Carved out of copper alloy with details highlighted in gold.
Sheathed 57 cm
Unsheathed 55.8 cm
Base 5 mm
Base 32 mm
Dagger 482 grams
Blade 281 grams
5 cm from guard
Iron, steel, wood, silk, gold, copper alloy, ray skin
Blade 17th-18th century
Koshirae 18th-19th century
Imported from Japan
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The Shimosaka (下坂) school originated in the town of Shimosaka in Ōmi province. Situated around Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake, it was surrounded by among others Echizen, Mino, Yamato and Yamashiro. In the 16th century, some Shimosaka smiths moved to Echizen and founded the Echizen Shimosaka school, of which the Yasutsugu line is the most famous exponent.
First-generation Yasutsugu was born in the 16th century and was initially trained in Mino and Yamato styles of forging, but became adept in Sōshū style work as well. After he moved to Echizen in 1596 he came to work directly for the Shogunate, as did his long line of successors.
An unsigned, slightly shortened o-tantō in a style called katakiriba with one flat side and one side with a secondary bevel. The hamon is a midare in nie deki and the hada is mostly itame with some masame and some ji-nie.
Both sides have slightly faded horimono of a ken (straightsword) and Sanskrit characters called bonji.
It was attributed to Echizen Shimosaka by the N.B.T.H.K., meaning they see the characteristics of the school, but they were not able to attribute it to a specific smith within that school.
The piece comes with a full set of koshirae consisting of a silk-wrapped tsuka with horn kashira, pierced iron fuchi and Nanban-style tsuba. The scabbard is covered with silk gold brocade with iron sayajiri with dragons and kurigata. The latter appears to be a later replacement but is stylistically compatible with the other mounts.
The scabbard has slots for kōgai and kozuka, only the kōgai remains and in this case, it is a wari-kōgai that separates into two to form a pair of chopsticks. It is decorated with very fine overlay in a style that is often associated with Kyoto.
The tsuba on this set is of special interest because it is one of the few Nanban-style tsuba that are actually signed.
The signature reads:
Yamashiro kuni ju
"Resident of Yamashiro"
This maker is not in the standard literature like the Haynes index, making it all the more interesting. The fuchi is en suite with the tsuba and most likely made by the same person or at least shop.
Some wear to the scabbard fabric. Small crack at scabbard's mouth. Small piece of horn at base of slot for kozuka was lost and replaced. Some other minor wear and tear. Tsuka wrap most likely fairly recent. Koshirae appear to be associated, which is often the case with Japanese pieces.
Blade in new polish.
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Very delicate work with carved guardian lions.
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