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Thread: Do I return it?

  1. #1

    Do I return it?

    I’m a neophyte, someone who happened to pick up a katana in Okinawa in 1958. The story that came with it was that after WWII the man who sold it to me had his “girlfriend” steal it from the shrine of a local hero. The sword is battered, and obviously was a working piece not a dress sword. There no visible tempering pattern, but the piece is old. The mounting holes were hot punched not drilled, and the shaping was done with a stone not a file. And at some time it appears the blade may have been shortened because there are two mounting holes.

    The inscription is in Chinese and, according to a friend, identifies it as belonging to a vice governor of the island, rather then just being the name of the swordmaker—but I can’t verify that.

    It’s not in great shape, the blade is nicked and the lacing has deteriorated till it snapped.

    But… If this is a piece of significant meaning to the history of the island, I’m thinking of getting it back to where it rightfully belongs.

    I’ve posted some pictures, and the link to them is below. Does anyone have information that might give the history, and if it makes sense to try to contact the heirs to the blade? I would appreciate any help you can give. If it’s something they might just kick to the back of the closet I’ll just do the same. But if it matters historically, and belongs in a museum on Okinawa…

    The Photobucket album: http://s225.photobucket.com/albums/d.../The%20Katana/

    Thank you

    Jay Greenstein

  2. #2
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    You should post it in the Nihon to section, this would get more opinions I think.

    As far as sending it back, if the story can be verified (that would be tricky as you would need to know where it was originally stolen from) I would say sure. Either to the shrine itself or if it is unable to take it back, then to a local museum.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    It's a genuine blade, signed in Japanese, saying Hizen (no) Kuni Ju Fujiwara (no) Kami Tadayoshi.
    Hizen being the province, Tadayoshi the smith.
    Hizen Tadayoshi is a specific school of smiths; 9 smiths in total and working from early 1600's till late 1800's.
    They are well known so there should be information on the net you can access.
    Which smith it is, is impossible(for me) to say from these pics.

    Tadayoshi signature was often faked as the first few generations were excellent smiths and their work quite valuable.
    Your signature looks to be in their style but is written on the wrong side of the tang. They were known for signing their katana in the tachi mei style.
    The nakago jiri(tang end) is not their typical shape, either.
    Given those pointers, you maybe looking at a false signature. But maybe not. I'd lean to the former, though.

    Tsuba looks to be Echizen kinai.

    Both tsuba and tang look to have been cleaned.
    That should be avoided.

    As for finding the original owner and/or shrine...I very much doubt it.

    If you're interested in researching the validity of the signature, my mentor is one of the top Western authorities on the Hizen school and I can pass him the pics.
    If it's genuine Tadayoshi, it shouldn't be relegated to the back of the closet.
    The one certainty is that I will be gone soon, and in going, so will a legion of ghosts.
    - Joe Simpson

  4. #4
    Actually, it is signed;
    HIZEN (no) KUNI MUTSU (no) KAMI TADAYOSHI and the signature and story both sound a bit dubious. The signature is in Japanese and is definitely intended as the name of the sword maker.

    CAB

    Acknowledge, move on............

  5. #5
    • If you're interested in researching the validity of the signature, my mentor is one of the top Western authorities on the Hizen school and I can pass him the pics.

    It would be greatly appreciated. I suspect that you’re right, that is a forgery, though the original owner, who had the blade from 1946 till I bought it in 1958 (for the princely sum of $40) was a friend, and he did acquire it as he said, through theft, though whose shrine it was taken from no one will ever know. And of course, being a nineteen year old who thought owning such a thing was “cool,” I treated it with little respect, other then to research a bit and learn the significance of the hot-punched mounting holes, so far as its age and how it was made.

    Since then it’s been in the back of one closet or another, which it didn’t deserve, and if by chance it is something of historical merit it seems a shame to just leave it where it will eventually be discarded, or treated with less than the respect it deserves.

    It’s nice to get at least some real background on it, even if it is a forgery.

  6. #6
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    Apr 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Bird View Post
    HIZEN (no) KUNI MUTSU (no) KAMI TADAYOSHI
    Yes, you're right.
    That makes it third generation Tadayoshi.
    The one certainty is that I will be gone soon, and in going, so will a legion of ghosts.
    - Joe Simpson

  7. #7
    Hi Craig,

    A couple of the pics show what seems to be the faint outline of the hamon / temper line but its hard to tell

    I would be surprised if this was in a shrine, unless hidden there to avoid it being scooped up and scrapped / taken a trophy by the GI's. I would not worry about returning this to Japan as not only would it be impossible to track down the original owner, its not something they would have in a museum anyway.

    If i were you i would look into having the tsuka re-wrapped, and get it looked at by a proper polisher to see another polish is viable and to get an idea on what it will cost. It wont be cheap, but would turn this sword into something very nice to either display, or possibly to sell at a nice profit.

    Where are you based? Otheres here may be able to point you to someone local who can advise you on the best course of action. Regardless of whether you have it repaired, or whether the mei is a forgery, its too nice a thing to be hidden in a closet!

  8. #8
    I'm in Philadelphia Pa. And I agree that a closet isn't where it belongs. I've found a piece online that bears the same signature, on the same side, though my eye is untrained in the nuances that would tell real from forgery. The only difference in "penstrokes" that I can see is that in the bottom character, the box at the bottom has a dot in the center.

    http://www.nihonto.ca/sandai-tadayoshi/index.html

  9. #9

    Tadayoshi

    The wakizashi and tanto of the tadayoshi lineage were signed on the sashi-omote in general. they were not signed sash-ura as stated by Mr. Bray.
    Jim

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim rousch View Post
    they were not signed sash-ura as stated by Mr. Bray.
    Where did I state that?
    I said, "They were known for signing their katana in the tachi mei style."

    From "THE SCHOOL OF TADAYOSHI - SAGA, HIZEN, JAPAN 1598-1871" by Roger Robertshaw -
    "Most Japanese sword mei generally follow the same format, the one exception being that Hizentô, and especially
    Tadayoshi blades, are normally signed Tachimei for katana, i.e., on the Omote (not the Ura), and Katana mei for
    Wakizashi. Tachimei is with the sword on the left hip, blade cutting edge down, the signature will be on the side away
    from the body. Katana mei is with the sword worn cutting edge up, the signature will be on the side away from the body.
    This is not true for non-Hizentô. The following diagram A. for a Hizen blade would therefore be a long sword (katana).
    It is extremely rare to find Tadayoshi blades signed on the wrong side, unless they are katana of less than 2 Shaku 1 Sun
    cutting length, and any blade found signed on the incorrect side should be treated with great suspicion."
    The one certainty is that I will be gone soon, and in going, so will a legion of ghosts.
    - Joe Simpson

  11. #11
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    Double post - please delete.
    The one certainty is that I will be gone soon, and in going, so will a legion of ghosts.
    - Joe Simpson

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