GENDAITO PROJECT

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UPDATE AND WHAT HAPPENED SO FAR:

I was asked relatively early on in my path of providing translations for and writing books on Japanese swords to produce something on gendaitô. I then always promised to do so but kept postponing such a project, on the one hand because I was so occupied with providing information on older swords, i.e. kotô, shintô, and shinshintô, and on the other hand because I did not yet have an idea about how to tackle this topic in the first place. Several relevant books had been published that deal with the post-Meiji sword world and the most important smiths of that era so I didn’t want to ruminate and write the same thing just with other words. Listening to inquiries I get on a regular basis on gendaitô however, it emerged that what was mostly needed was information on these smiths and references of their work. Thus I decided that when I am tackling the topic gendaitô, it should be more a database with CV’s of swordsmiths etc. rather than a history book.

In this sense, I started to collect gendaitô-related data and announced on several platforms, e.g. my website and the Nihonto Message Board, that I was looking for relevant references. This was in summer of 2014. Planned was a book that introduces in an alphabetical order as many as possible gendaitô smiths but then throughout 2015 and up to early 2016, I had received so much data that I started to think of a two-pronged approach. In other words, there is no way to fit all these gigabytes into a single physical book and I also didn’t want to have important references rot on my HD. Thus a comprehensive online database suggested itself which is easy to extend and which also allows corrections and amendments whenever new data comes in.

Long story short, there still will be a book (and an eBook) that lists all the gendaitô smiths I have in my records so far and what is known on each of them (as mentioned, as comprehensive as possible). There will be references in the form of oshigata and blade pictures and also portrait photos of some of the smiths will be provided. Parallel to that, I want to create the mentioned online database which should look something like seen here and here. For doing so, I need funds to cover the time necessary to feed the database over the coming months and to maintain it in the years to come. I thought that the database should be free and accessible for everyone who is looking for relevant information and that is why I decided to tackle this is a one-time crowdfunding instead of a pay to play or an individual subcription approach. And this is why I need your help to create the most comprehensive database on gendaitô smiths and to preserve information on them for future generations!

I am leaving for Europe this Thursday to work on a museum project and as soon as I get back, I will start an indiegogo.com crowdfunding for the Gendaito Project. There will be giveaways and perks for donations, for example eBooks and books of mine of choice, the finished Gendaito book, and even some tsuba for those who want to contribute a little more. So please stay tuned and share with your gendaitô friends that the campaigns is going to launch around March 1. Thank you!

UNDERSTANDING THE JAPANESE SWORD

Coming up later this year… Its based on the questions I receive on a daily basis translating sword stuff for now 12 years and doing it professionally and full time for almost 10 years. Aim is to give a basic guideline on the Japanese sword, not much technical talk, not going into great detail about kantei, schools, workmanships, and styles, just to provide an orientation guide for those brand new into the subject, to provide a solid basic knowledge from where to proceed (or not). Thus it will be an inexpensive paper-back, nothing fancy, just tips and stuff from my own experience.
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How was the Japanese sword made and why was/is it made that way? What different sword forms do exist, how were they classified, and how do we classify them today? What are all these sword forms like tachi, uchigatana, sashizoe, koshigatana, chiisagatana, tantô, naginata, nagamaki, etc. and why did they emerge? Why are there “art swords,” or rather, what makes a sword an “art sword”? How were swords evaluated and appraised in the past and how is it done today? How and why were all these lists of swordsmiths (meikan) compiled? How do all the past and present swordsmith rankings work and why is there such a thing? How are swords certified/appraised today, i.e. what to do when you want to get papers for your sword and/or have your sword restored. How to recognize fake swords and practical tips for the online sword world. How to study swords hands on and how to get involved in clubs and associations? Tips for collecting or for starting a collection…
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Outlook 2017

Well, 2016 passed quickly and this is gonna be an outlook for 2017. As for myself, 2016 was very busy and also what I would consider successful, although it felt like “bit off more than I could chew” over many months. As far as trips are concerned, I met some old friends and great folks in Florence in February, so in Orlando in June, and had a great meeting with sword friends in New York in November just recently. Talking about trips and meetings for the coming year, I will be in Berlin in February (therefore I can’t make it to Tampa, sorry) and maybe I can manage it to attend the Nihonto-Club meeting taking place around that time, what would be really great, followed by a lecture I give at a Michigan university in April and I will be at the Chicago Sword Show at the end of that month. I will also be in Orlando again and this time, I really want to make it to SF in August. Also Japan and the DTI are overdue after skipping a few years.

