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My first nihonto purchase


Lewis B

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Found this sword at the Japan Art Expo. Attributed to Yamato Shikkake with Sayagaki by Tanobe. Approx 70.6cm Nagasa, 3.03 Motohaba, 2.2 Sakihaba

I won't have the sword in hand to take more detailed pics of the blade or nakago but these are a couple of screenshots from the video I shot.

Hopefully I made a good choice and happy to receive your thoughts. 

 

boshi.png

Shikkake.jpg

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I think its a good sword. Shikkake is overall a good school, jigane is nice, utsuri is nice. Hamon is not too active but also the light angle is kind of difficult (i.e. wrong) for this type of work - its best to photograph shikkake hamon in "white light", i.e. light source directly above the blade. It shows whether nie is fine grained, coarse, how long are nijuba lines etc.

 

P.S. I think I know this blade. It was sold at auction in Japan about three years ago.

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13 minutes ago, Rivkin said:

I think its a good sword. Shikkake is overall a good school, jigane is nice, utsuri is nice. Hamon is not too active but also the light angle is kind of difficult (i.e. wrong) for this type of work - its best to photograph shikkake hamon in "white light", i.e. light source directly above the blade. It shows whether nie is fine grained, coarse, how long are nijuba lines etc.

 

P.S. I think I know this blade. It was sold at auction in Japan about three years ago.

Thanks. I appreciate the comments. The videography was less than ideal. And the lighting also quite poor. You're right the hamon is not the most active although it is possible to see sunagashi and short kinsuji in real life. 

This could be that sword. The papers are over 3 years old. It has 3 mekugi-ana and the nakaga is really clean with a nice even black yokan-iro. 

Tanobe gave it a positive sayagaki and told the dealer it had a good chance of passing Juyo (for what that is worth).

 

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52 minutes ago, Jacques D. said:

For what i can see hada is typical for Shikkake ha : itame near the shinogi and masame near the nioiguchi (the whole being slightly hadadachi). No utsuri in this school.

So if I interpret your comment, with all other aspects being correct for the school, the utsuri is likely 'enhanced' as there are examples with that feature (see below) and will largely disappear the next time its polished? Andrew I. brought this subject up a couple of years ago saying swords were appearing with chemically applied utsuri. Being a surface treatment, they will disappear when the blade is polished as real utsuri extends deeper into the structure of the blade. Tanobe's reaction I would have expected to be less than complimentary as he would certainly have recognized this inconsistency within the school.

If thats the case here then its not too concerning as the rest of the blade is in nice condition and without kizu. 

 

Although utsuri has been described in late Kamakura Shikkake blades like this Juyo papered one as well as several others. 

https://www.aoijapan...kkake-yamato-school/

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1 hour ago, Lewis B said:

Tanobe gave it a positive sayagaki and told the dealer it had a good chance of passing Juyo (for what that is worth).

 

Its hard to argue against such assessment but generally the current shinsa atmosphere is hard and shikkake is both not a famous school, i.e. the attribution does not advance Juyo chances, but its also highly competitive. They did good work and very seldom one encounters mass items like with Tegai. In 1970s this would be easily a Juyo.

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Looks like a good blade from the photos

 

Re: Juyo, good length and if the pics are representative of the rest of the blade, worthwhile submitting at least but as stated above the bar seems quite high of late. Usually only one or two Shikkake pass each year (more likely if attributed to a smith like Norinaga)

 

 

 

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Greetings,

 

Utsuri, ok. Please tell us exactly what kind of utsuri we're supposed to be seeing here? I see a light colored haze below the shinogi, but I'm not ready to call that utsuri. 

 

Regards

 

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46 minutes ago, Franco D said:

Greetings,

 

Utsuri, ok. Please tell us exactly what kind of utsuri we're supposed to be seeing here? I see a light colored haze below the shinogi, but I'm not ready to call that utsuri. 

 

Regards

 

I agree, there is some further investigation needed here. The dealer called it utsuri (and it does have some characteristics such as the fading in and out depending on the light and angle of viewing) but to my eye its just too intense, especially as I now know, for Shikkake. I read Markus Sesko's treatise on utsuri and I will use this a basis for further investigation. I don't think it was the chemically applied as a means to deceive as the jihada stands on its own. The togishi I showed the video to suggested the polish might have accentuated this effect, so further study is necessary and to provide a plausible explanation.

