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Honjo Masamune found!! (well almost... maybe)


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Hello everyone,

 

Well now that I have your attention! :D I have been approached by a researcher for a TV channel asking me about the Honjo Masamune. It’s an interesting subject to some and I answered some questions but declined to be interviewed on the subject. When asked “why” I opened my big mouth and inserted my foot. My personal opinion, it most likely never left Japan. Well…. the can of worms being open I have agreed (after much convincing) to help research the possibility of this statement being correct.

 

So I need a little help from the collective intellect and unmeasurable resource of the Nihonto community.

 

Anyone who doesn’t know the story can look up Guido’s piece in the Article’s section and the Jim Kurrasch article here. http://www.sydneytokenkai.com/10.htm

 

My question to the board. “Does anyone know of information if ‘any’ of the 15 swords handed over by Tokugawa Iemasa ever showed up or are they “all” unaccounted for?” My reasoning is that if any turned up that would link the group to actually being turned over as reported to the US Occupation forces and being distributed to GIs (and I would be wrong). If none have turned up my assumption is that they never made it that far.

 

Another question “does anyone know the dates when the directions were given to delivery Tokyo's confiscated swords to the Akebane arsenal?” The reason being to investigate the possibility that the Honjo made it to Akebane then disappeared. I have always thought that the Akebane swords were collected from a later date than December 1945 but I would like to confirm that so to disregard this possibility.

 

Also of great help. Does anyone have a scanned copy of the Honjo Masamune oshigata from Osaka Gyobutsu Meibutsu Token Oshigata? (Steve?) I have a description of the koshirae but it is more likely that the sword was in shirasaya. Does anyone have a description of the habaki??

 

Here’s a little of my reasoning so far for my opinion that Honjo is underground in Japan. The 15 famous swords were handed in by “Prince” ( a title given in 1940) Tokugawa Iemasa, also a national figure and a famous politician and diplomat, in December 1945 ( I would love to know the exact date) to Mejiro Police station with documentation. This situation would be roughly equivalent to Prince Charles handing over some of the Crown Jewels with letters of authenticity. The story continues that on January 18th 1946 they were picked up by the mysterious Sgt Coldy Bimore from the 7th Calvary. Hmm… something funny here.

 

Assuming that the dates are correct, then we can say that the swords were in possession of the Mejiro police for at least 18 days before handover. The likelihood of “only one man” (Bimore) coming to collect “only” these swords, 18 days later from a busy Tokyo police station is not consistent with known facts. It is much more likely that a “large number” of swords were collected at the same time with an accumulation of confiscated swords being within the 18 days after the drop off and the pick up. So if all the 15 swords are unaccounted for then the whole consignment must have met the same mysterious fate? It is possible that they were all destroyed together indiscriminately but much more likely that they were either all given out as souvenirs, or made it to the storage depot. My argument is that by January 1946 confiscated swords in Japan were already in high demand from the GIs so the indiscriminate destruction is unlikely. If the swords were picked up and not destroyed we can reasonably expect some of the 15 to have shown up by now. So did the swords even get picked up at all?

 

It is unlikely that the Mejiro Police on duty at the time Iemasa made the drop off didn’t know who he was or that the swords were very important. Of course they did. So my number one theory is “The police switched them or hid them from pick up”, hopefully for the honourable reason to protect the cultural property of Japan from destruction. I think it is the most likely scenario. The police would know that shrine swords were exempt from the confiscation. It would be nice to think that some loyal policeman took a big chance and quietly gave the swords to some shrine at the top of a mountain to protect them for prosperity.