Before we continue, I want to point out that my friend Joachim from the Nihonto-Club Germany is going to have his entire collection available online with hi-res pics of the blades. The site is work-in-progress at the moment and an English version will be available down the road. The link is: 

http://www.nihonto-gallery.de/de/

Regarding translations and ongoing/upcoming projects, first of all, I want to have out the second Fukushi volume as soon as possible and finish the series by the end of the year (as mentioned in the announcements of the societies/clubs). I’m both happy and relieved when this epitome of a standard work on sword fittings is completed and I ask for your patience as this here is still a one-man-show (except of course for tireless Grey who is correcting my bad English).

As far as my own projects are concerned, I have mentioned before here on my site and on other occasions: The Gendaito Project is still going strong and I have received an abundance of references throughout the year. As this all is not gonna fit in any physical book, there will be a two-pronged approach: 1) A book, of course, but which will focus on an as comprehensive as possible list of gendaitô swordsmiths and their biographies. 2) Prior to publishing, I will start a crowdfunding because I don’t want to have all the references I received rot on my HD. That is, I want to create a freely accessible online database that contains on the one hand all the stuff from my book and on the other hand concrete references for all the smiths (i.e. oshigata, blade pics, etc). Also, this online database approach is easy to update. So whenever new references or new info comes in, I will update the corresponding entries accordingly. This all takes quite some time and a continuous effort and that’s why I need to have this crowdfunded but I will make an annoucement when I have a minute of peace and when everything is ready to go. That all is planned before the release of the book so if you are donating a small amount to the project, you will get some kind of goodie and from a certain amount on you will receive the book of course. You get the idea.

Last but not least, what I want to start in 2017, and what goes hand in hand with the ongoing Kantei series (i.e. I get constantly asked about when I will published the series in book form), is what I would consider as a “mini Taikan series.” That means, I want to publish specific books on certain artists and schools, both in terms of swords and sword fittings, and which will all have to same layout. In other words, I want to create something like a humble sword and sword fittings library where everyone can pick the specific school or artist he wants. So you can build up the entire library or just get the ones you need. That’s why I’m going to have this out as b/w paperbacks so that the venture is not going to become (again) some steep investment. Keeping it real and affordable so to speak. The library will not be tackled on chronologically. I will start with the more famous schools and smiths/artists and then fill in the gaps down the road.

I have some other stuff up my sleeves but the above mentioned points should do it for the time being. In this sense, I wish all my (sword) friends and readers a good start into a hopefully healthy and succcessful 2017! Looking very much foward to an exciting year in this world of Nihontô 🙂

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Kasuga-taisha sword findings polished

Wataru Hara-san just shared this Yomiuri Online article (link here) on FB and I thought I have to process this for my readers. In 1939, nine swords were discovered under the ceiling of the Kasuga-taisha treasure house during repair measures. Three of them were mounted as plain period kokushitsu no tachi (黒漆太刀). I don’t have any pictures of these swords but their koshirae probably looks something like shown below.

kokushitsutachi

 

Now the blades were all rusted, of course, but in course of last year’s shikinen-zôtai (式年造替), the rebuilding of the sanctuary that only takes place every 20 years, it was decided to have three of them polished, I guess the three most promising ones. The shikinen-zôtai was finished in November this year by the way. So the three blades were given to ningen-kokuhô polisher Hon’ami Kôshû (本阿弥光洲) and they obviously turned out great as the Yomiuri Online article is speaking of “kokuhô and jûyô-bunkazai level swords.” Two of the sword are mumei but attributed to Ko-Bizen and one is signed Kuniyoshi (国吉). It is a work of Enju Kuniyoshi. Not sure if there are more pics behind the Yomiuri Online premium paywall so I also have just the one seen in the link but as Hara-san pointed out on FB, the prominent ha-machi suggests that this blade is in an extraordinarily healthy condition! It measures impressive 106.8 cm in total. Will let you know if I read more about this blades in the future.

