Antique Japanese Sword Katana attributed to Shitahara Kinzogan Mei Sasa no Tsuyu with NBTHK Hozon Certificate
This blade was attributed to Shitahara school during the early Edo Period (Mid-Late 17th century).Shitahara is also the name of the area in Hachioji city in today’s Tokyo.
It is said that Yamamoto Norishige founded Shitahara school, and it thrived from the end of the Muromachi period to the late Edo period (Late 16th century to Late 19th century).
The swordsmiths who lived in Shitahara were called Shitahara Kaji. They were the group of swordsmiths under the Hojo clan’s auspicious, powerful feudal line during the late Muromachi period first. It is said that the first-gen Yasushige was the son of Chikashige, another prominent figure in this school. The first-gen Yasushige originally signed Chikashige as his first maker’s name. However, he changed it to Yasushige after receiving 康 (Yasu) letter from Hojo Ujiyasu, a famous feudal lord he served.
After the Toyotomi clan destroyed the Hojo clan in the Azuchi Momoyama period, Shitahara started to serve the Tokugawa clan as Okakae Kaji, swordsmiths exclusively working for a specific feudal family.
Most of the Shitahara swordsmith’s real sir name was Yamamoto. They especially flourished during the late Muromachi period-early Edo period. They kept forging for the Tokugawa clan until the end of the Edo period. Among the Bushu Shitahara group, Yasushige was one of the most famous makers.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of the blades forged by Shitahara Kaji is Jorinmoku (如輪杢), which looks like a whirlpool on Hada (the steel surface of the Japanese sword).
Kinzogan Mei ＆ Sasa no Tsuyu
This blade has a Kinzogan Mei on one side of the tang. Kinzogan Mei is a kind of signature chiseled with pure gold on each letter. It was a luxury to put a Kinzogan Mei because of the cost of pure gold and skilled labor.
For this particular blade, it has Sasa no Tsuyu (笹乃露). Sasa no Tsuyu literally means dew from Bamboo grass. In Japanese sword terminology, this word means the blade went through test cutting and proved to be super sharp. One can cut his enemy’s head as if dew dropped from a bamboo grass. In another word, with this blade, one can cut it effortlessly.
This blade is appraised as a Hozon Touken (保存刀剣) issued by NBTHK (Nihon Bijutsu Touken Hozon Kyokai: 日本美術刀剣保存協会). This authentication paper was only given to authentic Japanese swords, well preserved and high quality with artistic value.
Cutting Edge Length (Nagasa): 73.7 cm ( 29.0 inches)
Curvature (Sori): 1.6 cm (0.63 inches)
The crystalline structure which forms along the cutting edge of a blade as a result of the hardening process.
Visible steel surface pattern created by folding and hammering during forging process.
Nakago: Nakago is the tang of the Japanese sword.
Japanese swordsmiths left the black rust on the tang because it prevents red rust while the tang is in its handle. And the discoloration of the tang was created over time, and it is a great indicator for a Japanese sword specialist to estimate when the sword was forged.
Koshirae: Koshirae is the mounting of the Japanese sword. There are several parts that consist of Koshirae such as Saya (Scabbard), Tsuka (Handle), Tsuba (Handguard).
Fuchi-Kashira: A pair of matching sword fittings that cover the upper and bottom parts of its sword hilt.
If you focus on the side of the Fuchi part, you will find that there is an engraved inscription. According to this signature, its maker is Souju(宗壽). This inscription reminds us of a famous metalworker from the Yokoya (横谷) school; however, there is no proof.
The motifs of this Fuchi Kashira are horses. The horses are depicted in different ways, with their heads raised or sitting on the ground and resting, and their eyes are colored with golden paint. Horses have been around human life for a long time, not only as our food but also for transportation or carriage of luggage. In Japan, horses were thought of as vehicles for gods to be dedicated to shrines in ancient times. It is said it is the origin of Ema (絵馬, picture tablet used as an offering at a shrine) today. Horses had been used as a tool for rituals and festivals. After the age of the Samurai warriors appeared, wearing large armor or performing archery and riding a hose became martial arts. Equestrian tactics became the pillar of military action and security activities. A theory says that is why the Japanese sword began to have a curve to make it suitable for slashing (Japanese swords were straight in the beginning).
