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.