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Gingerbeard

Possible Nidai Tadahiro - Hizen School Sword, Need A Little Advice

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I just want to start by hello to all and that this looks to be a very knowledgeable community I have been “lurking” for a few days, but must let all know I am a true novice when it comes to Nihontō and am very sure I will mistakes with terminology and descriptions, so please forgive my ignorance until I learn. My question regards a sword I recently got via a spur of the moment purchase, simply because it “felt” like it was better than or at least a high quality wall hanger. I posted about it and pictures at another site, (I did not see anything in the guidelines about linking to another site but decided to be cautious and not) At this site I was giving a good bit of information, and it was suggested that I should post it here also. Below is the abridged information I received there. I understand that it can be truly authenticated by pictures, however I would think perhaps it could be confidently discredited by pictures, if indeed it is gimei. However if it turns out to be true to its Mei, does anyone have any suggestions as to where I could take it locally to be assessed further I live in Texas with Houston, Austin, and Dallas all in traveling distance, I have done a little internet searching but I am just at a loss as to who, or where would be a good honest, knowledgeable place to go. Thank you to all that take the time to read and may have any help.

G.S.

 

I can take and upload different pictures if I need to

What I have been told so far:

 

 

— it is absolutely an authentic Japanese antique. Now, whether it is by the smith whose signature appears on it is another issue…

With sincere respect to ***********, who has helped me on a number of translations in the past, the actual signature here reads Hizen kuni jū Ōmi no Dai Fujiwara Tadahiro 肥前国住近江大掾藤原忠廣 (Tadahiro, resident of Hizen province, assistant lord of Omi & honorarily of the Fujiwara clan), this is potentially a VERY good sword. Nidai (second-gen) Tadahiro is a famous and prolific smith from the superb Hizen school.

The fittings are of excellent quality. That indirectly lends credence to the signature. There are many fake signatures on antique blades, and this could be one of them. Nevertheless, nidai Tadahiro made tons of swords, so it's also easily possible that this is one of them.

 

You should have this blade assessed in-person. Unfortunately in its current state it probably could not go to shinsa (official appraisal) but at any rate take it to a show, like the Chicago one (see sidebar) or San Francisco in August / Tampa in Feb. Or contact a local nihontō club. Restoration unfortunately costs quite a bit of money. However if it is a genuine Tadahiro it definitely deserves a repolish by a qualified pro. Thankfully I do not see any indication that this blade cannot be fully restored — it's not as abused as some!

 

You should also post this sword to the Nihontō Message Board, and post the fittings to their fittings sub-forum. I don't actively study fittings makers but these are well-done shakudō & gold nanako in high relief, good carving, etc.

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Hi G.S. (be nice to have a name for you),

At 1st glance, I don't know.  Some parts of the signature look off; others look OK.  You need to get this into the hands of someone who is qualified to make the call.  Not sure who that would be in Texas and it's a bit late to get the sword to the shinsa in Chicago.  I think there will be another shinsa next February in Tampa and if by then you haven't gotten a more definitive answer you should submit the sword.

Make sure you know how to handle and care for the sword.  Nice koshirae.

Grey

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Fittings:

 

Is the tsuba signed?

Fuchi is signed Mitsuyasu with a 'kao' mark after it. Tsuba is of same design and I will hazard the guess that it is by the same artist.

 

Haynes Index of Fittings makers has 8 possible matches. 'Sekibun' Mitsuyasu, 4 Goto students, and 3 others.

It is not the Sekibun school Mitsuyasu, nor is it the most well known Goto student, and I can rule out one of the 3 others.

If the tsuba is signed with more of a signature, I can probably determine which fittings artist.

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Unfortunately the condition of the blade doesn't allow sight of any detail so initial assessment is based on what you can see which is thee shape and the mei. My immediate feel is that the mei is wrong. It is clumsily cut and thee characters just don't look right. However this is done from memory so it does need to be checked against valid signatures. As your original advisor said Nidai Tadahiro made a lot of swords in a career that extended for more than 60 years. Having said all that I still think it is gimei.

