On a probably fake kinzôgan tameshi-mei

Whilst working on my next publication on tameshigiri, I stumbled over an interesting gold-inlayed test result of a cutting test which requires caution. After finishing the chapter on the famous Yamano family (山野) of sword testers whose succession was Ka´emon Nagahisa (加右衛門永久), Kanjûrô Hisahide (勘十郎久英), and Kichizaemon Hisatoyo (吉左衛門久豊), I also tried to find some more members of the Yamano family and found a certain Kantarô Nagatsugu (勘太郎永継) on a wakizashi of Kotetsu. This Nagatsugu does neither appear in any of the publications on tameshigiri nor have I found his name inlayed on any other sword tang so far but the blade got jûyô in 2004. And looking for Yamano Kantarô Nagatsugu, I learned that my blogger-colleague Itô Sanpei had addressed the very same wakizashi back in 2006. His article can be found here.

Itô found out that there is a wakizashi depicted in the Kotetsu-taikan (虎徹大鑑) whose tameshi-mei reads: “Kanbun gonen jûnigatsu nijûgonichi – futatsu-dô setsudan – Yamano Kantarô Nagatsugu + kaô” (寛文五年十二月二十五日・貳ツ胴截断・山野勘太郎永継, “Yamano Kantarô Nagatsugu cut through two bodies on the 25th day of the twelfth month Kanbun five [1665]”). In Itô´s blog, the picture on the far left is the one from the Kotetsu-taikan. Itô was now informed that the date of the tameshi-mei was later altered from Kanbun five to Kanbun ten (1670) and that we are facing the very same wakizashi. However, the jûyô paper does quote the mei as “Kanbun jûnen jûnigatsu nijûgonichi…” but does not mention any possibility of an alteration. Incidentally, the very same wakizashi was also introduced in Aitô magazine (愛刀) No. 355 (December 2005) and Itô presents the oshigata of the nakago on the far right on his blog. By the way, the picture in the middle is from the jûyô-zufu which I will show in addition below.


The Kotetsu-taikan says that on the basis of the signature syntax and style, the wakizashi in question can be dated to Kanbun twelve (1672) and adds that according to the Kajihei-oshigata (鍛冶平押形), the kinzôgan-mei was added later by the famous forger Kajihei. Well, if the mei dates the blade to Kanbun twelve, why did Kajihei add a tameshi-mei from Kanbun five (1665)? I.e. a blade tested about seven years before it was even made?! This might be explained by that back in Kajihei´s times, studies on Kotetsu were still in their infancy. That means Kajihei just assumed that the blade was made around Kanbun five. The Kajihei-oshigata in turn does not depict an oshigata of the nakago but just a drawn copy with the mei written with the brush. This might explain the minor differences in the tameshi-mei and its kaô. Also the measurements of the Kotetsu-taikan entry and the jûyô-zufu differ a little but one does not have to worry about such small divergencies as they are quite common and go either back to imprecise measurings or to conversions from the Japanese shaku to the Western cm measurements. So these minor differences in measurements are no reason to say that these are not the same blades. Itô´s friend who pointed out to him the whole issue is convinced that it is the same wakizashi and Itô is of the same opinion although he remarks that he had never seen the blade in person. Reasons for him thinking that it is the same blade but with an altered tameshi-mei are on the one hand that the date matches entirely except for the year and that this is the one and only blade known bearing a tameshi-mei of Yamano Kantarô Nagatsugu who does not appear in any records as mentioned and who might therefore be a creation of Kajihei. Incidentally, for the approach that Nagatsugu was a creation of Kajihei speaks also the fact that the Yamano family inherited the character for “hisa”.

But against the view that we are facing the same wakizashi speaks the different year of the tameshi-mei. So even if Kajihei added later a supposed cutting test by Yamano Nagatsugu, why should he alter the date from Kanbun five to Kanbun ten later? Also possible is that another person altered the year when the improving studies on Kotetsu revealed that the mei of the smith can not match the date of the cutting test. Well, the Kotetsu-taikan was published for the first time in 1955 and a revised version was published in 1974. So maybe by the time shortly before the Kotetsu-taikan was published, new studies on Kotetsu made it possible to narrow down the mei of the smith to at least around Kanbun twn plus minus two years. In other words, it is also possible that Kajihei´s tameshi-mei was altered in the early fifties of last century. But why, and this question is also asked by Itô, the shinsa team did not check the Kotetsu-taikan in 2004? Everybody knows that the name Kotetsu causes the alarm bells to ring. And by checking the Kotetsu-taikan, the tameshi-mei in question would have given rise to suspicion (i.e. almost identical date and very rare name of cutting tester). So maybe the Kotetsu-taikan was just not consulted, maybe because the shinsa teams has other references or worksheets. Also possible is that the shinsa team found out all that and just did not mention it explicitly in the jûyô paper as the mei of the smith is authentic anyway. From my experience in translating numerous jûyô papers over the last years I know that it is rather the rule than the exception that a cutting test or the name of a former owner of the blade (added via kiritsuke-mei) is not addressed in the jûyô paper at all. But this is no wonder because the shinsa standards of the NBTHK do not address tameshi-mei or kiritsuke-mei at all. But I don´t know if the knowledge that the tameshi-mei was altered in the last century would have changed the outcome of the jûyô-shinsa. Of course the tameshi-mei does not change anything for the blade or the authenticity of the mei of the smith and maybe this was the approach of the shinsa team. But maybe it was anyway thought that the alteration of the year goes back to Meiji times and is so quasi a “historic forgery” which can be negleted in the same way the tameshi-mei itself is neglected (for jûyô considerations concerning the authenticity of the blade and mei of the smith). Itô suggests the NBTHK should withdraw the jûyô paper and change the description accordingly as this would contribute much to the credibility of the organization. I know that such sophisticated considerations can not be applied at hozon or tokubetsu-hozon level and that the shinsa standards in neglecting tameshi-mei or kiritsuke-mei work very well for papers of this category. But jûyô is in my opinion a different story and adding some additional information, or at least adding everything that was found out during the shinsa, would be a great thing.

2 thoughts on “On a probably fake kinzôgan tameshi-mei

  1. Hi Markus,

    FYI, I have the December 2005 issue of Aitô if you need a copy of the wakizashi.


    • Hi Paul,
      Is there any text to the wakizashi? If so, it would be interesting to read if the Aito staff writes something about the tameshi-mei.

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