Among the horse patterns, there is a design called the Hidari-Uma (左馬). The letter “馬” means a horse and describes the figure of a horse running to the left. And the Hidari-Uma pattern refers to a picture of a horse running to the right. It shows the turning over of the “horse (Uma).” There is the word Mau (舞う, dancing) in Japanese; people thought happiness would come down in association with “turning the horse” and “dancing.” Also, the horse pattern has been loved as an amulet to pray for prosperity in business.
Tsuka and Menuki: Tsuka is the handle of the Japanese sword and Menuki is its decoration.
We believe the animal which is engraved here is the Karajishi (唐獅子). The same as the horses designed on the Fuchi Kashira, golden paint was applied to these Karajishis’ eyes. The Shishi (獅子) means a lion in Japanese, and the Karajishi is a lion brought from the continent to Japan in the Toh period (唐, Tang dynasty, 618-907). The Karajishi typically has curly hair for its head, neck, body, and tail. In Buddhism, the Karajishi is regarded as a symbol of wisdom, and Monju Bosatu (文殊菩薩, Manjushri Bodhisattva) rides lions. According to a theory, the Karajishi is the origin of Komainu (狛犬, stone guardian dogs that exorcize evil spirits). It shows this beast motif has been familiar to Japanese people since ancient times.
Tsuba and Habaki: Tsuba is the handguard for the Japanese Sword and Habaki is the equipment to make the blade not touch its scabbard inside. It prevents the blade from getting rusty and chipped.
This iron Tsuba has Kozuka and Kougai holes. Bundles of plants, probably branches or straw, are carved using openwork techniques. The string-like parts that hold the pieces together are colored with gold, making this Tsuba’s decorativeness.
Saya: Saya is the scabbard for the Japanese sword.
Authentication Paper: NBTHK Hozon Certificate for the blade (No.3029932)
NBTHK, also known as Nihon Bijutsu Touken Hozon Kyokai (the Society for the Preservation of the Japan Art Sword), is one of the oldest Japanese sword appraising organizations in modern-day Japan. They authenticated the blade on Dec 14th in the 4th year of Reiwa (2022). They appraised it as Hozon Touken, the blade worth preserving for Japanese society. The purchaser will receive this original certificate as well. We can also translate what is written into English and make a PDF file for your record if you request.
Registration Number: Nagano 35626
The Board of Education in Nagano prefecture issued a registration paper for this sword. It is called Jyu Token Rui Torokusho (銃刀剣類登録証). Bunkacho (The Agency for Cultural Affairs) acknowledges a Japanese sword with this paper as a work of art.
The sword needs to be traditionally hand-forged and made of Tamahagane carbon steel to be registered in the system. With this paper, its owner in Japan can legally own an authentic Japanese sword. Based on this registration number, we will apply for its export permit.
This paper will need to be returned to the board of education when the sword is being shipped abroad, but you can receive a copy of it. An English translation of this registration paper is available on request.
Samurai Museum is located in Tokyo, Japan, exhibiting antique artifacts related to the Samurai history. Samurai Museum Shop is the place for those who are interested in Japanese culture and craftsmanship. We deal with antique Samurai swords/armor, traditional crafts made in Japan and so on.
Here is one of the reviews we received from a customer who purchased an authentic Japanese sword from us. For more reviews, please click here.
“My experience overall with the whole process was wonderful. I had many questions about the history and process to purchase these treasures. All my questions were answered very timely and complete. The staff is very knowledgeable and very well versed if any questions do arise.”
