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Jussi Ekholm

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Posts posted by Jussi Ekholm

  1. Unlike many who focus on highest quality etc. for me that is not too important. My list in the 1st page was pretty much what would general belief in Japan be (with signature requirement added on as personal twist). I am mostly fixed on shape and size, I feel that is my thing in sword appreciation and has been for quite a while now. Of course I can see beauty in some features too but more often I would choose bigger/signed/ubu/more imposing item instead of nicer looking one. As if you combine amazing quality to pieces that I like they are pretty much forever out of my personal reach.


    Here are two quite interesting items that I have seen and are in European collections.





    Is in the collection of Samurai Museum Berlin. Now I did ramble about not seeking for quality and yet this one is spectacular quality. The wide shape of this is what initially got me to like this but when looking this in hand it was easy to appreciate the fine craftsmanship and hada etc. When in original form this must have been beast of a sword. Now here is where the shape and size do it for me. This is appointed to Rai Kunimitsu and is a top tier item. However even if the craftsmanship would not be at this level, I would like it almost equally if it was lower quality and appraised as Nakajima Rai, or even pretty much the lowest Rai-related Echizen Rai.





    This is in an European private colletion. In order to understand the rarity of this you need to know how many works of Fukuoka Ichimonji smith Yoshimune are out there. So far I have only found 3 signed tachi and 1 gakumei wakizashi. 1 tachi is Jūyō Bunkazai at Tsukubasan Jinja, then there is this TJ tachi and 1 Jūyō tachi. Now of course the item is another top tier item of wonderful quality but even with severe pitting/flaws etc. signed & verified item such as this would be historically very important (perhaps I can someday find badly flawed signed Ichimonji :laughing:).


    There are also other Yoshimune smiths in Bizen. Here is extremely spectacular signed 94,3 cm ōdachi by Yoshimune, it was thought at Jūyō shinsa to be the work of Yoshioka Ichimonji Yoshimune (Late Kamakura - Early Nanbokuchō smith), however it got rolled to be work of much earlier Ko-Bizen Yoshimune (Late Heian period) at Tokubetsu Jūyō evaluation. Even owning a single item like this would be a dream collection, sword like that is to me the holy grail.




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  2. Unfortunately I do not yet have Dmitrys book but I hope to get it in the future.


    Of course dated items of this era are pretty rare outside Bizen. Here are items of these smiths that I have personal references for.

    - Norishige e.1314 l.1320 (there is one dated 1321 but it appears the Norishige signature on it is gimei but date is genuine)

    - Kunimitsu e.1294 l.1324

    - Yukimitsu 0 dated ones (BUT there is older Sagami smith named Yukimitsu. Tokyo Fuji Museum has a tachi dated 1271. They refer him as 藤源次行光, perhaps he is the Yukimitsu for which "the Kotō Mei Zukushi Taizen says that he was born in the first year of Shōji (正治, 1199) and that he died in Kōan three (弘安, 1280) at the age of 83 but this would make him 50 years older than his master and it would also mean that he died before Kunimitsu had even matured his studies and brought forth what became later the Sōshū tradition" [quote from Seskos Index]

    - for Sa I only have 1339 dated ones

    - It gets bit tricky in Mino, as only dated Kaneuji items I have are signed with (包氏) and I would think it connects to Yamato e.date is unclear but from 1356-1361 l.1362, for Kinjū I only have 1369 dated item. However there is Mino smith Kanetsugu (兼次) from whom there is 1350 dated item surviving.

    - Hiromitsu e.1352 l.1364

    - Akihiro e.1357 l.1392

    - Nobukuni e.1358 can't really say latest as several generations

    - Hasebe Kunishige e.1349 l.1368

    - For Takagi Sadamune I have 0 dated ones.


    Here are numbers I currently have for signed Ichimonji long swords (I counted quickly so there might be a naginata or 2 in the mix).

    298 signed with smith name - 90 signed with just Ichi (when I some day get all the Jūyō books those numbers should go to 354 and 105 just from Jūyō items I still currently miss).


    This is very fun discussion even though it must be boring for some.

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  3. I was hinting the lack of signatures by Masamune & Sadamune earlier, as I cannot really understand this part of Sōshū tradition. And no I am not saying they didn't exist or anything like that as I feel it has been researched and established well enough. I just put historical things above artistic things and I admit I have hard time understanding how many generally finest items in Japan are mumei ō-suriage katana. Of course add in history, tradition, legends etc.


