Katana by Ujisada
Records regarding him are few, but what is available tells us that Ujisada’s given name was Takei Sadayoshi and he came from Higo province, or present day Kumamoto. He was the eighth generation Ujisada from Osumi whom decended from the lineage of Wakasa no kami Ujifusa, the son of Kanefusa from the Momoyama period. Ujisada studied with the famous Satsuma smith, Hoki no Kami Masayoshi.
Ujisada is listed in Hawley’s Japanese Swordsmiths (UJI 152), and in Yamada Asaemon’s text Kokon Kaji Biko, in which both sources document him coming from Higo with an alias of Takei Sadayoshi. The Kokon Kaji Biko also shows Ujisada as having come from Kumamoto (in Higo province) and worked in Kansei (1789) though his working life likely encompassed 30-40 years or more. In Hawley’s text, he is listed as a Satsuma smith, also with an alternate name of Takei Sadayoshi working in 1789 with another notation of “from Higo”. An earlier work dated 1800 from this very same smith was listed here a few years ago, and has Tokubetsu Hozon papers that specifically notate him as “Satsuma Ujisada”.
Satsuma smiths gravitated to the Soshu tradition in their creations. Masayoshi often worked in the style of Shizu Kaneuji, one of Masamune’s ten gifted disciples, and Ujisada also produced Shuzu influenced works. The shape of this exhibits Ujisada’s favor of robust swords with a wide mihaba of 3.2 cm and comparatively narrow shinogi for this width. The shinogi is high and the kasane at the shinoji line is 8 mm. The kissakihaba however is 2.1 cm lending to noticeable taper over its length. The cutting edge is 67.5 cm (26 5/8 inches) long. The niku is scant, as are most Shinshinto works.
This sword exhibits abundant jinie, on a finely wrought jihada of itame and mokume that is gently nagare (“streaming”) in places and carries fine chikei. The hamon is in luminous bright choji midare with deep nioiguchi and plentiful ashi reaching to the ha. Yubashiri boils off the yakiba into the ji in gleaming concentrations of nie. The boshi is slight midarekomi with komaru in dense brilliant konie turning back short across the koshinogi. The polish is top notch work, in pristine condition, and shows off every beautiful feature.
The mei reads;
Ken-ko Masamune Seito Ujisada iru (created in the tradition of Masamune by Ujisada)
Also added is the character for “Masa” added by kebori (carved in rather than inscribed).
Bunka Hinoto Ushi Chu-shun Tsukuru Fujiwaha Nakatsune Obiru (Forged in the mid-spring of 1817 for Fujiwara [no] Nakatsune to wear)
When examining the mei of this sword, there is much room for interpretation about the work, the wearer for which it was commissioned, as well as some underlying details regarding them. I extend my heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Alexander Takeuchi for his assistance and guidance in translating this mei as well as his expertise in defining its subtle nuances. Sometimes, the manner in which mei are inscribed and/or the characters they are written imply much more than what might be overlooked as mere embellishment. Needless to say, Dr. Takeuchi was of great help bringing more light to the history and merit of this work.
According to the inscriptions in the mei, the blade was made in the mid spring of 1817 by Ujisada, who claimed (in the mei) to be a legitimate descendant of the famous Masamune’s line, for a “kuge” noble/aristocrat by the name “Fujiwara no Nakatsune” to wear it.
On the haki-omote side, the smith Ujisada also used an interesting kanji character in his mei to imply how he actually made this blade. The last kanji he used in the haki-omote side side mei is a verb that reads “chu” in on-yomi and “iru” in kun-yomi. The verb “chu/iru” in Japanese specifically means “to make something by melting iron” typically in way of casting. Of course, this blade was not made via casting, but I can feel that the smith, who was proud of himself as a legitimate descendant of the famous Masamune, wanted to imply rather strongly how he actually worked the steel to make this blade by using this particular kanji.
The name of the owner/bearer for whom the blade was made is not a stereotypical name of a samurai in the late Edo period. Rather, it is a typical name of a “kuge” or an aristocrat working for the imperial palace. Unlike majority of existing antique swords, it was not made for a samurai, but it was made for a kuge, who most likely lived in Kyoto. This is unique piece of history just for that.
The haki-ura side mei also indicates specifically that it was made for Fujiwara no Nakatsune “to wear.” The kanji character used to indicate “to wear” reads “hai” in on-yomi and “haku” or “obiru” in kun-yomi. Either way, it means “to wear (a tachi)” by hanging it from the obi, instead of stashing it between the obi like a katana.
The koshirae is contemporary, but very well made. The sword has a top quality gold foiled habaki. The tsuka is skillfully wrapped in katatemaki style with black lacquered ito. The tsuka has no menuki, but there is no evidence there ever were any which is seen on rare occasion. The shakudo fuchi and kashira compliment the quietness of the wrap with modest carving of soft lines. The tsuba is a nicely detailed iron dragon with eyes and fangs inlayed with brass. It is signed Yamashiro (no) kuni Umetada. The saya is black lacquered with a soft mottled pattern. It also is in excellent condition and has an iron kojiri. Gilded copper seppa with complete the mountings.
The blade has genuine NBTHK Hozon Kanteisho attesting to its authenticity and quality. Ujisada works have received Tokubetsu Hozon papers, and this sword would be a good candidate for submission for upgrade to Tokubetsu Hozon. This is a really fantastic Shinshinto sword and is wonderful in hand. The provenance illustrated on the nakago makes it a unique and special example of this swordsmiths skill, confidence, and pride with which he carried his own familial lineage and that of his highly regarded teacher, Hoki no kami Masayoshi. It would be a proud addition to any collection to be enjoyed for many years.
Offered on Consignment; $12,500.00 SOLD