Nidai Oku Motohira

Over the years, I have seen several inscriptions on sword tangs that refer to the use of a special supplements/raw materials used for making the blade. Most well-known supplement is of course nanban-tetsu (南蛮鉄) but others I have come across are for example old temple nails, old ship nails, old temple bells, and steel from the battleship Mikasa (三笠) as pointed out here by Arnold, just to name a few. I don’t want to go into detail about the availability/shortage of raw materials or the various reasons for incorporating other steels to make a sword. This time I want to introduce two swords with a very interesting inscription about the supplement that was used but first I want to start with the smith.

We are talking about the 2nd generation Oku Motohira (奥元平, 1833-1905). Motohira was born into a lineage of swordsmiths that worked for the Satsuma fief since the 1640s and if you start counting from their ancestor, Tadakiyo (忠清), then Motohira II was the 7th generation of that lineage. Now his grandfather, Oku Motohira I (1744-1826), was the most famous master of the Oku family of swordsmiths and when his son Motohiro (元寛), i.e. Motohira II’s father, died young and unexpectedly in Tenpô 14 (天保, 1843), the then only ten years old Motohira II was nominally declared head of the family. He was trained by the 2nd generation Motoyasu (元安, 1793-?) who was the son of his grandfather’s younger brother Motoyasu I. Well, there are many unclear points when it comes to the career of the 2nd generation Motohira. Swords of him are rare and dated ones are even more rare, but I know of at least two blades dated Keiô three (慶応, 1867) and one from Meiji 30 (明治, 1897) which will be introduced in this article. He signed in his early years with Motomitsu (元光) but I haven’t come across a blade signed that way yet, neither one that bears his Ju’an (寿安) under which he entered priesthood in his late years. Anyway, he was 34 years old in Keiô three and thus it is safe to assume that he already had been active at least 15 or so years at that time, assuming that he started his profession in his late teens, i.e. somewhere shortly after 1850. In Meiji 30 he was 64 years old and he died eight years later, in Meiji 38 (1905) at the age of 73. When it comes to his employers, Motohira II has actively experienced the rule of the last three Satsuma daimyô who were Shimazu Narioki (島津斉興, 1791-1859) who ruled from 1809 to 1851, Shimazu Nariakira (島津斉彬, 1809-1858) who ruled from 1851 to 1858, and Shimazu Tadayoshi (島津忠義, 1840-1897) who ruled from 1858 to 1871. He also witnessed the career of Tadayoshi’s son Prince Shimazu Tadashige (島津忠重, 1886-1968) who became a rear admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy and also that much of the ruling/upper class of his fief dominated the new Meiji government.

Anyway, now to the sword, or rather the swords, and why I wrote this post because the supplement that was used to make them is quite interesting. The first one (see picture 1, blade pictures courtesy of e-sword.jp) is signed the following way:

Satsuyô Oku Motohira (薩陽奥元平)
Seishin no yaku Meiji nijûhachinen ichigatsu Ikaie ni oite Kakakushi-hôrui ni eta nijûyon-senchi tsutsu no hen o motte kono katana o kitaru en (征清之役明治廿八年一月於威海衛鹿角嘴堡塁以所獲之廿四珊礮片鍛此刀焉) – “This blade was made by using a fragment of a 24 cm howitzer that was obtained from the Fort Lujiazui Battery of the Battle of Weihaiwei during the Sino-Japanese War of 1895.”

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Picture 1: katana, Oku Motohira II, nagasa 63.6 cm, sori 0.9 cm

And the second blade (see picture 2) is signed the very same way, except from that we have here an actual date when it was made, which was the fifth month of Meiji 30 (1897), when Motohira was 65 years old, and also we have here a reference to where it was made (the otherwise identical signature omitted):

