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katana translation

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#1 aeisentrou

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 08:36 AM

I'm looking for help translating the inscriptions on a sword I inherited from my father, who brought it back to the US in 1945.   He was a captain assigned to weapons collection duty in the Okinawa area.  I'm thinking of having it restored, as the menuki and wrap are missing, and the ray skin is shrunken and missing sections.  The blade is covered in cosmoline, but it appears to be in excellent shape.  I am interested in restoring it with historical accuracy, so any additional information or pointers to background material would be also appreciated. I have been told that it is likely to have been made in the early 1940's.  I have not found any stamps or serial numbers on the tang or tsuba. I'm hoping these Dropbox links work. 

 

Thanks,

 

Bruce E    

 

https://www.dropbox....bbard2.JPG?dl=0

https://www.dropbox....ption4.JPG?dl=0

https://www.dropbox....iption.JPG?dl=0

https://www.dropbox....parts2.JPG?dl=0

https://www.dropbox....d tip3.JPG?dl=0



#2 Stephen

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 09:43 AM

Its a older blade, look into one of the Sukesada smiths. personally id have a togi look at for kizu before polishing. Then put into a shirasaya 


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#3 Stephen

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 09:59 AM

one of the Yokoyama group, not saying yours is this year, is there a date side?

 

SUKESADA (祐定), 6th gen., Kanbun (寛文, 1661-1673), Bizen – “Bizen no Kuni Osafune-jū Yokoyama Kōzuke no Daijō Fujiwara Sukesada” (備前国長船住横山上野大掾藤原祐定), “Bishū Osafune-jūnin Yokoyama Kōzuke no Daijō Fujiwara Sukesada” (備州長船住人横山上野大掾藤原祐定), “Bizen no Kuni Osafune-jū Yokoyama Hanbei Fujiwara Sukeasada” (備前国長船住横山半兵衛藤原祐定), “Yokoyama Kōzuke no Daijō Fujiwara Sukesada – Bishū Osafune-jūnin” (横山上野大掾藤原祐定・備州長船住人), “Yokoyama Kōzuke no Daijō Fujiwara Sukesada” (横山上野大掾藤原祐定), real name Yokoyama Hanbei (横山半兵衛), son of Shichibei Sukesada, he counted himself as 6th gen. 


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                                  Stephen C.

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                        ​"Resident curmudgeon  "


#4 uwe

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 10:05 AM

As a quick shot, "Bishu Osafune junin.....Kozuke Daijo Fujiwara Sukesada".

Oh.....to late.
Uwe Sacklowski

#5 aeisentrou

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 11:20 AM

Stephen C.

 

Thanks for your response.  I know so little about this subject that I am going to have to read some to understand it.  As to your question, I posted pictures of both sides of the tang.  If there is a date, I guess it would be in the second picture. If not a date, I would like to know what it does say. 

 

After reading your post, I read through John Yumoto's book and the physical characteristics of the blade and handle seem consistent with an old sword.  There are a couple things that seem inconsistent, though.  The loop at the base of the handle is not centered and is not connected to the kashira.  It is fitted into holes in the wood handle.  The WWII swords I have seen in pictures all seem to have a loop for a tassel and older ones do not.  The scabbard is lacquered, but it has the remains of a leather cover on the tip and there is a brass loop attached by a leather binding at the top. Are these signs that an old sword was refitted to meet Japanese Army standards so that it could be taken into combat?

 

I realize that I have strayed somewhat from translation. Let me know if I am too far off topic.

 

Bruce E.  



