Antique Japanese Sword Tachi attributed to Osafune Hidemitsu with Tokubetsu Hozon Certificate
This blade is attributed to Osafune Hidemitsu (長船秀光), whose maker’s name lasted four generations.
The first-gen was active during the Kenmu era (1334-1336: Early Nanbokucho era). The second-fourth of generations were active during 1368-1394 (mid-Nanbokucho-early Muromachi period). We believe the attribution was given to the first-gen Hidemitsu.
Hidemitsu resided in Bizen province (Today’s Okayama prefecture). Hidemitsu was categorized as a Kozori swordsmith. Kozori is a group of swordsmiths who belonged to Osafune school in Bizen during the Nanbokucho Period but wasn’t part of major branches such as Kanemitsu school. Other famous swordsmiths seen as Kozori are Morimitsu, Yasumitsu, and Norimitsu.
The History of Bizen Osafune School
It is said that Osafune school was founded by Mitsutada (光忠), who was active during the mid-Kamakura period. Bizen Osafune school was the biggest one of all other schools in Bizen province, and they received many orders from feudal lords or renowned Samurai. They were called Osafunemono and beloved by Samurai warriors.
Among the swordsmiths who belonged to this school, Nagamitsu, Sanenaga, and Kagemitsu are known as Osafune Sansaku, the three renowned Osafune swordsmiths. There are also four other prominent swordsmiths who were from Bizen Osafune school. They are called Osafune Shiten-no, the four masters of Osafune school. Their names are Nagamitsu, Kanemitsu, Nagayoshi, and Motoshige.
BIZEN is located near the Chugoku Mountains, where iron sands, one of the essential materials for making Japanese swords, were abundant. Furthermore, BIZEN swordsmiths had close access to Yoshi River, where they could find water and charcoal. This geological location contributed to the swordsmiths forging high-quality refined blades. We presume BIZEN was quite active in sword-forging from ancient times. It is said that BIZEN DEN was created by groups of swordsmiths there during the late Heian era (Late 12th century ). These ancient swordsmiths in Bizen province are called Ko-Bizen (Old Bizen) swordsmiths. By inheriting the sword forging techniques from Ko-Bizen swordsmiths, the Bizen Osafune school flourished from the mid-Kamakura period.
Based on its characteristic, this blade was categorized as a Tachi blade. It is also stored in Tachi(太刀) Koshirae. Tachi was mainly used by an armored Samurai with one hand on horseback from the Heian period (794-1185 A.D.) until the early Muromachi period. TACHI was suspended loosely on the left waist with its edge facing the ground so that you could draw it faster to cut down soldiers on the ground.
Because of its gorgeous looking, having a Tachi-style sword mounting became a social status among Samurai.
According to the book (Kaihou Kenjyaku) published by Yamada Asaemon in the late Edo period, a blade forged by Hidemitsu was ranked as Saijo Owazamono(The utmost 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.
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)：65.1 cm (25.6 inches)
Curvature(Sori)：2.0 cm (0.79 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.
In the Tachi Koshirae (太刀拵), these sword mountings are called the Kabutogane (冑金/兜金) and the Fuchi Kanamono (縁金物). The Kabutogane is a metal fitting attached to a handle’s end. It corresponds to the Kashira (頭) part of the Fuchi Kashira (縁頭). It seems the Karakusa (唐草, arabesque) pattern decorates it. About this design, we explain in the following description of the Tsuba.
And the Fuchi Kanamono (縁金物) is also a metal fitting attached to the handle but on the opposite side of the Kabutogane. It corresponds to the Fuchi (縁) part of the Fuchi Kashira. There are designs of flowers and leaves on it.
In addition, a Sarute/Sarude (猿手) is attached to this Kabutogane. The user of a sword passed the Udenukio (腕貫緒, a cord wrapped around the wrist to prevent a sword from falling out of the hand, mainly used when riding a horse) through this ring.
Now, please look at the end of the Kabutogane; you would find family crests. Two identical family crests are placed side by side, and this crest is called the Hachisuka-Manji Mon (蜂須賀卍文) or the Maru-ni Manji Mon (丸に卍文). The Manji motif itself is one of the patterns brought to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism. A theory says it is initially related to Hinduism. This design represents luck and has been used as an emblem of temples.
Here is the story about the Samurai who used this crest. Hachisuka Koroku (蜂須賀 小六, his real name is Masakatsu) was one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s oldest vassals. The Hachisuka family was a feudal lord based in the Hachisuka District in Owari Province (尾張, today’s western part of Aichi prefecture). Koroku also temporally served under famous Samurai such as Saito Dozan (斉藤道三, 1494-1556)or Oda Nobutaka (織田信長, 1534-1582). In any case, Koroku decided on Hideyoshi as the lord of his life. And he remained loyal to Hideyoshi until his death. Many other Samurai families used the Manji pattern for their family crests; it shows how popular this design was among Samurai warriors.
Tsuka and Menuki：Tsuka is the handle of the Japanese sword and Menuki is its decoration.
The dragon is the motif of this Menuki. We could see its characteristic shape from the gaps of the Tsukamaki thread. Golden paint is applied to some parts and makes an ornamental look to this work. If you focus on one of these dragons, you will find that it 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 symbol 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, the 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. The dragon design is often seen in sword mountings. It shows lots of Samurai cherished this dignified beast 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.
Yotsu-Mokkou-shaped Tsuba that has Kozuka and Kougai holes. Its Mimi (耳, edge) part is thickly raised. This technique gives this work a gorgeous appearance and creates a sturdy structure. About the design, the principal motif is the Karakusa pattern, and we could also see flower designs. We estimate these flowers are peonies. Peony represents happiness, wealth, nobleness, and gorgeousness. This flower pattern has been treated as a good-omen motif; people regarded it as a rich harvest sign.
The Karakusa pattern is a design in which stems and leaves of vines are twined and make curves. Since ivy has a strong vitality and grows up without interruption, people regarded this design as a symbol of prosperity and longevity. Vine is called the Tsuru (蔓) in Japanese and has another pronunciation; Man. There is a word 万 (it is also read Man), which means ten thousand. In the Karakusa pattern, leaves and vines are connected like Obi (帯, belt). The word “帯” can also be read as “Tai.” Due to its pronunciation, the term “代 (Tai)” is associated. From this word-association game, an idiom 万代 is associated, meaning a thousand generations. In other words, we could imagine that people used this design wishing prosperity and longevity for their clans for a long time.
Saya： Saya is the scabbard for the Japanese sword.
If you focus on the decorative thread that coils the scabbard, you will find a Taikogane (太鼓金). It is a circle-shaped metal fitting that is attached to the middle of the Taikogawa (太鼓革). The Taikogawa is made from leather and has a role in fixing the Tachio (太刀緒, Sageo for the Tachi Koshirae). The motif of this Taikogane’s design is a family crest. This crest is called the Maru-ni Hira Yotsume Mon (丸に平四ツ目紋). It is categorized as the Meyui Mon (目結紋), and it has another name Kanoko Shibori (鹿子絞り) and Koukechi (纐纈). It is said this design was used for many arms; we imagine it was one of the familiar motifs to Samurai warriors.
Authentication Paper：NBTHK TOKUBETSU Hozon Certificate for the blade (No. 1017418)
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 Mar 2nd in the 4th year of Reiwa (2022). 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 : Akita 31988
The Board of Education in Akita 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.
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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】
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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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