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Sukesada Mei


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I am taking a closer look at the six character Bishu Osafune Sukesada mei on my wakizashi. Is there a place that would have a rich collection of photos and/or oshigata where I could compare my signature with others that may have identified the smith? The sword is in poor/fair polish, so many of the details of the forging are hard to discern - plus the fact that I have an utterly unpracticed eye. I am really looking to see if I can nail down an era and maybe even a smith.......

 

Thoughts?

 

thanks,

 

Neil20210313_174231.thumb.jpg.dfa37b1e858e118fcd48294941f6bc2b.jpg

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Hi Neil, 

 

Be good to see a pic of the blade showing its full length with measurements, nagasa, nakago length as Bizen works can have traits that make them easier to date.

 

The file marks look correct.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi @Alex A,

 

I've been following a some templates to describe the sword and trying to fill them out according to what I see: So here goes:

 

Signature : Nagamei on Omote side (Long Signature) - 備州長船祐定   Bishu Osafune Sukesada. Ubu: No evidence of suriage (shortening)

Location: Bizen Province (Modern Okayama prefecture)

Quality: The six character Mei suggests Jo-Saku and according to one sword order from a daimyo, this level of sword was for upper grade commanders and generals.

Mekugiana : Single hole. Possibly punched as there is no burr on either side.

The blade is not polished.

 

Blade length Overall : 66.99 cm or 21 inches.

Nagasa: 53.5 cm or 21 1/16 inches

Nakago: 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 inches. Nakago Desription

Sori : 18.5 mm

Kissaki : no distinguishable yokote

Width at the hamachi : 30.5mm

Width at the Kissaki : 20.1 mm

Kasane : 6.5 mm at Hamachi or 4.8 mm at Kissaki

Era : The rust on the tang is rich and black indicating 16th century perhaps? Village of Osafune was destroyed by flood in 1590

Shape : It is in hira zukuri  with a centered sori (Torii Sori)

 

If you can help me shed any light on this blade, its age, or especially it's smith, i would be most grateful. I am on the list with David Hofhine to get it polished, but that won't be until sometime in 2023.....

 

I think what I like particularly about this blade is that is possibly connected to the turbulent time between Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and finally Tokugawa Ieyasu. There is a great series on Netflix called Battle For Japan which really brings this period of history to life. I love the thought that this piece of steel is connected to that era.....

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Hello Neil, your sword is shinogi-zukuri. The yokote (the vertical line running from the blade up to the shinogi) looks pretty distinguishable to me. The kaeri may not be too visible through the rust (maybe that is what you are thinking of?). As Jacques says, there are so many Sukesada smiths, you could make a few football teams with all the smiths who used that name. Hard to discern which one this is. Once it is polished, it may be easier for someone who is familiar with this line of smiths to try to pinpoint which one it is. I think until then, the identity will remain a mystery. 

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Hi Neil,

how does the Nagamei indicates a high quality ? 

If we trust the "fact" that a longer signature is better quality then the ranking would be:

1. Sukesada (nijimei)

2. Bishu Osafune Sukesada (Nagamei)

3. Bishu Osafune Sukesada (Saku) + Date on other side

4.Variation of 3 with titles like "Bizen kuni"  

5. Bizen koku jyu Yosouzaemon no jyu Sukesada Saku + Date (Zai mei with the makers name on it for example Yosozaemon )

If i remember right :)

But i prefer too judge every blade regardless of the signature.

 

Edit: The flood destroyed the sword production in Osafune but the Sukesada line survived and was still making swords after this. 

https://markussesko.com/2013/03/12/the-great-flood-of-the-yoshii-river/

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Hi Neil.

 

Good to see im not the only one that does bad images, not a lot to go off.

 

Would have been good to see a clear image of the nakago showing its shape.

 

I see you hoping to date it to the end of the Muromachi period, theres a good chance it is.

 

Personally, i would not be bothered about which Sukesada made it, let alone signed it, just too much variation. Its not like we are talking about a few smiths at the end of the Edo period. Mass production churning out weapons, not art swords. 

 

Can you see any detail at all with the grain in the steel?, i see some hamon, reminded of something like this.

Japanese sword Touken Komachi, Wakizashi, Shirasaya Bishu Osafune Sukesada

 

Wish i could be more help.

 

Cheers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, b.hennick said:

Judge the blade not the signature. There is an exception to every rule concerning Japanese swords. Has a sword with that signature has made juyo?

I think the highest rated with this signature is the Atakigiri but more because of its history and the koshirae twin of the Heshikiri Hasebe.