#6 SteveM

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 12:53 PM

Hello Bruce,

 

There is no date. The one side of the tang with the long inscription reads;

横山上野大掾藤原祐定

Yokoyama Kōzuke Daijō Fujiwara Sukesada

You can find this name in Stephen's post above. Yokoyama is a family name, Kōzuke is an old province in Japan, corresponding to Gunma prefecture in today's Japan. Daijō is a title roughly corresponding to "Lord" or "Governor", but don't read too much into this. There is a great article on this site that describes these titles and what they mean, their background, etc... Fujiwara is a clan name, also something that you don't need to spend too many hours wondering about. If you google "clan names" + "Fujiwara" you might get some more background on this. Finally you get the smith's name: Sukesada. A very common name, used by multiple generations. I think there are something like 40 smiths or more who used this name, although not all of them used it just as it is here. Anyway, hopefully Stephen's post makes more sense to you now. 

https://en.wikipedia...Kōzuke_Province

 

On the reverse side is 備州長船住人 "Bishū Osafune Jūnin"  (resident of Osafune, in Bishū province). Again, Bishū and Osafune are two well-known location names in the sword world. Yumoto's book must have some info in it about them. If not, use the search engine on this site and look for more info on Osafune. 

 

If we assume your blade is indeed a centuries-old blade (and it does seem that way), it was repurposed with military fittings for use by someone in the Japanese army. Given the unique, hand-made nature of the sword, the fittings may well have been a hodge-podge of non-standard things.

 

You now have an interesting dilemma: what does historical accuracy mean for this sword? Do you restore as an authentic, hand-crafted, feudal era sword, with lacquer scabbard and fittings appropriate to the time of the Edo-era in which it was made? Or do you restore it as a military memento from the mid-20th century, keeping the military fittings? This could be the start of an interesting discussion here. 


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#7 aeisentrou

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:02 PM

SteveM

 

Thank you for the additional information. Things were much simpler when I thought I had just an early 1940's blade.  I am learning more than I ever wanted to, just trying to identify what I have.  Can you offer an opinion as to the presence of Kozuke on one side and Bishu Oshafune Junin on the other?  Seems like there is a reference to two locations, one on each side. 

 

It seems as if I have a pleasant dilemma.  Do you have an opinion on which of the fittings might be original and/or worth saving?  Would it be a travesty to outfit this old blade as it was in the WWII era? Obviously it needs wrapping and menuki as these are missing.  If I aim at restoring as original should I use old menuki?  I'm sure there are other questions that I don't even suspect.

 

Bruce E



#8 Ed Harbulak

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 10:14 PM

Hi Bruce,

The signature is written on two sides of the tang (nakago) because this sword smith often signed his full name, title and location that way. The side that reads "Bi-Shu Osa-Fune (Ju) Nin" says in English, Bizen (province), Osafuna (city) (ju) Nin (resident of). The other side "Yoko-Yama Ko-Suke Dai-Jo Fuji-Wara Suke-Sada" translates as mentioned above to, Yokoyama (family name) Kosuke Daijo (an honorary title for Kosuke province) Fujiwara (clan name) Sukesada (Sukesada being the sword smiths "trade" name or art name). Put it all together in English word order and both sides say (made by) Kosuke Daijo Fujiwara Yokoyama Sukesada a resident of Osafuna in Bizen province. Perhaps where you might have some confusion is because there are so many Japanese characters that don't seem to fit in English. I broke them up with dashes between characters to perhaps make it a bit easier to understand what's written. If the signature is genuine then this is a fairly famous and well regarded sword smith. Unfortunately, there are many forged signatures of famous sword smiths with the forgeries often dating back to the time when the smith was still actively working. The Japanese have been turning out fake signatures for hundred's of years and yours does look like it was put on the tang (nakago) a few hundred years ago. However, I suspect it may be gimei or a forgery based on the way the last character (Sada) is written. It's actually written correctly in Japanese where the eighth stroke starts by touching the previous, 7th stroke. However, this Sukesada made the 8th stroke cross the 7th stroke which isn't the case on your blade. But don't let that bother you too much, it still looks like a nice blade. I'm sure other's will make suggestions as to how to restore it all.


Ed Harbulak

#9 Ed Harbulak

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 10:26 PM

Hi Bruce,

In looking again at the pictures you have posted, the characters are filled with white powder and I can't really tell from the photo if the 8th stroke in Sada actually crosses the 7th. Perhaps where it crosses, if it does, it just isn't filled in with white. Look at the signature and the Sada kanji with a magnifying glass to see if that last or 8th stroke starts at the 7th stroke or if in fact it crosses it. I'm talking about the bottom two line in the Sada character that resemble an inverted letter Y. 