 

Another less likely possibility is that Honjo never left the possession of the Tokugawa. To support this idea we must consider that only 15 swords were handed over. What happened to the rest of the Tokugawa collection (they had 100’s if not 1000’s)? Why were these important swords given up as a token offering or were they in fact lesser pieces? These are fair questions but it is still more likely that the genuine swords were handed over as documented. Consider that Tokugawa Iemasa was a politician being at the time a senior member of the House of Peers. I have read somewhere that he was setting an example of following the US Occupation directives. If the Tokugawa family indeed retained Honjo (and the rest) then I for one would be “very happy” about it. Nobody is going to give Tokugawa Tsunenari a polygraph test to find out so that theory can be put to bed.

 

O.k. I’ve got my fireproof pyjamas on :lol: Any thoughts?

 

cheers,

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Adrian, I too became involved with a TV show on this subject - an example of the current obsession by TV producers to produce progammes about 'Lost Treasures' (whether they are really lost or not - or ever really existed). I refused to be drawn into the Honjo Masamune debate and confined my contribution to bland generalizations and standing around holding a sword.

 

I personally think you have hit the nail on the head twice in your posting. Tokugawa Iemasa was a prominent politician, and as you say, a 'Prince'. It is very unlikely that anyone in the American occupation forces would have ordered a person of such rank to hand over any swords in their possession. I have never seen or read anything about the situation with regard to the Imperial Household collection, but I assume it was quietly 'overlooked' out of deference to the Emperor. I am sure a similar attitude would have prevailed with a person of the standing of Tokugawa Iemasa. It is also most unlikely that Tokugawa Iemasa would have struggled to a police station with a bundle of 15 swords himself. If anything he would have informed the police and it is they who would have had to fetch them from him. Also, if it was his intention to 'set an example to others', he would have made sure the handing over would have been carried out with all of the publicity he could muster. Similarly, had the sword been reverentially spirited to some safe Japanese location like a monastery it would have re-emerged, again with maximum publicity, as soon as any potential threat to it had passed.

 

It is difficult to know just what to think, but I am inclined to the view that the whole saga might be something of a myth. The blade was supposed to have had several chips it sustained at Kawanakajima. Were these polished out before the oshigata was done? It then seems to have been passed between everybody and his brother, including a relative of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi himself (twice), Shimazu Yoshihiro and Tokugawa Ieyasu, before ending up with the Kii branch of the Tokugawa - not in fact the branch who were Shoguns. If it was a blade valued at 1000 mai, and supposedly the finest blade ever made, an awful lot of people seemed quite prepared to pass it on to others before it gained its revered status. Do I see the hands of the Hon'ami in here somewhere?

Ian Bottomley

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I've seen the "Lost Treasures" program with our members commenting on the Honjo. Very interesting and I agree it is likely either still in Japan, in a Western collection (undercover) or a GI's attic. Also, IMHO the program was a bit over hyped about it being the best sword ever made, etc.

Rich S

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Does anyone know of information if ‘any’ of the 15 swords handed over by Tokugawa Iemasa ever showed up or are they “all” unaccounted for
Tokugawa Iemasa only complained about three swords going missing (see attachment). I don't know if he got the others back, or if he didn't care that much about them.

post-13-14196942721101_thumb.jpg

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Thanks for the imput so far guys. Interesting that Iemasa only asked for 3 swords back. This seems to be part of a correspondence. Does anybody know if "any" of the 15 were returned prior? Is anybody friendly with Tokugawa Tsunenari san? He would be the one to ask.

 

Iemasa was the 17th mainline Tokugawa not the Kii branch. Honjo was passed down the mainline. Where is the Kii connection?

 

cheers,

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Iemasa was the 17th mainline Tokugawa not the Kii branch. Honjo was passed down the mainline. Where is the Kii connection?
It's more complicated than that. The sword was passed down from shōgun to shōgun - but they were not all from the main line.

 

If there was no successor from the main line, someone from the gosanke of Owari or Kii clan (but not from the Mito clan) could become shōgun. Both Yoshimune and Iemochi from the Kii clan ruled as shōgun. Yoshimune established three new houses, the gosankyō: Tayasu, Hitotsubashi, and Shimizu. Yoshinobu, the last shōgun, came from the Mito clan, but was adopted into the Hitotsubashi clan to enable him to become shōgun.

