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Posted By Thomas L. Buck

I was going through some old Colorado Token Kai files this morning and came across an article sent to me back in ’93 by an old friend now deceased, Gary Montgomery.  He talks about the start of his tsuba collection, and his chance meeting with Toshio Mifun (Toshiro Mifune).  Here’s a .pdf of Gary’s original write-up:

And, here are a couple of pics of his favorite tsuba, the same one he mentions in the article:


Sorry about the quality, I scanned them in from the covers of an old issue of the Colorado Token Kai newsletter.

Thought I would share… Let me know what you think.
Posted By Thomas L. Buck

As a conservator, I am regularly asked to do translations and research on items of historic or artistic significance.  I know that for some this may become routine, and even mundane, but for me each request is an exciting little treasure hunt into the past.

Here is a perfect example; last Thursday I received a request to do a simple translation of a signature on an older Japanese sword.  At first glance I could see that it was either a late Koto or early Shinto blade (sometime between 1550 and 1650 A.D.), and I read the signature as “Inshu ju Kanetsugu tsukuru” or “this was made by Kanetsugu of Inshu.”

MeiWhen reading signatures it is important to remember that the name is at the end followed by the character “tsukuru” which means “made.”  In general, the first two characters list the town, province, or tradition that he worked in.  In this case “Inshu” refers to the Inaba province; this is an interesting clue to the identity of the smith because only a handful of smiths ever used that in combination with Kanetsugu. They belonged to a line of swordsmiths named Kanesaki which originated in Koto times and, coming from Seki, followed the Mino tradition of swordmaking that was pre-eminent at that time. During the Tensho era (1573- 1591) the head of the family moved to Inaba province (Inshu) and founded the so-called “Inshu Kanesaki” line of swordsmiths. What is most interesting is that, it was with this generation Inshu Kanesaki that started the habit of having the name Kanetsugu before becoming the head of the family and adopting the Kanesaki name.

It should be mentioned that in general the two character name is not the name given by parents at birth, but one selected by the smith when he started signing blades.  It is a trade name and can be changed at will.  Many smiths selected a name which they used until they became experts and were ashamed of some of their earlier products with the first name.  Sometimes, when a pupil showed great ability, his instructor gave him a character from his own name as an honor.  Anyway, most smiths adopted a new name when he considered himself proficient.

Regardless, after comparing the above signature to examples of other Kanetsugus, I came to the conclusion that this sword was made by one of three smiths (listed in Hawley as: KAN 2669, KAN 2670, and KAN 2690).  And their greatest years of production were 1532, 1640 & 1655 respectfully.  After looking at the signatures a second time, the handwriting seemed closest to the second smith (KAN 2670), and it was most likely made in the late 1630s under the name of Kanetsugu, before he changed his name to Kanesaki.  In my professional opinion, that's kinda Cool.

As a side note, I wanted to share one of the difficulties in indentifying signature charactuers. Below, I have posted various examples of possible ways the two characters used in this signature could appear.
Let me know what you think...




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Thomas L. Bu...
Duluth, MN

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