Antique Japanese Sword Katana Signed by Masakage with Tokubetsu Hozon Certificate
This blade was signed by Hokuetsu Kouyo Jyu Minamoto Masakage (北越高陽住源正蔭) in May, the first year of the Genji era (1864: The end of the Edo period). Hokuetsu Kouyo is the name of the province where he resided when he forged this blade. It was common for swordsmiths to sign where he lived alongside his signature.
He was born in Toyama domain in Etchu province, and his birth name was Goshima Koisuke (五島鯉介). He mainly lived in today’s Nigata prefecture in his career.
He belonged to Yamaura school, founded by Minamoto Kiyomaro (源清麿), one of the most famous swordsmiths at the end of the Edo period (mid-late 19th century). Masakage received an honorable title Gyokushinsai(玉心斎), often adding this title before his signature.
Masakage mostly learned sword-forging techniques from Minamoto Masao, another renowned swordsmith who was a member of Yamaura school and the first apprentice of Kiyomaro. Later in his career, Masakage also worked for Suishinshi Masatsugu, the first son of the second-gen Suishinshi Masahide. The first-gen Suishinshi Masahide’s fame was as nationwide as Minamoto Kiyomaro.
Soshu Den and Bizen Den are two of the five traditional Japanese sword-forging techniques called Gokaden passed down for generations. The other three are Mino DEN, Yamato Den, and Yamashiro DEN. It is said that Masakage mastered Soshu DEN by being an apprentice of Minamoto Masao and Bizen DEN from Suishinshi Masatsugu.
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 Masakage, made great efforts to forge high-quality, practical blades for their masters to prepare for battles. This blade has 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 imperial 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 control.
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)：75.75 cm (29.8 inches)
Curvature(Sori)： 1.8 cm( 0.70 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.
Dragons are designed for this Fuchi Kashira. Golden paint is applied to dragons and adds decorativeness to this work. Clouds are also engraved and cover these dragons’ bodies. If you focus on the Fuchi part, you will find that a dragon brings a ball-shaped object in its hand. It is the Nyoi Houju (如意宝珠, Cintāmaṇi); a fantasy jewel that fulfills any desire and gives out treasure, clothes, food, and drinks. Moreover, it heals illness and suffering, removes evils, purifies muddy water, and prevents disasters. It is said this magical item is taken from the brain of the dragon king.
Initially, the dragon was an imaginary creature found in ancient foreign traditions or myths. Furthermore, it is regarded as a symbolic beast 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.
Tsuka and Menuki：Tsuka is the handle of the Japanese sword and Menuki is its decoration.
We could assume that a kind of fish is the motif of this Menuki. We think it is probably the Shachihoko (しゃちほこ). The Shachihoko 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 associate 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 of many castles and temples in Japan. Since the fire was a big worry for wooden structures, this Menuki’s maker might have prayed for safety by applying such a design.
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.
Same as the Fuchi Kashira, this Tsuba is also decorated with dragon and cloud designs. This combination is often seen in sword mountings. We think a possibility that it is related to religion in Japan. There is a belief that worships the dragon as a water god. Since rice cultivation has flourished in this country, water is always an essential resource. Also, clouds bring rain and snow, and their movements significantly affect the weather of the day. Due to its supernatural power, a theory says that gods, spirits, and dragons dwell in the clouds. Therefore, we assume that the dragon motif has been familiar to Japanese people since long ago.
Saya： Saya is the scabbard for the Japanese sword.
Authentication Paper：NBTHK TOKUBETSU Hozon Certificate for the blade (No. 123497)
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 March 12th in the 5th year of Heisei (1993). 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 : Aomori 3302
The Board of Education in Aomori 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.
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.
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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 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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