    I admit I have only seen one Masamune (with kinzōgan attribution) through glass at Tōkyō National Museum, and haven't even seen a sword attributed to Sadamune in person yet. I am trying to find a logic why Masamune and Sadamune didn't sign (well Masamune obviously did sign some), as you can find at least 67 signed Shintōgo Kunimitsu pieces and then again for Hiromitsu 30 and Akihiro 23 signed ones (at the lowest number I am quite sure there are some more [*edit* I just looked at Jūyō results that I am still missing the books for and for certain there will be 7 signed Kunimitsu, 10 signed Hiromitsu and 4 signed Akihiro that I still don't have in the list as I lack pics of them]). So why 2 of the allegedly best Sōshū smiths did not sign their work?


    I've read some book entries about Masamune and Sadamune lately and I feel that Japanese experts have often tendency to explain things in complicated matter. In Nihontō Kōza there was this quote in regards to when no signatures of these smiths made some people doubt their historical existence (quoting the Afu translation). "This is, of course because they do not understand from the heart the masterpieces of Sōshū jōkō." Also the descriptions of jitetsu, hamon features etc. are sometimes as poetic as they can be.


    One important thing is, how many Japanese experts have seen all (or at least majority) the signed examples? I was very surprised when I read Nihon Kotō Shi by Honma Junji that he described Ōsaka nagamei Masamune by being listed only in the old books, so apparently he hadn't seen it, as he stated no dated work exists (in the late 1950's to early 60's). I will list all of the signed ones I am aware of down below.


    Tachi - 正宗 (mei questionable) (retempered) - Kinoshita Masamune 木下正宗 (Private collection)

    Wakizashi - 正宗 - Torii Masamune 鳥居正宗 (Tokugawa Art Museum)

    Tantō - 正宗作 - Daikoku Masamune 大黒正宗 (Private collection)

    Tantō - 正宗 (burned) - Noborikudari ryu Masamune 上下龍正宗 (Tokugawa Museum)

    Tantō - 相州住正宗 / 嘉暦三年八月日 (1328) (retempered) - Ōsaka Nagamei Masamune 大坂長銘正宗 (Tokugawa Art Museum)

    Tantō - 正宗 - Fudō Masamune 不動正宗 (Tokugawa Art Museum)

    Tantō - 正宗 - Honjō Masamune 本荘正宗 (Private colletion)

    Tantō - 正宗 - (Tokugawa Art Museum)

    Tantō - 正宗 - Kyōgoku Masamune 京極正宗 (Imperial collection)

    Tantō - 正宗 (mei questionable) - (Location unknown to me)

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  4. I am enjoying this topic a lot :) For years I've been gathering data and here are some numbers I currently have on signed swords for those top tier smiths that Michael listed above. These are all items I have in my references. I'll try to create a table that is easy to read. Hopefully this will spark some discussion too, and show what I was hinting in my above post about number of signed items by smiths.



    Smith                 Total items      Signed items   (Gakumei & Orikaeshi)           Attributed items




    Masatsune      70                        58                        (11)                                                  12

    Tomonari          30                        25                        (0)                                                    5

    Yoshifusa          45                        38                        (1)                                                    6

    Mitsutada        62                        32                        (2)                                                    30

    Nagamitsu       269                      184                      (8)                                                    85

    Kagemitsu        135                      115                      (5)                                                    20

    Kunimune        100                      84                        (3)                                                    16




    Kunimitsu         69                        67                        (0)                                                    2

    Masamune      101                      10*                      (0)                                                    91

    Sadamune       87                        0                           (0)                                                    87

    Sa                        81                        42                        (0)                                                    39




    Yoshimitsu       57                        52                        (0)                                                    5

    Kunitoshi*       285                      164                      (9)                                                    121

    Kunimitsu         240                      130                      (5)                                                    110


    * Some of the signed Masamune are retempered and for few the signature might be up to debate

    * I combined both Niji Kunitoshi and Rai Kunitoshi to this entry


    Sorry that the numbers don't align when I copy the info from Word.


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  5. It has been bit of a rollercoaster thread, feels bit difficult to jump in after weekend of very interesting discussion on various aspects. I am really not sure on how we got to how lacking western collections are from top 10 lists but it is interesting twist.


    There are some amazing items in Europe, USA and various parts of the world outside of Japan that I am aware of. Of course to me it is only logical that the best items are in Japan, and hopefully will never leave Japan. While probably they were not members at NMB, there were some absolutely stunning items in the collections of few late NBTHK members in Europe and USA. Unfortunately I never saw those items (at least yet) in person but I believe those collectors were held in high regard by Japanese sword folks too. I've been fortunate to see few very good items in European collections, and hopefully more in years to come.