Second is the shape. This lacks the elegant proportion you expect to see in a Hizen blade. Again it should be assessed in hand 

The above does not mean it is a bad sword if you are going to try and pass off a blade as being by one of the best Shinto smith it has to have some quality. So I think it would be well worth taking it to someone with more experience at a show and let them see it in hand

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Hi Glenn,

Unfortunately I have to agree with Paul that the signature on your sword is a forgery or gimei. The location of the peg hole with respect to the character for Kuni (third character from the top) is incorrect and not the way the second generation Tadahiro placed the location of his signature. The world's authority on the Hizen Tadyoshi Tadahiro family is Roger Robertshaw. If you e-mail him a photo of the signature he will give you a definitive answer. You can find his web site by going to LINKS at the top of the page and looking for Hizen Swords. Who ever forged the signature did a pretty good job compared to many other forgeries, but still he got it wrong. It may still be a fine blade, just not by Tadahiro.

Ed Harbulak

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Above average? Heck.....I think a LOT above average :glee:

Love the fittings. Sword should be restorable whether gimei or not. Someone thought well of it to mount it that way.

Please sign with at least a first name, and congrats on a good find. The advice you were given on the other forum is good solid advice.

 

Brian

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I'm going to disagree with the crowd.

 

Omi Daijo is one man and not likely to have made 100% of the many thousands (I have 8,000 stuck in my head from something I read and can't pick it up where I got that from) blades that bear his signature. Whether my number is remembered right or not, he is well known as the high level smith with the most works, and over such a long period of time, so there is going to be variety either from age (he works from before 18 years old and dies around 80) and from period (since this is enough time for sword shapes to shift, his work period is 5% of the entire age of Nihonto!!!), and because he has a lot of hands assisting him.

 

This is before we get to customer desires.

 

These are just two of the katana I have had. There is distinct variation in the sugata, from length to shape to width to taper to kissaki to sori. They are completely different interpretations.

 

 

omi-daijo.jpg

 

The conclusion is that sugata is a very difficult thing to use to justify or rule out his signature since from only two examples we see a wide range.

 

They in fact look like they are by different hands. Maybe one or both are daisaku and both are Tokubetsu Hozon.

 

The mekugiana is also something that floats around over time. You're talking about 6 decades and many different customers and koshirae. In having a look at the Juyo items the mekugiana floats around between the Kuni and the Ju and can be anywhere in here. There is nothing in the confirmed examples that indicates this position should be used to rule out a signature. So I think that approach is not good to pursue unless it's really wacky.

 

The problem with this sword in question is that it has been shortened and the nakago has undergone some decay and damage, especially to the area where the signature is. This can be done to make a bad signature an excuse to look bad, or it may just make a good signature look bad.

 

The decay has taken away some of the crispness of the signature and that gives it a melted look. So that too makes you have to wonder if it saw fire or something. The yasurime and the nakago jiri are also kantei points for this smith and the poor condition makes it somewhat hard to judge.

 

Another problem in making a quick judgment is that there is some gunk in the mei which is making some lines stand out clearly and other lines are fading off without gunk in them to make them stand out, unless you zoom in a lot they don't give a strong impression.

 

I've compared the signature to one good example from my photos where I have a clear high res photo, and the characters have a lot of the distinctive marks, like a certain small "sub atari" on the vertical stroke above the Hiro that would be something a faker might skip over.

 

On first analysis, I don't see anything jump out and say it's 100% gimei. Maybe I missed something but I'm seeing a pretty decent match from one random good example (just what I had from my own stuff) to this questionable one.

 

What I don't like is that the spacing changes considerably towards the end of the mei (after Fujiwara) from my reference example, but given 60 years of manufacture it's not something I would jump out and say 100% gimei.

 

I think within differences of condition, lighting (mine is very contrasty which makes the mei pop out more sharply) there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about this. I think it deserves some study and needs to be checked in hand.

