Antique Japanese Sword Katana Attributed to Yoshimitsu with NBTHK JUYO TOKEN Certificate
This blade is attributed to Osafune Yoshimitsu (長船義光) according to NBTHK, which appraised it as a JUYO TOKEN. It is said that Yoshimitsu was the son of Kagemitsu (景光) and the younger brother of Kanemitsu (兼光). Yoshimitsu was active during the late Kamakura-Mid Nanbokucho era (1321～1368). Since he was forging blades for such a long time, one theory says the maker’s name Yoshimitsu might have lasted two generations.
Yoshimitsu belonged to Osafune school in Bizen province (Today’s Okayama prefecture). His older brother Kanemitsu was an apprentice of Soshu Masamune (相州正宗), one of the most famous swordsmiths in Japanese history. Masamune was a master of SOSHU DEN, one of the five traditions of Japanese sword forging. Bizen province was also renowned for its unique sword forging tradition called BIZEN DEN.
It is said that his older brother Kanetmisu invented the unique Japanese sword-forging technique called Soden Bizen, which is the combination of SOSHU Den and BIZEN DEN. And Yoshimitsu mastered this technique from Kanemitsu. The swords forged in Soden Bizen were very popular among Samurai back then. Yoshimitsu and his brother’s active period was almost identical. The early work (Late Kamakura period) of Yoshimitsu resembles his father’s (Kagemitsu), while others made after the Nanbokucho era had a strong influence from his brother Kanemitsu’s works.
His father, Kagemitsu, was the third head of Bizen Osafune school, while his brother was the fourth head. Yoshimitsu learned excellent craftsmanship from these two great masters. Kagemitsu was famous for inventing a characteristic Hamon (tempering line) called *Kataochi Gunome. And he became one of the top-tier swordsmiths in Bizen, and Osafune school flourished greatly. This blade has this Hamon line and contains *Gunome and Kogunome Hamon.
This History of Bizen Osafune School
It is said that Osafune school was founded by Mitsutada (光忠), who was active during the mid-Kamakura period. Bizen Osafune school was the biggest one of all other schools in Bizen province, and they received many orders from feudal lords or renowned Samurai. They were called Osafunemono and beloved by Samurai warriors.
Among the swordsmiths who belonged to this school, Nagamitsu, Sanenaga, and Kagemitsu are known as Osafune Sansaku, the three renowned Osafune swordsmiths. There are also four other prominent swordsmiths who were from Bizen Osafune school. They are called Osafune Shiten-no, the four masters of Osafune school. Their names are Nagamitsu, Kanemitsu, Nagayoshi, and Motoshige.
BIZEN is located near the Chugoku Mountains, where iron sands, one of the essential materials for making Japanese swords, were abundant. Furthermore, BIZEN swordsmiths had close access to Yoshi River, where they could find water and charcoal. This geological location contributed to the swordsmiths forging high-quality refined blades. We presume BIZEN was quite active in sword-forging from ancient times. It is said that BIZEN DEN was created by groups of swordsmiths there during the late Heian era (Late 12th century ). These ancient swordsmiths in Bizen province are called Ko-Bizen (Old Bizen) swordsmiths. By inheriting the sword forging techniques from Ko-Bizen swordsmiths, the Bizen Osafune school flourished from the mid-Kamakura period.
This blade is appraised as a JUYO TOKEN(重要刀剣) 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, exceptionally well preserved and of high quality with artistic value. JUYO is one rank higher than Tokubetsu Hozon. To be eligible for a Juyo Token, it needs to be appraised as a Tokubetsu Hozon Token first. It is extremely rare for an antique Japanese sword to be appraised as JUYO TOKEN, and it is highly desirable among Japanese sword collectors.
*Gunome: a type of Hamon that undulates in a series of semi-circles
*Kataochi Gunome: Flat-topped Gunome that slant in the same direction as saw teeth
Cutting Edge Length(Nagasa)：68.1 cm ( 26.8inches)
Curvature(Sori)：2.1 cm (0.82 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. According to the certificate, this blade was heavily shortened in the past (Osuriage: 大磨り上げ).
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.
Clouds are designed for this Fuchi Kashira. Golden paint is applied to these motifs. The cloud pattern is also seen in the Tsuba. Please check its explanation later. Clouds bring rain and snow, and their movements significantly affect the day’s weather. Due to its supernatural power, a theory says that gods, spirits, and dragons dwell in the clouds.
The cloud pattern has been associated with magical power, and people thought it an omen of lucky things. In addition, some people wished to obtain a leisurely life in comfort by seeing clouds’ movements (that float in the sky). Or, as clouds appear repeatedly, its design represents reincarnation. Samurais were always on the verge of life and death on the battlefield. We guess they might have believed in the power of this pattern. And they had incorporated it into the design of their sword mountings, such as Tsuba.
Tsuka and Menuki：Tsuka is the handle of the Japanese sword and Menuki is its decoration.
The motif of this Menuki is Maru-ni Gosan Kiri (丸に五三桐) pattern. In this work, it is designed as a family crest. The Kiri (桐) pattern is generally composed of three standing straight inflorescences and three leaves. The number of flowers that are blooming at each inflorescence means the ranks of this design. Gosan-no-Kiri Monyou (五三の桐文様) is a popular design that the paulownia motif is used. This pattern was once used by the imperial family and people in authority at that time. Today, it is permitted to use by ordinary households and is appreciated as their family crests.
The Kiri pattern has been treated as a high-class family crest because it is related to a foreign legend that surrounds the Kiri. According to a tradition, Houou (鳳凰, Fenghuang, a kind of sacred beast) rests its wings at the paulownia tree; therefore, it has come to be regarded as a holy plant. It was believed that Houou would show up when the brilliant emperor appeared. It shows people deeply considered the Kiri as a sacred object. We guess that the legend of Houou and the Kiri pattern was brought to Japan from the continent with these ideas, and then Japanese people were inspired by them.
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 Yotsu-Mokkou-shaped Tsuba is made from iron. On the front, you would find a dragon is depicted in the abstracted design. Clouds and the dragon are colored with golden metal (probably gold or brass). And the backside, it seems old letters are engraved.
Initially, the dragon was an imaginary creature found in ancient foreign traditions or myths. Furthermore, it is regarded as a symbol of auspicious signs. Its body is likened to nine animals: antlers are deer, the head is a camel, eyes are demons, the neck is a snake, belly is the Mizuchi (蛟, a mythical animal in Japan that looks like a snake and has a horn and four legs), scales are fish, claws are falcons, palms are tigers, and ears are cows. It was thought that the dragon would reign at the top of all animals because of its odd-looking appearance.
Also, in Japan, there is a belief that worships dragon as a water god. Since rice cultivation has flourished in this country, water is always an essential resource. Therefore, the dragon motif has been familiar to Japanese people for a long time. And, as mentioned above, clouds bring blessed rain. Understandably, the combination of dragon and cloud patterns are often seen in sword mountings.
Saya： Saya is the scabbard for the Japanese sword.
Authentication Paper：NBTHK JUYO TOKEN Certificate for the blade (No. 12883)
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 Oct 10th in the 20th year of Heisei (2008). They appraised it as JUYO TOKEN, the blade exceptionally 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 : Kagawa 30579
The Board of Education in Kagawa 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.
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“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.
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* If the amount is above 1 million JPY, Stripe or wire transfer will be the only options for payment.
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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 takes 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.
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【How to make sure the condition】
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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 an 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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