The jihada in the screenshot is representative of the entire blade and its consistency is what caught my immediate attention. There were no ware that I could detect unlike the 'good in parts' Ko Uda I inspected. 

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10 hours ago, Lewis B said:

So if I interpret your comment, with all other aspects being correct for the school, the utsuri is likely 'enhanced' as there are examples with that feature (see below) and will largely disappear the next time its polished? Andrew I. brought this subject up a couple of years ago saying swords were appearing with chemically applied utsuri. Being a surface treatment, they will disappear when the blade is polished as real utsuri extends deeper into the structure of the blade. Tanobe's reaction I would have expected to be less than complimentary as he would certainly have recognized this inconsistency within the school.

If thats the case here then its not too concerning as the rest of the blade is in nice condition and without kizu. 

 

Although utsuri has been described in late Kamakura Shikkake blades like this Juyo papered one as well as several others. 

https://www.aoijapan...kkake-yamato-school/

Shikkake School never produced utsuri it's a mistake in the description (usual for this site)

here a list of schools which produced utsuri

 

NIE UTSURI
Awataguchi
Rai
Taima
Hôjôji

SHIRAKE UTSURI
Kanabo
Sengo (faible)
Shiga (Yamada Seki)
Akasaka Senjuin
Zenjo
Seki Kanemoto
Seki Kanesada
Hachiya
Kanefusa
Kanetsune
Gassan
Fujishima
Uda
Motoshige
Omiya (faible)
Kongobei
Miike
Yukihira
Takada
Naminohira

JIFU UTSURI
Ohara
Ukai

MIDARE et CHOJI UTSURI
Ko Bizen
Ichimonji
Osafune
Yoshii
Hatakeda
Wake no Sho, Nitta no Shô

BO UTSURI
Osafune
Aoe, en Nanbokuchô avec quelques éléments midare
Yasuyoshi (Sa)
Mihara

DAN UTSURI
Niô

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Looks like classic shirake utsuri.

Yes, unusual for the school but definitely not unknown. Generally in Yamato utsuri is not too common and if present it tends to be Senjuin, Hosho or at least Tegai. For  Shikkake and to some extent Taima shirake utsuri by itself can throw kantei to things like Uda or Hokke but the blade here has strong mainline Yamato feel.

 

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10 hours ago, Rivkin said:

Looks like classic shirake utsuri.

Yes, unusual for the school but definitely not unknown. Generally in Yamato utsuri is not too common and if present it tends to be Senjuin, Hosho or at least Tegai. For  Shikkake and to some extent Taima shirake utsuri by itself can throw kantei to things like Uda or Hokke but the blade here has strong mainline Yamato feel.

 

Beginning to agree with your assessment. I found this Shikkake with an almost identical whitish area under the shinogi, albeit a little less intense. 

https://www.invaluab...ana-195-c-10840c2ab4

white shadow.jpg

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Some nihonto are described as having "shirake like effects." But to go so far as calling these "effects" "shirake utsuri" is another matter.  

 

When evaluating features of a sword as part of determining quality (quality being the 2nd step in kantei according to Sato) a number of questions should come to mind.

Is this feature intentional?

Is this feature incidental?

Is this feature accidental?

Is this feature cosmetic?

 

 

https://markussesko....i-2-jigane-jihada-3/

 

Regards

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Here is a video I took showing both sides of the blade. The jihada is representatively shown, only the hataraki in the hamon is less obvious. I will post a pic of the nakago next week. 

 

 

 

Extract from the 

Real-Life Kantei of swords #17, Yamato Swords

W.B. Tanner and F.A.B. Coutinho

 

In doing a quick view of Yamato blades found in the NBTHK Kantei books, we found several that had utsuri. Also, in Sensei Tanobe NBTHK Special report A Journey to the GoKaden section on the Yamato Schools he states, Works from before the Nambokucho period have frequently clearly visible nie-utsuri whereas blades from the Muromachi period show rather a shirake-utsuri. (Tanobe- Part 1: The Five Schools of Yamato (Senjuin, Taima, Tegai) page 4) What should be noted is that Yamato blades have nie-utsuri, rather than the utsuri commonly found in Bizen blades. This fact is easily understood when you consider that Yamato blades are hardened in nie-deki and are known for their very fine and powerful nie structures, ranked above Yamashiro, but below Soshu Schools.(Tanobe- Part 1:The Five Schools of Yamato(Senjuin, Taima, Tegai) page 4) Bizen blades, on the other hand, are hardened in nioi-deki, therefore their utsuri structures are different than Yamato blades.

