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O-Wakizashi Signed Kanemoto


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I posted this sword a couple weeks ago... I got lots of mixed opinions and complaints that my pictures were too large so I took the pictures off to take new better ones but the thread was deleted before I could get new pics up.


Anyway, I thought I'd try again as I've been studying this blade and could really use some guidance and grading on what I think I've learned. A few weeks of repeated oiling and wiping have helped clean up the blade a bit and make it's features a bit more visible as well.




















Rather than starting with the mei, I have tried to wipe away my starry eye syndrome :) and study the blade from the right way, beginning with shape. As near as I can tell, it looks like a Mino School late Muromachi (early 1500's) sword as it is a wide but relatively thin blade with saki-sori,  not much taper, wide shinogi-ji, short nagasa (56cm) short nakago for 1-handed tsuka and a somewhat elongated kissaki. Unfortunately I can't make out the grain due to the condition but the steel seems bright and similar in color (albeit not quite as bright) as my other early shinto (Tadayuki I) sword.


The hamon is (obviously) sanbon sugi with a fairly regular (but not perfect... the "three cedar" pattern holds but the gunome have small variations in height and the sanbonsugi seems to get less organized as it approaches the nakago) repeating pattern with rounded small gunome and sharper tall gunome and is very bright and even in color along with a "jizo" boshi on the tip of the blade:




There is a lot of kirikomi on the blade; a couple straight cuts across the mune and several spots on the edge of of the mune where it looks like another blade skipped across it, taking little chunks of steel off. The edge has also been chipped a lot (but with only small chips) on the kissaki and the "sweet spot" (not sure what to call it!) where the blade would make contact with a target with the most force. There are also straight scratches towards the point that look like they came from thrusting the blade into stuff. 




Granted, none of this means the damage definitely came from a samurai battlefield but it's interesting to me anyway and even more interesting that the sword took a lot of abuse at one time but did not fail as there are no signs of "fatal flaws" (and I've spent hours looking closely for cracks, delamination, bends, ect).


Here's the mei vs some Magoroku Kanemoto oshigata in the Mino Toko Meikan:




It may just be me but I've looked at a lot of Kanemoto signatures over the past few weeks and I think it matches Magoroku the best; though it's hard to say because there are so many Kanemotos and Magoroku has so many variations in his signatures (not to mention all the gimei swords!)


I think the Koshirae was once very fine and is a perfect fit but is unfortunately in very poor condition; the saya is wrapped in rare and expensive kairage-zame with a kozuka slot and even has horizontal lines carved on the inside of the saya "mouth" to grip the habaki (gold leaf and copper 2 piece habaki). The fuchi/kashira are missing but there are remnants of what must have been the original leather wrapping on the tsuka.




The Tsuba looks like a Soten school work and is mumei; it may not be an original part of the sword's koshirae as it has not been fitted to the blade.






So am I looking at this all correctly (mino late Muromachi Kanemoto, maybe Magoroku)?


Everything seems to fit except for the hamon pattern, as the literature says Magoroku did irregular sanbon sugi and later generations did regular... but the size/proportions and mei seem to point to earlier in the 1500s and the formerly high-end koshirae seems to make an argument for a special blade as well, if that counts for anything. 


Do you think it would be worth the risk to get the blade polished and sent to shinsa or is there something I'm missing and/or misinterpreting?


I am ready to be taught!  Please spare me the "new guy treatment"; yeah I'm fairly new to this but I'm staying in Nihonto and can only get so far with books. :)

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Hi Jason , I had a crack at you in an earlier post about  not reading the mei . It is clear from your other posts though that you look at what you have carefully and intelligently. I feel sure you will be ok as a collector and even better if you work on reading the mei .

I have a short mumei wak blade with a somewhat less regular sanbonsugi than yours . I kind of hope it might be early Kanemoto . I have collected a fair number of oshigata of hamon  of Magoroku from Japanese publications and none of them show a regular sanbonsugi . I think that there is no chance that yours ( or mine ) are magoroku . That isn't to say that yours is not a nice collectable blade .  

Ian Brooks

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Thanks Ian... one of my goals is to learn to read mei myself; I've got some decent books now, and am trying to learn.


...But at least I can pick "Kanemoto" out of a crowd now! ;-)


I don't think I know enough but I've been told Magoroku also did regular sanbon sugi but more often (and was more known for) his artistic irregular sanbon sugi.  Here's a katana attributed to Magoroku Kanemoto (by Hon'ami Koson) with fairly regular appearing sanbonsugi :




... and a tanto that seems quite regular too:




Neither quite matches my blade though; the "small cedars" are similar but the "tall cedars" are much taller and more pyramidal shaped on this blade than the attributed examples.

