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Mikasa Tanto By Horii Hideaki


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#1 seattle1

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Posted 04 February 2016 - 05:48 PM

Hello:

 An interesting blade popped up on the Tsuruta Aoi site this morning, a tanto by Horii Hideaki incorporating some steel from the Battleship Mikasa, the flag vessel of Admiral Togo during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. The auction starting price is ambitious in my opinion, but the blade is worthy of study as such blades represent something unique among the gendaito.

 Hideaki was "born" Horii Kanekichi, Meiji 19 (1886), Shiga Prefecture, and during his life he was to sign Kaneaki, Hideaki and Toshihide. In 1905 he studied with Horii Taneaki and in 1911 he became Taneaki's son-in-law and heir. In 1913 he was given the name Hideaki by the Token Hozon Kai (NTHK?) and he used that name until December, 1933 when the current Emperor Akihito was born, changing then in respect to Toshihide. In 1918 Hideaki had moved to the Nihon Seikosho Jo steel company forge, Muroran Tanrensho Zuiryu Kan. Hideaki was a skilled and respected smith, worked primarily in Bizen style, though Soshu works are seen. His choji-ba is considered very skillful, though he also worked in suguba and gonome. He was mukansa rated, a shinsa judge himself, and made many commissioned works, particularly a large number for the Navy, as well as gunsuito, the later being a very high honor. Many of the blades made for the Navy incorporated steel from the Mikasa, and as one would expect they tend to display some chikei as a result of that admixture.

 The Mikasa is Japan's most historic ship, it being a pre-dreadnaught, built by Vickers, and at that time as good as any British battleship. She was completed March 1, 1902, weighed 15,200 tons, was 414 feet in length and with a top speed of 18 knots (21 mph), and she had a crew of 753 officers and men. Her main guns were two turrets of two 40 cal. 12" pieces along with various side pieces. The guns themselves were made by the top British maker, Elswick Ordnance Co., and fired 850 lb. shells at 2,400 fps. She flew Togo's flag at the Battle of Port Arthur 8/9, February, 1904, the Battle of the Yellow  Sea, 10 August, 1904, and at the devastation of the Russian Fleet at Tsushima, 27 May, 1905. It was during the Battle of the Yellow Sea that an aft turret starboard gun was hit twice and destroyed, and I believe it was that gun's steel that was used for the Mikasa blades.

 The plan to use that steel was that of the Suikosha, a Navy officers organization, and the blades were made at the Muroran forge. Hideaki accepted the task and incorporated small amounts of the Mikasa steel in otherwise traditionally made blades. He made 229 swords, some being special order, along with 973 dirks with the famous Z-flag phrase on the blade, and another group of 451 dirks. The work was done between January, 1928 and May, 1932. Most of the pieces were sold through the Suikosha, many going to Naval cadets. Given the Naval officer ownership of most of these blades and the almost total destruction of the Navy during WWII, Mikasa blades are more or less rare.

 The Z-flag phrase or motto refers to the signal flag hoisted aboard the Mikasa by Admiral Togo prior to the commencement of the Battle of Tsushima, it having been the signal of Nelson at Trafalgar: "England expects every man will do his duty", which for Togo was "kokoku no kobai konno issin ni ari". It is variously transliterated, but amounts to: "The fate of the Empire rests on the outcome of this battle. Let each man do his utmost".

 Chris Bowen knows far more than I do about Hideaki and the Mikasa blades, so perhaps he will pitch in on this topic.

 Arnold F.


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#2 BIG

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Posted 04 February 2016 - 06:28 PM

Hi Arnold,

Here is a to ken info

http://to-ken.uk/one...2014-report.pdf

Best Regards
Peter Reusch

Dai ichi - dai man - dai kichi

#3 raymondsinger

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Posted 04 February 2016 - 07:44 PM

It appears that the intended auction starting price is ¥280,000 rather than ¥1,400,000.

 

http://www.sword-auc...tishihidemikasa

 

Best regards,

Ray


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#4 seattle1

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Posted 04 February 2016 - 10:47 PM

Hi Ray:

 Well some clerk probably got a talking to as the 8AM EST price when I logged on was 1,400,000 JPY starting. While they are hardly common that did seem to be a stretch. The price, of course, really is no part, one way or the other, as the unique qualities of all those Mikasa blades speak for themselves.

 Arnold F.



#5 seattle1

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Posted 04 February 2016 - 11:07 PM

Hello Again:

 I think Aoi has a right and left hand problem as the site still show AS15041 @JPY 1,400,000 as of right now.

 Arnold F.



#6 Stephen

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Posted 05 February 2016 - 12:14 AM

the bid page shows

 

Currency Converter
JPY    280000
 
 

                                  Stephen C.

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#7 Stephen

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Posted 05 February 2016 - 12:31 AM

list page

 

AS15041-短刀:秀明作(堀井俊秀)/三笠-Tanto: Hideaki Saku(Horii Tishihide)/Mikasa
6 days 2 hours 59 minutes
¥280,000 0   AS15391-刀:和泉守藤原国貞(初代)-Katana : Izumi Kami Fujiwara Kunisada(first generation)
6 days 3 hours 6 minutes
¥1,400,000

                                  Stephen C.

