Mizuta Kunishige


The Mizuta school of smiths began in Bitchu province about the Keicho period with two subgroups; the Otsuki and the Kouno. The Otsuki group smiths generally worked under the name of Kunishige generation after generation, while the Kouno group signed Tameiye in the same practice.

Fujishiro’s Shinto-hen documents this Mizuta smith as Yamashiro Daijyo Minamoto Kunishige also known as Denshichiro, and was the Nidai of Otsuki Ichizo Kunishige. He is rated Chujosaku. The mei looks spot on by comparison, which along with the nakagojiri, are unique by comparison to other Mizuta smiths. He and his father were both also commonly referred to as “Edo Mizuta”. His work period is listed as 1684.

It has a wide, robust, confident shape, with chu-kissaki and nice distal taper. At just over 24 inches, this is categorically a katana by definition of length. One could surmise it an O-Wakizashi though. The bohi provide nice balance for the size of the sword and it is enjoyable in hand without being weighty. This shape, in accordance with the style and quality of the fittings, would lead me to believe this would be appropriate for an older samurai with refined taste that did not want or need the burdeon of a longer heavier sword. The iori mune has a bit of steepness in the angle. The ubu nakago has a very nice patina coloration consistent with the period. The mei is skillfully incised, and there are osuji yasuri and two mekugiana. The sword is in an old shirasaya, but still functional. It has a very nice gold foiled two-piece habaki. The polish is a little scratched and hazed in places, but good overall. The owner states it was last polished in 1980. There is no active corrosion, and no critical or fatal flaws.

Mizuta school emulated the works of Soshu with Go Yoshihiro in particular focus with profuse, deep nie-deki hamon, and this sword is consistent with what one would expect from the group. The nie forms a very wide habuchi of a ogunome midare hamon with areas of aranie that rise into the ji. The boshi is komaru nie kuzure, that gives an impression of ichimai boshi. The kitae is a very tight koitame with a few areas of magnified mokume and itame.

The accompanying mountings for this sword are very nice. The fuchi, kashira, and kojiri are all en-suite inlay of cherry blossoms, and camp curtains. The fuchi is signed Jochiku. Following the theme is an Iron Bushu school tsuba signed “Bushu ju Masatsuna”. It is very nicely sculpted with bundles of cherry tree branches, including delicately applied gold stamens in the blossoms. It has two shakudo plugs in the hitsuana. The large menuki are also beautiful and exhibit high quality. The omote menuki is a lovely Pheasant with impressive coloration and inlay. The ura menuki again illustrates the cherry blossoms against a clouded moon. These menuki are very dramatic. The saya in these images shows cracking and losses to the lacquer. In order to preserve the whole of the group, I have sent the saya out for restoration and relacquering. When it returns, I will update images. The tsukaito is fading, but is intact and stable and dates from at least 1940 and likely earlier than that. With careful handling, it should remain intact for years to come. However if, desired, I can send it out for rewrapping, as the foundation and samegawa are in good condition.

This sword has a very interesting and documented provenance. There is accompanying documentation of its purchase in 1940 by the owner’s father. It also has a license for possession from the Superintendent General of the Metropolitan Police Board dated 1946, which is permission for it to be kept, instead of having to turn it over to occupation forces. Names and copies of the documents will be provided to the purchaser.

Nagasa 62.0 cm (24.4 inches)

Motohaba 3.2 cm

Motokasane 7 mm

Kissakihaba 2.05 cm

Sakikasane 4.5 mm

This sword has never been submitted to shinsa and would be a good candidate. I highly doubt it would have any trouble passing at all. The Koshirae also have never been submitted. My caveat regarding the signature of Jochiku on the fuchi, is that it holds noticeable discrepancies from recorded examples, and the style of workmanship is not what he is generally regarded for producing. Murakami Jochiku is a very big name artist. Details on his history are scant, but he is thought to have come from Kaga province where this style of flat inlay was indigenous. He later settled in Edo. Though this style of inlay is Kaga style, he is more popularly associated with inlays in combination of high relief work, so one should place the merit of these fittings on the skill of construction and quality of their material rather than the signature until shinsa provides judgment. *Regardless* of the signature, the fittings are beautiful, and executed in quality materials with a high caliber of skill. Submission could also be discussed for the koshirae as well.

It is a unique piece in many ways, including some interesting history, and would be a fine addition to a collection. I will put the buyer in touch with the owner to confirm details of its origins and history.

Offered on Consignment: $8500.00 SOLD


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