    Now those that know me, might know that I put much value on verified signatures compared to mumei items of higher preservation and possibly quality. I feel that verified signatures remove uncertainty that attributions often have. That is the reason why I chose that the smith has at least 20 verified signed items in order to select him to my personal list on page 1. I think my own personal view is that I find it strange that some of "the best" smiths did not have their signatures preserved, as some of "the lesser" ones did. I know Nakahara divides opinions but I feel in his book the chapter "Problems with unsigned blades" he raises many good questions on mumei blades of top tier smiths. Thought provoking for sure but I can follow his logic, and as I have amassed thousands and thousands old swords on various sources, the pattern becomes somewhat evident, some smith have lot of verified signed works and some have very few even though they have lot of items attributed towards them...


    Darcy had extremely analytical approach on things, and I think he did amazing work. I feel data like Jūyō or Tokubetsu Jūyō results are among the best data we can have. Of course there are difficulties in trying to get different results from that data.


    There are also problems with extreme rarity. Is Senjuin Nagayoshi among the best smiths as I know only 1 work by him and that is Kokuhō, or does the fact that it is signed and dated (1366) ubu ōdachi of 135,7 cm preserved in Ōyamazumi Jinja have something to do with it too... It is tricky with various designations, Kokuhō, Jūyō Bunkazai, Jūyō Bijutsuhin, Tokubetsu Jūyō, Jūyō, and all others too... Some swords get some desginations by having different features and history. For example a friend in Japan took me to Edo-Tōkyō museum when Sakamoto Ryōma special exhibition was running, as he is her favorite samurai. There were collection of swords owned by him on display, they were not something I would see extremely interesting but they were of great historical importance having belong to one of Japan's most beloved figures.


    Now it is interesting time currently as latest Tokubetsu Jūyō results should be dropping soon. Then we can debate on how NBTHK did on selecting the items for this session. :laughing: (I know I still love that huge Shikkake naginata that passed a while ago and opinions clash with some collectors over it, which I feel is only a good thing)


    Unfortunately I have not met Hinohara Dai but I always enjoy reading his thoughts on NBTHK magazine. In the latest May issue, he made some very interesting points about studying top tier items in Japan (I was not aware of the changes over the years). I will share it as a quote as I feel it is fitting to this thread.



    At this time, I would like to talk a little bit about looking at highly ranked katana such as Kokuho and Juyo Bunkazai.


    Kokuho and Juyo Bunkazai swords represent the best of all swords. They have exceptional styles, excellent workmanship, and an overwhelming presence when actually looking at them. They also have interesting origins and important past owners and stories, and they are very special among the many Japanese swords we have. The opportunity to appreciate some of these blades is a dream for sword lovers.


    After the war, we had more chances to look at these masterpieces. From Showa 20 to 50 (1945-1975) at the NBTHK Teirei Kansho Kai meetings held in the NBTHK building, at each branch kansho kai meeting, and at national conventions, many of these highly ranked swords were shown.


    Besides the NBTHK, other sword groups seem to have done the same kind of thing. When I was about 40 years old, I used to have many opportunities to examine highly ranked blades. If I think about this, it was easy to do that, and was a good time to readily find opportunities to examine such blades.   


    However, after about Showa 60 (1985), due to concerns about the protection of important cultural properties, classified blades were no longer made available for appreciation or study meetings, and that continues to this day.


    Today, looking at highly ranked blades is only possible when looking through glass panels at museums or in an art gallery sword exhibition. Many people likely feel strongly that “I wish I could handle this sword”. I cannot deny that looking at blades in their glass walled cases is convenient for the owners of these swords, and relatively easy to permit when compared to the difficulties of allowing people to actually handle these swords. However, I think the opportunities to examine these swords in their glass walled cases can still be very beneficial.


    I would like to offer another thought about this in the next month’s issue.


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  6. I would think similar to Kirill on this one. Long hirazukuri wakizashi would be fitting for late Muromachi and I feel ayasugi with very regular form would point me towards Gassan. I think Hōju, early Kyūshū smiths etc. would have more "organic" looking running ayasugi. It is difficult to describe it by words, so I will borrow picture of excellent Jitsua tachi from Tōken Matsumoto.





