Monday, February 6, 2017


Greetings my fellow Gassan-aholics. Welcome once again to the Nihonto Netherworld at Sabaku Samurai.  I can't think of a better way to get the new year started than to show off another incredible work by our all time favorite sword maker Gassan Sadakatsu!  As most of you know he was the maker to the Japanese Imperial Household in the early 1900s and is generally regarded as the finest swordmaker of the 20th century.  Sadakatsu made swords for the Emperor, his family, high ranking Officers, government officials and foreign heads of state.  One of his swords is on display in the Tower of London along with the British Crown Jewels! Among the rarest and most coveted blade designs he produced is called "kissaki moro ha zukuri" and is a copy of an ancient and famous sword called the Kogarasu-maru.  This style of blade is considered to be a transition or evolution between the straight double edged Chinese style ken blades used by the Japanese in early times and the curved single edged tachi developed around 1200 years ago.  It is curved like a tachi sword but the sharp double edge goes down the back of the blade from the tip only about a third of the way.

The tip of the blade still has the symmetrical double edged point of a ken, not the chisel shaped kissaki we are more familiar with in Japanese swords.  The original Kogarasu-maru which translates to "Little Crow" is owned by the Emperor of Japan.  It is thought to have been made by a legendary sword smith named Amakuni in the early part of the 8th century who is credited with developing curved Japanese blades.  It is generally accepted that the sword was passed down in a convoluted way as a family treasure of the Taira clan although the ties to the Taira by some of the owners were a bit tenuous.  The sword ended up in the Ise family and was purchased by Count So Shigemasa (who also claims a tenuous linkage to the Taira) in the late 1800s and presented to Emperor Meji in 1882.  There are a bunch of stories and legends as to how the sword got the name "Little Crow".  The most down to earth and believable to me is that the original fittings or koshirae of the blade were adorned with crows.

Sadakatsu only produced a few blades in this style and they are eagerly sought by collectors all over the world.  If you read our blog of 7/17/16  (click here to read it) you were treated to an incredibly rare WORLD CLASS example of a Sadaktsu Kogarasu-maru done in beautiful ayasugi hada.  Ayasugi hada is a closely guarded secret forging technique of the Gassan family going back hundreds of years that results in an even undulating grain or pattern in the steel on the surface of the blade. We at Sabaku Samurai are pleased to be able to bring you yet another Sadakatsu kogarasu masterpiece, this time done in a tour de force of stunningly perfect masame hada.  Masame hada is a forging pattern in the steel that looks like long parallel brush strokes running the length if the blade.
  Masame hada is a difficult forging technique to master and only a few sword smiths worked in this style so it is rare and highly prized by sword collectors.  The icing on the cake with this magnificent sword is that it has it's original presentation box with hakogaki (writing on the box) done by Sadakatsu himself declaring that the blade was meticulously forged in 1941 of top quality iron sand from the Kabushiki corporation.

The icing on top of the icing (yeah we have a BIG sweet tooth here at Sabaku Samurai) is that the sayagaki (writing on the saya) is done by Sadakatsu's grandson and renowned sword smith Gassan Sadatoshi.

The sayagaki is dated September of 1999 and repeats the info on the box lid.  But here is a minor mystery (very minor).  The box top gives the length of the cutting edge of the blade at 2 shaku 2 sun 5 bu or 26.84 inches.  Sadatoshi writes on the saya that the cutting edge is 2 shaku 2 sun 6 bu or 26.96 inches.  It looks like the sword grew a bu in the 58 years between the measuring's. That's only about a 10th of an inch so I suspect somebody had a crappy ruler.
  After carefully measuring the blade ourselves we discovered that Sadatoshi was the most accurate.  I think we can forgive Sadakatsu seeing how he was right in the middle of WWII and getting a little long in the tooth.  He died just two years later in 1943.
The habaki is solid silver and also made by Sadakatsu.

The back or spine of the blade has the distinctive and unusual round shape known as maru mune.

The nakago (tang) is beautifully signed with the same information that is provided on the box.

All in all, a stunning example of the swordmakers art by one of the best sword smiths ever, brought to you courtesy of Sabaku Samurai.  Check out our website for more awsum examples of Gassan Sadakatsu's work.  Stay thirsty my friend.