 

Tokugawa Iesato from the Tayasu clan was adopted by Ienobu, and became head of the Tokugawa after the overthrow of the Tokugawa bakufu. Tokugawa Iemasa was his eldest son and succeeded him.

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This is an incredibly complicated matter, and reading Eric's amazing contribution there, I get very angry at the officials and the lack of importance they gave to such valuable (monetary and cultural) items.

I think we have a huge amount of combined into on this sword here on the NMB. More than anywhere else in the West I suspect. Would be great if this sword was found and validated in my lifetime, but not holding my breath. A part of me says that the sword was inspected, and was known to be valuable...and it was probably stolen by someone who knew what he had. And either stashed in Japan, or taken to the West and sold to a collector who may know what he has. I don't think a sword like that (which had been identified and examined as a NT) would have ended up as a regular trophy in some attic.

Hope not.

 

Brian

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Eric, that is awesome! Great new information to study. Thank you so much! Could it be that the Americans knew exactly what this sword was and somebody wanted it! It can be viewed that Honjo represented the spiritual power of the Shogan and military protector of Japan from the barbarians. If the American though it gave them a psychological advantage to hold the sword it may be in the basement of Fort Knox. I had heard once an urban myth that the Americans had sent a black ops team to steal the Emporer's sword for the same reason, and they found an empty box (it had already been stashed). OMG moment!

 

Brian it seems the officials were very concerned. The police officer said they were "forced" to hand over the swords" under the "pretence" of hoarding weapons. Its obvious that they not only wanted Honjo, they were going to great lengths to make sure they had the right sword. The Mejiro police had the Liaison Office for the Metropolitan Police making inquires the very next day. Everyone knew exactly what was going on. I can 100% disregard this sword being destroyed or given away randomly as a souvenir. Thoughts?

 

Give it up Obama! Yanks have got it!

 

cheers,

 

cheers,

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Dear Adrian,

In spite of the two above documents, Tokugawa Iemasa's missing swords are Honjo Masamune(NT), Nagamitsu(IAO), and Kunimitsu(IAO) now.

 

1. (NT) Honjo Masamune, unsigned.

2. (IAO) Tachi,Bizen Nagamitsu, signed:備前国長船住長光, Date:嘉元二年十一月 ,八幡大菩薩

3. (IAO) Tachi,Rai Kunimitsu, signed:来国光

 

I also offer a information.

The following Japanese text is a very rare description about a Uchigatana-Koshirae of Honjo Masamune.

Ref from [Token to Rekishi] pub,1912 .

 

拵へは慶長頃の物らしく、頭は角 藍革にて巻掛け大菱、鍔は直径二寸の金なり、目貫は丸に桐の紋、絽塗の鞘にて鐺なし、

紫の下緒、笄付、いかにも古雅なる拵へである、総丈二尺八寸五分あり。

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This is the description from the Tōken Meibutsuchō, which seems to come from the records of the National Museum:

 

拵は桃山時代の打刀拵で、柄は黒塗鮫に藍革巻き、三双の桐の目貫と、鐔・縁には菊と桐、小柄と笄には桐の金色絵を施している。

(The koshirae is a Momoyama period uchigatana-koshirae, the tsuka has black same, indigo-blue deer leather tsukamaki, the menuki are three kiri each, the tsuba and fuchi have a kiri and kiku motif, the kozuka and kōgai kiri in gold.)

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I also offer a information.

The following Japanese text is a very rare description about a Uchigatana-Koshirae of Honjo Masamune.

Ref from [Token to Rekishi] pub,1912 .