 

Obviously the condition of the blade is not going to help very much at the moment.

 

So my own conclusion is, I won't say gimei, I think you need to look at it more, and it has a chance of being OK. Wishy washy opinion but the signature is wishy washy due to condition.

 

My further comments are:

 

1. The guy who wrote to you with good advice did give you good advice.

 

2. The koshirae are pretty nice.

 

3. Even if this ends up being legitimate, it is a suriage Shinto sword so the value takes a big hit. A mid range Omi Daijo is usually around a 2.2 million yen sword. Making one suriage, especially because there are so many better options to pick with Omi Daijo, will considerably affect the value. If you were to polish and paper the blade and put it into new shirasaya, the value would probably be very close to the restoration work that you put in, IF it is a legitimate signature. This is outside considerations of the koshirae. So, restoration may be a futile thing unless you wanted to fix it up to keep and don't mind investing many thousands of dollars. This is a tricky problem.

 

 

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Thank you everyone for your input and opinions, I tend to be more of a pessimist then an optimist in most things, so I was prepared for the strong possibility that it wouldn’t be correct, yet I will keep a little hope until I can get it on someones hands. I will also shot off and introduction email to Mr. Robertshaw to see if he would be up to having a look at pictures for me, I have already found myself on his site while doing “research” I have read a good bit and looked at many pictures, I am obviously just not near familiar enough to know what to think. Also a special thanks to Darcy for swimming up stream a little on this one, and keeping me motivated on my quest, I am enjoying the knowledge I am gaining no matter the outcome and I am concerned I may be getting myself hooked on another expensive collecting hobby.

-Glenn

 

 

Fittings:

 

Is the tsuba signed?

Fuchi is signed Mitsuyasu with a 'kao' mark after it. Tsuba is of same design and I will hazard the guess that it is by the same artist.

Yes indeed the tsuba is also signed the same as the fuchi

 

 

Second is the shape. This lacks the elegant proportion you expect to see in a Hizen blade.

I seriously doubt this is what you are talking about, however I still should have brought this up at the start, but I felt it only pertained to the overall condition, however the blade is....I would not say “bent” but it has a noticeable wave (?) to it. Looks like maybe had been bent and a poor attempt to straightening it out was made?

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Darcy

As always I enjoy your thought processes when looking at blades and I agree with you 100% that Nidai Tadahiro showed great variation in his work over a very long period of time. I  studied Hizen blades for many years prior to falling victim to the koto bug and have held several in my collection over the years. . While I agree that the sugata varies a lot one thing that is constant is his blades always have an elegance about them.  I think that is lacking in this sword. whether that is due to subsequent alteration or damage I would not like to guess. Again the mei did vary a lot over the years and this variation added to with Daimei but the characters on this sword look very clumsy and contrived.

I would never try and reach a definitive conclusion on a blade in this condition or from images (in fact I am not sure I  would ever reach a definitive conclusion) however based on what I can see, the fact that there are very many gimei inexistence and there are so many question marks I would tend towards the gimei rather than anything else.  Of course to progress the blade would need to be polished and put in front of a shinsa panel for a more definitive conclusion

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The mei does not look like it tapers off either, which they generally tend to do according to Rogers work. I recently picked up a papered Omi Daijo piece, so I have been doing quite a bit of reading on this smith.

 

However I am a beginner at best and this is just a point that stuck out to me.

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My first gut instinct would be gimei as well. Like Paul, to me it looks poorly cut and the sugata is not what you would expect.  Yet, both of these points could be attributed to the obvious deterioration of the nakago as well as it having been shortened.

 

The prolific nature of the entire Hizen Tadayoshi school makes these blades a nightmare when looking at the mei.  As Darcy stated above Nidai Tadahiro worked for six decades and died at age 80.  In his twilight years it was common for students to make swords in his name as well as sign them for him.  This resulted in so many variations that it is almost impossible to say with any certainty one way or the other unless it is just insanely bad.  

 

While I would like to say gimei, I would be hesitant to do so based on what I know about this school, smith and the variations seen within.