When looking at Yamato utsuri, it is often weaker in appearance than the typical Bizen utsuri and can easily be mistaken for frosting on the blade. (very fine ko-nie scattered above the hamon line) Whether this is identified as nie-utsuri, or frosting is subject to the opinion of the viewer, but it is clearly a feature found in finer Yamato blades. Also, in some cases we have seen Yamato attributed swords that have shirake-utsuri identified on the blade. We are not sure if this a weaker form of nie-utsuri, but in any case, it will be comprised of fine ko-nie particles. We believe the main difference between the scattered ko-nie being frosting or nie-utsuri is if there is a defined line of dark hardened steel (antai) between the hamon and nie particles that delineates it as being a line of utsuri rather than frosting on the blade. Regarding the purpose of this layer of nie-utsuri, Sesko argues that it provides an outer layer of hardening (but not too hard) that improves the torsional rigidity of the blade. (Sesko (2013)  Markus Sesko, SOME THOUGHTS ON UTSURI)

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Could we please see images of the entire sword?

 

Thank you.

 

Regards

 

p.s. after viewing this video over and over it reminds me of only one other sword I've seen, a tanto.

 

 

 

 

 

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26 minutes ago, Franco D said:

Could we please see images of the entire sword?

 

Thank you.

 

Regards

 

p.s. after viewing this video over and over it reminds me of only one other sword I've seen, a tanto, which wasn't a Yamato Shikake blade.

Yes definitely. As soon as I collect it from a dealer in Utrecht on Saturday I'll post pics showing the sugata. Please let me know if you remember the attribution of the Tanto. The TH papers clearly attribute the sword to Shikkake as does Tanobe's sayagaki. The jihada and sugata are VERY similar to some other (not all) Shikkake blades including Juyo ones I've seen online. I think this sword will be a very interesting subject for further study. 

 

 

32 minutes ago, GeorgeLuucas said:

Color me jealous...

 

Lovely sword Lewis! It checks many of my personal boxes. Thank you for sharing! 

Cheers,
-Sam

Thanks Sam. I immediately appreciated its quality as soon as I set eyes on it. I would be lying if I said Tanobe's positive response to the blade didn't influence the decision to purchase it to start me on my nihonto collecting journey.

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3 hours ago, Lewis B said:

In doing a quick view of Yamato blades found in the NBTHK Kantei books, we found several that had utsuri. Also, in Sensei Tanobe NBTHK Special report A Journey to the GoKaden section on the Yamato Schools he states, Works from before the Nambokucho period have frequently clearly visible nie-utsuri whereas blades from the Muromachi period show rather a shirake-utsuri. (Tanobe- Part 1: The Five Schools of Yamato (Senjuin, Taima, Tegai) page 4) What should be noted is that Yamato blades have nie-utsuri, rather than the utsuri commonly found in Bizen blades. This fact is easily understood when you consider that Yamato blades are hardened in nie-deki and are known for their very fine and powerful nie structures, ranked above Yamashiro, but below Soshu Schools.(Tanobe- Part 1:The Five Schools of Yamato(Senjuin, Taima, Tegai) page 4) Bizen blades, on the other hand, are hardened in nioi-deki, therefore their utsuri structures are different than Yamato blades.

When looking at Yamato utsuri, it is often weaker in appearance than the typical Bizen utsuri and can easily be mistaken for frosting on the blade. (very fine ko-nie scattered above the hamon line) Whether this is identified as nie-utsuri, or frosting is subject to the opinion of the viewer, but it is clearly a feature found in finer Yamato blades. Also, in some cases we have seen Yamato attributed swords that have shirake-utsuri identified on the blade. We are not sure if this a weaker form of nie-utsuri, but in any case, it will be comprised of fine ko-nie particles. We believe the main difference between the scattered ko-nie being frosting or nie-utsuri is if there is a defined line of dark hardened steel (antai) between the hamon and nie particles that delineates it as being a line of utsuri rather than frosting on the blade. Regarding the purpose of this layer of nie-utsuri, Sesko argues that it provides an outer layer of hardening (but not too hard) that improves the torsional rigidity of the blade. (Sesko (2013)  Markus Sesko, SOME THOUGHTS ON UTSURI)

 

I think they are discussing the "common thing", which is nie-utsuri found on better Taima and Senjuin or somewhat faint shirake utsuri on Tegai.

