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unusual blade on Aoi Art


paulb
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A ko-Aoe blade on Aoi Art site this morning. The shape is very unusual. I don't remember seeing another one before, certainly not an Aoi. I was wondering how the lack of symitry affected the hardening and how they kept the blade straight during quenching

https://www.aoijapan.com/katana-mumeiko-aoe55th-nbthk-juyo-paper/

Strange but interesting piece

 

 

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you are right it isn't cheap. Aoe blades tend to be highly regarded (especially ko-Aoe and Chu-Aoe) and command high prices in Japan. This one is also mega rare. I  have seen very few blades of this configuration and no Aoe examples. I think those factors contribute to the starting price. I have seen shinogi-zukuri blades from this school and period sell for a lot more.

personally I don't think the hamon runs especially close to the edge the variation falling within the normal midare in examples I have seen. What is unusual is the boshi. Normally Aoe blades have a small kaeri and a very tight and pointed return similar to the candlewick boshi seen in later Bizen work.

BTW I should maybe confirm that I have no commercial interest in this piece and no intention of trying to buy it. Wile rare I am not over keen on the shape. I just thought it was an interesting piece to study.

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Adam, “cheapness” is in the eye of the beholder :). No intention to market the blade, but it is Juyo,  74cm and ko-Aoe , so dating to probably 1180-1230. So these things do not come cheap, unless they are really really tired or broken or short, whatever. Plenty of hamon and no kakedashi I can see.

 

I also find the construction peculiar and would have associated it with a later sword. 
 

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I also never have seen this shape in combination with the rest of the piece listed before, but for such an ancient piece, ubu and the above mentioned rarity at juyo with this attribution I feel its not all that expensively priced. It seems to be a very nice package. 

 

I wonder what price a second or third tier school attribution with the aforementioned shape, age etc with Juyo origami would have.

 

 

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I'm a little confused - and also a beginner
When describing the blade, the ubu and then the o-suriage are mentioned alternately
If it is ubu, I would say that sugata rather corresponds to the late Kamakura
At the same time, it seems to have a funbari, that is, ubu or near ubu

If it's an o-suriage, the original sugata would be 3 shaku and something
I may be completely out of the with hada - wasn't chirimen also used later than the end of Heian / early Kamakura?
In any case, the construction is very unconventional and it would be an interesting piece for the collection

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Ah sorry for the confusion, now I see there's also references to o suriage. I didn't have much time earlier and didn't read line for line. The ubu reference is also in the sayagaki according to the listing, maybe someone can quickly check. As for the length it could very well be shortened. When I check for funbari it's like my eyes are tricking me, sort of looks like there's some.

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I was pointed towards this thread. Checked the listing, and I hope I can clarify a few things:

 

1 The Jūyō paper states that the nakago is "almost ubu," although they do not point out what was altered (sometimes they add "just tip was cut off" or "slightly machi-okuri" in parenthesis). The paper also says "dates not later than mid-Kamakura" and "no other examples of such a tsukurikomi for the time period in question."

 

2. Tanobe sensei says in his sayagaki that the blade is ubu, that it does not date later than early Kamakura, and that "such a tsukurikomi is not only rare for this school [Ko-Aoe] but also rarely seen in blades from other provinces around that time." That is, he is playing it safe, not stating that they do not exist at all.

 

3. Aoi Art dates the blade on their Japanese site to "end of Heian to early Kamakura period" and indeed state ō-suriage. However, this might just be a website template error (or some other copy and paste error) as they write later down for the blade's characteristics that the blade actually does have an ubu-nakago and is thus an extreme rarity.

 

 

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Very personal thoughts:

[a] The lack of shinogi on one side was experimented a bit in chokuto times, including the continent... 

b/ I guess "nearly ubu is about as precise on this type of blades as "a little bit machi okuri" - a guess of sorts.

[c] I am not really well proficient with such early blades, so how certain is ko-aoe definition here? Is ko-Hoki a valid alternative here?

 

Kirill R.

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@Brian All good, thank you! Just not much active online lately.

 

@Blagoy No worries at all. Already had two inquiries about this blade in my inbox when I got up, one saying that the blade is also discussed on NMB and if I could take a look at the differences in descriptions. Well, I think it is quite an interesting blade, so here we are ;)

 

Now my take on this is that regardless of school/maker/blade style, everything earlier than mid-Kamakura is by itself quite rare and special, the more if the blade is ubu. Having such an uncommon style here, plus the fact that it is virtually ubu, brings us right into unicorn territory.

 

So what are we facing here? As Kirill pointed out, maybe an (one-time) homage to an ancient blade style? Or an experiment that turned out to be a dead end in terms of functionality (for a long sword), hence very few produced and even less survived?

 

@Rivkin Point [c] I remember seeing a few uncommon blade styles coming from the Ko-Aoe group (or, more precise, with blades that were attributed to Ko-Aoe), i.e., hira-zukuri and shōbu-zukuri on shorter long swords which were not reworked naginata. So, maybe this "eagerness to experiment" played a role in this attribution. In other words, in case an early blade shows Chūgoku region characteristics and has an odd shape, it might go into the Ko-Aoe drawer. But, I am very much armchairing here. Maybe the hada is not as prominent as one would expect from Ko-Hōki. Would be a nice candidate to see in hand.

 

 

 

 

 

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The coarseness of hada can be exagirated by side illumination, including scanning, so it might be in real life the hada is very much subdued here. The ha is strongly nie-loaded so I thought ko-Hoki when looked at the photographs.

It is interesting that one often sees asymmetric hi on only one side in chokuto times, but almost never afterwords. One would think of all asymmetric features this one would have the most sense since it does not thin out the blade too much and is not an uncommon feature coming up here and there throughout times.

 

Kirill R.

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Is it just me? When looking at the entire Sugata, I always have a slight feeling of disturbance. At the top an almost straight monouchi and typical for Aoe a very low set koshizori. But the form does not continue in the Nakago. The Nakago area looks to me as if it was straightened at some point.
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I think the whole sugata is A-typical and not what you would expect to see from Aoe. In a normal blade I would hope to see koshizori extending in to a tapering and longish nakago. As said previously the kissaki and boshi are very un-Aoe to look at as well. The differences between ko-Aoe and Ko-Bizen are less clearly defined and I have seen a number of blades that have been attributed to one or other at various times. In this early period differences  were subtle and some 7 or 800 years on they are not easier to define. The Juyo panel and Tanobe Sensei must have seen something (I am guessing the jigane with sumetetsu and jifu) that led them to the conclusion they reached. However they did it the sugata cant have played a major part in the thought processes.

 

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