Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu TachiKo-Osafune Kagemitsu

periodLate Kamakura (ca. 1315)
designationNBTHK Tokubetsu Juyo Token Tachi
ratingSai-jo saku
meiBizen Kuni (rest cut off) – 備前国「以下切」
shu-meiKagemitsu (kaō) – 景光・「花押」
nagasa68.4 cm
sori1.2 cm
motohaba2.65 cm
sakihaba1.85 cm
kissaki2.85 cm
nakago nagasa20 cm
nakago sorislight
price -sold-

The province which had the most developed swordsmiths among the kaji of all the provinces was Bizen, and it is probably no exaggeration to say that one third of all the kotō masterpieces which we cast our eyes upon today were made by the Bizen swordsmiths. The ones who flourished most among these Bizen swordsmiths were the four generations of the Osafune families of Mitsutada, Nagamitsu, Kagemitsu and Kanemitsu. The first three generations right at the beginning are often referred to as Ko-Osafune or the old Osafune school smiths. Fujishiro Yoshio

The greatest of all schools is the Osafune school of Bizen province. It lasted for 350 years of continuous sword production, and even though the end of the koto period represents the limits of its endurance, there were indeed still smiths working and signing Osafune into the Shinto period, making Osafune span over 500 years.

Among the BIZEN MONO this [Osafune] school was the most prosperous, had the greatest number of eminent smiths and among these the most excellent were MITSUTADA, NAGAMITSU, SANENAGA, and KAGEMITSU.

As for the products of the above mentioned various smiths in the initial period of OSAFUNE, the sugata is good, the jitetsu is good, the technique for the hamon is good, and since there is nothing needing an apology in regard to all their points, from olden times they have been prized as swords worn by famous generals and brave warriors, and there are no small number of historical facts and oral traditions related to this. Nihonto Koza

As listed above, the initial four generations of the Osafune school are:

  1. Mitsutada (founder)
  2. Nagamitsu
  3. Kagemitsu
  4. Kanemitsu (Masamune Juttetsu)

Mitsutada is a smith who's greatness is beyond description and can be read about here on my site. His work was in a style very similar to the contemporary Fukuoka Ichimonji smiths of the middle 1200s. They were broad, masculine, and flamboyant choji style tachi, many of which are cut down today and have lost their signatures. There are 10 Tokuju, 14 Jubi, 16 Juyo Bunkazai and 3 Kokuho left to us by Mitsutada, which are truly astounding counts given the rarity of his work today (there are in comparison only 21 Juyo, so there are more upper ranked blades than Juyo blades by this smith).

Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi

His son Nagamitsu must have inherited a thriving school then from his father. Nagamitsu's initial work looks quite like Mitsutada, but toward the end of his life it becomes quieter with special developments approaching suguba, and focusing more on gunome than on choji style. Nagamitsu is the smith from the koto period who has the most top ranked blades of all smiths to have lived. There are 25 Tokuju, 40 Juyo Bijutsuhin, 29 Juyo Bunkazai, and 6 Kokuho by Nagamitsu for a total of 98 top ranked blades. One of the reasons for Nagamitsu's high count is that he trained and developed many master smiths to work in his forge. The best of them was his son Kagemitsu, but also in the forge were his brother Sanenaga, and their collective students Nagamoto, Sanemitsu, Nagamune, Nagachika, Nagamori, Chikakage, and Norimitsu. These smiths are all ranked between Jo-saku and Sai-jo saku, and the collective output was overseen by Nagamitsu. As well, around the time of the end of Nagamitsu's production period the Hatakeda school merged with Osafune so he is likely to have incorporated them under his aegis as well. Hatakeda Morishige is listed as one of his students, and Nagamitsu's student Mitsukane left Osafune and became a student under Rai Kunitoshi. The amount of talent under one roof under Nagamitsu is staggering, and the significant output quality blades under him has never been surpassed.

