Antique Japanese Sword Katana Signed by Hizen Koku Munetsugu with Tokubetsu Hozon Certificate
This blade was signed by Hizen Koku Jyunin Iyojo Minamoto Munetsugu (肥前国住人伊予掾源宗次). Hizen Koku is the province’s name in today’s Saga prefecture, and Hizenkoku Jyunin means that Munetsugu was a resident of this province when he forged this blade. Iyojo is the name of an honorable title for his excellent craftsmanship. Minamoto is his last name.
The maker’s name Munetsugu lasted eight generations, and according to NBTHK that appraised this blade, it was made by the first-gen Munetsugu judging from its characteristics. The first-gen Munetsugu was one of the most famous swordsmiths during the early Edo period in Hizen province.
The first-gen Munetsugu was born in a household that served the Tenmangu shrine as priests for generations in Nagase village in Hizen province. His birth name was Sakai Sanuemon. And he first signed Masatsugu. He took over his father’s school in the 12th year of the Tensho era (1584).
In the 11th year of the Keicho era (1606), he received Iyo Jyo title for his excellent craftsmanship. Additionally, in the 16th year of the Keicho era (1611), he was hired to forge blades for Nameshima Katsushige, the first head of Nameshima clan, who ruled Hizen province. And he became a Hanko (藩工), a swordsmith exclusively working for a specific clan or domain. He passed his name to the second-gen Munetsugu in the 9th year of the Kan-Ei era (1632). Considering his title is engraved on this blade, we assume it was made after between 1606-1632.
One of the most famous episodes related to the first-gen Munetsugu is that he forged a blade to commemorate the visit of the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu to Kyoto in July, the 11th year of the Kan-Ei era (1634). This fact indicates that the first-gen Munetsugu was a highly regarded swordsmith nationwide back then.
One of the most noticeable differences between Munetsugu’s works and the other swordsmiths in Hizen province is that he mastered Soshu Den tradition. In contrast, others created blades with Yamato Den tradition. Both traditions are among five Japanese sword forging traditions. Others are Yamashiro Den, Bizen Den, and Mino Den. The generations of Munetsugu preserved this Soshu Den technique until the end of the Edo period.
Hizen province was especially active in sword-forging during the early-mid Edo period, and the first-gen Munetsu was the head of all swordsmiths living in the region. He was allowed to live in a mansion house located near Saga castle. His fame was close to that of Tadayoshi, the founder of Hizen Tadayoshi school. According to one theory, there was a good rivalry between Munetsugu and Tadayoshi schools to improve their craftsmanship.
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)：63.2 cm(24.9 inches)
Curvature(Sori)： 0.7 cm( 0.27 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.
The Inaho (稲穂, ears of rice) is designed on this Fuchi Kashira. The tips of the rice plants are painted gold and are in relatively good condition. Since ancient times, rice has been worshiped as an essential food and considered a symbol of wealth. In addition, it has been treated like a treasure. Some people believe that god dwells in it. Therefore, the Inaho pattern has often been designed as a crest of the Inari (稲荷) shrine, which enshrines the Inari god, who is regarded as the god of grain and agriculture. Also, this plant motif is seen for family crests. It is one of the familiar designs for Japanese people. This design might have had chosen in the hope of a plentiful harvest and a prosperous life.
At the side of the Fuchi part, there is an engraved inscription. It is written as follows: 光保 (Mitsuyasu) and his Kaoh (花押, stylized signature). It means Mitsuyasu made this Fuchi Kashira.
Tsuka and Menuki：Tsuka is the handle of the Japanese sword and Menuki is its decoration.
This Menuki depicts cherry blossoms falling on the surface of the slightly opened fan. The fan motif has been favored as an auspicious pattern representing development and prosperity. During the Heian period (794-1185/1192), aristocrats enjoyed elegant plays with fans, and they appreciated the fan itself as a noble item. A fan has a characteristic shape, and it is called Suehirogari (末広がり) in Japanese. Based on the idea that this shape implies a perspective of the future, people appreciate this design.
Cherry blossom is one of the seasonal things of spring, and it has been loved for a long time in Japan. A theory says that the god of grain exists in cherry blossoms. Therefore, this flower pattern has been treated as the symbol of a plentiful harvest. In ancient times, people held a traditional custom under cherry blossom trees to pray for a bumper year. It is said this is the origin of the cherry blossom viewing picnic today. Looking at the overall handle design again based on these origins and the meaning of the designs, we realize that there is a connection between the motifs of the Fuchi Kashira and Menuki. As mentioned above, cherry blossoms symbolized a bountiful harvest, and people prayed under the cherry blossom trees for abundant crops, especially rice, which is an essential food source. There might have been some intention behind the combination of rice and cherry blossom designs.
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.
Yotsu-Mokkou-shaped Tsuba that has Kozuka and Kougai holes. It depicts a group of men, probably four, spending time near a pine tree. Two of them had long sticks, and judging from the appearance of the other two, they might be practicing some martial arts. Because the clothes they wear are continental style, the theme of this Tsuba is possibly a kind of the Toh Jinbutsu Zu (唐人物図). Toh (唐, 618-907) is the Chinese dynasty name, and Jinbustu (人物) means person/people. While distinguishing is challenging because most colorings have faded due to aging, it seems gold and silver were applied to this Tsuba.
Saya： Saya is the scabbard for the Japanese sword.
Authentication Paper：NBTHK TOKUBETSU Hozon Certificate for the blade (No. 1015449)
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 May 24th in the 3rd year of Reiaw (2021). They appraised it as Tokubetsu Hozon Touken, the blade especially 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 : Fukuoka 53614
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 an export permit. If you live in Japan, please click here before you make a purchase.
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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, 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.
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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)】
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【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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