Antique Japanese Sword Katana Signed by Kunihiro with Tokubetsu Hozon Certificate
This blade was signed by Hizen Jyu Fujiwara Kunihiro (肥前住藤原国広). Hizen is the province located in today’s Saga prefecture. He resided in this province in his career. Kunihiro was especially active during the Kanei- Manji era (1624-1661-:Early Edo Period). Kunihiro’s birthname was Hashimoto Rokurozaemon. He was born as the first son of Hirosada, a renowned swordsmith in the same province. Hirosada was a younger brother of the first-gen Tadayoshi, one of the most famous swordsmiths during the early Edo period.
According to the book (Kaihou Kenjyaku) published by Yamada Asaemon in the late Edo period, a blade forged by Kunihiro was ranked as Wazamono (good sharpness). Asaemon was hired by the Edo government as an expert on Tameshigiri or testing cutting. And in this book, he judged how sharp Japanese swords forged by prestigious swordsmiths were.
The swordsmiths in the Hizen province worked under the auspices of the Nabeshima clan. They could produce beautiful blades with Konuka Hada, whose steel surface is very smooth. This Hada is one of the most well-known characteristics of the blades produced in Hizen province. The swordsmiths also used and mixed carbon steel made in western countries. Since Hizenkoku flourished through international trading, it had easy access to western carbon steel.
The first-gen Tadayoshi (His uncle)
The first-gen Tadayoshi was born and raised in the Saga domain. In 1596, under the domain’s order, he went to Kyoto to learn the sword-forging technique from Umetada Myojyu(埋忠明寿), one of the greatest swordsmiths in the early Edo period. He improved his craftsmanship and returned to the Saga domain two years later (1598). The first head of the Nabeshima clan, Nabeshima Katsushige, appreciated the work of the first-gen Tadayoshi very much. Then, Katsushige appointed him as his Okakaekaji, a swordsmith who exclusively forged swords for a specific domain or clan. And Tadayoshi started to stay near Saga castle, the Nabeshima clan’s headquarters. And he founded Hizen Tadayoshi school, which trained more than 100 swordsmiths during the Edo period. Kunihiro is one of them.
On the Mune area, we found what appears to be a Homare Kizu (誉疵), which tells us that this blade might have been used in a battle. Homare means honorable, and Homare Kizu is considered a good blade characteristic that tells us its history. Considering it was forged during the early Edo period and the swordsmith resided in Hizen province, it might have been ordered by a high-class Samurai there.
It is appraised as a Tokubetsu Hozon Token(特別保存刀剣) 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, especially well preserved and high quality with artistic value.
Cutting Edge Length(Nagasa)： 62.9 cm ( 24.8 inches)
Curvature(Sori)：1.21 cm (0.47 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.
You would find circle-shaped marks designed on this FuchiKashira. One of them has black in color, and another is colored gold. We believe these were applied here as family crests. This crest is called the Hidari Mitsu-Tomoe (左三つ巴) pattern, which is categorized as Tomoe (巴) pattern. There are several theories about the origin of this design.
According to an idea, it was modeled on the shape of the Magatama (勾玉, comma-shaped bead), or it was based on the swirling of flowing water. It is also said that the Tomoe pattern comes from the Tomo (靹). It is a tool attached to the inside of the left wrist when shooting a bow to prevent the bowstring from hitting the arm or bracelet after shooting an arrow. Since the Tomoe pattern represents water, people treated it as a talisman to prevent fire. It was often applied to the roof tiles of shrines. It is because people believed the Tomoe design would exorcize evil spirits. The design of two Magatama-shaped commas is called the Futatsu-Tomoe (二つ巴), and the pattern with three commas is called the Mitsu-Domoe (三つ巴).
Tsuka and Menuki：Tsuka is the handle of the Japanese sword and Menuki is its decoration.
Seeing from the gaps of the Tsukamaki thread, you would find that three family crests are arranged side by side. And these marks are the same pattern as the Fuchi Kashira. As seen on these sword mountings, the Tomoe motif has also been used for family crests.
For example, Shimizu Muneharu (清水宗治, 1537-1582) used the Mitsu-Domoe design. He fought against Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉, 1537-1598) for he served. However, the battle situation was not good, and Muneharu thought he could no longer win. Then he decided to obey Hideyoshi’s request. He saved the lives of his subordinate soldiers by committing Hara-kiri (腹切り, also known as Seppuku, the ritual act of killing oneself by cutting one’s stomach open with a sword). A theory says the idea that the Seppuku was an honor of Samurai was taken root among Samurais due to Muneharu’s graceful attitude.
Since this crest has been used not only for court nobles and Samurai families but also for Shinto shrines, it is challenging to determine to which lineage the former owner of this sword belonged. However, as mentioned above, you would feel the romance when you know it was a family crest used by a military commander who left his name in history.
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.
According to the engraved inscription, this Tsuba’s maker is Mogarashi/Souheishi Souten (藻柄子 宗典). It is said he worked actively in the middle of the Edo period. He lived in Hikone (彦根) area, Oumi-no Kuni (近江国, today’s Shiga prefecture). He was good at the Takabori Iroe (高彫色絵) technique and originated the Hikone-Bori (彦根彫) style. He trained many disciples and played an active role in his longevity over 75 years old. The second Souten was the first’s son. He followed the first’s designs and created lots of excellent Tsubas. It is said that many fake Souten Tsubas were made; it shows his works were highly appreciated.
About the theme of this Tsuba, we would categorize it as the Kassen Zu (合戦図). It depicts a scenery of a battlefield. Samurai warriors wear armor, and one of them rides on a horse. They have stern expressions, and their brave appearances on the battlefield are expressed. Gold inlay is applied to several parts, and it adds decorativeness to this work.
Saya： Saya is the scabbard for the Japanese sword.
Authentication Paper：NBTHK Hozon Certificate for the blade (No. 1018582)
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 August 25th in the 4th year of Reiwa (2022). They appraised it as Hozon Touken, the blade worth preserving for Japanese society. The purchaser will receive these original certificates as well. We can also translate what is written into English and make a PDF file for your record if you request.
Registration Number : Fukuoka 16421
The Board of Education in Fukuoka 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.
【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.
We have shipped authentic Japanese swords to the USA, UK, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, 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 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.
* 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.
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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.”
【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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