Meiji sanjûnen gogatsu Iso Shûsei-jo ni oite (明治卅年五月於磯集成所, “fifth month of 1897 at the Shûsei place in Iso”)

motohira2a

Picture 2: katana, Oku Motohira II, nagasa 70.7 cm, sori 1.4 cm

The Battle of Weihaiwei is dealt with in detail in Wikipedia so I am not goint to ruminate it here. Interesting is that we have actual artistic reference to and photographic evidence of what is stated on the two nakago. As mentioned in the Wikipedia article, the Chinese troops were defending their fortifications for about nine hours before abandoning them largely intact. However, several of these forts were seriously devastated as historic photographs show. The Fort Lujiazui Battery (in period Western publications often quoted as Lukeutsuy) was equipped with four 24 cm Krupp coastal howitzers of which one was indeed damaged (see picture 3). An intact one from the Lujiazui Battery can be seen in picture 4. So basically the whole barrel was blown off at the one and had later been tied with ropes and chains to the howitzer (see picture 5), probably in order to repair or recycle it. So far the historic facts. But there is also an artistic rendering of this incident where the whole howitzer is blewn from its firing platform, “effectfully” also blowing away the whole Chinese operating staff (see picture 6). Well, we can book this as artistic freedom.

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Picture 3

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Picture 4

motohira5

Picture 5

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Picture 6: 1895 print by Kobayashi Kiyochika (小林清親, 1847-1915) titled “Attack on the Lujiazui Battery at Weihaiwei” (威海衛鹿角嘴砲臺攻撃之圖)

Now back to the making of the sword. I am not sure if the entire broken-off barrel was taken and/or if some of these howitzers were disassembled and transported to Japan. But here maybe the supplement of the second blade comes into play. It mentions that the sword was made at the Shûsei place and refers to the Shûseikan (集成館) (see picture 7), an industrial complext that was initiated by Shimazu Nariakira in Iso, on the outskirts of Kagoshima. It was the first western-style industrial enterprise in Japan with factories that produced machines, textiles and other products and, lo and behold, steel for ship building and casting cannons.

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Picture 7: The Shûseikan

There are now several possible scenarios about how these two blades (maybe there are even more out there?) came into existence. One could be that indeed the damaged howitzer was transported to the Shûseikan in order to be repaired or to salvage it. Maybe it was then decided to commemorate this successful attack on the Lujiazui Battery, and/or the win of the First Sino-Japanese War, by having a local smith, Oku Motohira II, make swords out of what was left of the barrel. Or maybe the idea with the swords came right on the spot when the battery was conquered to use that barrel and make some commemorative swords out of it, maybe for the actual commanding officers of the attack? Maybe some of these officers were from Satsuma, or maybe one was a friend of Oku Motohira II. The former is quite possible as we know that one famous Satsuma man, Major General Ôdera Yasuzumi (大寺安純, 1846-1895) (see picture 8) died at Weihaiwei when leading his infantry regiment against the land fortifications guarding the naval base. His position was hit by an artillery shell fired by the defenders. He was the only Japanese general killed in combat during that war and the highest ranking casualty on the Japanese side.

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Picture 8: Print by Ogata Gekkô (尾形月耕, 1859-1920) titled “Major General Ôdera Attacking With All His’ Power From the Baichi Cliff” (大寺将軍揮全力襲撃百尺崖之圖)

Very interesting pieces of history these two Motohira blades! If I am in the area, i.e. Kagoshima, I want to do some more research in this direction at the Shôko Shûseikan Museum into which the Shûseikan main building has been turned in 1923.


Update: Dec 22 2016.

I have received a rubbing of another blade by Oku Motohira II that he made by incorporating a fragment of that howitzer. The mei is identical to the blade seen in picture 1, with the difference that the inscription is distributed over three and not two colums. So now we have three of these blades. Very interesting!

motohira9

Another Signature Removal

Some months ago I was talking about the pitfals of removing signatures in this post. I have pretty much pointed out why it is important to check, double-check, and triple-check before even thinking about having a mei removed so this time I want to introduce a different, recent and documented example of why signatures were removed, and thanks Darcy for bringing that very issue to my attention.

It is about a sunnobi-tantô by the famous Sôshû master Hiromitsu (広光). Today, there are roughly 20 dated works of this smiths extant that have been authentificated. Now one of these works, a tantô signed “Sagami no Kuni-jûnin Hiromitsu” (相模国住人広光) and dated “Enbun sannen jûchigatsu hi” (延文三年十一月日, “a day in the eleventh month Enbun three [1358]”) was designatged as a jûyô-bijutsuhin on December 18 1935 (see picture 1). Back then, it was owned by Count Sakai Tadatae (酒井忠克, 1883-1939), the grandson of the last Sakai daimyô of the Obama fief of Wakasa province.