 

拵へは慶長頃の物らしく、頭は角 藍革にて巻掛け大菱、鍔は直径二寸の金なり、目貫は丸に桐の紋、絽塗の鞘にて鐺なし、

紫の下緒、笄付、いかにも古雅なる拵へである、総丈二尺八寸五分あり。

I used to own a copy of that issue, and gave it as a present to another NMB member while still living in Tōkyō. Here's a analogous translation:

 

The koshirae looks like from the Keichō period, the kashira is made of horn with the indigo-blue deer leather tsukamaki crossed over it makikake-style, large hishi. The tsuba has a diameter of 2 sun (6 cm / 2.4 inches), the menuki are kiri-mon in a circle, the saya is black lacquer without a kojiri, the sageo is purple, there is a kōgai. The koshirae is of classical elegance and 2 shaku 8 sun 5 bu (86.4 cm / 34 inches).

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Well I‘m very impressed by the efforts of US Forces at the time in dealing with confiscated swords, then separating those swords like Kokuho etc., anyway a huge undertaking. The reports documenting these efforts are existing.

The Japanese paper *Tokugawa Iemasa* says explicitly Kunitoshi as well as the next paper with the measures etc. The swords were handed over with koshirae in a „sack“.

Eric

post-369-14196943169132_thumb.jpg

post-369-14196943172236_thumb.jpg

post-369-14196943173927_thumb.jpg

post-369-14196943176242_thumb.jpg

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Hi Adrian,

 

Was it TBS?

 

Not intending to hijack your thread, but we just finished up with them filming the 1715 Treasure Fleet off the coast of Florida, that a buddy of mine owns the salvage rights for... TV prog should air in Japan in January and we are in Tokyo for Studio filming in Dec.... you know the full panel bit, with all the celebs that do the rounds on those types of shows...

 

Sorry... no help from me on the HM, but can talk to you about those guys if they are same ones...

 

N.

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An amazingly fascinating discussion, by people who have obviously spent much time and effort in researching it.

 

At some point I would like to blog on this topic on Tameshigiri.ca, using some of the uploaded files and perhaps some of participant's comments (with proper permission, attribution and paraphrasing, of course).

 

If anyone would prefer not to have their posts or files in the thread used for this purpose, please PM me. Since several people have expressly said they have been working with media companies, it may be that -- contractually -- they can't have their name associated with an independent article... more than understandable.

 

Thanks all!

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Not intending to hijack your thread, but we just finished up with them filming the 1715 Treasure Fleet off the coast of Florida, that a buddy of mine owns the salvage rights for... TV prog should air in Japan in January and we are in Tokyo for Studio filming in Dec.... you know the full panel bit, with all the celebs that do the rounds on those types of shows...

 

Not to hijack the highjack ( :D ), but in addition to Nihonto, I have interest in old fountain pens. Back when Mel Fisher found the 1715 treasure in 1961, the more severely corroded of the silver coins then had no worth above their melt value. To realize some additional income, he sold 4000 ounces of these to the Parker Pen Co., which in turn made their first limited edition pen, the Spanish Treasure Fleet - 1715 sterling silver Parker 75 Cisele fountain pen, for $75 retail (the standard edition was $25 at the time). This "limited edition" marketing of pens has now jumped the shark, and most current editions are way overpriced ripoffs. But this first 1715 Fleet pen in its original box with all the included accouterments now goes for well over a kilobuck. I happen to have one, but only the pen, alas. Here's a link to a description of this pen and its origin, if interested:

 

http://www.parker75.addr.com/Reference/Spanish_Treasure/Spanish_Treasure_Cisele.htm

 

[/hijack] :lol:

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Hi guys,

 

Well I certainly have a lot more information now to add to my webpage! So a quick synopsis of new information to deal with the new information. I love detective work, we can look at all the possibilities and would like to hear if anyone can think of others.

