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Samurai Sword "Secret" Gold Inscription

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This came by to visit today, and I tried and tried and TRIED my darnedest but even the miraculous Epson 4490 cannot 'see" contrast in lightly etched markings.

It is in a wooden scabbard and handle which I am told were used only for storage of a blade-- no guard present.

Perhaps the gold lettering will help with the invisible maker's markings:

I'm afraid all I can read are "3 Month" and something 2 characters "Day." Please bear in mind that it is IMPOSSIBLE to accurately SCAN swords, and I have tried playing with contrast to make things easier (ha) to read. The surface is NOT cooperative in that regard!

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The maker's lightly etched (?) markings are to the left, shallow and hard to see. Perhaps somebody with more technical skill than I have can alter this scan to get better contrast.

By the way, the "bend" in the steel here is because the sword moved while the scanner was passing down its length-- see other scans for actual shape. :blush:

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Equally difficult to scan markings on the other side:

I've tried brightening this, but the markings are so shallow that it doesn't help with this surface.

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Neglected to measure the length of the blade, but it was quite "European normal" to me and I'm 6-2. The blade, unlike the area under the handle, is bright as a mirror.

Again, impossible to get accurate color off bright steel on a scanner:

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Hi Rick,

Nice blade. Can you show it in its entirety?

Just remember to never, never, never try to clean the tang. :shame:

The "rust" is as important to the identification of the blade as the blade's shape etc. Of course that takes an expert, which I am not.

Cheers on your great find. :cheers:

Brian

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God no. Not with only a scanner and my previous doomed attempts at camera work with German swords have always been

distant and blurry to be charitable.

This was just visiting today.

It's untouched and won't be messed with, no fear. Just thwarts me that a scanner makes bright shiny steel look like black and cannot compensate for the rough surface and shallow markings of the maker. I'm just hoping that somebody who CAN read Japanese can make something of the gold inscription.

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Hi Rick,

Just a suggestion... but when I try to make markings on firearms show up better for scans and such I carefully rub some chalk into the markings, blow or carefully wipe off the excess and it makes them come out much clearer. Then can be cleaned off and no harm done.

Dan :cheers:

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In its entirety.

I am told "from the notch in the habaki to the tip = 28 1/4 inch." I am the Sergeant Schultz of samurai swords-- just posting this for my friend.

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Very nice blade indeed. Furniture comes and goes but the blade is what is important. Good luck with the translation.

When you do get it translated I hope you will share with the rest of us Japanese sword collectors, I for one am very interested in knowing what is on the tang.

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

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Neglected to measure the length of the blade, but it was quite "European normal" to me and I'm 6-2. The blade, unlike the area under the handle, is bright as a mirror.

Again, impossible to get accurate color off bright steel on a scanner:

Hi,nice "nie","kitt-saki" :cheers: His name is "Tomita- yashichiemonn"? made ..Genroku or muromachi...?

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WE are hoping that the sword maker's name (Tomita?) will DATE how old this is. "Genroku" period I only know from reading historical mysteries... late 1690s? :beer:

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Hi Rick,

I made a search of my lists of swordsmiths and the only mention of anyone named Tomita was Tomita Sukehiro who was a Gendai Swordsmith with the rank of Gashiratori. Gendia blades were made in the traditional manner from 1868 to 1945 with the bulk of the blades made in the 1930's and 40's. Tomita Sukehiro's forge was in Toyko. Many, though not all, blades of this era were signed.

I will continue to search my records for any other mention of a smith named Tomita though I don't expect to find one. These are still very well made blades esprcially compaired to the NCO Shingunto that were machine made during this same period.

I hope this is of some help.

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

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Hi Rick,

I forgot to add what the rank of Gashiratori, mentioned in my last post, was all about. I knew when pressed "Add Reply" I had forgotten something.

The listing, or rankings, of the swordsmiths of this era, which is the Shinto era, was the same as the rankings for Sumo wrestlers.

Swordsmiths such as yours were the senior, older and established swordsmiths and were given honourary ranks. These ranks were, Gyoji, Gahsiratori and Sewanin. Other less well known smiths were separated into two areas, the east and the west blocks. Within these "blocks" the smiths were also ranked.

It would seem that the honourary rankings were based more on how high the smith was held in society's opinion rather than the quality of the blade. I think it would go without saying that a smith with a sepcial ranking would produce a superior blade , otherwise he would be in risk of finding himself in the east or west block rankings. Rather like being send down to the minor leagues from the pros. That is just my opinion and may only be worth the origami it's written on. :rolleyes:

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

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If the blade is from the 1600's chances are that the gold inscription is the result of a "cutting test" or saiden-mei. I've seen blades of this era with gold lettering. Start looking for swords with cutting tests and you will see similiar signatures this is one way of narrowing down time period and maker there was a select few who conducted the tests.

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MUCH obliged. :beer: Despite those convinced I have supernatural powers within certain highly specialized :sleep: areas-- this is NOT one of them.

My friend the owner and I are completely out of our depths here.

this any better?

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Might I suggest laying a piece of thin paper (rice, vellum,tracing paper) and do a pencil rubbing of the engraved writing. In the old days before scanners that's how it was done.