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Really the only hamon pattern sample I've found that matches fairly well with my sword for any Kanemoto generation is here (Usagiya Japanese Sword Shop: http://www.ksky.ne.jp/~sumie99/sharpness.html at the bottom of the page)


... but they don't say the generation on the web page or show more of the blade other than a couple hamon close-ups. Perhaps somebody out there knows more?

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One more thing that I only just noticed about the hamon tonight (now that the blade is a bit cleaner). It's like there are two hamon lines; if I tilt the blade just right in the right light, the sanbon sugi "disappears" and the hamon looks suguha, with the (suguha) hamon line runnng perfectly parallel to the ha at the crests of the lower "cedars" in the (sanbon sugi) hamon line. Don't know if it means anything for/against the Magoroku question but it feels almost magical to see the hamon change as you change the angle of view, almost like a "hologram" sticker. It's hard to get a picture of but here's an attempt:




In real life, the sanbon sugi entirely vanishes from view. Kind of a cool surprise, even when obscured by rust and damage! My next blade will definitely be polished...

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Ah, you have discovered the wonders of hadori polish. This "suguha" has nothing to do with the hamon, it is just a sloppy hadori polish.






And a wondrous thing it was, especially after a maybe too large glass of amaretto. :rotfl:


Still, doing some reading and hadori polish does make some sense; although there are some very old rust spots (there is one black rust scale on the blade that looks as old as the rust on the nakago) which make me wonder if the blade's last polish was before the technique was invented.


I wouldn't call it sloppy though; the "fake suguha"  is almost impossible to photograph (especially with the blade out of polish) and the pic doesn't do it justice.  Perhaps it was done to downplay the aesthetics of the sword's fairly brutal sanbon sugi hamon...


Anyway, I guess I've gone about as far as I can on this sword without a polish and shinsa and am fairly confident I can at least place it in the late Muromachi era and Kanemoto School linage... also that it was a sword meant to perform well in a fight rather than to just look pretty and that it did it's job without failing. There is some great history behind the object and I wish I could know where it's been over the past 400+ years.


Thanks for the help here and on my previous deleted thread everyone... I learned a lot!

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Sloppy as in: "I won't follow the outline of the sanbon sugi, I'll run the hazuya halfways into the hamon so that peaks are not covered" ;)


Yes, regular sanbonsugi is "boring" but Mino many swords were made for business and not as art. You got yourself an honest sword. Sending it to shinsa will be a waste of time and money. It will come back with "Kanemoto" and no further explanation. You won't even know the generation, so what's the point?

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Sloppy as in: "I won't follow the outline of the sanbon sugi, I'll run the hazuya halfways into the hamon so that peaks are not covered" ;)


Yes, regular sanbonsugi is "boring" but Mino many swords were made for business and not as art. You got yourself an honest sword. Sending it to shinsa will be a waste of time and money. It will come back with "Kanemoto" and no further explanation. You won't even know the generation, so what's the point?


They won't name a generation? Definitely wouldn't be worth spending the time and $$ to get a piece of paper that says what I already know. Would a NTHK shinsa when they are in the USA be the same result?

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Sometimes you'll get only plain Kanemoto attributions but sometimes you can get a little more on NBTHK papers. Here are few examples.






I like NTHK papers because they give you bit more information. As they will pinpoint it to a certain era it will help you to decide which Kanemoto it might be.

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Hello Jason:

 There can be substantial variation in any smith's execution of the hamon, and that includes the first generation Kanemoto, Magoroku. The most unlikely hamon variation is the highly stylized pattern usually referred to as later. I would suggest that prior to talking oneself into Magoroku or not by hamon , study the jigane/jihada characteristics associated with him as should be done with any smith, particularly koto ones. In the usual descriptions of blades in the literature you will usually find sugata, followed by jihada and then the yakiba/hamon. The jitetsu/jihada is the acid test. You will find descriptions might vary somewhat depending on writer, but the Hon'ami line, particularly from Koson, would say the following. Quoting from one of his students, Albert Yamanaka: "Mokume hada and masame had mixed. Due to the fact that the masame had has not been fused in places there will be hada wara in these areas. The masame hada in the shinogi ji is very strong. The overall effect of the steel is a little flat and drab." In my own experience the jihada will tend to distribute the masame-like effects pretty centrally along the ji, at least in substantial stretches.

 Well, what do you see?

 Arnold F.

