Sword making during the Nambokucho Period is considered by many to have been at it’s pinnacle. During this time emerged many great swordsmiths. The most revered of these was Masamune, the student of Shintogo Kunimitsu. It was a transitional time in sword making. We start to see awe inspiring tachi, reaching their largest sugata of any period, previous, or later. We also see Soshu Den influences taking hold, combining sugata, with masterfully forged blades and wildly artistic temper lines.The forging method combining soft and hard materials and the expression of many beautiful chikei and kinsuji are the accomplishment of Masamune. Then he started tempering midare-ba based on notare in a large pattern which differed from midare-ba based on choji and gunome and tempered by the smiths of the former period, also nie is more emphasised that that of Yamashiro and Yamato swords. It seems that the combination of soft and hard materials was practised before Masamune and such examples are seen in the works of Ko-Bizen and Shoso-in swords too-Kenji MeshinaBelow is the famous Hocho Masamune Tanto.Masamune and his Jutetsu lead this ‘sword renaissance’. His Jutetsu are considered his ‘Ten Brilliant Students’. They are: Rai Kunimitsu, Hasebe Kunishige, Osafune Kanemitsu, Shizu Kaeuji, Go Yoshihiro, Norishige, Naotsuna, Chogi (Nagayoshi), Sa (Yasuyoshi), and Kinju (Kaneshige).
Among them, Sa is considered to be one the best of the Jutetsu. In fact, he becomes a sword making legend and is called O’Sa, or The Great Sa.
His full name is Saemon Saburo Yasuyoshi. He is considered to have been the son of Jitsua from the Chikuzen Province in Kyushu. While his fathers work is considered masterfully executed, it is more pragmatic. It is Sa’s work that leads the ‘Sword Renaissance’ in the Chikuzen Province. Sa (Yasuyoshi) becomes the founder of his own School there; the Chikuzen Sa School. His work has adopted Soshu style, but with its own distinctiveness. Famous students of the Chikuzen Sa School include, Sa Yasuyoshi (Ni Dai), Yoshisada, Yoshihiro, Kunihiro and Sadayoshi.
Below is a signed tanto by O’Sa, courtesy of seikeido.com
It seems that the Chikuzen Sa Den branched to Nagato in the later years of the Nambokucho Period. Some [perhaps later] work bears the signature Chōshū-jū Yasuyoshi“ (長州住安吉) and Chikushū-jū Yasuyoshi (筑州 安吉). There is speculation that Sa Yasuyoshi and Nagato Yasuyoshi were different smiths. Most nomenclature infers there is a relationship, however uncertain.
The NBTHK attributes this blade to Choshu Yasuyoshi. Tokubetsu Hozon papers attest to its fine workmanship and justifiable attribution. The nakago once had a partial mei of Sada, which was removed. Originally, the NBTHK issued Hozon papers authenticating just the partial mei. This just goes to show that papers on mumei blades are a best guess. Getting an attribution to a certain smith is sort of a quality rating in itself. An attribution to Yasuyoshi means that it is a high quality sword demonstrating the characteristics of that school.
Tanobe Sensei specifically attributes this blade to Nidai Yasuyoshi. His sayagaki reads:
The workmanship is well founded,and it explicitly shows those characteristics. Blade is 7 sun, 3 bu. Ubu Nakago. Mumei. Time period is after Eiwa. Nambokuchu end of. Nidai Yasuyoshi this is.
Equally impressive is the fine koshirae, which was written up in Token To Reikishi 542, cataloging Yoshikawa’s visit to the USA. He was reported as saying, seeing this tanto was the highlight of his trip.
|Origami||NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon|
|Sugata||Hirazukuri, Kamakura form, with Horimono & Bonji.|
|Boshi||Sa boshi, with jizu|
|Hamon||Sugaha based notare, with hataraki & utsuri present|
|Hada||Very fine itame & masame|
|Notes||Supreme Quality, all silver fittings|
|Fuchi Kashira||Fine silver|
|Menuki||Silver Oni & Shoki|
|Provenance||Token To Reikishi #542|
|Shirasaya||High quality, with Tanobe saya-gaki.|