Sunday, July 3, 2016


Greetings all you Gassan maniacs!  I have a VERY nice one to show off.  This blade has all the bells and whistles.  It is an impressive, beefy, 27 6/8 inches long.  A sword made for a real man by perhaps the top 20th century Japanese sword smith and Sabaku Samurai's favorite sword maker of all times, Gassan Sadakatsu.  The blade is forged in perfect ayasugi hada which is an even undulating pattern in the steel that is a Gassan family trade mark.  The forging technique used to make ayasugi hada was a closely guarded family secret for hundreds of years and is even rare among Gassan blades.  Gassan Sadakatsu was also a master of the Soshu, Bizen and Yamato tradition of swordmaking and most of his blades are in those styles.  The habaki is solid silver and probably made by Sadakatsu himself.  This sword also features eye watering horimono (decorative carving) of a dramatically rendered ceremonial ken sword on one side and a pair of short hi (grooves) on the other. The nakago (tang) is richly engraved on one side with the makers name (Gassan Sadakatsu), the date of manufacture (Feb 11 1937) and the information that he is the 3rd generation Gassan to work in Naniwa which is the place that became the modern city of Osaka.  The inscription on the other side is a bit more intriguing.  There are several slightly different ways of interpreting it.  Generally it seems to indicate that the sword was made for the head of the main line Kimura family as a family heirloom or treasure for protection.  Then it goes on to say that the sword is named CLOUD DRAGON (pretty cool) and was made from extra or left over steel.  This could also be interpreted that the blade was made of left over steel FROM the Cloud Dragon. Now this interpretation begs the questions who is this Kimura and what was the Cloud Dragon that the sword was made from.  Gassan Sadakatsu was the sword maker to the Imperial Household.  He made swords for the Emperor, dignitaries, and high ranking Military Officers.  He even made one for the King of England which is on display in the Tower of London which is where the Crown Jewels are kept (it's there, I've seen it in person).  Doing a little research I discovered that there were at least three significant Military Officers with the family name of Kimura in service when the sword was produced.  Two were Navy admirals and the other a notorious Army general.  There may have been others that I have not found. It just so happens that one of the Kimura Admirals served on an aircraft carrier produced late in WWII named CLOUD DRAGON.  Could this sword be made from left over steel from that ship?  That all fits together pretty nifty except for one little detail, the keel of the Cloud Dragon wasn't laid until well after the sword was forged.  So although it is an intriguing coincidence I haven't figured out how to tie them together, it seems to be a dead end.  The Kimura General was hanged for war crimes.  I have not been able to associate the sword with him.  This blade was purchased from the Dai Token Ichi  several years ago which is a huge annual sword trade show in Japan and my trail of provenance stops there.  ~~If any of you readers have any information or bright ideas for avenues of research on this wonderful sword please drop me a line.  If you want some more pictures of any part of the blade let me know.  Hasta la Vista Baby! 

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