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Hello Ken:

 I don't think it is quite that black and white. The linage discussions of Kanesada/Kanemoto are very complex and the "correct thread" is mostly a matter of the reference used. Going back and checking both Koza and Watson you will see, of course, that Izumi (no) Kami Kanesada and Mogoroku Kanemoto were both students of shodai Kanesada. You will see that there were multiple Nosada, and multiple Magoroku. You will also see in Watson that Magoroku as ".. the son of the first generation Kanemoto, called by the zokumei of Mogoroku, and for this reason is separately called the second generation Kanemoto, and the first generation Magaroku." (!) Take your choice.

 New students of the Japanese sword can rightly throw up their hands in despair when led into these spider web pathways. There is a time for that, but hardly as a derivation from what I thought was a helpful point being made, namely to study the all import sugata and jitetsu and jihada characteristics of a blade in question is important sources of information before going to the hamon when the issue of mei, right or wrong, is the object. Koto traditions are defined more by ji patterns than by hamon in my opinion.

 Arnold F.

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I'm definitely seeing the complications that come along with this school of swordsmiths... it's messy, very messy. The internet makes it worse too, as every Joe or Bob who has a rusty blade with a "Kanemoto" mei seems to be convinced theirs is a masterpiece of the fabled Magoroku. I'm trying to not fall in that trap but I think I'm probably dancing at the edge of the jaws. ;-)


I have done a lot of digging and checking/comparison on the sugata (especially with the descriptions/dimensions in Marcus Sesko's Koto Kantei) and I think my sword matches with Magoroku when it comes to shape. I even found a description of one that the Met possesses with virtually identical (only 1.5 cm shorter) "katate-uchi" dimensions: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/24332 but unfortunately there are no pictures. 


I've had little to no luck finding good examples of verified Nidai Magoroku (Kanemoto 4) however and only keep hearing it repeated that Magoroku did irregular sanbonsugi and Magoroku 2 did regular sanbon sugi...


... but that also doesn't make sense to me. If Magoroku 1 was the inventor of sanbon sugi and his name became famous in the first place because his unusual 3 cedar pattern hamon swords performed so well in battle (and that Muromachi era samurai were not interested in swords as art per se but swords that were good for killing people) it seems logical that Magoroku's forge would have produced LOTS of swords like the one I have with very obvious sanbon sugi as a "brand logo" of sorts.


... and if later Mino smiths were trying to capitalize on Magoroku's reputation by copying his work, why did they do regular sanbon sugi instead of trying to imitate Magoroku's free sanbon sugi? 


It could be that Magoroku and/or a group of smiths working under him actually made far more plain "katateuchi" style swords (the most popular sugata of the late 1400's-early 1500's)  meant for war than longer, beautiful (irregular sanbon sugi) "art swords" and we simply have more "art swords" 500 years later because they didn't get taken into battle and ultimately destroyed as often.


Then again, maybe I just REALLY want a Saijo O Wazamono rated blade and am desperately trying to make the puzzle pieces fit. :rotfl:



...And here is where I hit a wall. I agree; I really need to see and understand the finer details of sword's forging to get anywhere further. Unfortunately the condition of the blade is too bad and I'm too green to identify any of the finer features of the hada.








I understand now why the experienced guys recommend newbies start their collection with a quality papered blade in good polish... It's easy to get excited about a beat-up old sword of dubious origin and hard to know what to look for if you've never seen what you're looking for before. :bang:


(edit) just for reference found a couple of Japanese sites with Kanemoto blades: http://www.touken-sato.com/event/katana/2014/03/D-kanemoto-01.html



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Arnold explained it well about the Nidai Kanemoto / Shodai Magaroku. 


The rule of thumb on the Kanemoto generations is that:


1. Shodai will show no sanbonsugi.

2. Nidai will show the concept.

3. Sandai distills the concept and it dominates the sword.

4. Later generations turn to an extreme uniformity with sharp peaks. 


From a glance at the hamon it looks like sandai work to me. I didn't check the signature out. I think you are fine to restore this one and keep it, it's a nice example of Kanemoto. I don't find sanbonsugji "boring", there are some strange opinions that come out of non-Japanese circles, which is that "suguba" is boring too. Suguba is like a tuxedo or a glass of champagne. Yes, the big fat dude stuffing his face with a big mac and 1 liter of coke wearing his NFL jersey finds those things to be "boring" so I think it's important to keep that in mind when the instinct goes to criticize these things. 


Sanbonsugi is one of the nice things in the sword world as it is a distinct development of the Mino tradition and so clearly shows a particular school and time period off as an example in a collection. One of the nicest muromachi swords I ever had was a sanbonsugi work by Nosada, also very rare in his work. 


I agree with the opinion that the paper is very likely to just confirm it as legitimate Kanemoto work. If you are lucky they will put a generation in or else put (Magaroku) in parens if you're really really lucky. It is the kind of thing that serves a point for sayagaki when this happens. 


