'Bizen no Kuni Ju Osafune' Uchigatana

This is a elegant Buke mounted Katana which has been attributed to the Sukesada group of smiths.
The prefix of the Mei (BIZEN no KUNI JU OSAFUNE) would put this piece to Sue-Bizen. The 2006 NTHK Shinsa estimated that the characteristics of this Katana are comparable to the style of Nagamitsu, son of Mitsutada the founder of the Osafune school. After many months of study, it is my opinion that the workmanship in this blade is that of Sukesada, a student of Tadamitsu school. The Sugata is shinogi-zukuri with iori-mune and a chu-kissaki. The Jihada is ko-itame with thick ji-nie and utsuri appears. The Hamon is choji-midare in nioi-deki accompanied with many ashi and sunagashi. The Boshi runs off the edge in the kissaki. The earlier Sue-Koto blades of circa Meio to Eisho (1492-1521) were average length of around two shaku, one sun. This was due to the increased pace of fighting.
Early history tells of heavy armor being used and when sword (with Obusa-Choji or Juka-Choji) Ha and Ikubi-Kissaki got trapped, the blade and/or tip became broken. There was not enough tip for repair. The Mongolian invasions influenced Hamon, Obusa-Choji and Juka-Choji gave way to Choji-ha based on Sugu-ha or Kataochi-gunome. Reason being blades with very wide Ha are easy to break. The Ha is harder than the rest of the blade and if it is the majority of the sword, it will not absorb shock and becomes easy to break. Another consideration would be the ending point of the Hi (grooves), this left room for repair should tip become damaged. From the appearance of this fine sword (kissaki repair and suriage), it is my opinion that one of the many Sukesada smiths made this katana.
The katana was later (1560) altered/repaired into a uchigatana due to breakage of the tip. The same Sukesada smith was able to return this piece to its samurai owner during the Sengoku wars. Ground fighting became the norm, armor became lighter, and the Uchigatana and Katate-uchi (quick-draw swords) became popular. A good example would be, during the 3rd year of Eiroku (1560), the Imagawa were defeated by Oda Nobunaga and the Takada and Uesugi were battling at Kawanakajima.

Harima, Mimasaka and Bizen provinces were prospering under the protection of the Akamatsu family. Above all, Bizen province turned out a great many talented swordsmiths. A large number of swords were made there in the late Muromachi period not only supplying the demand of the Age of Provincial Wars in Japan but also as an important exporting item to the Ming dynasty in China.

For further consideration in the determination of the smith for this piece, I viewed the following:
Nagamitsu Tachi and Genbei Sukesada Katana.

Biography of NAGAMITSU


It should be pointed out that the Boshi runs off
the edge in the Kissaki due to breakage and repair prior to the 1600's.

This sword is very much a historical piece with original
papers by Inami Hakusui. Inami wrote the first English language book
on Nihonto (it was published during the occupation of Japan).
The book is titled NIPPON-TO: The Japanese Sword
(see my 'Books For Sale' gallery).
Hakusui papered this Katana to a Shinto Sukesada. However, based
on past and current knowledge, the prefix 'Bizen Kuni Ju Osafune'
was used only by Sue-Bizen (Koto) smiths, including Sukesada.


Sword polished in 2005


The sword is mounted in old Buke period koshirae.
Historically, black Saya was favored by Samurai
on swords ( "duty weapon" ) during the time of war.
The Habaki is of silver and very well-made.

Tsuba is signed: 'KUNIHIRO' (H 03590.0)
Oval iron plate with the face carved with overall swirling clouds and the reverse with four cloud groups in Chinese style.


Mei reads 'Bizen no Kuni Ju Osafune (suriage)'.    Note similarity to Yozozaemon mei. (center & right)

Study Fujishiro pg. 599, 600, and 601.

Paper about Oei-Bizen and Sue-Bizen Smiths.

Read about the Samurai of Bizen who wielded this sword.

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