hiromitsu1

Picture 1: jûyô-bijutsuhin, sunnobi-tantô, original mei, nagasa 31.95 cm, sori 0.55 cm, hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune

So far, so good. 26 years later, in November 1961, this very sunnobi-tantô was stolen in Niigata City and for some reason, probably someone panicking, realizing how high the recognition factor of a fully signed and dated Hiromitsu is (let alone that it is a jûyô-bijutsuhin), had the complete mei removed. I mean, unlike the above linked Enju blade, this is not a case where someone doubted the authenticity of a mei and had it removed because he was going for papers. No, this mei was removed because someone didn’t want to be connected to the theft. “Fortunately,” the jûyô-bijutsuhin designation included recording the blade and so, although we don’t know when and by whom, the original signature was “preserved” via a shu-mei. The shu-mei was quite carefully done, i.e. following the very interpretation of the original mei. So we have now one of those cases where we find ourselves in the “greyzone” of things happening in the past but still knowing why a certain shu-mei was done (and having records of the original mei as oshigata as seen in picture 1), but imagine 50 more years down the road. Who knows then about all that context and, provided the blade is still extant, many people will then say: “Well, its just a shu-mei. You can put anything on a tang like that…”

Anyway, the blade is now designated as a tokubetsu-jûyô (in 2008, it got jûyô the year before, with the shu-mei already on, so the shu-mei must have been added some time in between) and luckily, that context of the theft is recorded in the jûyô-tôken nado zufu explanation.

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Picture 2: tokubetsu-jûyô, sunnobi-tantô, shu-mei

New eBook Super Sale

 

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As promised, I have started another -50% off eBook Super Sale, ony difference this time, it goes directly via me (i.e. I’m not going to manually change all the prices on Lulu.com and then change them back when the sale is over). I provide a list of all my eBooks below, showing the regular and the reduced prices. I also linked them so that you can check what the description says but again, DO NOT buy over there at Lulu.com this time. Get in touch with me via “markus.sesko@gmail.com” and pay me directly, either by PayPal using the very same email address or by credit card, using the donate button at the very bottom of this page and I’m going to send you over the eBook. And anyway, if you gave a question, just drop me a mail.

So grab this chance to fill up your tablets/phones with all references you need, especially if you are going to attend the DTI. Got a lot of feedback that its super handy being able to look up artists or backgrounds on the spot. In this sense, the eBook Super Sale will be up a little longer this time, until Nov 6, and the next one might not come until next summer.

Thank you for your attention!

Akasaka Tanko Roku ….. $8.90 – $4.50
Encyclopedia of Japanese Swords ….. $24.90 – $12.50
Geneaogies and Schools of Japanese Swordsmiths ….. $19.90$10
Genealogies of Japanese Toso Kinko Artists ….. $19,90$10
Identifying Japanese Cursive Script ….. $14.90$7.50
Identifying Japanese Seal Script ….. $14.90$7.50
Japan’s Most Important Sword Fittings ….. $14.90$7.50
Jukken ….. $14.90$7.50
Kano Natsuo I ….. $59.90$30
Kano Natsuo II ….. $59.90$30
Kantei Reference Book – Hamon & Boshi ….. $19.90$10
Koshirae – Japanese Sword Mountings ….. $19.90$10
Koshirae Taikan ….. $59.90$30
Koto Kantei Zenshu ….. $89.90$45
Koto Meikan ….. $39.90$20
Legends and Stories Around the Japanese Sword ….. $9.90 – $5
Legends and Stories Around the Japanese Sword 2 ….. $9.90 – $5
Masamune ….. $29.90$15
Masters of Keicho Shinto ….. $19.90$10
Nihon-koto-shi ….. $29.90$15
Nihon-shinto-shi ….. $29.90$15
Nihon-shinshinto-shi ….. $29.90$15
Shinshinto Meikan ….. $29.90$15
Shinto Meikan ….. $29.90$15
Shinto Shinshinto Kantei Zenshu ….. $89.90$45
Signatures of Japanese Sword Fittings Artists ….. $89.90$45
Soken Kinko Zufu ….. $9.90 – $5
Swordsmiths of Japan ….. $89.90$45
Tameshigiri ….. $29.90$15
The Honami Family ….. $19.90$10
The Japanese Toso Kinko Schools ….. $24.90$12.50

