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Surfson

Have you ever seen a kazari-tachi?

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Well, I never had.  When this one came up at that recent auction in Texas, I went scrambling to find out what I could about them and then decided to sell my car to buy it (not literally, but one should know that my car, which I just traded in for a newer used car a couple of months ago) was only worth $1000 on trade in, considerably less than this sword cost.  

 

Anyway, according to Markus' Encyclopedia (one of the most useful sword books ever!), these swords were worn by the imperial family or by kuge, court aristocrats.  Based on his further detailed description, and the fact that this one has mother of pearl inlay in a nashiji ground, it would have been owned by the highest level of kuge but not by a member of the imperial family.  There are six or seven lower ranks of kuge that can be discerned by the types of koshirae on their kazari-tachi.  

 

I thought I would share a few of the photos.  I am also debating about what to do with it in terms of restoration and papers, so feel free to share your views (other than it's worthless and that I should send it to you right away!).  Cheers, Bob

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I can be greatly mistaken, but I think such imitations of Nara to Heian period styles came in vogue during Meiji and even more so in Taisho and early Showa. Quality varies a lot but quite a few are exact copies of early examples. I would check kokuho and bunkazai volumes to see whether this one is an identical copy of one of those.

 

Kirill R.

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Kirill is correct, the premier smiths of that time made a few of these, there was a splendid example by Gassan Sadakazu for sale somewhere recently.

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No, I hadn't, Ray, that is a beauty.  

 

Kirill, according to Markus, these were used throughout the Edo period.  I would be surprised if this is an "imitation".  The obvious age to it is very apparent.  Also, this piece has been worn a lot.  The gilding is worn on the ura extensively.  I doubt that it was made after Edo and that these swords would have been worn after hattori.  Thanks for the positive thoughts though!  🤢

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A pride of any true collector to popoo someone else's find as an obvious fake. 

I am sure there is a consideration that such items were used in Edo period, but I am not sure how realistic it is. 

I think its a great buy for what essentially is showato money, and these things can be quite well made and they are not modern at all.  Its also possible to relatively precisely date makie if there is a good photograph. Early Edo will have a tiny bit duller black, some argue it even has a tint of color to it, round makie gold particles, Genroku+ makie will have elongated particles of very bright gold color, Taisho+ tend to be more yellowish by comparison. Etc. Etc.

 

But regarding the Imperial Household koshirae, I have very limited experience. But it tells me a few things - they did use real gold when it was called for on the highest caliber items, they did high quality guilding, were not that much into pure brass as gold replacement. They did not go for exact copies of older styles, the work also often reflects some of the techniques and craftsmanship you see on period's buddhist wares from Kyoto area. 

I had some discussion whether these could he household koshirae papered to a specific smith, and the general agreement was - its not well researched, there are some clearly Goto pieces, but much of tachi koshirae was probably made by someone local who could have been even outside the "commercial" market, so exact name is not something readily offered.

 

I will throw another curved ball - today you can use any mon you like, but during Taisho 7-5 kiri mon and the kikumon were still more exclusive to the household. That's what you do often see on the household or kuge items.

 

Actually if you have Satsuma sale cathalogue, the first page of sword section has a great image of "real ritual kazari-tachi". Its not an exact copy of old style, you clearly see its adopted many Edo period's elements, and well, its gold.

 

Kirill R.

 

 

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Dear Bob.

 

Well I'm in the, " it's worthless and that I should send it to you right away!" camp on this one. I think it's a really nice thing to have found and you did well.   If the blade has no hamon then that just means you don't need to worry about a polish.

 

A little gentle cleaning and it's good to go.  If you feel like it then some jewellery restoration at a later date perhaps.  That and  a nice kake for it.

 

Enjoy!

 

All the best.

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Thanks for that link Christopher.  Several of the "jewels" have deteriorated with time in that koshirae you have shared, and the same is true of mine.  

 

In any case, I have been in communication with Markus about it and he said that he has been meaning to write a blog article on the subject of kazaridachi.  We are planning to discuss this piece further, perhaps over the weekend.  At this point, the view is that the mounts are "good" but the blade is probably more modern.  Although the listing in the auction stated that the blade was shinto, my feel from it is that it is probably shinshinto.  It is not fully ububa, but the beginning of the ha is slightly dull, so my impression is that it has perhaps been polished twice, but that is just an impression/guess.  I will have a look at it tonight to see if I can see a hamon.  

 

Geraint, having a kake made is a good idea.  Do you know anybody in the US that does that sort of thing with the right materials?

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I'd swear this is the tachi sold by Bonham's, July 2015 for $2434 US. It was listed as having an 'untempered' blade and with slight damage to the enamels and tsuba. Used as regalia it was decorative by nature and very likely the equivalent of parade swords of the modern military in that they were hardly weapons. John

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I have a split reaction on this one.

On the one hand  throughout the Taisho and early Showa all major Daimyo collections published more or less complete representation of what they had, and such tachi as in the video above are there in the sales catalogue of Satsuma, they are in Owari Tokugawa collection, they are in Marquis Kuroda exhibition etc. etc.

All are curved, unlike the original type, because they don't house special parade blades but more like national treasures from Heian and Kamakura periods. 

With mounts of gold or in the very least quality gilding. Covered with personal family mons, high class nanako, top class makie. These are probably the most gold-burning items you find in these collections.

I don't see anything suggesting these mounts were somehow adopted to some specific standard corresponding to a specific kuge rank.

Promotion within court ranks was a norm, were there a need to receive a new set of mounts to mark it,  we would first find all the mounts for different ranks in such collections, and more likely gilded than pure gold.

But that's not we find there -  we see just very few top class mounts with artificially "ancient appearance" and that's it.

Parade blades of weird shape is also just not something we see in the Edo period, and nakago here is quite telling. 

 

In marriage gift requests there were records for what is being assumed somewhat expensive mounts with the blades whose price suggests its a tsunagi of sorts. I sort of assumed those were just good mounts for circumstances when the blade is of no consequence, but...

 

Kirill R.

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Historically, many swords used as a symbol of rank or importance are not true working swords, but meant as indicators or symbols of power or importance.
I can easily see something like this being a symbol of high class, and not something to be used. In that case, the decoration would be more important than the contents. There is no way this is junk or low class. It has to be something intended to convey a person of importance. As such, it has value far in excess of it's value as Nihonto.

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I saw one of these pop up at auction in the UK about 20 years ago.

I helped the auction house to catalogue it. Memory fails me on the Smith but it was on research signed tachi mei and by a Kamakura Smith which was confirmed by another expert.

It went for very good money for back then.

Not everyone's cup of tea but still a wonderful item 

Mounts were 18th c 

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