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Kamakura utsuhimono?


AntiquarianCat
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So an oddball passed through my hands. At first glance the shape looks like a Kamakura tachi, having marked koshi sori and taper, but the guy selling it thought it was kanbun. Whatever it is I fully understand that Kamakura is highly improbable and frankly, it doesn’t look as “nice” as my koto sword -although that might be from it being in a bad state of polish- so I figured a Kamakura utsuhimono is what I’m looking at. I don’t know if it’s possible for people more practiced than I to Kantei this blade?

 

It is about 71cm suriage with a lot of taper, the geometry is noticeably different from my osuriage Yamato tachi in that this sword has a low shinogi, more taper, and the blade overall feels a bit thin. The hamon appears to be a gunome midare with large amounts of Nie and a lot of hataraki, I honestly like the hamon and it helped push me to get it. There doesn’t appear to be any straight yakidashi but perhaps a suriage would have eliminated one. The bad state of polish makes it hard to be totally certain about the hada but it seems to have good amounts of nie and be mostly some type of itame/mokume, with some masame that is accompanied by nie and found closer to the ha, the shinogi’s hada seems to be almost exclusively some type of mokume/itame I know that’s often a koto trait but I figure an utsuhi would do that too. One of the oddest traits are what look like yubashiri over wide parts of the blade, the polish isn’t great but there seems to be nie inside those white cloudy parts and when I hold the sword to a light source to illuminate the nioiguchi those parts glow, but unlike other examples of yubashiri I have seen they are more widespread, some in the monouchi’s shinogi.

 

One trait that does clash with the probable outcome that this is a Shinshinto utsuhi is the thick nagako patina, which doesn’t look very different from my koto examples, also while the hada doesn’t have ware, there are a few small kitaeware on the ha, which makes me think they  might be from over polishing. Thankfully though the appleseed geometry of the blade is intact, along with the hamon so it doesn’t look like it’s suffered any truly major harm.

 

Anyways I’m pretty confused by this blade so if people with a more trained eye than I have any thoughts I would be grateful.

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Also here are photos comparing the only decent koto example I have with this sword and a closeup of the nagako. I should also have included the koto nagako as a comparison but it’s too late for me to disassemble the swords I feel so I could do that tomorrow if it would help. My impression though was that the patina (below the lower ana) wasn’t markedly different from this or on early Shinto swords I’ve seen.

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That sugata/sori🤩 🤤. Cant wait to hear what these guys say. I dont think you could be faulted for believing it’s Kamakura or at  least nambokucho. Definitely a blade meant to be wielded from horseback. 

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Just turn the tables and ask yourself, who would have done such a thing in the Kamakura? I can't think of anyone.

If you look closer, you can see an almost straight monouchi. That's more like a heian-sugata. This sugata was also picked up again in the Oei, Sue Koto and Shinshinto.
The hamon lacks the "self-evidence" and "lightness" of early koto, and even late koto. I would expect more sparkling and loosely sprinkled ko-nie. The hard Ara-Nie seen here belongs more to Shinshinto. It all seems very intentional, and here and there the concept of hamon seems to slip away.
Then there's the boshi, the crowning glory of any good blade. This boshi is midarekomi, but - please excuse me - clumsy and unimaginative.

Everything really screams for a very late blade.

 

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I think I am in the same camp as Guido and saiha a possibility and that might also explain the very "glassy" finish in the ji-hada. However that could also be the result of a poor polish. The lack of activity in either hada or hamon doesn't suggest it is early, at least to me. If it isn't re-tempered then I would go for an utushi  no earlier than Momoyama, but that is a guess based mainly on the shape of the hamon

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Thank you everyone, for all the advice. Yes the polish is in an atrocious state also there are many fine scratches which make it hard to see. Unfortunately my photos were probably the best I could do for capturing the hada/hamon in its current state of bad polish.

 

Its no surprise that everyone has suggested shinshinto as the time period, apart from the shape I wasn’t very reminded the koto swords I’ve seen. What I hadn’t thought of was a retemper as Guido and Paul noted. I had forgotten that coarse nie could be a sign of retempering/fire and perhaps those patches that look hardened could be as well? I had dismissed the large nie as possibly a satsuma type hamon but now worry about the alternative. Apart for looking for a mizukage is there any other way to investigate if this sword was retempered?

 

 

 

@Karusk sorry about disappointing you my friend. I was pretty sure it wasn’t Kamakura since nearly ubu examples are very rare and this didn’t look nice enough to be one. It makes sense that this sword with its koshi sori intact would be a Shinto/shinshinto attempt to replicate koto swords. I guess the only decent example of a sword made as a tachi I might have held is this one, which unfortunately lost most of its curve when greatly shortened (it still feels much meatier than this sword). My understanding is that most koto tachi you find will look like that because if they weren’t treasure swords, they were liable to be cut down so they could be used as katanas.

 

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 For a retemper the most obvious pointer is a hamon that ends before the nakago or goes bent  into the unsharpened edge above the nakago paired with a thicker than usual super dark patina. Theres exceptions i have been told the last time i suggested a retemper. This apparently happens when they wrapped it in something wet like beets or radishes to keep the nakago from being heated and ruining the patina. I thought it was supposed to obliterate the yasurime as well. I can see the yasurime and the hamon seems to go straight into the patina from what i can tell. Can you find any warps or bubbles in the sides? Does the hamon go into the patina or does it curve towards  the unsharpened edge right above the patina? 
 