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#10 SteveM

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 12:11 AM

In this case, "Lord of Kozuke" is a title (a kind of privilege, a peerage, if you will), and doesn't necessarily mean the smith was actually living or working in that location at that time. In this case the smith has written on the opposite side "Resident of Osafune, Bishū Province", so I think its safe to assume that this was forged in Osafune (assuming always the signature isn't a fake). 

 

My preference / recommendation would be to restore in Edo period fittings. It is a hand-forged sword from Japan's feudal, past. That it spent 5-10 years of its ~300 year life in military mounts doesn't impress me. If the mounts were in pristine condition it would be one thing. But your mounts are in an advanced state of distress, and I think they are a write-off from a collector's viewpoint. 

 

Also, finding a set of military furnishings that will fit this hand-made sword would be a frustrating and, I think, pointless search. The sword was not made as a WW2 sword, so spending money and time bringing it back to an anachronistic condition is not something I would do. If it were a factory-made WW2 sword, I don't think it would be too hard to find replacement fittings. The fittings would be appropriate to the time and purpose and history of the sword. However, your sword was hand-made, so the length and curvature are different from a mass-produced sword. 

 

I think you do your father no disservice to return this sword to its pre-war condition.

 

But first, you should get your sword looked at by someone who knows their stuff. Maybe there is a dealer or restorer nearby where you live who can help you out. Your sword could be a forgery, as is common with Japanese swords. It definitely needs the cosmoline removed and replaced with a lighter oil, but not until you have a clean scabbard in which to store the sword. If you are lucky you can find a reputable dealer who can take care of all of this at once for you: appraisal, advice, and sending the sword off to a scabbard-maker so you have a clean, plain scabbard made for it. He should be able to tell you if its worth sending the sword off for professional polish. Do not attempt this yourself. A centuries-old sword needs specialized polishing skills, and you can easily ruin your sword by trying to scrape off rust. Avoid the temptation to remove any rust. I would say leave it in the cosmoline for now, since it has probably minimized and stabilized any rust, and since it is probably also coating the inside of the scabbard.  

 

In short: 

1) Show it to somebody who knows swords - a reputable dealer or collector. The forum can help you out. 

2). If authentic, get a plain wooden scabbard (shirasaya) made for it. 

3). Once you have it cleaned and stored in a shirasaya, you can decide how much you want to spend on restoring it: polish and furnishings. (The shirasaya also makes it easy to ship, should you decide you want to ship it somewhere to be restored. 


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Steve M

#11 SteveM

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 12:19 AM

Here is one of the bits describing Japanese titles. I think there may be another one floating around. 

http://www.militaria...no-no/?hl=title

Also, check out the great reading list under the "articles" section of this board. 

 

One more thing: if/when you get the plain wooden scabbard made, and even if you decide to get Edo-period furnishings made, you can still (obviously) keep the world war two mounts as keepsakes. When I said they were a write-off, I didn't mean to imply they should be thrown away. But once the sword is clean and free of cosmoline, you wouldn't want to keep it any longer in its WW2 mounts, because the inside of those mounts could be coated with grime. 


Steve M

#12 aeisentrou

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 06:39 AM

Once again, thanks to those who have responded.  I am astounded at the amount of knowledge possessed by you.  I'm feeling a burden of responsibility to learn enough to see that this sword is restored correctly.

 

I inspected the Sada character as Ed suggested.  It took about four tries to get the light at the correct angle, but I think that the eighth stoke crosses the seventh.  However, it's so faint that if you weren't looking for it, you might see nothing more than the random imperfections in the metal.  I'll experiment, but I doubt I will be able to capture it in a photo.

 

I think Steve M's advice is good.  Any suggestions  on dealers/collectors  to see or people to clean the blade and make a shirasaya in the northwest U.S.?

 

Bruce E.







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