Antique Japanese Sword Wakizashi Signed by Kunimitsu with NBTHK Tokubestsu Hozon Certificate
This blade was signed by Yamashiro Jyu Minamoto Rai Kunimitsu (山城住源来国光) in the early Edo period (Early-Mid 17th century), according to its NBTHK appraisal. Yamashiro was the name of the province located in today’s Kyoto prefecture. Yamashiro Jyu means Kunimitsu resided in this province when he forged this blade. It is often the case with many swordsmiths that they signed where they lived before they inscribed their maker’s names. Rai is the prestigious school to which he belonged.
Yamashiro province was famous for its sword making style called YAMASHIRO-DEN. YAMASHIRO-DEN’s origin dates back to the Heian period(794 A.D), when the capital city was moved from Nara to Kyoto. The swordsmiths in Yamashiro province initially prospered by forging swords for court nobles and imperial families. Later on, they also forged swords for feudal lords after Samurai military government took control of Japan. There are so many renowned swordsmiths from this region.
It is said that the founder of YAMASHIRO-DEN was Sanjo Munechika. And there are seven prestigious schools in this region. One of them is Rai school, where Kunimitsu belonged. Rai school and Aawata school are the most prestigious ones among YAMASHIRO-DEN.
One of the most characteristics of YAMASHIRO-DEN is its elegant design and beautiful Jigane. This blade represents a little trait of YAMASHIRO-DEN. Sadayoshi also received the title Omi no Kami. The title of Kami was only given to swordsmiths whose sword-forging technique was superb.
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)：50.1 cm (19.7 inches)
Curvature(Sori)：0.9 cm (0.35 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.
On this Fuchi Kashira, you would find a figure of animal with curly hair, and plant buds are engraved. The golden paint is applied to the entire surface of this sword mounting; this coloring adds decorativeness to this work. In addition, there is an engraved signature of this Fuchi Kashira’s maker at the side of the Fuchi part.
This Fuchi Kashira’s theme is a classical design called the Botan-ni Karajishi (牡丹に唐獅子). The Botan (牡丹) is a peony. Its design represents happiness, wealth, nobleness, and gorgeousness. This flower pattern has been treated as a kind of good-omen motif; people regarded it as a rich harvest sign. Peony is called “Botan” in Japanese. When we write this flower’s name in Japanese, its second letter means mountain hermit medicine to give us eternal youth. Based on the meaning of this letter, the peony pattern symbolizes eternal youth and longevity.
The Karajishi (唐獅子) is an auspicious beast. The Shishi (獅子) means a lion in Japanese, and the Karajishi is a lion brought from the continent to Japan in the Toh period (唐, Tang dynasty, 618-907). The Karajishi typically has curly hair for its head, neck, body, and tail. In Buddhism, the Karajishi is regarded as a symbol of wisdom, and the Monju Bosatu (文殊菩薩, Manjushri Bodhisattva) rides lions. According to a theory, the Karajishi originates from the Komainu (狛犬, stone guardian dogs that exorcize evil spirits). There is a Houwa (法話, Buddhist monks tell the story of Buddhism in an easy-to-understand manner) that treats the Kara-Jishi and this flower. The lion is called the king of the beasts. However, even this invincible animal has only one fear: a bug in the lion’s body. This pest grows in the lion’s hair, eventually breaking the skin and biting the flesh. Nevertheless, it dies if it is exposed to be the night dew of a peony. Therefore, the lion rests under peony flowers at night, looking for a haven. This story might have inspired this Fuchi Kashira’s design.
Tsuka and Menuki：Tsuka is the handle of the Japanese sword and Menuki is its decoration.
The same as the Fuchi Kashira, this Menuki is also coated with golden paint. We believe this Menuki’s motif is the San-Kosho (三鈷杵). It is a type of Kongou-Sho (金剛杵), one of the esoteric Buddhist tools. The San-Kosho has three edges for each side. There is a handle in the center, and the sharp part is the blade of a spear. The name varies depending on the number of blades. Since this Kongou-Sho has three blades for each side, this Menuki’s motif is categorized as the San-Kosho (三 means three in Japanese). It is said that some Samurais have enjoyed incorporating religious motifs for sword mountings. We guess one of the former owners of this sword might have been a believer in esoteric Buddhism.
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.
This Tsuba has a symmetrical design. At the upper side of this Tsuba, the heads of two animals are placed facing each other. It is challenging to determine what kind of creature it is based on this part alone, but based on the design of the Fuchi Kashira mentioned above, this creature might be a legendary beast such as a dragon. Also, heart mark-shaped holes are engraved on the right and left of this Tsuba. We think it is designed here as the Inome (猪の目, boar’s eye) pattern. This pattern has been used since ancient times. Some people believed that the Inome design would work as an amulet to protect them from evil spirits or fire, and it is said it would bring good luck.
Kozuka：Kozuka is a small knife stored in Kozuka Hitsu(groove of the sheath of the Japanese sword).
A Kogatana (小刀, small knife) is stored in the Kozuka. While there is an engraved inscription on the blade, the blade has become rusty over time, and it is challenging to read these letters today. About the design, this Kozuka depicts the scenery at the waterside. You would find Three figures are sitting on what appears to be a sandy beach, surrounded by the tumultuous waves of the ocean and a large pine tree growing on land.
Saya： Saya is the scabbard for the Japanese sword.
Authentication Paper：NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Certificate for the blade (No. 1020129)
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 31th in the 5th year of Reiwa (2023). 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 : Tokyo 325511
The Board of Education in Tokyo 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.
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.
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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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