German Titles:

Die Honami Familie ….. $19.90$10
Geschichten rund ums japanische Schwert ….. $9.90 – $5
Geschichten rund ums japanische Schwert 2 ….. $9.90 – $5
Koto Kantei Zenshu ….. $89.90$45
Nihon-shinto-shi ….. $29.90$15
Nihon-shinshinto-shi ….. $29.90$15
Shinto Shinshinto Kantei Zenshu ….. $89.90$45

 

 

 

 

Lulu Discount

As mentioned on FB, there will be another eBook Super Sale with 50% off pretty soon and in view of the upcoming DTI. So if you want to charge your tablets and phones to have some on-the-spot referencewhen shopping for swords or sword fittings over there, please stay tuned. In the meanwhile, Lulu.com has a great discount going on until October 24. All print books are 30% off and that is usually as good as it gets, using the code OCTHIRTY (all caps).

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/nihontobooks

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Banzuke (番付)

I know, the two articles a week have become quite rare lately on my site as I still try to catch up on things big time. So in order to avoid posts slackening completely, I want to briefly introduce an interesting item that I came across the other day in course of an ongoing translation.

Some of you might be familiar with the banzuke (番付, lit. “ranking list”), the posters or flyers published before each sumô tournament that list the rankings of the participating wresters. As mentioned in the Wikipedia entry here, this kind of banzuke document can be traced back to the 1700s. Entering the 1800s, banzuke started to find its way into other fields, almost everything, as we know banzuke rankings for Onsen hot springs, famous poets  and song writers from the past, plants, gardens, craftsmen, famous swordsmen, and scenic views for example, and from the Meiji era onwards also for millionaires (or the richest people of each province/prefecture) which kind of became the Japanese Forbes list after WWII.

Now I have seen some banzuke on swordsmiths but the one I want to introduce here is the first on tsuba makers that I recall coming across. But before we continue, I briefly want to explain how these banzuke “work,” or rather how they are structured. Usually, the sheet contains the name and date of the tournament followed by a list of referees and promoters/sponsors. This information forms the mid section and the wrestlers are divided into East, which is printed on the right, and West, which is printed on the left. The top row with the largest characters always marks the highest ranking wrestlers, starting in descending order from right to left for each division. It starts thus with the Ôzeki (大関), the current champion, who is followed by the ranks of Sekiwake (関脇), Komusubi (小結), and Maegashira (前頭). After the first Maegashira or first row of Maegashira, the rest of the wrestlers of that rank are only marked by the character (同), which just means “ibid.” or “the same.” As for swords (see picture below), there are banzuke that list kotô smiths on the right and shintô/shinshintô smiths on the left side, or vice versa, or specific kotô, shintô/shinshintô, or even WWII era gendaitô banzuke where the East and West division is kept by just following the then provinces (or prefectures), e.g. everything east from Kyôto on the right side and everything west on the left side (which was not always strictly followed).

banzuke1

So what should one make of such a swordsmith banzuke? Well, first of all, they seem to appear at a time when sword publications had been widely available for a certain time. Ranking was very much a thing in Edo period Japan and so the already well-known banzuke format perfectly fitted the need of a sword collector or enthusiast for a simple and easy to understand list in a handy format, i.e. a folded or rolled up poster (or just a larger sheet of paper). These swordsmith banzuke were exactly seen as what they were, that is a useful guidance for one who is not that deep into swords to get a basic overview of where the skill of a smith of interest is placed within the sword cosmos. That said, they were not understood as set in stone and legally binding rankings on the basis of which you can start a lawsuit against a dealer, e.g. if you wanted an Ôzeki ranked smith and he sold you a Maegashira.