This can be because judges may disagree or at the lower level of papering they are OK confirming it as a work that fits into the Kanemoto school but they feel more on edge about assigning it to a generation and if they cannot slam dunk it then they won't throw the shot up. 


Sukesada is another example where the vast majority just come back as confirming it as legitimate work and legit signature and no mention of which Sukesada made it (it could be any). This doesn't mean the paper or the process is bad, it's a balance of risks things. The signature is determined to be correct and the right time period and the work correct and the right time period but the smith left nothing behind on the work to betray his hand. In rare cases then they will add (Hikobeinojo) or (Yosozaemonnojo).


We see this with Ichimonji as well and sometimes with Muramasa, though the signature differences in Muramasa usually make it easier to slam dunk it so they will do it.


An individual judge is more free to put his reputation and opinion on the line if he so feels it so you can get a sayagaki to distinguish which. 

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Another example:




(I think this is 4th gen Kanemoto?)


And a couple more:




http://www.nipponto.co.jp/swords2/KT222042.htm (Edo Period Kanemoto?)


and http://www.giheiya.com/shouhin_list/japanese_sword/iaiyoushinken/01-1091.html (edo period Kanemoto?)


A Magoroku (?) daisho from a Japanese museum:




Plenty of stuff to look at if you are interested in Kanemoto swords...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Jason This is 1,2, and 4, together my bet is 4 :)

Kanemoto 2nd gen
Kanemoto fourth generation,


 pic, is from aoi art Tsuruta thinks its 1st gen              post-893-0-13258400-1466962105_thumb.jpg


and a Kanesada sambonsugi     http://www.nipponto.co.jp/swords3/KT324936.htm

but no paper

and one last Kanemoto  http://www.nipponto.co.jp/swords3/KT325508.htm

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Yes Jussi, of all my obsessions this one has been one of the most enjoyable and got me in the least amount of trouble... not a bad deal!


Thanks Jim, I haven't come across a couple of those yet... the 4th gen does have a very similar sanbonsugi.


The blade has cleaned up some more and I can make out my sword's hada now; looks like masame on the shinogi ji and a masame itame and/or mokume (wood grain pattern anyway!) mix below that. There are also a few lines that look like delamination; apparently that's actually a (shodai) Magoroku trait according to what I've read.


The whole blade shines like crushed diamonds in direct sunlight despite the sword's surface damage and the nioguichi? is visble as as tight thin unbroken line outlining the hamon pattern.


I don't know... the nakago is a perfect match for Magoroku, sugata matches (http://imgur.com/e4otKU3 and is the right size and with koshirae for a katate-uchigatana which fell out of favor in the early 1530s) the mei compares well with his too (although the semicursive "kane" and square "moto" character with the "hook" on the left stroke combination doesn't seem to be together on the same sword as often) and all the features of the blade seem to match up as well, minus the regular sanbonsugi pattern (although I swear I can see all the individual gunome shapes on my sword scattered throughout Magoroku's extant examples).


Then again, maybe I've just been thinking about it for too long! It would be beyond amazing to have discovered a Kanemoto 2 in the ebay junk pile but a later gen Kanemoto is nothing to frown at either.


If nothing else it seems to have originally been a very high quality blade that someone thought very highly of and has apparently seen action (and survived it, not to mention a few centuries of sitting around), so I'm a happy camper either way.



My pic attachments aren't working for me sorry for the big pics:










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I think it must be Jean but then I keep finding stuff like this which throws me off and makes me wonder:




This example seems to really match my blade well (Nagasa is 60 cm on the example vs my sword's 56 cm).




I thought it was a second generation Magoroku Kanemoto (Kanemoto 4)  based on google translate of the website but I found an oshigata of the same sword on Nihonto-no-Bi:  http://www.users.on.net/~coxm/?page=oshigata_sword_k45 which identifies this example as Magoroku Kanemoto along with an inscribed date from 1528.


The Kissaki pics aren't quite right in my comparsion (picture of my sword was taken at an angle) but other than a slight variation in the angle of the yokote the actual blade matches the oshigata when resized on my phone/computer and placed under the sword. Likewise, the nakago is slightly longer on the example but otherwise is a perfect match and the Mei seems very close (I've found other Magoroku attributed swords that show the minor variations between my blade and this example, such as a more rounded "Kane" character and the mark above the "moto" that is pointing up at an angle rather than parallel). 


Is it possible Magoroku Kanemoto did regular sanbonsugi toward the end of his carreer or would it be more sensible to figure later generations very closely copied Magoroku's sugata/mei?


Guess I need shinsa for a definitive answer but considering the evidence I'm thinking there is a possibility my sword is Kanemoto II, unless I'm missing crucial information somewhere. Am I interpreting this right?

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