Had a look and i cant for the life of me find this article i read all that in. Ill continue to try to find it. 

 

Edited by Karusk
Grammar/added other reply.
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Yes, very true, there are no nioigiri, and I couldn’t see any super obvious mizukage, although perhaps those patches of what I thought were yubashiri in the middle of the sword are some odd form of that. Like you said there are exceptions, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of those. I would certainly be grateful for more information.

 

From what I saw the nagako looks normal, without mizugake, the hamon doesn’t run towards the ha in the nagako but instead maintains distance and fades out like other suriage. 
Another possibility I considered was that the hamon might have been done in the style of satsuma: I once had a tanto made in satsuma and the hamon, with its coarse nie, reminds me a bit of it. Perhaps I’m just projecting irrelevant cases onto this sword though.

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The one thing that makes me think is second pic from the bottom the patina seems to be different in the same shape as the hamon and sorta stops right where the clay mixture for a retemper might have been. Maybe in an effort to make it go into the patina and make it fool an  armchair expert like me? And the yasurime seem to be a little obscured there too. On the other side though it looks a little like someone polished into the nakago once on that side a little. Maybe to see where the hamon stops?


Would it be a terrible idea to have that area only and like a millimeter on the other side polished to see what the hamon actually does there?(not a suggestion a question)

 

When considering something retempered i like  to keep in mind that most of the time a retemper was simply done to restore a ruined blade to usefulness. The higher quality the retemper(ie harder to tell like this) the better you can probably hope at least that it was done in the past by a master who simply wanted to save themselves some work, or rather save the work of someone else. 
 

I was pretty sure the minamoto sukekuni i posted was retempered when I bought it but i just loved the hamon and figured for the price i guess i was getting two master smiths for one blade, but i have now convinced myself its an original hamon, and these guys say be wary of the signature 🤣😑🤣. Still happy with it! In the end its worth what someone would pay for it. Im sure one of these guys wants its as bad as i sorta do. 
 

I REALLY still believe that other one was a retemper (a promising wazkizashi recent thread) and not the exception to the rule the other guy pointed out to me. In the end youre gonna have to shinsa it and hes gonna have to shinsa that one.  Im gonna have to shinsa the minamoto. Hopefully we all dont know nothin and you got a 10k + in your hand. Everyone pray your wrong for him. 

 

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Edited by Karusk
Another thought.
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I wager you are right. To be honest, I’m pretty poor at sizing up blades that are in a bad state of polish. Anyways the update is that the vendor was gracious enough to let me return it, so I guess I will continue speculating over this case but it’s only academic now.

 

I think I’d best stick to swords in decent polish now since gambling with badly out of polish blades is more likely to end with me burnt than lucky. It’s totally possible that with a polish this could turn out to be a nice shinto/shinshinto homage to Kamakura blades, and the large nie just because it’s from satsuma or another tradition that does that, but it is just as likely that this could be a retemper, and I would rather spend my money sending my favorites for a polish than be disappointed by a saiha. True that if it’s one they didn’t do a terrible job since there isn’t nioigiri, but I like collecting blades in their original make. Like you said though, some smiths, like the ones who retempered the swords burnt at Osaka did an incredible job at restoring ruined national treasures, I imagine it must have been hard to reharden all those burnt old swords without losing some to hagiri.

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It's a dress-up sword. Made to look Koto. Suriage, extra "drilled" mekugi-ana, etc. Whoever did the job done believed it had a chance to be sold off as Koto. 

 

Shinshinto or Showa, based on the features of the steel. That would be my guess. Notice it is also supremely healthy. 

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I thought about saiha, but there are two things that to me appear to be be conciencious add-on to sori: it has old styled fumbari, mostly happening next to nagako, and kissaki appears to have old ko-kissaki dimensions. 

Taken together I am inclined to believe it was purposefully made this way.

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I think the shape was deliberately made this way and not accidentally as a result of post-hardening.
Also, Ara-Nie, of all things, are not a prime example of Saiha, and Saiha hardening does not start so far behind Ha-Machi as in this example.

 

Basically, though, I can't rule out it being Saiha either, certainly not from the pictures.

 

How to make blades look nice and old in later times, here is a nice example:

http://www.kanshoan.com/english/swords/h41_kanetora.html

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Of course it's acid treated. That frosty look is a dead giveaway. Probably ferric chloride. Seems it's done everywhere there is an amateur polisher or bored owner.

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I’m not too surprised if it were acid treated, that would certainly explain some of those odd stains. To be honest the photos the vendor put were of low quality, I had assumed the reason it wasn’t photographed up close was because they weren’t good at that sort of thing... But after getting the blade IRL, it was obvious the state of polish was far worse than I expected or was told and that’s why there weren’t close up photos.

19 hours ago, lonely panet said:

the yokote has been rubbed down too

Yes it has, and there is a chip (not a small one!) where I was explicitly told there were none. I used that reason to as for a return.

14 hours ago, Karusk said:

Is it taboo to ask how much it was? Or what everyone thinks it might be worth considering all the opinions here?

Let me just say I’m happy I’m getting my money back. There were swords where I felt like gushing over how I got something nice at a very low price... this is not one of them, at all. Had it been as described it would have been worth it. Moral of the story, don’t chance it with stuff that won’t post close up photos of the hada and key sites.

 

Oh well, I’d made it far enough without getting truly burnt so it’s only fair this happen to remind me of what can go wrong. Anyways, with a refund I should be okay, just wiser I hope.

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