I first came across a blade like this a few years ago and fell in love immediately. The blade used to be a Naginata but over time had been shortened and dated back to the Nanbokuchō period (1336 to 1392).
It was labeled as a nagimaki styled blade so that’s what I called it in a FB post but Krzysztof Walla rightly pointed out that this was an incorrect term. It lead me to do some more reasearch and wrote my findings about it here.
In 2022 there was another very similar blade that caught my attention. That Nihonto was unsigned but attributed to Yamaura Saneo, not quite as famous as his younger brother Yamaura Kiyomaro but he knew how to make fantastic blades, that’s for sure.
Anyway.. I guess that was a sign for me to get to the drawing table and see if we could create something similar in terms of shape and overall aesthetics and that didn’t came anywhere close to the price point of the originals who where sold for $20.000 – 30.000 if I remember correctly.
To avoid any misconceptions > there’s no way I want to compare this made in china – aka: chinakatana – sword with any of the above mentioned nihonto (or any for that matter), let’s make that clear 😉
After a bit of measuring & drawing i had a pretty good view on how the blade would need to look like. Next step was talking to the forge to see if they could manage it but that didn’t seem to be much of a problem.
For the lower class models (higo, iwa,…) we have always been using T10 steel but for this one oroshigane (steel made by the forge itself) has been chosen. For the nerds amongst us, it has a carbon content of 0.6-0.7%.
Polish is also a grade higher and when looking closely you can see a fine grain. The blade has a geometric yokote as well and the tang has been signed with the date of forging and the name (Fei Long).
For the tsuba I went with this Ko-Katchushi Style piece. It’s a particular style of old tubas where there seems to be some confusion around the translation of the word Katchushi. Most people are referring to it as “armour maker/smith” and assume that (Ko-)Katchushi tsuba were made by armer craftsman in their leisure / extra time.
But in the Ogawa Morihiro catalogue (The Metropolitan Museum of Art-2009) there’s a piece of text in the Japanese armor section that states:
“The title of katchu-shi was assigned to the lead craftsmen who assembled the components and directed the various groups of craftsmen involved.”(Ikeda Hiroshi)
So it’s doubtful that a person in that position would actually make tsuba. I sounds like that person had more of a managers function than a “workers” function.
Anyway, with it’s 9cm diameter it’s a pretty large tsuba that represents the 8 spokes dharma wheel. The Noble Eightfold Path is a guide to ethical and mental development in Buddhism.
The original Fuchi & Kashira I bought about a decade ago because of their simplicity & timelessness design. It was time to finally have them recreated by the fitting maker in China.
For the menuki I just went with a design that as available on the Chinese market since not that many people really care about it + custom made would have increased the price too much and I did want to keep the price of this piece around $800-900.
That’s always a difficult balance act:
Sure we can do all of that but the question is if you are still willing to pay the price than 😊
By the way, the rayskin got an upgrade and does contain the emperor node. The tsuka (Haichi shape) construction is improved as well and has only 1 mekugi now.
The ito is the regular synthetic silk version you find on most Chinakatana and thin hishigami have been used. It’s no top notch work compared with a custom tsukamaki but it’s tightly wrapped and will do the job.
Saya comes in a “Ishime-ish” (stone) finish and does have a horn koiguchi, kurikata & kojiri. I say ishime-ish because real ishime lacquer work is using charcoal powder or dry lacquer powder in multiple layers. That stone finish has a much rougher look & feel than this Chinese interpretation.
But once again, these are no nihonto and a nicely done ishimi saya would cost you probably about the same amount as this whole sword.
Since these saya are not custom made, they might have a tiny bit of a rattle when shaking them but nothing serious and the blade does have a thight grip so it won’t fall out when holding upside down.
In our attempt to make a few ‘light’ models to satisfy to iaido practitioner we forgot that there are still people who like to perform tameshigiri in their dojo (or at home) .
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