Sabaku Samurai blog, run by www.sabakusamurai.com. We will talk about all things collectible, especially those Japanese or oriental in nature. This is run by long time Japanese sword collectors who like to meet new people with the same passions.
Friday, February 26, 2010
THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACK TACHI (Man! that sounds so cool)
Greetings all of you Nihonto Nabobs. I have a very interesting old tachi to show you. This sword came to Sabaku Samurai about 20 years ago from a group of swords brought back to the US by the proverbial old VET that we are all familiar with (thank God for these guys and their sticky fingers or my collection would be zilch). Actually this guy was not a WWII vet. He was stationed over in Japan in the late 50s early 60s and was somehow involved in the US military efforts to recover Japanese Antiquities. Needless to say he brought back home a LOT of cool stuff.
This tachi has some of the most eye popping ayasugi hada that I have ever seen. It is so garish that it almost looks like one of those Chinese knock-offs that swamp Ebay. The polish on the sword dates to before WWII sometime but is still Lookin Gooood with some minor abrasions here and there. The tachi mounts are particularly interesting because they are entirely black. The handle is wrapped in black leather. All of the metal fittings on the outside are shakudo but everything including the saya is covered in black lacquer.
The blade is 25 1/8 inches long and has an unusual inscription on the nakago (tang). It reads (in English) "Old signature...Naminohira Yasunobu.....2 shaku 7 sun 5 separated measures this". Obviously just by looking at the nakago you can see that the blade is osuriagi (greatly shortened). So I interpret this to mean that originally the blade was signed Naminohira Yasunobu and 2 shaku 7 sun in length. With 5 sun separated during the suriagi process that leaves 2 shaku 2 sun which coincidentally equals about 25 1/8 inches (yes that's right, Sabaku Samurai is not just a pretty face he can add and subtract too).
Now comes the MYSTERY part. Did whoever shortened the blade faithfully put the correct information on the nakago like it appears OR was the blade made this way from the start and the inscription put on to make it more convincing that it was an osuriagi old blade? Let's all run to our reference books together shall we. Hmmmm well looky here there was indeed a Naminohira Yasunobu who signed with the characters used on this sword who worked in the mid 1500s and was known for ayasugi hada, narrow suguha and a high shinogi just like this sword has. So far so good. But, lets take a look at when the sword was shortened. The crisp clean nature of the current nakago and inscription indicates that it was done in the mid to late 1800s. What was going on back then and who was around.
It was during that time that Emperor Meji abolished the Samurai class and the wearing of swords in public. Swordmaking as an art began to die and sword makers resorted to other crafts to make ends meet. Some resorted to making fake swords of famous makers to make a few extra bucks. One of the best and most infamous at doing this was Gassan Sadakazu. Because of his incredible skill level he could duplicate almost anybody's style and quality. It's funny that today so many swords with his name on them are fake. I guess payback's a mutha.
So why do I point a finger at Sadakazu? The blade is very high quality. The Gassan's were famous for ayasugi. The tachi mounts would have been made for the blade when it was shortened (or produced, if it were a fake) as well as the habaki. Of all things, it is the habaki that might be the smoking gun here. This style habaki is practically a Gassan signature. Of course there were other sword makers that used this style also but Sadakazu and his son Sadakatsu were known for using this style a lot, even making them themselves.
So what's the conclusion? I forgot to mention that this sword has NBTHK papers on the koshirae dated 1960 and the guy I got it from said he had papers on the blade also but they had MYSTERIOUSLY vanished. A tangled web of intrigue. Your guess is as good as mine (although I am much better looking). I have never seen a Naminohira ayasugi blade so I don't know what the style is like. I have seen many Gassan ayasugi blades and own a couple (check out sabakusamurai.com home page) and this is WAY different. We may never know for sure (because I'm too frikkin cheap to send it to shinsa). Of course, I may be the only person in the world who remotely gives a crap.