【Japanese Sword& Export Process】
The Japanese swords we deal with are hand-forged edged swords made in Japan. It was made from the traditional carbon steel called TAMAHAGANE (玉鋼). Samurai Museum is familiar with the proper legal procedure for an antique/ authentic Japanese sword to be exported from Japan. We have sent more than 500 Japanese swords for the past three years (～2023) to amazing owners who appreciate its historical value.
Each Japanese sword is registered under the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Board of Education in Japan. They issue a registration paper for each Japanese sword for its owner in Japan to legally possess it. The Japanese sword with its registration paper means it was traditionally hand-forged in Japan.
To legally export the sword from Japan to other countries, we will have to apply for its permit to the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Bunkacho) and return the original registration paper to the Board of Education. It normally takes around 2-4 weeks to receive this permit after submitting required documents. And we would like you to expect at least 1-1.5 months for your order to arrive at your given address after you ordered. For more detailed info, please click here.
It is allowed for residents in Japan to own authentic Japanese swords without a special license as long as they come with registration papers. Please feel free to contact us if you are a resident of Japan, whether temporarily or permanently. We will also assist you when you leave Japan and need to obtain the export permit.
We accept payment through Stripe (Credit card), PayPal, Apple Pay or ChromePay, all of which are secure payment methods. Also, you don’t need to make an account on Stripe for the checkout. If you prefer other payment method, please contact us. After confirming your payment, we will apply for an export permit. You may either pay in JPY, USD, AUD, CAD, EUR, CHF or GBP. The price is set in Japanese Yen. Prices in other currencies are automatically calculated based on the latest exchange rate.
*If the amount is above 1 million JPY, Stripe or wire transfer will be the only options for payment.
We have shipped authentic Japanese swords to the USA, UK, Canada, Mexico, Germany, France, Hong Kong and Australia. If you don’t live in these countries and like to order, please contact us first before making a purchase. We offer Free International Shipping as long as we can send antique Japanese swords by EMS.
We normally ship by EMS (Express Mail Service) provided by Japan Post. We will send you a tracking number for your order as soon as we hand it to the post office. We will put 100 % insurance on the shipping document without any extra charge. Based on the total amount, there might be a duty tax or other fee for you to pay, depending on the countries. We use package cushioning to protect the item and put it in a PVC pipe, which is one of the most secure packages because of its durability.
It will normally take 5-14 days for the item to arrive at your given address after we dispatch it. Time of delivery is estimated as accurately as possible by the carrier but does not take into account any delays beyond our control such as by inclement weather, post office holiday seasons.
*If you live in Australia and like to purchase an authentic Japanese sword, please click here to know the detail.
*Please keep in mind that due to the spread of COVID-19, there might be delays in shipping. If you like to know the detail about shipping, please feel free to ask us.
【How to make sure the condition】
Please keep in mind that what you are going to purchase is an antique item. We uploaded high resolution photos for you to check its condition thoroughly. If you like to see more photos with different angles, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to send them to you so that you can make informed decision. It is essential for us to know that you are happy with your choice of a sword. and we are prepared to use the best of our ability to serve you.
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【The Art of Nihonto (Japanese Sword) 】
Samurai’s history is a profound, eloquent legacy of ancient Japanese warriors in which millions of people worldwide are being fascinated. If you like to find out the art of Nihonto, please click here.
【A Guide to Japanese Sword Maintenance】
After acquiring a genuine Japanese sword, it is also important to know how to take good care of it. Here is the special video for you. Mr. Paul Martin, Japanese sword expert, shows you how to give proper maintenance to your sword. By mastering how to clean the Japanese sword, its aesthetic beauty will last forever.
When you purchase a Japanese sword from us, you can get a Free Japanese sword maintenance kit. It comes with four tools (Choji Oil, Uchiko Whetstone Powder, Peg remover, Oil Applicator). By watching the video instruction above, you can enjoy learning how to maintain your Japanese sword while appreciating it. If you have any difficulty assembling the sword or cleaning the blade, you can feel free to contact us.
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