 

1) Tokugawa Iemasa was "permitted" to keep the swords at his premises. The inclusion of the term "to be examined once more" indicates that someone in association with the Meguro Police had already examined the swords previously, so I suspect it was the police who offered the permission to keep them on premises. Later in the statement Arita says he told the 7th that the owner had permission to keep the swords on premises and that he intended to return them. Unfortunately we do not know if any sword experts had done the initial evaluation to confirm the authenticity. I'm curious "who had decided that the swords needed a second examination?" Considering Arita's attitude it seems it was not the 7th? Was it Arita himself? Somebody was giving an order to get the swords out from under Iemasa.

2) "then came in our hands an order from the 7th Battalion" , this would imply a written order of some type, before the actual pick up.

3) Arita claims they disputed the authority of the 7th to pick up these particular swords but was "forced" to hand them over under the "pretence" of hoarding weapons. To me that says that Arita claims he had singled out these particular swords aside from others being handed over as deserving "special treatment"

 

Now to stop here we must ask, is Arita telling the truth or covering his ass, or worse covering his own pilferage of the swords? To answer this question we need to know who made the order to "examine" the swords for a second time. It seems to me as wholly unnecessary and suspicious unless it was a pretence to extricate the swords from Iemasa's possession. If I am right then someone wanted them and that someone was not American. It is still possible that Arita had the intention to switch the swords and stash them for safe keeping.

 

Lets assume that Arita is telling the truth and the swords were taken by the 7th. With all this noise about them and the forced removal under protest there is no way they were destroyed or given away randomly. I don't think they were kept or sold by Bimore, the probability of all three swords being in someone's closet together and never showing up is very slim after 69 years. I also don't think they were tossed on the heap with the rest at Akebane. The next suspect would be the US brass who were known to be collecting valuable war trophies, number one on the list Cadwell. Now these guys didn't need to keep any secrets about it, they just took what they wanted and didn't give a dam. So I am not convinced they were separated off by the brass. If they made it to Akebane we would think that Kanzan and Kunzan would surely have noticed them.

 

thoughts?

 

Momi: the Youtube sword is not the Honjo. The koshirae is cheap and wrong and the comparisons of the oshigata and the sword are flimsy and out of proportion.

 

DGeurtin: Reference to Coldy Bimore could actually come from this statement and the name here is "Koridie Beimo" which would seem to be the anglicised version of the hiragana of his name. It would be more helpful if Arita supplied a physical description of the mysterious Sgt. but allas.

 

cheers,

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The next suspect would be the US brass who were known to be collecting valuable war trophies, number one on the list Caldwell. Now these guys didn't need to keep any secrets about it, they just took what they wanted and didn't give a dam.

 

Yes, that suspicious Col. Victor Cadwell.* His statue in the NBTHK lobby, in recognition of his role in saving the Japanese sword, must have been a mistake. (/sarcasm) :roll:

 

*not Caldwell

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As I said Cadwell would not need to keep it secret, but he seemed to be the most informed of the situation relating to antique swords. This is about access and knowledge of the situation so he can't be ruled out unless it can be proven the swords were never picked up. Personally I don't think it was Cadwell either.

 

cheers,

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After the Declaration of Independence, and the 18 missing pages of John Wilkes Booth's diary, we now have enough material for the sequel "National Treasure III - The Lost Masamune", starring Nicolas Cage as the illegetimate son of Sgt. Coldy Bimore, and Sanada Hiroyuki as a shady Monbusho investigator.

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At some point I would like to blog on this topic on Tameshigiri.ca, using some of the uploaded files and perhaps some of participant's comments (with proper permission, attribution and paraphrasing, of course).
Credit for the scans posted by Eric and me should go to Stephen Thorpe; all of them - and quite a few more - can be found in the articles sub-forum.
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There must be lists of all American Service personnell working in Japan somewhere in the library of Congress or other archives. Also of the 7th.

 

So one should at least try to look at their names and registration numbers in the period mentioned. Does the named sergeant exist ar all ? Has he still family ? What do they know ? Et cetera.

 

A paper trail must exist somewhere. At least that is what I hope.

 

KM

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