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I agree with Coastie.

Either tissue paper and a soft pencil or try to hand draw the characters as best you can, scan them in and see what we come up with.

Rick, please try to draw these two characters and send them to me. They are the only two left to be deciphered! I am pretty sure of what they say but I would still like a better representation.

Good luck sleeping tonight :rolleyes:

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Will do! I may have to try hand copying, since they are so shallow and the patina makes the surface rough. :cheers:

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At long last....Ricks sword translation.

The sword tang bears two separate inscriptions. Most important is the Non- inlayed,plain inscription which is in fact the Swordsmiths name and place of residence. This inscription was applied to the sword at the same time as the swords manufacture. It reads on both sides of the blade (please see photos below):

Bitchu (no) Kuni Mizuta (no) ju

Yamashiro Oyogo Kunishige

In English:

Yamashiro Oyogo Kunishige (swordsmiths name)

living in Mizuta (Village name), in Bitchu Province.

Even though Kunishige did not date the piece, we know he worked between 1625 and 1650. I will try to find more on his life, soon.

The gold inscription is a cutting test, and was probably done a number of years after the sword was forged, yet is still contemporary with the smiths lifetime or shortly after his death. The most commonly encountered cut tests list the date of the test, the name of the actual tester with their personal seal, and lastly, the test that was performed. The entire gold inscription here reads:

Enpo roku-toshi Mi-Hinoto san-gatsu, ni-ju shichi jitsu.

Tomita Yasichisaemonjo Shigetsuna (Kakihan)

Futatsu do ochi.

English Translation:

Fifth year of Enpo, (Snake- Hinoto), 3rd Month, 27th day. (March 27, 1677)

Tomita Yasichisaemonjo Shigetsuna (Personal Mark)

Two bodies cut down

To explain the signature. There may be a few characters who's exact translation did not come out quite right, and I leave it to the viewer to correct me upon those. From the english translations above, the signature is pretty staight forward with a few exceptions:

a.)Mi-Hinoto is a different method of dating an object. It is referred to as the 12 signs and 10 stems method. Here it is used irregularly in conjunction with the 'normal method of dating. Both still indicate 1677.

b.)The testors middle name - yasichisaemonjo - is an honourary title pretaining to a gate guard. The shorter version of the name "saemon or zai e mon' is often encountered with different prefixes. This fellow's name is extremely long and not encountered frequently. If any of our japanese members have any other thoughts, please share them.

c.) The Kakihan was a personal mark, used by an individual as a seal. These kakihan or Kao are often seen on pieces of japanese sword fittings. Sometimes they look more like a small picture than a "signature'

d.)Before you get any grisly visions in your head about live executions, the criminals that the cuts were conducted upon were already dead from the execution yard. The corpse(s) was then placed upon a mound and the cutting test performed. The bodies would have been cut through at the same time - not one after the other. These kanji indicate that the bodies were upright rather than horizontal.

There you have it. More on the smith later.

Kindest regards...Henry

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WOW!

WOW!

WOW!!!!

:jumping::jumping:

I'm ... amazed. My friend will be... stunned.

This is just absolutely incredible.

On his behalf, and for all our education, my sincerest and most appreciative thanks for your amazing knowledge. :cheers::cheers:

Sometimes, it seems, even in the most obscure corners of the 21st century, literal TREASURES can still be found right in our own backyards.

This is an awesome (in the sense of literally breath-taking) illustration of the aesthetic connection between beauty and horror in Japanese sword-making.

We all know, of course, what swords were MADE for. But most of the time, as we admire materials or lines, we can kid ourselves that these were just ceremonial, parade-ground accessories. Not with this one.

Does the size and shape of this blade reveal anything about it's intended purpose, or the wearer it was made for? I know that there were long blades and short blades--much as our Western medieval knights fought with one of each. Can anything be deduced about the status--or height, for that matter--of the original buyer? In western swords, we get an approximate "feel" for height for how it slings with the scabbard drag just brushing above the ground. (German Vice-Admiral Hopman's sword

http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=7502&hl=Hopman

was actually sold as a CHILD's sword, he was of such diminutive stature!)

The first thing that wil occur to most people is the Antiques Road Show bottom line-- what is this likely to be "worth" today?

I'm still grappling with its age and testing. From what little I know about samurai swords, I think there was one "grade" better-- which cut through THREE bodies at once? If that is so, I don't think this sword would have been LONG enough for that-- so was there a distinction in style as to purpose-- for use on foot rather than mounted, maybe?

What sort of person could have bought such a blade in the 17th century? And what would it have cost, back then? I'm more familiar with late 19th-very early 20th century German damascus steel sword blades-- which set back the purchaser between 1 and 6 months contemporary pay. Is that the sort of figure this would have brought new, or :speechless1: more?

I still can't get over this. We are so used to disappointments and might have beens...

to actually have HELD a treasure is... :jumping::jumping:

Profound thanks,

Rick

WOW

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Rick, congratulations to your friend. He has an amazing piece of history!

@Henry: Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and the translation. I have enjoyed reading this thread as it unfolded, the end result being stunning.

Rich

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