Antique Japanese Sword Katana Signed by Masa-Aki with NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Certificate
This blade was signed by Jyokeshi Masa-Aki(城慶子正明) in the first year of the Bunkyu era(1861: the end of the Edo period). He was active in sword forging during the Kaei-early Meiji era(1848-1870). Jyokeshi Masa-Aki also signed as Takemura Tsuneemon Minamoto Masa-Aki (竹村恒右衛門源正明). It is the case with this blade.
Masa-Aki was born in Tsuyama city in Okayama prefecture in the 11th year of the Bunka era(1814). His real name was Takemura Tsunejiro(竹村恒次郎). It was often the case that a swordsmith’s maker’s name and his birth name were completely different.
From a childhood, Masa-Aki got sword-forging training from Hosokawa Masayoshi, being his apprentice. Hosokawa Masayoshi(細川正義) is a renowned swordsmith at the end of the Edo period. Hosokawa Masayoshi had learned sword-forging techniques under the master, Suishinshi Masahide(水心子正秀), one of the most skilled swordsmiths in Samurai history.
Masayoshi(Masa-Aki’s master) was extremely a skilled swordsmith, and he was good at forging blades with Choji Midare Hamon, which is the characteristic of the Bizen sword-forging style(BIZEN DEN).
Masa-Aki also mastered this excellent sword-forging technique from his master. Choji Midare Hamon is an Irregular wavy tempering line, and you can see it in this blade as well. Most of Masa-Aki’s work reflects Bizen Den (One of the Five Japanese sword-forging traditions).
Hosokawa Masayoshi(his master) and his son Mamori served the Matsudaira clan in the Sakushu Tsuyama domain(today’s Okayama prefecture). And Masa-Aki took over the position after they retired. He served the clan as a Hanko(藩工), who exclusively forged swords for a specific clan. He was also a Hanshi(藩士), who was a Samurai who worked under one clan or domain. Later on, Masa-Aki became an independent swordsmith in Edo city, being popular among high-class Samurai for his excellent craftsmanship. The signature also indicates that this blade was ordered by a Samurai. And, based on the fact that Masa-Aki was categorized as a top tier swordsmith, the person who ordered this blade must have been high-class.
We believe Masa-Aki was inspired by the Nanbokucho style Okisaki blades when he created this work. Nanbokucho is the name of the period that lasted during 1337-1392. During this time, the Japanese imperial court was divided into north and south, fighting against each other. One of the most popular trends in Japanese swords back then was the Okisaki style, the strong-looking blade with a very long tip. Based on the look of this blade, Masa-Aki might have been inspired by this old style of swords. Many Japanese swordsmiths tried to recreate old-style swords from the previous era to improve their craftsmanship during the late Edo period. Masa-Aki is one of them.
The Background History
Japan enjoyed a relatively peaceful time from the early Edo period to the mid-Edo period(the 1600s-1760s) because of the stable economy and the powerful government run by Tokugawa Shogun. Samurai didn’t have many opportunities to utilize his Katana sword in public or on battlefields during this time. Thus, they carried their swords more as a symbol of their social status. The demand for weapons decreased accordingly compared to the previous Warring state period called Sengoku Jidai. (1467-1600)
However, toward the end of the Edo period(1764-1876), the Japanese sword’s role changed dramatically. With the poverty spreading in Japan, there were so many riots initiated by the civilians. Japanese sword started to play an essential role in maintaining public safety.
Pressure from foreign countries to open Japanese borders also forced Samurai to order strong-looking swords to survive this tumultuous time. We believe many swordsmiths, including Masa-Aki, made great efforts to forged high-quality, practical blades for their masters to prepare for battles. This blade has a strong looking and must have been practical to use in that demanding time.
There was a civil war between Tokugawa’s shogunate government and the new Meiji imperical government at the end of the Edo period. That means the original owner of this Katana might have seen the moment when Samurai’s life changed forever. After this battle, Tokugawa shogunate was ousted and the imperial government gained the control.
This blade 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)：76.0 cm(29.9 inches)
Curvature(Sori)： 1.97 cm( 0.75 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.
Wild boars running in the bamboo groove are designed for this Fuchi Kashira. These motifs are colored with gold paint, and it remains in good condition. You could see tiny granular protrusions dots on the surface of this Fuchi Kashira. These dots were made by a type of chisel, and this decorative technique is called as the Nanako-Ji (魚子地) technique.
In Japanese, there are expressions about wild boar. For example, the Inoshishi Musha (猪武者, Inoshisi is a Japanese name for the wild boar) means a Samurai who rushes without considering the circumstances of before and after. Or, the idiom Chototsu Moushin (猪突猛進) describes the figure of a reckless person who makes rapid progress toward the goal. When you hear it like this, you might get a strong impression that wild boar is a madcap animal. However, we can also interpret that this type of person could work hard on what he (or she) is aiming for. Also, in the war, it was necessary for Samurais to have the courage to get into the enemy’s land without regard for danger. So, the wild boars might have been applied to this Fuchi Kashira because its owner wanted to emulate the courage of wild boars.
Tsuka and Menuki：Tsuka is the handle of the Japanese sword and Menuki is its decoration.
We believe it is the same motif of the Fuchi Kashira. That is, the wild boar. Their bodies have finished in glossy metal color (the color of its material), and their eyes are colored in gold. The former owner of this sword might have deeply cherished this brave animal motif.
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.
Oval-shaped Tsuba that has Kozuka and Kougai holes. On the front, you see a kind of fish-liked creature is designed. And it seems it bites roofing tiles. Seeing its figure, we think it is the Shachihoko (しゃちほこ). It is a decoration used for the roofs of castle towers and watchtowers. The Shachi (鯱) is an imaginary creature, and it is said it has a dragon or tiger’s head, and its body is a fish. Its tail bends toward the sky, and people associated its figure with the Hoko (鉾, an ancient form of Japanese long weapon). That is why this animal was named the Shachihoko. According to a theory, the Shachihoko would spit water out of its mouth when a building catches fire. Therefore, it has been put on the roof in many castles and temples in Japan. Since the fire was a big worry for wooden buildings, this Tsuba’s maker prayed for safety by applying such a design. Also, as we could find the mountain that looks like Mt. Fuji, there was probably an aim to give auspicious design for this work.
Saya： Saya is the scabbard for the Japanese sword.
Authentication Paper：NBTHK TOKUBETSU Hozon Certificate for the blade
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 28th in the second year of Reiwa (2020). 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 : Gunma 9143
The Board of Education in Gunma 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 350 Japanese swords 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, Canada, Mexico, UK, 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 either EMS or FedEx(Canada).
We normally ship by EMS(Express Mail Service) provided by Japan Post. When we receive an order from the Canada we will use FedEx instead as EMS temporarily stops shipping from Japan to those countries due to COVID-19.
We will send you a tracking number for your order as soon as we hand it to the post office/FedEx. 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.
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【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 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 Powder, Peg remover, Oil Applicator). By watching the video instruction above , you can enjoy learning how to maintain your Japanese sword while appreciating it.
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