 

Your best bet would be to have the shinsa team look at it for their opinion.  You could submit it as is, but I would be reluctant to do so.  Restoration is a gamble and potentially an expensive one.  If it polished without any problems arising and papered you would probably be lucky to break even in the event you were to sell it.

 

BTW: The fittings are nice.  You could sell them to cover some of the restoration costs.

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Thanks everyone I appreciate the continued responses and opinions. As an update for what it is worth I did get in contact with Mr. Roger Robertshaw from hizento.net(a extremely nice and helpful fellow I need to say!) as was suggested by Ed Harbulak.... And after a couple emails and me sending him a scan of the mei his response was:

 

"Suriage (shortened nakago) genuine signature from 1670 to 1680.

  2nd Gen Tadahiro. 90% sure it is Ok"

 

So I will consider that a big plus, though I am not disregarding anyone here who has given input, this will at least be enough for me to push forward and try to at least get this sword physically in front of some one for an in-hand evaluation. That will be my next challenge to find that "someone" as I don't see myself being able to make it to any of the upcoming shows any time in the near future.  Also I have another question I have read some "sword care guides" that say it is ok to use something like, isopropyl alcohol to give it a good rub down with a soft cloth then oil with mineral or gun oil, do you all feel that this would be ok short term? I do not want to cause any more damage to the blade, but I also want to try to arrest the on going rust. (and I am aware not to do anything to the nakago!)

 

Thank you

Glenn.

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Yes, Isopropyl alcohol with a microfiber cloth would be ideal, followed by mineral oil or sewing machine oil. I'd stay away from gun oil personally. Like you say, as long as you don't touch the nakago that should do it.

 

As for the mei, from comparing a few examples it looks good although not particularly well done. What I've discovered recently from personal experience is that no matter how good or bad it is, not until you get it in front of a shinsa panel will you know for sure.

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Higlenn

Good news from Roger and certainly he has a much deeper knowledge of Hizento than me (or probably most everyone else). Let us know how you progress with this, if you take it to shinsa and the result

good luck

Regards

Paul

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Hi Glenn,

Sounds like good news from Roger. If you are not able to get to one of the shows for someone to take a hands on look at the blade, you

might consider sending it to someone like Robert Benson in Hawaii. He is a respected polisher who could give you an idea of potential

problems with restoration and an idea of the cost. In too many cases restoring a sword can end up costing more than the sword is actually worth. As Darcy pointed out, the value of a suriage Shinto sword is reduced monetarily, so you have a number of things to consider before doing anything. Until you decide what to do, just clean and oil the blade as mentioned already and don't be in a hurry to start

restoration without more advice from someone who can look at the sword in person. Finding a sword by a top rated maker on your first

purchase is certainly a good start to becoming a collector of Japanese swords. I'm sure the next piece of advice you will be given is to

buy some books and start learning. Good luck,

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Fittings:

 

Is the tsuba signed?

Fuchi is signed Mitsuyasu with a 'kao' mark after it. Tsuba is of same design and I will hazard the guess that it is by the same artist.

 

Haynes Index of Fittings makers has 8 possible matches. 'Sekibun' Mitsuyasu, 4 Goto students, and 3 others.

It is not the Sekibun school Mitsuyasu, nor is it the most well known Goto student, and I can rule out one of the 3 others.

If the tsuba is signed with more of a signature, I can probably determine which fittings artist.

 

Thank you for looking in to it for me, sorry I did not respond to you sooner, but I had a bit of tunnel vision on the blade for awhile...

Yes the tsuba is also signed, unfortunately there is nothing more to the signature then what is on the fuchi, it is identical. I did try to research a bit about the “Mitsuyasu” signature but there just seams to be very little publicly available online and none of what I did see matched anything like the 'kao' mark you pointed out. For what ever it may be worth here are a couple of pictures of the signature on the Tsuba, also this is a link to sever more much larger pictures of the entire set http://imgur.com/a/V8TNa

Glenn

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