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My First Kantei Post #2/2: Mumei "Kanemune" Katana


MichaelSeeley
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I. Introduction
This is the second of two posts of my first attempts at doing kantei. I purchased two katana at the recent San Francisco Token Kai. I laid out my goals for the show and the results of my first kantei here:


   In addition to the sword above, for a small amount more, the dealer added a mumei katana in somewhat tired polish. However, this sword was not in such bad polish that I couldn't learn from it. In fact, its hamon is clearly visible, and the attributes are different from my first sword. As a result, I found it well worth my money to add another in-hand studying piece. Here's the two side by side:

 

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In addition, this sword provided an intriguing sayagaki. The dealer did not know if the sayagaki matched the actual sword in the shirasaya, and I priced it accordingly. The sayagaki describes the sword's nagasa as being 66.5 cm and attributes it to Kashū Kanemune saku (加州兼宗作).

 

More discussion on the sayagaki in Section V below.

II. My Kantei

 

Brief Overall Description: Mumei Katana with "Kanemune" Sayagaki

Shirasaya length: 93 cm

Overall length: 74.8 cm

Nagasa lengh: 61.4 cm

Kasane length: 0.7 cm

Mekugiana: 2

Mihaba: 2.7 cm

Motohaba: 2.8 cm

Sakihaba: 1.9 cm

Motokasane: 0.7 cm

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

Sugata shape: Shinogi-zukuri

Hada: itame mixed with mokume

Sori: 2.0 cm; Type: Torrizori

Kissaki: Chu-kissaki

Mune: Iori

Hamon: Midare/Notare: O-Notare near hamachi but transitions to gunome midare near kissaki

Yakiba: Nioi with Nie

Boshi: Ko-maru Sagari

Nakago: Suriage; Futsu-gata with Ha-agari Kuri-juri tip

Yasurime: Kattesagari

Bohi: N/A
Koshirae: shirasaya

Polish: Original/Old

Period: I'm at a loss. Listed as late Koto/early Shinto.

School: I'm at a loss.

Origami: N/A

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

 

III. Photos

 

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Although the ruler is extended from kissaki to past the nakago, because I had troubles holding the measuring tape in alignment with the sword. The number I recorded was a proper nagasa measurement (kissaki to munemachi and not measuring the nakago).

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The deepest curvature of the sori (same here on it being measured only by the nagasa despite the ruler extending past the nakago):

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Note the following two pictures in regards to discussion on the sayagaki below. It's the lower mekugiana that fits this shirasaya, and the fitting isn't perfectly snug:

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2 mekugiana and suriage:

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Crude drawing of measurements of nakago:

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Iori mune:

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Hamon starts as o-notare with a mix of itame and mokume hada:

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But the hamon transitions to gunome midare near kissaki

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Ko-maru Sagari boshi

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Quite small Chu-Kissaki. Pencil for scale

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IV. School

So, now we get the actual heart of the matter. What do I actually have here? Having measured it and looked through Nagayama's "Connoisseur's" for a time, I figured it'd be better to post here and open this for discussion. If this is a super easy one, please don't laugh. I'm doing my best to learn :) But what time period do people think I have, and what school? Here's my best guesses:

 

School: Shinto Soshu school based off Nagayama's "Connoisseur's" page 231, but frankly, I'm absolutely guessing. Maybe Kashu (see below)?

Time-period: Early Edo (1644-1687) because it's shinogi-zukuri, shallow sori, chu-kissaki, narrow sakihaba, and the although the standard nagasa length is listed about 70 cm and this sword is 61.4, it's suriage.

 

V. Sayagaki
Next, onto the sayagaki. I noted the couple photos above. From the outset, there's a couple issues. First, I couldn't find a Kachu smith by the name of Kanemune. If someone would look at page 145 of Markus Sesko's A-M Index for a Kachu Kanemune, you'd be a lifesaver. Right now, I can't justify spending another $90 on books, as I just bought a bunch of books (and these two swords); I'll probably get his e-book Index later this fall. That's strike one.

Strike two is the fit of the shirasaya. You see from one of the photos above that the blade at the habaki is a little loose, perhaps a millimeter but still not perfect.

 

Perhaps the greatest problem is the nagasa measurement. The sayagaki says it should be 66.5 cm. However, the sword itself is 61.4 cm. But, I did wonder if that has to do with it being suriage. In the shirasaya, it sits in the lower mekugiana, and that is 2.4 cm lower than the upper mekugiana. I'm not sure how much (if any) of the nagasa is lost when shortened (I know it's shortened from the nakago), but perhaps the blade was 66.5 cm and is now not long enough.

 

Something in its favor however, is that it's got most of the wickets hit for a Kashu school sword (see Nagayama's "Connoisseur's" page 245-246). It has:

  • the chu-kissaki and standard tapering mihaba,
  • mokume-hada (I think),
  • o-notare midare and o-gunome midare with wide hamon;
  • Ko-maru boshi
  • a kuri-jiri nakago
  • katte sagari yasurime

 

So, what do you think? Do I have a Kanemune sword that's mumei (either originally or as a result of suriage)? Or has someone attempted to bamboozle me with a nice sayagaki on my shirasaya? As I said, I negotiated the price and bought it thinking it was intriguing but likely not matching the sword given the dealer's hesitancy.