                      USMC      DEC 63      APR 73

              "Nothing Fxcks you harder than time"

                        Sir  Davos Seaworth


#8 Gordon Sanders

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Posted 05 February 2016 - 05:41 AM

It looks like two pieces. A tanto 280K and Katana. 1.400k
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#9 seattle1

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Posted 05 February 2016 - 04:49 PM

Hello:

 There is only one Mikasa blade being offered by Aoi, AS15041. Passing reference in my initial  post referred to its ambitious price without mentioning the price amount.  If you go to the site and scroll to the things offered it is listed at JPY 1,400,000, an ambitious price for sure. If you hit on Bid the price there for starting is 280,000, which is less ambitious. Obviously some clerk entering information made a mistake.

 I hope that what folks find interesting is the Mikasa story and not the comedy of errors about the price.

 Arnold F.



#10 w.y.chan

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Posted 07 February 2016 - 04:31 AM

I thought the price of Y1.4million was ambitious and very unlike Aoi Art and believe that to be an error. I'm glad it appears to be confirmed. The Mikasa tantos with a few exception were mass produced and do not hold up to Toshihide's general work. They may even be made by his students.

 

I also notice recently Aoi listed 2 different Gassan Sadakatsu as one and it was never corrected on their site when sold. I wonder which one the buyer actually recieved?

 

 

Wah


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#11 seattle1

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 05:47 PM

Hello:

 After all the confusion over duplicate and different prices which led to no correction by Aoi, the tanto sold last night for 361,000 JPY from a starting price of 280,000 JPY, with four bids (not necessarily four bidders) in the run.

 Wah suggests that "...Mikasa tantos with a few exception were mass produced and do not hold up to Toshihide's general work. They may even be made by his students." I don't know about the quality comparison but I do grant that students may have helped to some extent. I believe some folks know how to distinguish between master and student, though doubtless there is no data as to proportions of the total, that being 1,653 blades made up of 229 swords and 1,424 tanto ot two grades. I would take exception though to the term "mass produced" as that term speaks less to absolute number than as a reference to the division of labor, I doubt that a division of labor was employed in manufacture, but I believe that each blade was made by one man, and most of them probably by Hideaki himself.

 Fujishiro Okisato, reporting on the Nippon To Tanren-Kai at the Yasukuni Jinja, has stated that without the use of machines 15 blades per month is "...probably the maximum practical number possible without using machines." The production period for the Mikasa blades was 53 months and if we assume, reasonably I think, that tanto could be made at twice the 15 per month rate, and that tanto were 86% of total production, then 1,424 tanto could be made by one man in 47 months, leaving  6 months for an output of 90 blades. That leaves 139 blades unaccounted for with just one smith at work. The number of assistant smiths is unknown but it does not seem unreasonable that some combination of tanto and those blades could have readily been accommodated within the 53 month period by using very few assistants and perhaps none at various times. The useful Fujishiro output reference by the way is found in Programme  134, Nov., 1987 of the British Token Society.

 Finally, the whole import of the Mikasa blades is the "special sauce" added to the blade making process by the historical and spiritual addition of that  particular steel, though its proportion must have been quite small. That is the same aura that is associated with blades made at the Yasukuni Jinja and at the Minatogawa Jinja, and which also set them off as something special.

 Arnold F.



#12 SwordGuyJoe

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 07:27 PM

I would take exception though to the term "mass produced" as that term speaks less to absolute number than as a reference to the division of labor, I doubt that a division of labor was employed in manufacture, but I believe that each blade was made by one man, and most of them probably by Akihide himself.

 

I assume that you mean Hideaki.  I don't think that we'll ever be able to say who did or didn't make these swords.  That said, what Wah said is correct about the quality of these swords in comparison to other Hideaki work.  While I do not collect Horii swords, it is a group that I have a lot of respect for and really appreciate what Hideaki was able to create.  He made some absolutely gorgeous stuff and these swords (there are some exceptions), including this tanto, just don't hold a candle to what he had the ability to do.  I am in the camp that these were likely not made by him directly and that the different pieces of the forging process were split up between students to crank them all out - with Hideaki likely strictly overseeing the work and possibly just handling the yakiire.  Just my opinion though, but it's based on the quality of the construction vs. those made by Hideaki.



#13 w.y.chan

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 07:41 PM

Toshihide/Hideaki was the representitive smith of the pre and early Showa period. From the book of the Horii family I get the impression Toshihde was a very busy smith and would spend much of his time making high quality swords for many eminent people. I would imagine he would leave much of the Mikasa blades to his students while he puts his energy on higher grade personal orders. I recall Chris B might have mention about Mikasa blade and high degree of student involvement but I cant locate were might have posted.

 

 

Wah



#14 seattle1

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 10:32 PM

Hello:

 Thanks for the name correction Joe; not enough coffee this AM! I have a Hideaki myself.

 Yes Wah, there are a number of unknowns, however I would think that working with material from the Battleship Mikasa with its connection to Admiral Togo and that great Tsushima victory for Japan would not just be another day at the office so to speak, and would have the best practical effort of any smith. My theme on that blade is that whatever combination of material and labor inputs that went into them, they are something special and last night's buyer should be pleased.

 Arnold F.



#15 w.y.chan

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 10:24 PM

Hi Arnold,

 

A high quality private order tanto by Toshihide I would imagine would have a reserve of at least Y600,000. As well as being a fine swordsmith Toshihide was very active in the PR business of sword. While there is great source of pride attach to the aura surrounding the battleship Mikasa it is also a sound business opportunity to have one of the finest smith of the time put his name on it. Its historcal significant cannot be denied especially if you are more into the history side of things.

 

Wah



#16 seattle1

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 03:05 PM

Hello Wah:

 No disagreement at all.

 Arnold F.






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