Antique Japanese Sword Katana Signed by Minamoto 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)：75.5 cm(29.7 inches)
Curvature(Sori)： 1.9 cm( 0.74 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 a carved inscription on the side of the Fuchi part. It is engraved as follows: 財彫子入山義近製. It shows this Fuchi Kashira was made by this metalworker. 義近 (Yoshichika) was active in Ohmi-no Kuni (近江国, today’s Shiga prefecture).
About this design, we think its motif is the Fujin Raijin Zu (風神雷神図). Accordng to Japanese myths, the Fujin (風神) controls the wind, and the Raijin (雷神) controls thunder. Especially in Buddhist art, these two gods are depicted as a pair of beings. The Fujin creates a big wind from the Kazabukuro (風袋, a sac which the Fujin carries on his back) and blows it to the ground. And the Raijin rings drums on his back and causes thunder. Japan has been agriculturally advanced since ancient times. Even before Buddhism was introduced to this country from the continent, they prayed to the Fujin to calm storms or typhoons because these natural disasters caused significant damage to crops. Fujin festivals to soothe the wrath of the gods have been held in various places. This belief might have inspired this Fuchi Kashira’s design.
Tsuka and Menuki：Tsuka is the handle of the Japanese sword and Menuki is its decoration.
Seeing from the gaps of the Tsukamaki thread, this Menuki’s motif is probably the Gissya (牛車). It is a car driven by a cow. Aristocrats used this transportation, and it is said they competed by decorating the exterior of their cars in the Heian period. However, it declined after Samurai families emerged. The golden paint is applied to the entire surface of this Menuki. Its bright look adds decorativeness to the appearance of this Koshirae.
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.
A fish-like animal and waves are designed for this Tsuba. Its face seems to be a dragon; we think this is a Koi (鯉, domestic carp). According to an ancient foreign story, many fish tried to climb the waterfall called the Ryumon (竜門, dragon gate) in the rapid stream of the Yellow River. As a result, only Koi climbed up and became a dragon and ran through the sky. This is the reason why “Koi-no Taki Nobori” (鯉の滝昇り, domestic carp climbing waterfall) became a symbol of success in life. The Ryumon legend is associated with this story. By living confidently and making efforts, people hoped for their children to grow up to become magnificent people. Samurai families then might have used this fish motif wishing their sons to be promoted to high-ranked Samurai.
Kozuka：Kozuka is a small knife stored in Kozuka Hitsu(groove of the sheath of the Japanese sword).
A Kogatana is stored in the Kozuka. Same as the Menuki, this Kozuka is also decorated with cow motifs. The figure of cows hanging under a tree is depicted. Although some colorings were already faded due to aging, it seems golden and silvery paints were initially applied to these motifs.
Saya： Saya is the scabbard for the Japanese sword.
Authentication Paper：NBTHK TOKUBETSU Hozon Certificate for the blade (No. 1016451)
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 Aug. 27th 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 : Gifu 085977
The Board of Education in Gifu 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.
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【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.
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【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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