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Katana by Izumo (No) Kami Fujiwara Yoshitake
with cutting test dated 1711 A.D. by tester of Yamada School
Musashi Yoshitake, whose family name was Kawade Ichidayu, was of the Kunihiro mon, of the Horikawa School, there were three generations in the Yoshitake family. His working dates are approx. 1666 to 1711, the ten-wa period. His father Kunitake was one of the first line of Kunihiro’s students. He began teaching his son at an early (most began their studies at approx. 12 years of age) age. He was also known as hotetsu nyudo, his buddhist monk name. Yoshitake, the most skillful in his family, became a renowned sword smith, his works are classified as jo-saku (upper class). He is also famous for the sharpness of his blades and therefore highly ranked in the Wazamono list.
A cutting test (tameshigiri) was performed with this blade by tester, Nezu Saburo of the Yamada School. The test performed was the most known difficult test, Rio-Kuruma, cut one body through the hip area. The cutting test was dated Sho-toku 1st year 1711, 8th month. Yamada Asayemon Sadatake founded the Yamada School around 1661. He became a retained tester of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1685 at 81 years old. The School was centered around Senju at Edo and remained active until the 1860’s.
This blade is with a rare signed mei in Hiragana, signed Izumo, (no) Kami, Fujiwara, Yoshitake, motte, go, tettsu, kitae, kore (meaning he used 5 different irons). The measurements are, Nagasa (cutting edge): 25 1/8″ ~ 63.9 cm, Motohaba (width): 1 1/8″ ~ 2.9 cm and Sori (curvature): 5/8″ ~ 1.6 cm. The Hada is itame. The Hamon is a very fine Choji midare, very active with kinsuji, ashi. Blade is in full polish with shirasaya and solid silver habaki. The blade was certified Hozon by the NBTHK with the assistance of the late John M Yumoto, author of The Samurai Sword.
NBTHK Hozon paper translation
Izumo, (no) Kami, fujiwara, Yoshitake, motte, go, tettsu, kitae, kore (meaning he used 5 different irons)
Test information: Nezu Saburo (tester), Rio-Kuruma, cut one body through the hip area
Dated: Sho-toku 1st year 1711 , 8th month
This is the most common region cut for multiple body cutting tests.
This shows example how two bodies were stacked before the cutting test
And the above image depicts the result
The practice of performing cutting tests on swords was begun in the KOTO period, (prior to 1600), the tests were performed on various combinations of materials, i.e. bundles of bamboo laden with mud and tied, helmets, horn, iron of various degrees of hardness, and last but not least, the human body.
The practice of using human bodies was begun as a means of crime control, for instance, the sentence for a convicted thief would probably be the loss of a hand or arm. The various strokes were given in relationship to the severity of the crime committed. Stroke #1, RIO-KURUMA, (Pair of Wheels), being the most difficult to perform as the blade must pass through both hip bones at the thickest area, was the least often successful with one stroke. RIO-KURUMA was prescribed for only the most serious of crimes. The ease of performance increases with the number, (i.e. #1 most difficult, #18 least difficult). The practice of amputation as a form of punishment is used (even today), in various Arabian countries, although it was abandoned in Japan about the time of the Emperor Mei Ji, (1868).
Swords were tested only by licensed testers at official testing grounds. The results of the test along with the date and name of the tester were then inscribed, (mainly in gold), on the tang of the sword.
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