I have not seen shikkake with a well defined nie utsuri (?), but there are examples of papered shikkake blades with shirake utsuri. one can search (shikkake or norinaga, utsuri) in english or Japanese, almost every large dealer's site has some. It can be they all don't know what they see or someone else is pushing his school's peculiar definition of utsuri. Such things do happen. 

Its still uncommon, but there is arguably a better example at AOI used in their kantei session.

 

Utsuri by itself very seldom disproves or proves kantei, we don't have a perfect grasp why the same smith working in the same style would generally have a preference for specific utsuri (there are correlations with hada etc.), but even when his preferences are well established, exceptions would be known. One seldom disqualifies Rai blade only because it has no utsuri or it looks a bit wrong.

Kantei to shikkake is usually very solid. Its the only school, for example, for small periodic gunome in nie deki with nijuba. Generally at least somewhat periodic gunome is required, size and midare qualities can vary.

Unfortunately the polish is heavy on hadori so figuring this one from photo is difficult to say the least.

 

It can be backed by a distinctive hada with dense masame above the ha (as many Yamato and Soshu), then large burls whose other end touches the shinogi.

 

The key: We don't really know what was the exact thinking in making utsuri. We don't know the decision process why some blades with the same hada and school have utsuri, others don't and probably never had.

 

P.S. Its not the blade I've seen - the other one had very well defined gunome. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Lewis B said:

Extract from the 

Real-Life Kantei of swords #17, Yamato Swords

W.B. Tanner and F.A.B. Coutinho

 

Very helpful, although, it still leaves certain questions unanswered while raising other questions, thank you for posting.

 

Regards

 

 

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12 minutes ago, Franco D said:

 

Very helpful, although, it still leaves certain questions unanswered while raising other questions, thank you for posting.

 

Regards

 

 

Yes definitely. 

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1 hour ago, Lewis B said:

Please let me know if you remember the origin of the tanto.

  

The tanto was attributed to Ko Uda. This blade was excellent and unlike any other Ko Uda I've ever seen.

 

1 hour ago, Lewis B said:

The TH papers clearly attribute the sword to Shikkake as does Tanobe's sayagaki.

 

:beer: 

 

Regards

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Sorry, if I hijack the thread. I thought dark area was the utsuri... Reading Marcus Sesko thought on utsuri he has a picture calling the "dark area" antai. The utsuri starts above the antai.

 

I include also a photo of one of my blades.

 

Is this correct?

received_436052119286314.jpeg

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21 minutes ago, BjornLundin said:

Sorry, if I hijack the thread. I thought dark area was the utsuri... Reading Marcus Sesko thought on utsuri he has a picture calling the "dark area" antai. The utsuri starts above the antai.

 

I include also a photo of one of my blades.

 

Is this correct?

received_436052119286314.jpeg

 

Utsuri: light coloured. Antai (space between habuchi and utsuri): dark

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Antai is a very thin dark line, a border, which runs just above the hamon/habuchi. In fact it outlines the hamon/habuchi.  It is only millimeters wide, 1 to 1.5, perhaps 2 mm at most. Utsuri begins above the Antai.

 

10 hours ago, BjornLundin said:

I include also a photo of one of my blades.

 

received_436052119286314.thumb.jpeg.40dfd2ee1a3ec5dea60716b2b1342c0f.jpg.113d80fad56ccd75f8008c1fa54a4b7b.jpg

 

I do not see utsuri in the image above.  Yamanaka describes one type of utsuri, the name (???) slips my mind at this time, where tired over polished steal on nihonto can be mistaken for utsuri. 

 

Regards

 

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16 minutes ago, Lewis B said:

So I now have the blade at home and can look over it with a more critical eye under different light sources. The pseudo 'utsuri' is the feature that really stands out and is hard to pin down. Certainly not a Shikkake feature from what I've been able to determine. Looking at some blades from contemporary makers I keep coming across one in particular that shows this foggy shadow under the shinogi-ji. Does anyone feel that Yamato Shizu could be a contender? The boshi on this Juyo blade is almost a twin to that on the Shikkake. The Hada is also very similar but the Hamon is a little more undulating, at least this that section, although some Yamato Shizu are straighter overall. Motohaba, sakihaba, Sori and kissaki are almost a match too. Thoughts?

Nagasa: 70.6cm 
Motohaba: 3.03cm 
Motokasane: 6.8mm 
Sakihaba: 2.2cm 
Sakikasane: 4.8mm
16 minutes ago, Lewis B said:

 

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