  7. It is very very difficult. I have been trying to figure out and I must admit I am not even close to "top 10", as I feel I am not qualified to judge their merits... However I tried to do lists for smiths for whom I have found at least 20+ verified signed examples, but reducing that to top 10 of my liking was also impossible for me... I had to do two lists one for Bizen and one for all, and I only focused on pre-Muromachi smiths. Also I combined some "similarish" smith entries and of course left out some super famous ones as I don't have 20+ signed items for them.




    Awataguchi Yoshimitsu (粟田口吉光)

    Ayanokōji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利)

    Rai KuniX smiths from middle Kamakura to Nanbokuchō (来XX)

    Shintōgo Kunimitsu (新藤五国光)

    Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) Sōshū Hiromasa & Akihiro (広正 & 秋広)

    Norishige (則重)

    Ko-Aoe Masatsune (正恒)

    Ko-Hoki Yasutsuna (安綱)

    Samonji & Sa Yasuyoshi (左 & 安吉)

    Bungo Yukihira (豊後行平)




    Ko-Bizen Masatsune (正恒)

    Ko-Bizen Tomonari (友成)

    Fukuoka Ichimonji Yoshifusa (吉房)

    Kamakura Ichimonji Sukezane (助真)

    Bizen Saburō Kunimune (備前三郎国宗)

    Moriie (守家)

    Nagamitsu (長光)

    Kagemitsu (景光)

    Kanemitsu (兼光)

    Chōgi (長義)

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  8. I was asking as I am totally clueless about armor. However here are few points on some of the old swords in the auction that got me thinking about armor prices...


    For example that Yasumitsu wakizashi that has 24,000 - 30,000 GBP estimate was sold at Aoi Auctions late last year. Don't remember the ending price but it started from 1,3M (c. 8,000 GBP) and Tsuruta being a shrewd business man, I don't think he'll give too many free meals as he gives fair prices that make him profit. Here is the link to the actual item through Web Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20211203182132/https://www.aoijapan.com/wakizashi-bizen-osafune-yasumitsu/


    Also the Tegai Kanekiyo with 15,000 - 18,000 GBP estimate has been sold by Aoi on few occasions. Here it was first sold by 650K Yen (c. 4,000 GBP): https://www.aoijapan.net/katana-mumeitegai-kanekiyo/ the more recent sale of it is here and price was still the same in 2021: https://web.archive.org/web/20210301101236/https://www.aoijapan.com/katana-mumeitegai-kanekiyo/


    The Iwato Ichimonji with 50,000 - 70,000 GBP estimate was listed at Aoi for 2,3M Yen (c. 14,000 GBP) in early 2021. Unfortunately this item was removed online and can't be accessed anymore but I have info on it.


    Now while you can say that items are worth what someone is willing to pay, or you shouldn't look at old prices, etc... To me these are not some super rare gems as I feel they are made out to be by the auction company. They are decent items but with highly inflated price estimates.

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  9. I am just rewatching the series and the character gets belittled few times, "You know nothing, Jon Snow". That was my original thought when I realized that this MET tanto was discussed in the Gokaden book and I started typing the text and thought it was genuine item. However I am puzzled by it a lot.


    As I unfortunately can't read difficult phrases like that above I have tried running it through Google translator & DeepL. "Timeless, descent of times, era falling off etc." are translations when I try it in small part. I think this was the "best"  (not sure if most correct one) result by DeepL "I had hoped that this would be the standard name for Ko-Irudo, but although the front name was authentic, it was dated to a later period, and the back date was a fake name added later to make it look Ko-Irudo" Ko-Irudo = Konyūdō.


    Still as the passage of the item is featured in the book, I don't think it is just an average gimei item and there must be more to it.

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  10. I was not aware of that tantō at MET. I was looking it and then at various signatures of Kunimitsu and I thought it would be gimei. However when looking at all of the Uda Kunimitsu signatures I have in books, it seems to me they are all maybe bit different from each other...


    Then I thought I had Jon Snow moment when I found out that Tanobe-sensei talked about this tanto in his Gokaden book. I will attach the Japanese text I typed from book and my rough translation.



    十六年前に米国の美術館より修理のために寸延びの短刀で元弘三年紀 (1333) のある宇多国光が一時日本に里帰りしたことがありました.

    これぞ古入道の基準銘になるのではと期待したのですが, 表は正真銘ではありましたが時代の降るもので, 裏年紀は古入道に装うために後に切り加えた偽銘でした.