I cant remember right now what paper the blade has but im sure it was the highest a blade with this signature got.

http://fcmuseum.blogspot.com/2020/11/treasures-of-fukuokano-13-sword.html

刀 名物「安宅切」.jpg

 

Edit: thinking about it maybe i mix things up but i know at least one Bishu Osafune Sukesada signed blade is Juyo.

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Ok, perhaps a few small answers to the questions above:

 

@DoTanuki yokai, I should have footnoted where I got the idea that the longer the signature the better the blade. It comes from the bottom of this article by David E.J. Pepin called "Bizen Province" The Pinnacle of Sword Production" from 2005. In it he states:

 

"BIZEN TO` KUBETSU"
( METHOD OF SWORD DISTINCTION )

IT IS SOMEWHAT DIFFICULT TO COMPREHEND A SWORD BLADE THAT CARRIES WITH IT, THE MAKERS TESTAMENT OF ITS QUALITY. DUE TO THE "HIGH DEMAND" FOR SWORDS DURING THE TUMULTUOUS LATE KOTO YEARS EACH MAKER PRODUCED MANY VARIOUS QUALITIES OF BLADES. THE "BIZEN TO` KUBETSU" SYSTEM IS OF GREAT ASSISTANCE TO THE SHINZA, OR THOSE JUDGING THE BLADES POTENTIAL IMPORTANCE. THE FOUNDATION OF THIS SYSTEM, IS THE "MEI" (SIGNATURE). THE BIZEN SMITHS OF THE LATE KOTO PERIOD, SUKESADA AND KIYOMITSU MONS (GROUPS, OR SCHOOLS), DEVELOPED JUST SUCH A METHOD. I FEEL CERTAIN THAT THIS METHOD WAS ORIGINALLY DEVELOPED AS AN EXPRESSION AND DECLARATION TO THE EFFORT AND FASTIDIOUSNESS PUT INTO THE INDIVIDUAL SWORD. DUE TO THE VAST NUMBER OF BLADES PRODUCED DURING THE PERIOD, KNOWLEDGE OF THIS SYSTEM AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING IT'S CREATION ( BE IT INADVERTENT OR NOT? ) IS OF PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE!

LET US CONSIDER A LARGE ORDER FOR SWORDS, " BY A "CHIEF DAIMYO". PLEASE SEE LEVELS BELOW. THE HYPOTHETICAL ORDER CONSIST OF 3500 KATANAS, FOR THE "RANK & FILE" SAMURAI, THESE WOULD HAVE BEEN MADE "VERY STRONGLY", AND OF EXCELLENT SHARPNESS, THESE WOULD BE OF LEVEL # 1. FOR THE HIGHER RANK SAMURAI, AND FIELD COMMANDERS, 300 LEVEL # 2'S, WOULD HAVE BEEN CHOSEN. THIRTY KATANA'S FOR THE UPPER GRADE COMMANDERS, AND GENERALS, WOULD HAVE BEEN OF LEVEL'S 3, AND 4. THE 3 BLADES FOR THE "CHIEF DAIMYO'S", WOULD HAVE BEEN LEVEL # 5 ( MASTERPIECES ) ! 
 

"KUBETSU LEVEL'S"

#1. "TAIRYO SAKU", OR RANDOMLY MASS PRODUCED BLADES ARE NORMALLY "MU-MEI"  (UNSIGNED).
 
# 2. "CHU SAKU", OR MIDDLE CLASS. "NICHI MEI", TWO KANJI  SIGNATURE,  I.E.; "SUKESADA",  OR FOUR KANJI SIGNATURE, I.E. "BIZEN SUKESADA" OR "BISHU SUKESADA". 

# 3. "JO SAKU", UPPER, OR ABOVE AVERAGE CLASS. SIX KANJI SIGNATURE,  I.E. "BISHU OSAFUNE SUKESADA" OR "BIZEN OSAFUNE SUKESADA"

# 4. "JO-JO SAKU", UPPER - UPPER, BLADES OF EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY (COULD BE "JUYO" CANDIDATES). THESE WILL BE SIGNED IN THE SAME MANNER AS # 3, IN ADDITION THE ENTIRE FORMAL NAME, I.E.: "JIROKURO", "YOSAZAEMONJO", "HICHIBEJO". TITLES AND DATES (NENGOS) ARE FREQUENTLY INCLUDED.

# 5: "SAI-JO SAKU", UPPERMOST BEST ( MASTERPIECES ),  BLADES INSCRIBED WITH THE NAME OF THE PERSON WHO ORDERED IT, PRESENTATION BLADES, NAMED BLADES (SWORDS BESTOWED WITH THEIR OWN NAME) BY THE MAKER OR OWNER. THESE ARE NORMALLY DATED (NENGO).

