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My First Kantei Post #1/2: Fujiwara Yukinaga Katana


MichaelSeeley
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This will be the first of two posts, since I purchased two swords. I recently attended the 2021 San Francisco Token Kai and had a marvelous time. You can see some of my photos/video here:

 

As I'm a beginner, and this was my first show, I had several goals:

  1. First and foremost was to learn and handle Nihonto for the first time.
  2. Next was to come away with a sword to study if I found something within my budget ($3000) that caught my heart. This may seem a humble budget, but I have already invested in a solid library of books on Nihonto, we have our first baby on the way, and I am hesitant to spend more than this at the beginning of a hobby that isn't (yet :) ) an obsession.
  3. Since I lived there for a time, I  wanted to accomplish #2 with a smith from Kyushu.

I am very happy to say that I was able to accomplish all three goals for well below my budget! With my trusty set of books and the Kantei Sheet from the NMB documents, I set up shop in our living room and got to work on my first kantei. I started with sword given the fact that it is a papered blade, and I hoped to be confirming that paper as I refreshed myself/applied the myriad terms required in kantei. Yes, I know the warnings with green origami and knew them when I purchased the sword, but it's a minor smith (less chance/cause to forge the papers), was very reasonably priced, I liked the sword itself, and see Goals 2 and 3 above:

 

So, without further ado, here's my first attempt at a Kantei. Rather than re-typing all the measurements/assessments out, please check out the kantei sheet. I absolutely welcome all comments, constructive criticism, or your thoughts. Thank you!

 

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I definitely getting a "sword guy Joe"

vibe here which is very good thing.

Congratulations on your swords and on the path you're about to endeavor, what we need to keep Nihonto going is young blood like yourself!

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6 hours ago, Stephen said:

I definitely getting a "sword guy Joe"

vibe here which is very good thing.

Congratulations on your swords and on the path you're about to endeavor, what we need to keep Nihonto going is young blood like yourself!

I’m not sure who Joe is, but he sounds like a an upstanding gentleman 😉 Thank you for the compliment too. I think my generation could use a bit more looking towards the past than at their iPhones.

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Couple questions. Do you think I got the sori correct? I went with Koshizori instead of Torriizori, because it looks to me like the deepest curve is in the waist/closer to the nakago, but it took some eyeballing for a time.

Next, does anyone have a good reference for Bungo Takeda school? Nagayama's Connoisseur's book has a short description but not too much to go on. I'd like to learn more about my particular smith.

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Dear Michael.

 

Congratulations on your first sword.  First of all a reality check.  Do you seriously think that having purchased a library, travelled to a sword show, bought your first blade and allowed yourself to be photographed studying it intently you are not obsessed?  It's too late, my friend!  You may have to hold back a little with baby on the way but it's never gonnna go away now!

The type of sori is hard to see in most blades in hand, the diagram Stephen linked to will help and so will looking at lots of swords where there is an accurate description.  As this is a Shinto Takada sword torii sori would be expected.

Minor point but it matters, this is a TAKADA sword not Takeda, they are often dismissed as functional not artistic but that is a whole can of worms I'm not getting into.  It does, however, make information a little harder to find.  I hate to add to your library list but if you do not have them might I recommend the volumes Art and the Sword, published by JSS/US?  I'm sure Grey could sort you out with these.  In particular Vol. 4 has a lengthy essay on Kyushu Shinto.  Excellent information and wonderful oshigata, (and just to confound my earlier statement I note that there is a sword by Yukinaga which is described as having shallow koshi sori).

 

Enjoy!

 

All the best.

 

 

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Congratulations on your first sword, you have certainly started in a much better way than most of us did!

Picking up on Geraint's point, Bungo Takada blades tend to be regarded as utilitarian in Japan. I think this is in part because they tended to produce copies on the main line schools rather than in an individual style. However the fact they were able to reproduce so many different styles (Bizen Soshu, Mino etc.) says a lot for their skill. There are many blades around that have been attributed to well known schools and then re-assessed as Takada and vice versa . Enjoy you blade and where the study leads you.

 

 

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 Michael, congratulations on your great start and the way you are going about it. With the purchase of your first sword and a new baby on the way you have just begun to appreciate the beauty of new additions to a family. I am sure you will love them both and enjoy both the new hobby and new family. Thank you for sharing    
  MikeR

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3 hours ago, Geraint said:

Minor point but it matters, this is a TAKADA sword not Takeda

@Geraint, it IS Takada isn't it? It's funny, my eyes must've just glanced over the a and turned it into the e given the famous clan. Thanks also for the book recommendation. Ha ha, my wife and my wallet don't want to admit that you're right on the obsession piece, but evidence suggests.......

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@Stephen, thanks for the measurement website! I think Yumoto's book had the same/similar diagram, so that's what I tried to do. The picture above with the ruler going from the kissaki to the munemachi is my attempt. Felt a little ridiculous going up and down it for twenty minutes looking for the point with the greatest distance, but I do think it's in the waist. Here's some quick photoshopping; I think the point where the curvature starts getting smaller is the orange line.