 

VI. Conclusion

I'm very proud of the work I did here and with my other kantei. These were the first Nihonto that I've held in my hands at home, and I used my resources and documented them well using the full Kantei sheet. That's not at all to say I think I did perfectly or even well; I'm positive I made multiple mistakes. But I'm proud that I didn't plop two pictures of the two swords on this forum and ask to be spoon-fed information.

As for spending the money on these swords which may not be perfect, everyone has an opinion on how/if another person should spend their money on particular swords. For me, I spent half my budget, accomplished my listed goals, have incredible enjoyment out of these, and will care for them while they're in my ownership. Hats off to everyone else for their own opinions, but I'm pleased as punch with mine.

 

Thank you for your time in reading, your guidance, and in commenting and adding to the discussion.

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Hey there Michael,

 

Regardless as to what you spent, if you are happy with them, then you did well, it matters not what others think.

 

The semi mystery mumei katana looks fun to me, I think you will end up learning more from that sword, than you will from the fully documented one.

 

I'm personally way too green at this hobby to comment, just wish I would have been able to get into this obsession when I was your age.

 

Best of luck, and most importantly, ENJOY!

 

Mark

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Dear Michael.

 

As always it is you who have the sword in hand and we are working from photographs.  Here are two points to consider.

You are adamant that the sword is suriage but why?  One image we don't have is of the nakago without the habaki but from what we see here suriage is not evident to my eye.

Your diagram of the sori measurement still has the tape running from nakago jiri to kissaki whereas it should run from the mune machi to kissaki, as per Stephen's post on your other sword.  Would that change things?

 

As regards the fit in the shirasaya, does the nakago fit well apart from the small gap?  In your image of the whole shirasaya both parts seem to align well, if this is the case wit the blade in place then it is most likely the right shirasaya.  The habaki appears to fit the blade well but sometimes the habaki can become a little damaged where it fits the machi, bruised a little, and this can result in the ort of gap you illustrate.

 

Just as an aside, Shinto Kashu swords tend to have a distinctive nakago jiri, have you come across this yet?

 

Keep up the good work and enjoy the journey!

All the best.

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Hi Michael,

Here's an example of the Kaga nakago jiri that Geraint mentioned. This may be a silly question, but have you found any other examples of blades by this smith either on the internet or in reference books? He doesn't get a mention in Hawley's and nothing pops up in a Google search for me - that may mean something or nothing but having a verified example to compare with yours would help with identification.

IMG_0922.JPG

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3 hours ago, Shugyosha said:

Hi Michael,

Here's an example of the Kaga nakago jiri that Geraint mentioned. This may be a silly question, but have you found any other examples of blades by this smith either on the internet or in reference books? He doesn't get a mention in Hawley's and nothing pops up in a Google search for me - that may mean something or nothing but having a verified example to compare with yours would help with identification.

@Shugyosha and @Geraint, thank you for the reply and discussion on Kaga nakago jiri. I had seen discussion of that while researching and just forgot to include. That's another strike here.

As to the smith, personally, I have doubts that he exists. I did the same on Google for awhile, and the online databases. If either of you has Sesko's Index A-M, the entry would be on page 145. Google books preview, Murphy's Law, of course you get all the pages right around there but not that particular one.

@Stephen I also got a private message about the nagasa and sori measurement, so I realize the photo must be misleading. I measured correctly, just have the measuring tape going past the nakago. I found it difficult to hold the tape and the sword, so I extended and locked the tape past the nakago and then just wrote down the proper nagasa measurement.

Regarding habaki - I couldn't get it off and didn't want to damage either, so I left it in place and did the best I could. There's a margin of error on motohaba and motokasane, but I think I compensated okay for the habaki in place and think I made the right call in not trying to force it off (left the hammer in the toolbox :laughing: )

 

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6 hours ago, Geraint said:

You are adamant that the sword is suriage but why?  One image we don't have is of the nakago without the habaki but from what we see here suriage is not evident to my eye.

 

As regards the fit in the shirasaya, does the nakago fit well apart from the small gap?  In your image of the whole shirasaya both parts seem to align well, if this is the case wit the blade in place then it is most likely the right shirasaya.  The habaki appears to fit the blade well but sometimes the habaki can become a little damaged where it fits the machi, bruised a little, and this can result in the ort of gap you illustrate.


Hmm, interesting. The dealer told me it was suriage, so that could be confirmation bias on my part. That said, the judgement came from the fact that there's two mekugiana, and the nakago feels stubby. It's small enough that you almost can't get a full fist around it. Given the length of the sword, that seems off. Lastly, the sugata shape seemed like it was missing a bit of its curvature. Could you please say a bit more on why you think it's ubu?

Other than that gap, the nakago in the shirasaya feels perfect. Maybe that's not a strike after all.

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Rather wide sugu boshi and the fact that the curvature is nearly identical to your Takada. Kambun Yukinaga I would argue was a significant smith, your Takada maybe a bit earlier, and it is Yamato styled (no mokume, masame), which is the least quality version of Yukinaga's work (their best are Rai-styled or very seldom Soshu imitations).

This one I would guess shinto, Joji (1640). Its acid etched. The style of work is very common nie Mino-ish inspired shinto work. In this polish I don't think its possible to go further.

 

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