blade but is barely visible on the small middle kissaki area. The blade has one or two very small old surface pitting areas [not suprising for its great age]. We show in the gallery a mounted samurai with his ancient nagamaki pole arm with a most similar blade type. The skill of the ancient samurai swordsmith was unsurpassed in the world and could take up to 30 years or more for a smith to fully master.
This samurai sword, like all true and original samurai swords, would have been the prize possession of every samurai that owned it. It would most likely have cost more than his home, and would certainly have been more important.
This is just one reason why fine Japanese sword steel, even of this tremendous age, is in such good state of preservation. When a katana such as this has been, for its entire existence, so highly revered, treasured and appreciated, it will have been cared for most sensitively and treated with the utmost respect during its entire life. In many regards it will have represented the only thing that stood between its samurai owner, of which there may have been 30 or more during this swords great history, and his ultimate downfall in a combat situation. 38 inches long overall in saya, blade 25 inches long
Showing a fabulous and extravagant hamon temper line patinated copper fittings decorated with birds. Pierced iron tsuba featuring a butterfly. Signed by one of the great and famous names in Samurai sword history, Bizen Osafune Sukesada. Sukesada was a family name used by a number of great swordsmiths and they are most collectable in their own right. This blade is dated 1573, the equivalent date of the time when Mary Queen of Scots was conspiring to dethrone her 'cousin' , the mightiest of all European Queens, Queen Elizabeth. Harima, Mimasaka and Bizen provinces were prospering under the protection of the Akamatsu family. Above all, Bizen province turned out a great many talented swordsmiths. A large number of swords were made there in the late Muromachi period not only supplying the demand of the Age of Provincial Wars in Japan but also as an important exporting item to the Ming dynasty in China. At the onset of the decline of the Ashikaga shogunate in 1565 ad., and Yoshiteru's assassination the shogunate of Yoshiteru was filled by his two-year old son, Yoshiaki. Yoshiteru's brother was the abbot of a Buddhist monastery. He resigned this position and attempted to assume the shogunate. These efforts ultimately failed. The demand for swords began an accent to unimaginable levels. The national unrest and violent civil war did not cease until the successful takeover of the shogunate by Tokugawa Iyeyasu. The "Osafune - Kozori" group was the major supplier of blades for these events.It is also well documented that there were indeed very high quality works produced during this time. Many higher quality swords of varying degrees were also needed to provide the upper ranks with swords befitting their status. The leading smiths producing the highest quality works was Sukesada along with a few others such as Kasumitsu, Munemitsu, Kiyomitsu mons.
This sword was produced by an Osafune school smith, Sukesada. Though there were many sword schools located in Bizen Province, for many years the Osafune was the most prosperous of these schools.
Sukesada was the most prominent name of the Sue-Bizen school.
RESERVED. RVDA. This is one of the nicest of it's type we have ever seen, with a beautiful chisa katana blade up to around 600 years old. Fine smith made samurai blade of super quality in good polish for age with engraved hi and a pure gold decorated habaki, with engraved lines and rain drop pattern. Very finely carved wooden saya and tsuka to similate bamboo. In the 1870's the Meiji Emperor disbanded the fuedal samurai order and banned the wearing of the sword. This created much unrest between the samurai and the government and some samurai moved to carrying shikome-zue hidden sword. Therefore, via a circuitous route, they still remain armed, but with their katana hidden from view. But by that way they felt, least in part, their honour remained intact. With a long and most elegant blade. In ninjutsu shikomizue became quite popular, as it provided the night warriors with what they needed most – versatility, secrecy and mortality. The walking sticks were popular among all the classes and carrying it caused no suspicion. Combined with the impersonation skills, shikomizue was really a dangerous weapon attacking the enemy most suddenly. This is possibly one of the nicest of it's types we have ever seen. The blade is typical chisa katana with elegant central hi. Very nice sugaha hamon in very nice 95% original polish. The stick is fully and superbly hand carved to simulate bamboo . This piece absolutely reminds us of the world reknown fictional blind samurai Zatoichi. He does not carry a traditional katana, instead using a very well traditionally made shikomi-zue (cane sword) just as this sword is. Zatoichi's cane sword, his weapon was forged by a master bladesmith and is of superior quality, just like this rare, fine traditional ancient chisa katana bladed example. We show an 1817 Japanese print by Hokusai of his depiction of an all black clad warrior [so called ninja] climbing a rope, with what appears to be his shikomezue hidden sword stick. Blade 20.5 inches long, 35.5 inches long overall.
Over the past 48 years I have personally supervised our company's determination to provide the most interesting, educational, yet not too intimidating, gallery of original Japanese Samurai weapons, helmets, sword fittings, polearms, muskets and armour for sale. Principally concentrating on a combination of age, beauty, quality and history. Thanks to an extensive contact base [built up over the past 100 years or more] that stretches across the whole world, including collectors [both large and small], curators, academics and consultants, we have been very fortunate, that this effort has rewarded us with the ability to offer, what we believe to be, the most comprehensive selection available in Europe. We have always loved the history of the Samurai and their weaponry, and we have long admired and envied their skill at creating the unparalleled beauty of samurai swords. Our Japanese weapons vary in age up to 800 years old, and frequently display some of the finest examples of specialist workmanship and skill ever achieved by mankind. We have tried to include, within the description of most items, a brief generic history lesson [for those that have interest, and may wish to know] that will describe the eras, areas and circumstances that these items were used in. We have tried our utmost to be informative and interesting without being too academic in order to keep the details vibrant, fascinating yet not too complex. We would never be so bold to credit ourselves to be all-knowing on Japanese historical Nihonto, because, quite simply, some of the most learned scholars, studying the art of the samurai and nihonto all of their adult lives, often admit to only scratching the surface of the knowledge to be learnt in this extraordinary field. Please enjoy, with our compliments, our Japanese Gallery. It has been, effectively, decades in the creation, and we intend it to remain interesting and informative, hopefully, for decades to come.Thank you, Mark Hawkins [Partner].