 

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Sorry about the measurements on the kantei sheet. Relooking, those are a little difficult to read huh? Is this better? I'd re-edit my post but time ran out. Speaking of obsession, is it bad that I've already thought "Gold status is $30/six months? That's a great deal since I've been spending so much time on here!" Who knows ;)

Brief Overall Descrition: Fujiwara Yukinaga Shinto Katana with NBTHK Tokubetsu Kicho Origami

Shirasaya length: 93.5 cm

Overall length: 82.5 cm

Nagasa lengh: 64 cm

Kasane length: 0.7 cm

Mekugiana: 1

Mihaba: 3 cm

Motohaba: 3 cm

Sakihaba: 2 cm

Motokasane: 0.7 cm

Weight: unknown (didn't have a proper scale)

Sugata shape: Shinogi-zukuri

Hada: mokume

Sori: 1.8 cm; Type: Koshizori (but discussion on whether it's torrizori)

Kissaki: chu-kissaki

Mune: Iori

Hamon: chu suguha

Yakiba: Nioi deki (this one was difficult too; I couldn't see any nie, but it's not in brilliant polish, so that may have complicated matters. Can you see anything different on the hada/hamon picture?)

Boshi: Ichi-mai (Again, the polish made this difficult, but it seems like the entire boshi was bright like the hamon. See the picture of the boshi/kissaki above. Do you think I'm right?)

Nakago: Ubu; Futsu-gata

Yasurime: Kattesagari

Bohi: N/A (Is there a term for a sword that doesn't have bo-hi? Online some jokester said "No-Hi" and I'm inclined to go with that unless someone points me to something better :laughing: )
Koshirae: shirasaya

Polish: Modern (I think; another stare at it for a time and make a call)

Period: Shinto

School: Takada

Origami: NBTHK Tokubetsu Kicho from 3 June 1974

Other Information: Bought from Mr. Tony Smith in conjunction with another sword as a bundle deal at the 2021 Token Kai.

 

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Thank you all for your engagement. Honestly, this community adds so much to the study.

Another question. Do you see the odd darker colors on the bottom circumference of the mekugiana? It also appears distinctly on the origami oshigata. It's like someone added back material when they made the hole too wide. That's my assumption, but am I right?

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I am really liking your approach Michael. :thumbsup:

 

Here is the lineage from Markus Seskos index

 

1. YUKINAGA (行長), Tenshō (天正, 1573-1592)

2. YUKINAGA (行長), Keichō (慶長, 1596-1615), Bungo → NAGAYUKI (長行)

3. YUKINAGA (行長), Shōhō (正保, 1644-1648)

4. YUKINAGA (行長), Manji (万治, 1658-1661)

 

Here is the lineage from Bungo book (I have combined this info from various pages of that book so there might be an error by me as I tried to cross reference it too). Unfortunately the Bungo book is in Japanese which makes it difficult for me to read but it is still great resource, even though some info on it might be bit dated as research goes on and more things are uncovered.

 

1. YUKINAGA (行長), Tenshō (天正, 1573-1592) [same as 1. in Seskos]

2. YUKINAGA (行長), Keichō (慶長, 1596-1615) [same as 2. in Seskos]

3. YUKINAGA (行長) (1st gen), Keichō (慶長, 1596-1615) [same as 3. in Seskos] name (弥四郎) Yashirō

4. YUKINAGA (行長) (2nd gen), Kanei (寛永, 1624-1644) name (又左衛門) Matazaemon

4. YUKINAGA (行長) (3rd gen), Kanbun (寛文, 1661-1673) name (佐吉) Sakichi?

 

I think the boshi is in reality bit different but due to poor state of polish in kissaki area it shows that way. Also while minor I think the hada might be more itame than mokume.

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4 hours ago, Jussi Ekholm said:

Here is the lineage from Bungo book (I have combined this info from various pages of that book so there might be an error by me as I tried to cross reference it too). Unfortunately the Bungo book is in Japanese which makes it difficult for me to read but it is still great resource, even though some info on it might be bit dated as research goes on and more things are uncovered.

Thanks so much @Jussi Ekholm!! The sword bag from the dealer lists the smith as 1. YUKINAGA (行長), Tenshō (天正, 1573-1592), but since the kanji on the mei are the same for the different generations, I don't take that to mean a lot. My imagination gets a bit ahead of me though because I'd love to have a sword from the Sengoku Jidai. My brain instantly starts the shenanigans: "Ooh, it probably was carried at Sekigahara," etc. :laughing:

   Did the Bungo book have any oshigata from Yukinaga? If so, would you mind please snapping a photo for here?

   I found taking the photos here very difficult, and I think the sword is in better polish than these photos depict. The hamon is immediately visible, there's that pit that's photographed, a couple darker spots, and the boshi was very difficult to determine. But regardless, I think it's beautiful! I'll pull the sword out and look at the hada again to see if it looks itame.

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17 hours ago, Geraint said:

I recommend the volumes Art and the Sword, published by JSS/US?  I'm sure Grey could sort you out with these.  In particular Vol. 4 has a lengthy essay on Kyushu Shinto.  Excellent information and wonderful oshigata, (and just to confound my earlier statement I note that there is a sword by Yukinaga which is described as having shallow koshi sori).

@Geraint, thank you for this! Of course, @Grey Doffin did sort me out incredibly quickly and for a very reasonable price, which seems to be his norm: excellence every time. I'm excited to read these essays!

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I think there are 11 different swords for Yukinaga spread throughout the Bungo book as an oshigata. The unfortunate thing is that none of them are of the late Muromachi era smith. The pictures of the book are not the best as they might already be scans or photocopies from the 70's. I can try to take a picture of one that might be the closest for yours that will show in photo at least somewhat.

 

There are also 3 dated items in the book, katana 1600, katana 1608 and naginata 1611. I would assume these would be by Yashirō (1st gen) but unfortunately no info on these pages.

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