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Gunto named Ryujin

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Is anyone familiar with other examples of gendaito or shin gunto named “Ryujin”?


It is of interest to me due to the connection to Yasuhiro aka Miyaguchi Toshihiro. There exists a similarly signed blade made by him and I would like to know the significance (if any) of using “Ryujin” in the signature.


Here is the backstory:


I am a caretaker of a blade that is signed “Ryujin Toto Ju nin Kuniteru saku” dated a lucky day August 1944.






While researching I have found four similarly named/signed blades:


-one is signed “Ryujin Miyaguchi Yasuhiro” dated May 1945 (from Yasukuni Shrine fame);




-two are signed “Ryujin Ikkansai Kuniteru kin saku” both dated May 1944;






-and one by “Ryujin Ikkansai Hirokazu saku” dated February 1944 (Kazu is used but has same kanji as Teru).




Interestingly, all of the examples so far have been in Army mounts and the blade length varies from 60-69cm. The best guess is that Kuniteru was a student of Miyaguchi Toshihiro (Yasuhiro) but is as of yet still undocumented, or less likely it was an art name used by Miyaguchi Toshihiro towards the end of the war.


Here’s what I have found out:


I contacted Chris Bowen over a year ago to see what his thoughts were while also verifying the translation and my hunch that this blade was both associated with Yasuhiro (Miyaguchi Toshihiro) and signed by his hand.


His reply:


“Indeed, this sword is signed Kuniteru, as is the other example you cited. The Ikkansai Hiroteru and Yasuhiro with “Ryujin” are clearly related to these Kuniteru blades.


Examining them in detail I believe it most likely that they were all signed by Miyaguchi Yasuhiro. Further, given his use of the mei Yasuhiro, Kunimori and Toshihiro, it is likely that Kuniteru and Hiroteru were students at the Okura Tanrenjo, taking a kanji from Miyaguchi’s mei, as is the custom. Given that the mei all seem to be signed by the same hand, it is likely these students weren’t really fully trained and were more or less still apprentices. Cutting a mei is usually one of the last steps learned in becoming a smith. My best guess about these is that the students made the blades under Miyaguchi’s guidance and he signed them for them. There is of course an additional possibility, and that is that the blades were made by Miyaguchi himself and that these were alternative signatures he used for a brief period of time. I tend to doubt that but it is worth considering. I really have no idea why they were all signed with the kanji for Ryujin. A mystery to me that perhaps will reveal itself at some point.”


I also found this previous post by Chris Bowen on a similarly signed blade on NMB:


cabowen said:


Posted 17 November 2013 - 09:47 AM


“Rare mei. I don't think I have seen another. Must have worked with Miyaguchi at the Okura Tanrenjo.”



These “Ryujin” blades are apparently connected with Miyaguchi Toshihiro/Yasuhiro and are after his time at the Yasukuni Shrine (most likely while working at Baron Okura’s forge). I am curious if anyone can shed some light on whether there may have been any significance to using “Ryujin” other than the obvious translation of Dragon God. Is this the name of the sword? With multiple examples found it seems less likely that it is the name of the sword itself.


The earliest example I found so far is from February 1944 and the latest being Yasuhiro’s example in May 1945. Since there were many documented military slogans, Officer organizations and various horimono being added to military blades during WW2, I thought it possible that someone more experienced than myself might have seen or read something that may answer a few questions.


After researching this for the last year and a half, I have found only a few bits of information:


—I found one Ryujin Ikkansai Kuniteru oshigata here on NMB. Post #41 (http://www.militaria.co.za/nmb/topic/12933-yasukuni-swords-in-type-3-mounts/page-2)


—another in a book entitled “Modern Japanese Swords: The Beginning of the Gendaito Era” by Leon and Hiroko Kapp;








—The Ryujin Miyaguchi Yasuhiro example is from the website samuraisword.com (http://www.samuraisword.com/nihontodisplay/Gendiato/Yasuhiro/index.


The above book, mentions Ryujin Ikkansai Kuniteru as a student of Yasuhiro and being from Wakayama province (which there is some doubt to the validity). There are some current smiths signing with Ryujin ju Minamoto Sadakazu and Ryujin Taro Minamoto Sadashige that are from Ryujin village in Wakayama, but from the research I’ve seen they were taught from the Gassan line.


Read this on Dr. Richard Stein’s website but I highly doubt this is the same person as Kuniteru: Ryujin Taro Sadayuki listed on (https://www.japaneseswordindex.com/gtmindex.htm)


Any thoughts?


Thank you for any help

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Dear Mark, a friend of mine was in one of the Posts you cited. He has a sword signed ryujin ikkansai kuniteru Kinsaku, in special mountings. He does not frequent this site anymore, but perhaps he knows a little bit more. I will mail him one of these days.

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Thank you for taking the time to reply and for offering to contact your friend, that would be amazing! I am grateful for any information he is willing to share. I am very curious now about the special mountings you mentioned and hope to learn more. I am glad you recognized your friend’s sword, it is very fortunate for me thank you again.





Thank you for the link, I checked it briefly but will have to take some time to translate and read it all. It is an interesting proposal indeed and I did not think of a potential connection to the Shrine. I will dig more. Appreciate you taking the time to help me.

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Appreciate it Bruce. I emailed the website that has the Ryujin Miyaguchi Yasuhiro blade several times but received no response as of yet. Thanks for reaching out to Kevin, I know he is very knowledgeable. Fantastic work on all your research by the way.

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Leen—Thanks for asking your friend Ed. Please convey my gratitude to him for sharing the information he found, it has been most helpful. Yes his post is where I was able to find the bulk of the information about Kuniteru. Your friend’s Ryujin Ikkansai Kuniteru Type 3/Rinji mounts are quite amazing and one of the best examples I have seen in my limited experience.


I am curious if Ed would be willing to share pictures of the blade, especially the boshi, hamon and hada. Reason I ask is that the other Kuniteru blade I’m aware of (above mentioned book, “Modern Japanese Swords: The Befinning of the Gendaito Era”) has a unique hamon pattern that starts in an Edo-style yaki-dashi then changes into midare with togari-ba and then gunome midare towards the kissaki. This hamon description in the book is very similar to the Kuniteru blade I have. Since this is quite a complex hamon style and not seen often during the war; and since this pattern was being used so late in the war I find it quite interesting that so much time and effort seemed to placed making these blades. If your friend’s blade is indeed similar, I would think that quite unique especially knowing the blade is in higher quality Type 3/Rinji mounts which are not as common either.


Another aspect I find quite interesting is the variation in the KUNI kanji used in Ed’s blade signature and the one I posted. Placement varies as does the kanji itself. I found that this particular variation repeats itself, which I believe means there is much to learn just from the way these two kanji are written differently, much like the documented variations in signatures other Yasukuni smiths, such as Yasuoki, used to differentiate those made by him, his students and even the quality of the blade itself. This was written about in some of the Yasukuni books IIRC.


Sorry to unload all of this, I’m just excited to talk about this, especially knowing you are Ed’s friend. Thank you for taking the time to help me.

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