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Two characters on tang


TomBell
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I found a 98 gunto (?) at an estate sale.  After reading posts on this forum I think this was worn by a civilian employed by the Army. There is no tassel and there is no ring for one on the small plain kashira.  I doubt that the blade is hand forged but it is dirty and I am not absolutely sure.  There are two mounting holes on the tang but the handle only had one makugi and no other holes for another one.  Could this be due to a production blade that left an option for a second makugi that was just not utilized?  The blade length is 69 cm and it is sharpened to the ha-machi.  The saya is leather over wood with an unusual fine diagonal black grain.  It has clearly been through the bush based on the gradient of scuffing from kojiri to koigichi.  The ito has darkened areas and wear around the sitesone would grip it.  There are two menuki, one is a fat smiling Buddha sipping from a large bowl and the other is not so clear though there is a simple sun in the middle.  The tsuba appears to be brass with identical ocean waves on front and back. I am looking for the deceased owner's service record to see if he actually fought in the Pacific and where.  I think this is the real deal based on very authentic artifacts of various sorts in the estate sale.

 

Here is a photo of the tang and a photoshopped enhancement of the markings.  I would very grateful if someone can help with their identification.

sword.jpg

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Tom, more photos would be helpful. Seems clearly to be an older blade. Not a WWII-era 20th century showato/arsenal sword. The mei appears to be ___tsugu. I cannot read the first character. Please add additional photos here for reference. As an older blade, additional mekugi-ana not present in the handle are not surprising. 

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Thanks to each of you.  I will have a full set of pictures after daylight tomorrow. 

 

I think you will share my skepticism that this is an ancient blade when you see the pictures.  I think polishing the blade might help clear up whether it is hand made or not.  I would not dare try this myself but who can do such a thing in the US?  I will contact the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston tomorrow and seek advice.  I welcome any suggestions from this forum.

 

My wife's colleague Prof Shigeru Miyagawa has just responded to our inquiry "The characters are highly stylized and I could not make out the first one. It appears to be the name of the maker. I checked some references and nothing turned up" which is consistent with Ray's response.  We will ask how he interprets the second character(s) since he did not mention it (them).

 

Tom

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Just an opinion, but this is almost certainly pre-war. The second hole is because it was remounted at least once with a new handle. Consistent with tens of thousands of swords pressed into service for the war effort.
Btw, the members here are far more likely to be able to read sword tangs than a native speaker for various reasons.

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Hi Tom,

You would be very smart if you went slow on this; don't be in a hurry to get it to an "expert" who will polish it for $200 and tell you what you have. Nothing wrong with Boston MFA but, since Mr. Ogawa no longer works there, hard to know who you'll end up with and what knowledge he might have. As Brian said, wait for one of the members here to read the signature and then take time to learn a lot about Japanese swords before you do anything with this one.

Here is a care and handling brochure you should read:

https://nbthk-ab2.org/sword-characteristics/

Cheers,  Grey

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Thanks to all of you for sound advice and your efforts to identify the mei.  Grey, I agree completely that nothing should be disturbed on this sword until more information has been gathered and a qualified person has been found to polish it if at all.

 

I have attached some photos.  I don't have a light stand so the composite of the blade is crude but I think you can zoom in to various sections and see some detail.

full-sword.jpg

handle.jpg

tang.jpg

hardware.jpg

blade.jpg

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Dear Tom.

 

Well this is certainly more than a standard WWII sword.  From your photographs it is a civilian mounted sword, which conforms to what ray and Brian suggested.  It has been equipped with a combat cover for use in the war.

You have obviously done some research as you mention that the blade is sharpened to the ha machi, this would be the case because the blade is machi okuri, i.e. the notches have been moved up the blade to shorten it somewhat without changing the overall shape of the nakago.  What this does confirm is that the blade is traditionally made and not a Showato.  Grey's advice comes into play here, go slow and ask before doing anything.

 

At the moment you have an out of polish civil sword with a combat cover.  By the way it also has a nice niju habaki.  If and when you decide that you want to go for proper polish then please ask again, an amateur polish can easily ruin a sword and members here will be able to steer you in the right direction.

 

I find the tuba interesting but some more photographs might help us with that one.

 

All the best and above all enjoy the journey!

 

 

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I found this character  which seems to mean hill but I can't find a Japanese name that is linked to itIf you take into account that all of the characters are stylized, it looks like a plausible match.  If the second character is  次 I think you could make the phrase next hill or second hill.  When combined, it yielded this

 

 

Readings
Common reading:
りく   Riku   (male given name)
Additional readings:
あつし   Atsushi   (unclassified given name)
おか   Oka   (surname)
おく   Oku   (unclassified person name)
くが   Kuga   (surname)
たかし   Takashi   (unclassified person name)
のぼる   Noboru   (unclassified person name)
る   Ru   (surname)
Edited by TomBell
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⻖ is actually a component, or a part of a kanji. It isn't used by itself. (You can see it at work in kanji like 阪 or 陸, etc...). 

 

The two kanji inscribed on the tang in this thread are more complicated and are written in calligraphic style (aka "grass script"). It's a highly simplified way of writing kanji, that, unfortunately, abreviates them so much that it's often hard to decipher them unless you are very experienced. 

I thought the second one might be 定 (sada) which is a very common kanji used by swordsmiths. Morisada (守定) is a possibility. I also considered 次 and 沢...but in the end I didn't have confidence in any of these, including 定. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks Steve, 

 

The second character of the mei on my sword is a little smoother than the last character on the Shinkai mei but they are similar enough to be a convincing match.  I found this section of Wada and Massey's article particularly enlightening with regard to use of Sosho assuming Yoshida is correct.  I wonder if my sword was made by an apprentice or journeyman.

 

According to Yoshida, Shinkai Kunisada started daimei for his father in the second year of Shoho (1645) with a sosho mei ("grass" or running/cursive style mei) ( Fig.4, 5) . Yoshida said that the reason for starting with a sosho mei may be as follows: Since this daimei was still unofficial, Oya Kunisada did not want Shinkai Kunisada to put the same kaisho-mei (normal or "block letter" style mei), written by an obviously different hand, on the daimei products. Because sosho mei was new, nobody would immediately notice that this was daimei. This may be a reasonable guess.

 

Now if I could find a match for the first one.  I am speculating that the first character is 邘 (the radical⻏ looks about right) and if the second character is 貞, can this be translated to Kunisada?

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No, I'm afraid the first one is a long way off from Kuni (国 or any of its variants). Also, the various signatures of Kunisada (father and son) are well known, and none of them are like this one. 

 

I really think we're looking at an 19th century smith - Moritsugu, Morisada, Morisada (守次、守定、守貞), or some other name. 

Looks like a good candidate for shinsa, however, and that would hopefully clarify things. 

 

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If this helps, here is a side by side comparison of the last two characters on the sword Peter shows above and my sword.  The first characters look very different but the last character looks pretty similar to my untrained eye. 

 

sosho_mei.jpg.b722289a70a46ef62e57912369facc3e.jpg

 

I am not suggesting these were done by the same person, only that the last sosho characters look similar.  The last two characters on the sosho mei (http://www.nihontocraft.com/Izumi_no_Kami_Kunisada_mei.html figure 4) have more than a passing resemblance to the other three swords.  If so, is it  more likely to be sada than sugu or tsugu?

 

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