Kagemitsu forges one of the most beautiful jigane and the jihada is fine and dense ko-itame hada with fine ji-nie. He tempers hamon based on squarish gunome, slanted ko-choji and kataochi-gunome then the pattern tends to be slanted on the whole too. His jigane is very clear and hamon very bright. Token Bijutsu

Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi

Kagemitsu did not drop off in any skill from his father when he inherited the forge, and the NBTHK has written that his skill in forging jigane is higher than Nagamitsu. As Nagamitsu worked with his brother and student Sanenaga, Kagemitsu worked work his brother and student Kagemasa. Kagemasa blades were sometimes shortened just at the last character of the signature which I believe was a strategic shortening that would allow them to be presented as works of Kagemitsu. Kagemitsu's son was Kanemitsu, who was a major talent and one of the all time greats, and his second son Yoshimitsu is also very highly ranked and regarded. Motoshige is thought to be a son of Hatakeda Morishige, and his initial style was nearly identical to Kagemitsu. His younger brothers Shigezane and Shigemitsu are also said to be students of Kagemitsu, so we see again many great master smiths working together under Kagemitsu as they did under his father.

Kanemitsu took over as the fourth master of Osafune, and by the Nanbokucho period when he peaked in skill, all of the other schools in Japan were starting to fade. Soshu was in its denouement, with Akihiro being the final great Soshu smith, the Yamato schools were in retreat, and Yamashiro had its students of traditional Yamashiro mostly dispersed into other areas and Hasebe Kunishige moved back to Kyoto bringing the Soshu tradition with him. Nobukuni, the other major Yamashiro figure of this era is thought to have been a student of Sadamune and his output as well was highly influenced by Soshu and at times Hasebe and Nobukuni completely overlapped into Soshu style manufacture.

Mino at this time was under development by the students of Shizu Kaneuji, and even the work of Kanemitsu and Chogi (the two top smiths working at the end of the Nanbokucho period) were highly influenced by Soshu to the point that we call them Soden-Bizen smiths.

The main line of Osafune becomes fuzzy a little bit after Kanemitsu due to the number of talented students he had with none really standing out among the rest. These are Masamitsu, Yoshimitsu, Rin Tomomitsu and others. During this time both Chogi and Motoshige maintained branches in and around Osafune which were a little bit different from main line Osafune work, and Omiya and Kozori also existed and were in the area though they seem to have been making a somewhat lower end product than what came out of Kanemitsu's forge.

After Kanemitsu is gone, the Oei-Bizen smiths Morimitsu and Yasumitsu continued the Osafune line and were at their time the finest smiths in the country. Osafune would continue and produce many more excellent smiths such as Yosozaemon Sukesada and Gorozaemon Kiyomitsu among others, and would eventually fade away (though it would never truly disappear) at the end of the Muromachi period.

Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi

Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu

As for the Bizen school, Kagemitsu is to be considered the first major tanto maker, although Nagamitsu also is known to have made a few works.

Kagemitsu, needless to say, made all his blades in narrow shapes, tempering quiet edge patterns almost in plain straight lines. English Token Bijutsu

Kagemitsu is a keystone smith in the Bizen tradition. Of all tanto makers from Bizen, he is considered the best and most skilled. He worked during a time where there were other great tanto makers and he is usually grouped within the top four or top six of these all time: Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, Shintogo Kunimitsu, and Rai Kunitoshi are named, and sometimes Sa, Etchu Norishige, round it out. You can note the absence sometimes of Masamune and Sadamune. Though they made excellent tanto, they are not always considered in the top group of tanto makers. There is universal acclaim for his skill as can be seen below.

Osafune Kagemitsu is one of master tanto makers ranking with Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, Rai Kunitoshi and Shintogo Kunimitsu. There are many extant masterpieces of tanto by Kagemitsu although his father Nagamitsu left a few tanto. Tanobe Michihiro, Token Bijutsu

Student A: Who do you consider the best of all master tanto makers in the entire history of Nihonto?

Sato Kanzan: I believe the two foremost masters to be named first are Awataguchi Toshiro Yoshimitsu and Shintogo Kunimitsu, followed closely by others such as Rai Kunitoshi, Bizen Kagemitsu, Etchu Norishige and Samonji in Chikuzen. They all were undoubtedly the most skillful. English Token Bijutsu

Kagemitsu is the premier dagger smith in Bizen, ranking with great figures like Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, Rai Kunitoshi, [Shintogo] Kunimitsu, and Etchu Norishige. This dagger is unusual for the period in that it has a slight sori, but it shows a good shape. It is called Kenshin Kagemitsu, as it was the sashiryo (carried in the sash) of Uesugi Kenshin, and was long handed down in his family. It has itame with midare utsuri, kataochi gunome, a sound blade and surface. This is one of Kagemitsu's finest. Suzuki, Japanese Daggers