That said, I have stopped here at present, and  should note this is from a sales pitch to sell a Sukesada blade. So until this information can be coroborated in some way, I cannot tell if its true or BS. But this is why this information appears in an earlier post as part of my notes.

 

As for a picture of the nakago, you are absolutely correct that my photography and lighting stink. but this is the best I can get:

 

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I love the mei - its so crisp and sure with an almost delicate flair. I wish I could do a better photography job with my desk lamp and cell phone.

 

@Alex A the sword you showed me here seems to have a similar hamon, where I can still see remnants of it. And its quite thin near the Hamachi. Mostly I can only see a shadow of it because someone cleaned rust off it with steel wool and that has really done a number on the polish. The grain is nearly invisible, and i really can't tell if it is similar to this blade or not.

 

20210509_222541.thumb.jpg.d5a92143af2d10edff4be2ec6a51d278.jpg       20210509_222441.thumb.jpg.2457347271076b25e13121e70c433c09.jpg

 

And my total newbie mistake for pasting hira zikuri into the post. Of course it's shinogi-zikuri! I don't know what I was thinking. However, is it strange that there is no yokote?

20210509_222608.thumb.jpg.f1c342f61fbc995c3994db6096d5c4ca.jpg

 

So in the end, to move further along the identification process, do I have to wait until it's polished to see the grain and hamon? Is there any further I can go with this?

 

Neil

 

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Good evening Neil.

 

The mei that your sword has covers a broad spectrum.

 

You will find mediocre and also decent swords with that particular mei, as mentioned above its best to judge the sword.

 

Compare a sword made during busy turbulent times to a peaceful time where there was more time and better materials.

 

Seen it written  few times that the best of this bunch were made at Eisho and then declined. From what limited number i have seen i would agree, often dated and more effort put into the sword, horimono also present.

 

Also, Just one example of an Edo sword using the same mei, notice the hamon pattern near to the hamachi

 

https://www.aoijapan.com/wakizashi-bishu-osafune-sukesadanot-guarantee/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think the Atakigiri that Christian mentioned eariler is Jūyō Bunkazai as the mountings are classified as such and the sword is attached to them (However it is the koshirae that has achieved the rank, not the sword). I think also the signifigance is also mostly due to the history associated with that particular sword not because of the smith in question that made the sword.

 

Also to be noted that the sword signed Bishū Osafune Sukesada and Eishō 6 (1509) [Jūyō 28] is of very good craftsmanship and has very well preserved horimono. I was looking at the entry and I do not think they point it towards any specific Sukesada just note the period, but my Japanese is still too weak for good readings (I did not see any of the famous Sukesada names in the text entry).

 

Like Jacques I do think David Pepin is perhaps too optimistic in his signature valuation guide. His #3 above average quality are in my opinion often very basic Sukesada signature styles.

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Hi All,

 

thank you so much for your courteous and patient replies. Art sword or not, it's amazing to me the depth of discovery one can enjoy in this pursuit. I am so grateful for all the knowledge put together in all these answers.

 

@Alex A Thank you for pointing me to the AOI site that shows the hamon on a Sukesada wakizashi - that looks very similar to what I can see on mine - the suguha from the hamachi and then moving to gunome midare.

 

@Jacques D. Thank you for showing me that page in Nagayama's book. Are copies of that book still available somewhere? what's the title? Also, there is nothing on the ura side of the nakago, so the omote side is all I have to go on. So between your points and the other thoughts by others I take away the following:

 

- the blade is most likely kazuuchi mono unless made very early or very late in the tradition

- It's highly likely the blade itself is 16th century

- the blade is likely of low or mediocre quality (but hey, somebody(s) thought it was good enough to keep for 500 years....)

-  To get further, it really needs to be looked at by someone with knowledge ( I look forward to the time when the Toronto Sword Club can meet again @b.hennick!)

 

Together you have led me to so many reading sources it will keep me occupied for months. I am very grateful to you all for the time you have spent answering my newbie questions!

 

Thanks!

 

Neil

 

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Hi Neil, thats an "Edo" Bizen trait. 

 

I cant make out enough, may be late Muromachi, possibly early Edo.

 

A case of looking at what is available and trying to work out what it probably is.

 

Good write up by Markus, so cheers for that Christian.

 

This topic always gets some attention and good to see stuff i cant remember reading before.

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I think I remember that drilling a nakago ana came in late Muromachi, around 1560. I agree that the hole appears punched with that chamfer like opening. That and an ubu looking nakago is of value itself. The Sukesada production shop of Muromachi put out a lot of war blades, after all that's what they were meant for. Nice historical connotations. 

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