Circa 1500, around 500 years old. The 'cormorant's neck' blade form is patterned after the shape of the Nagamaki, the powerful long-handled sword popular between the 12th and 14th centuries. Notable for the strongly relieved shinogi-ji and diamond-shaped kissaki, the Unokubi-Zukuri Katana provides excellent balance in a strong cutting blade. The mune (back) of the blade is also different from the more usual form in that it starts out like most katanas, but after a third of the way down, the mune thins out rapidly into a long thin false edge. The last couple of inches of the mune then flare back out into a diamond form right at the kissaki. The Koto period is 900 to 1595 AD. With very nice mounts. The fushi kashira are embellished with gold over patinated copper and decorated with animals. The kashira is a gold embellished bird with flowers on a nanako ground, and the fushi is decorated with a rat eating a daikon, the favoured food of the samurai. The tsuba is in iron, koto period O-sukashi with piercings and wide rim. The blade looks superb. 27.5 inch blade. 38 inches long approx overall in saya
Original Edo lacquer saya, simple hilt with giant rayskin wrap. Buffalo horn fittings. Good blade with undulating hamon and cormorants neck form blade shape.The tanto was designed primarily as a stabbing weapon, but the edge can be used for slashing as well. Tanto are generally forged in hira-zukuri style (without ridgeline), meaning that their sides have no ridge line and are nearly flat, unlike the shinogi-zukuri structure of a katana. Some tanto have particularly thick cross-sections for armour-piercing duty, and are called yoroi toshi., but this scarce type is Unokubi Zukuri
Some of the most beautiful and skilful hand carving we have seen on such a tanto. The blade Is also very nicely polished too. Stunningly depicting samurai in combat, with various figures and shishi lion dogs. Shishi (or Jishi) is translated as lion but it can also refer to a deer or dog with magical properties and the power to repel evil spirits. A pair of shishi traditionally stand guard outside the gates of Japanese Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, although temples are more often guarded by two Nio protectors. The Shishi (like the Nio) are traditionally depicted in pairs, one with mouth open and one with mouth shut. The opened/closed mouth relates to Ah (open mouth) and Un (closed mouth). Ah is the first sound in the Japanese alphabet, while N (pronounced un] is the last. These two sounds symbolize beginning and end, birth and death, and all possible outcomes (from alpha to omega) in the cosmic dance of existence. The first letter in Sanskrit is Ah as well, but the last is Ha. Nonetheless, the first and last sounds produced by the mouth are Ah and M. The Sanskrit m and the Japanese n sound exactly the same when hummed with mouth closed. The spiritual Sanskrit terms AHAM and AUM thus encapsulate the first letter-sound (mouth open) and the final sound (mouth closed). Others say the open mouth is to scare off demons, and the closed mouth to shelter and keep in the good spirits. The circular object often shown beneath their feet is the Tama, or sacred Buddhist jewel, a symbol of Buddhist wisdom that brings light to darkness and holds the power to grant wishes. Mounted in the late Meiji to Taisho period as a most decorative dagger, representative of the legendary samurai. Of course this was not a traditional sword wearing mount, but when Japan was opening up to the world, after being a closed feudal society for almost 400 years, swords such as these were most popular with visitors from Europe from the earliest steamship trade. They were also given as gifts for presentation
This is a delightful blade with a fine suguha hamon,
from the great school of Tadayoshi smiths. With all its original superb pure gold decorated fittings featuring takebori fans over a nanako ground. A really nice namban sukashi tsuba of the ancient traditional of the dragon and the phoenix. Menuki of a buffalo drawing a cart all embellished with pure gold, and a shishi [lion dog]. The saya is it's original Edo lacquer inlaid with small pieces of polished abilone shell. It has it's kozuka knife in the saya pocket of gold and patinated copper. The whole piece is of very fine quality and singularly attractive. The Godai Tadayoshi (Fifth Generation) was born in 1696. He was the son of the Omi Daijo Tadayoshi ( Fourth Generation). He began working around 1716 and worked until his death in 1775. He signed Hizen Kuni Tadahiro while his father was alive. He is also known to have signed Dai-mei for his father. After his father's death in 1747 he changed his signature to read Hizen (no) Kuni Tadayoshi. He received the title Omi (no) Kami in 1750 after which he began signing Hizen Kuni Omi (no) Kami Tadayoshi. He is the first of the later smiths to sign "Omi (no) Kami" and he is known by that nickname.
This smith had a long working life and produced a good number of swords. Although a later generation, his work is considered to resemble that of the first generation. He is considered to be the last of the "Shinto" Tadayoshi smiths. The next generation (6th) marks the beginning of the "Shinshinto" Tadayoshi smiths. Total length in saya 24.75, 18.5 inch blade tsuba to tip.
We just received a most pleasant surprise from a friend from the Japanese Consulate in Piccadilly, London. A copy of a most informal interview we gave during stock listing, on a hot summers day, to a most polite and courteous journalist from a Japanese newspaper a little while ago.
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