Rai Kunitoshi is well known as master smith of tanto as well as Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, Shintogo Kunimitsu and Osafune Kagemitsu. Rai Kunitoshi and Kagemitsu produced many tachi but it is very rare to see extant works of tachi by Yoshimitsu and Kunimitsu. Token Bijutsu

Kagemitsu along with such masters like Rai Kunitoshi, Samonji, Shintogo [Kunimitsu], [Awataguchi] Yoshimitsu, Norishige, Masamune and Sadamune is considered to be the master at making tanto [...] however there are relatively few of these remaining and the few that are remaining are all considered to be outstanding. Albert Yamanaka, Nihonto Newsletters

This line of the first four Osafune masters is probably the most prestigious line in the history of the Japanese sword. Between these four smiths are 176 Juyo Bijutsuhin, Juyo Bunkazai and Kokuho swords. Together the first three smiths account for more than 10% of all Kokuho (National Treasure) swords (Kanemitsu has none). All of these are illegal to export from Japan. Kagemitsu has several of his works in the collection of the Emperor of Japan, and has passed 93 blades through Juyo, 8 of which went on to pass Tokubetsu Juyo. There are a further 18 Juyo Bijutsuhin, 16 Juyo Bunkazai and 3 Kokuho for a total of 45 upper ranked blades making Kagemitsu 8th all time in this regard. One of the Kokuho Kagemitsu was a favorite tanto of the great warrior daimyo Uesugi Kenshin, who gained a reputation of being the God of War walking the earth.

Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi

To say Kagemitsu is an important smith is a vast understatement. His works were frequently given to the Tokugawa Shoguns by daimyo, and received from the Shoguns as gifts. Some of the daimyo who held Kagemitsu in their collections were the Satake, Matsudaira, Yamanouchi, Sakai, Ii, Kuroda, Date, Yanagisawa, Shimazu, Honda, and Kuki. I think this all well illustrates the high regard for Kagemitsu.

The kin-zogan-mei makes it known that [this Kagemitsu tachi] was a favorite sword of Honda Heihachiro Tadatame. Although not known since exactly when, it went to the Matsudaira family in Iyo Saijo. Honda Tadatame is an early name of Tadatoki, who was a grandson of Honda Tadakatsu, one of the four most powerful retainers of the Tokugawa Shogun Ieyasu. Tadatame is famous for marrying Senhime, Ieyasu's daughter and wife of Toyotomi Hideyori (Hideyoshi's heir), after Hideyori was destroyed (committed seppuku) by the Tokugawa at the Osaka castle. Obviously, this person was an avid collector of celebrated swords. Tanobe Michihiro, English Token Bijutsu

Meibutsu Kokuho Koryu Kagemitsu
Meibutsu Kokuho Koryu Kagemitsu

Though he is primarily known for his skill in making tanto, Kagemitsu was also a master of tachi manufacture and his masterpiece work is the Meibutsu Koryu Kagemitsu (the Little Dragon). This blade was owned by Emperor Meiji and is now property of the Nation of Japan, and can be seen in the Tokyo National Museum. It is of course Kokuho, a National Treasure, and very much deserves its rank.

Kagemitsu along with Sanenaga and Nagamitsu make a particular kind of boshi called the sansaku boshi. This has a notable bulge in the middle and is otherwise in suguba and is a key kantei point for their work. Kagemitsu and Sanenaga were responsible for much of the work of Nagamitsu, as today there are too many swords and masterpieces attributed to or signed by Nagamitsu to be accounted for by one smith. Osafune rose to such height of popularity and had so many master smiths working for it, that these groups would manufacture under the guidance of the head of the forge. In turn Kagemitsu took over and had such smiths as Kagemasa and Kanemitsu working directly for him, and probably Sanenaga and his student Chikakage (who also learned the sansaku boshi).

Kagemitsu has the title of Sahyoenojo which we know from the presence of one of the Juyo Bijutsuhin tanto and on the Kokuho tachi he made with his brother Kagemasa which they jointly signed.

The Jubi tanto though very much polished down is an important reference piece for the fact of its signature, and I was lucky enough to be able to inspect it. Many of his blades have interesting horimono of dragons, which he seems to have further developed from patterns laid down by his father.