    16 years ago sunnobi tantō came to repair to Japan from a museum in USA, it was signed Uda Kunimitsu and dated to 1333. I expected it to be signature of Konyūdō. Omote signature is genuine but it is timeless? (I can't read it well but I suppose he means it is difficult to date but it is not that old as it pretends to be). Ura date is gimei and added to disguise the blade as Konyūdō.


    Hopefully I got at least the basic idea correctly, and better translation would be of assistance. So to me it seems that Tanobe thought that tanto is genuine Uda work by some Uda Kunimitsu later in line but the date was added to fool people.

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  11. I know there is at least one book in Japanese focused solely on Etchū smiths so Uda school should be majorly focused on there, unfortunately I do not have it.


    So far I have found 5 signed tachi by possibly various Uda Kunimitsu and 1 tanto (there is 1 only dated to 1321 but I do not count it here). These signed works according to the sources vary from late Kamakura to early Muromachi depending on the item. For Uda Kunifusa I have 10 signed tachi and 16 other signed blades from Nanbokuchō to Muromachi. Then I do have signed items from various Uda smiths from Nanbokuchō to early Muromachi. However the lack of dated items makes accurate dating of smiths tricky.


    I know some sources list some dated items for Uda smiths that I have not yet been able to locate. So far I only have the 1321 dated blade with shumei to Kunimitsu, 1405 dated Kunifusa and 1400 dated Kunihisa (there are more dated ones later in Muromachi but those are not that relevant to me). That is extremely few dated works for the early school and I think like you that there is lot to research on this school.

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  12. Wish I could claim just hitting it by confidence but in reality lot of it was luck and I do think it could have been multiple of similarish options. I think the snippet from Usagiya is good one as I thought that way although I am not sure if rough etc. is best way to describe. I know the feature was present in some schools and I felt Ko-Uda is a quite common "bucket" attribution for such feature along with other characteristics it has around this time period.


    I was quite sure it would have been shortened naginata but as it is classified as wakizashi I'd think it to be possibly a shortened tachi or ōdachi (I'd see that as logical but I am not yet 100% sure how NBTHK sees things).

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  13. As much as I love and collect books I feel modern technology is your friend when looking for high-res pictures in easy access form. Many of the respected dealers have very nice photographs on their websites for easy access. Also in this forum NMB you have an astonisihing resource, if you ever decide to venture the Hizen route Roger himself @omidaijo is on the forum too. And plenty of other folks that know a lot about Hizen swords too.


    While I agree that having focus and direction is a good thing, I just feel it will eventually come naturally over time as you will learn what kind of items you are liking. I know in modern world the trend in things nowdays seem to be getting everything by snapping fingers but that is often almost impossible in a field such as this. I believe it is important to just enjoying the studying and researching you are doing, then over the years your goals will evolve and you will notice what draws you in. I think you are on a good road as you are thinking what you might like to collect.

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  14. I must admit that nakago is different than I thought it would be but I still think it would be a greatly shortened Nanbokuchō sword. It is very interesting.

  15. I am not very familiar with Shintō smiths so I cannot say much with lot confidence as I don't really study them. However it seems to me that the majority of dealers seem to list swords signed this way as work of Kunishige from Musashi, Ōtsuki Denshichirō (大月伝七郎). Who apparently was the son of Ichizō Kunishige. They must have good original sources that make them say so.


    Here are some reputable dealers that all list the smith similarily in their description. Hopefully my understanding of Japanese is correct in this case.








    Markus lists 3 Kunishige smiths having the title Yamashiro no Daijō


    Kunishige (国重), Shōhō (正保, 1644-1648), Bitchū
    Kunishige (国重), Jōkyō (貞享, 1684-1688), Bitchū
    Kunishige (国重), 2nd gen., Manji (万治, 1658-1661), Musashi


    But after reading the info on these I believe the bottom two smiths (and two entries in Seskos smith book) could be the same smith, Denshichirō. As I believe he seemed to have been moving from Bitchū to Edo and also worked in Tsuyama (which fits to both bottom 2 smiths and I think would be very unlikely happening otherwise). Unfortunately I haven't had Hawley in many years so I cannot say anything about his smith numbering.


    Here is also interesting one that is signed 備中国水田住 / 山城大掾源国重


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  16. Thanks for posting this one. These are always great experiences.



    My guess would be naginata-naoshi from Nanbokuchō period. I am also thinking it has Yamato feeling but with bit roughness (not maybe good word to use). I think I would go for Ko-Uda.


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