And this brings us to the tsuba makers banzuke that I was talking about (see picture below). It is titled Tôken Tsuba Kagami (刀剣鍔鏡) and was compiled by Noda Takaaki (野田敬明, 1759-1825) some time during the Bunsei era (文政, 1818-1830). Noda was an expert of sword fittings and wrote amongst others the Edo Kinkô Meifu (江都金工名譜, 1810) and Kinkô Kantei Hiketsu (金工鑑定秘訣, 1820). The mid section has to be taken with a grain of salt, i.e. Sanjô Tachibana Munechika (三条橘宗近), Umetada Myôju (埋忠明寿), Yamashiro Kanesada (山城金定), and Myôchin Nobusada (明珍信貞) are quoted as “referees” (gyôji, 行司) for this “tournament.” Below of that referee section we find two names, Sôheishi Sôten (藻柄子宗典) and Hizen Jakushi (肥前若芝). This is interesting as they are listed as kantei-moto (鑑定元), hinting at the term kanjin-moto (勧進元, promoter/sponsor) that is found on sumô banzuke. The term kantei-moto implies to me that Sôten and Jakushi works, which were produced in very large numbers and thus found in every corner of Japan, were used by Noda as basis (moto) for his judgement (kantei) of the ranking.

To conclude, I want to quote the important top section (also because the lower parts of the banzuke are illegible anyway on the picture. This gives you a good overview of which tsuba makers were regarded as best at that time, i.e. the early 1800s. The two undisputed grandmasters (Ôzeki) were Kaneie (金家), listed on the right, and Nobuie (信家), listed on the left. Please note that Nobuie is quoted as “Kôfu Nobuie” (甲府信家), i.e. back then it was still assumed that it was the Myôchin armorer based in Kai province who made the tsuba. The two Sekiwake were Bishû Yamakichi (尾州山吉), i.e. Yamakichibei on the right, and Chôshû Mitsutsune (長州光恒) on the left, the founder of the Nakai family. The right side Komusubi is Higo Shigeharu (肥後重治), i.e. Matashichi (又七), and the one on the left side is Bishû Sadahiro (尾州貞広). Please note that we find Bishû, i.e. Owari artists on the left and right side, so this list doesn’t seem to be divided into an East and West division. Also please note that at the very left another Komusubi rank was added, that is Nanban-tsuba (南蛮鐔). So Nanban-tsuba must have been pretty highly regarded back then. The top section Maegashira are listed below:

Right: Yamashiro Kôten (山城弘天), Umetada Shigeyoshi (埋忠重吉), Saotome Iesada (早乙女家貞), Yamashiro Masatsugu (山城正次), Itô Masatsune (伊藤正恒), Seishû Nobuaki (勢州信秋), Chôshû Yukishige (長州幸重), and Bushû (Akasaka) Tadamasa (武州忠正).

Left: Yamashiro (Umetada) Jusai (山城寿斎), Saotome Ienori (早乙女家則), Sôshû Masatsugu (相州正次), Yamashiro Masatomo (山城正知), Chikushû Shigeyoshi (筑州重吉), Okamoto Tomoharu (岡本友治), Karatsu Masayoshi (唐津政善), and Umetada Narishige (埋忠成重).

It is also interesting to learn that two Saotome artists are found within the top ranks. Anyway, it becomes clear that this banzuke focuses on tankô (鐔工), i.e. tsuba craftsmen, and does not include kinkô (金工) but I’m pretty sure that Noda also made a kinkô banzuke in parallel. So if someone comes across the kinkô twin to this banzuke, please let me know.

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Sword News

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I just want to inform those who haven’t heard yet, the NBTHK has a new president. At the end of July, Sakai Tadatsugu (酒井忠次, 1946- ) took over the post from Ôno who had been in charge since 2012.  To provide a little background, Mr. Sakai is the 11th generation of the Sakai family, the former daimyô of the Shônai fief of Dewa province. Apart from acting as trustee of the local Honma Museum of Art, of which Dr. Honma Junji was the first president by the way, Sakai san runs (with his son Tadayori [酒井忠順, 1974- ] as director) the private Chidô Museum of Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, which was founded by his grandfather Count Tadayoshi (酒井忠良, 1888-1962).

I had the honor to meet Mr. Sakai at one of Mr. Kurokawa’s DTI after parties, I think it was in 2008. I had a brief chat with him as I had visited his museum I think six years earlier, knowing that it owns two kokuhô swords, a Nobufusa (信房) tachi and a Sanemitsu (真光) tachi (which I have introduced a while ago here). Oh, and if you are in Japan in fall and can manage it to visit Yamagata, the two swords are on display from October 1 to 30 (see here), plus the jûyô-bunkazai meibutsu Shinano-Tôshirô (信濃藤四郎).

That should do it for today’s news and I will report back asap with some more articles.