Kagemitsu worked mostly with two styles of hamon, one in suguba which was the overall style of the late Kamakura period and which he inherited from his father, and another called kataochi-gunome which resembles horse teeth. This is basically a gunome hamon with the heads cut off, making a suguba toward the ji but gunome toward the ha. This seems to have been an advancement in making the blade less fragile by reducing hardened material, though this is only speculation. We almost never know why these smiths do what they do, though it is fair to assume that improving performance was always a goal in the koto period as the swords would always be subject to a lot of use. Kagemitsu is also noted as having made some items with very strong utsuri in the jihada.

Kagemitsu's trademark feature is beautiful jihada, for which he has obtained a great deal of fame, as well as the kataochi gunome hamon that is synonymous with his name.

Kagemitsu as a tanto maker made a fair number of them, but he seems to have made them a lot longer than his peers like Rai Kunitoshi. These tanto that are longer than 26.5 cm are called sunnobi tanto, and his longest is a bit over 30 cm. Unfortunately many of these were shortened in later times. In the Muromachi period many tanto were around 22-23 cm as were tanto in the Nanbokucho period (which saw tanto diverge into a smaller size around 22 cm with smiths like Samonji and Shizu, and larger size that surpassed 30 cm and were made by smiths like Kanemitsu, Hiromitsu and Akihiro).

Many of these suriage tanto, in spite of this condition issue, went on to pass Juyo. Some of them were shortened enough to cut off part of the signature, so he has blades that just end with Osafune with having the rest of his name cut off. But still they have passed Juyo due to the masterful workmanship. There are 34 Kagemitsu tanto that passed Juyo and higher, and 11 of these lost part of the mei through this shortening and maybe six others were shortened a bit in the nakago. The majority of these have the machi moved up a bit to adjust the length of the blade as well.

Fujishiro says that Kagemitsu worked for about a 30 year period, and we still see dated work that confirms this today. His last blade is dated a little bit into Nanbokucho at 1334, and his first comes right at 1305 (the last Nagamitsu dated blade found so far is 1304). Fujishiro ranks him as Sai-jo saku for grand-master levels of skill, and bear in mind that to be a grand-master in the Kamakura period is to be a grand-master even when surrounded by the other smiths of the golden era of sword-making.

Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi

Kagemitsu forges extremely fine and dense ko-itame-hada with fine ji-nie and the jigane is very clear and looks beautiful. He has won an established reputation that he forges the best quality jigane among the Osafune smiths and an old sword book ‘Shinkan Hiden 9 Token Bijutsu 533 Sho’ says, His jihada looks like nashiji-hada.Token Bijutsu

Kagemitsu forges the finest ko-itame-hada with thick ji-nie and the clearest jigane in the Ko-Osafune school. Hinohara Dai, Token Bijutsu

Unlike Nagamitsu's hamon, Kagemitsu's does not have conspicuous choji. He usually produced compact midare mainly consisting of gunome formed to make the width even. Although it is not as florid as his father's work, his kitae is very fine and tight, and often has a quality above the father [Nagamitsu] Tanobe Michihiro, English Token Bijutsu

Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi

Today there are less than 150 Kagemitsu swords left to us. 96 of his blades were assessed by the NBTHK as Juyo and 9 of these went on to Tokubetsu Juyo. There are 18 Juyo Bijutsuhin, 13 Juyo Bunkazai, and 3 Kokuho. This is an exemplary record and substantiates his status as a grandmaster.

Tokubetsu Juyo Token Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu TachiKo-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi Utsuri

Tokubetsu Juyo Token Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi

This sword had a profound effect on me when I first saw it two years ago. I have been in pursuit of it ever since. This is a bit funny because I am known as a Soshu aficionado. One of the reasons that it is easy to love Soshu is because every sword tends to have its own character and style that sets it apart from the other works. Soshu thrives on this variety of workmanship. Bizen is the other way around. Bizen has an ideal that each sword attempts to obtain.

I think this sword is in the top three swords of those I have put on my site over the last 20 years, and is very likely the best one. It hits the absolute ideal for Bizen swords. A gorgeous, and carefully worked hamon that in its appearance seems natural as if it grew via a process of crystallization somewhere in a cave via natural processes. And a mint condition state of health that allows the primary Bizen feature of utsuri to glow on this sword second to no other sword I have ever seen. The NBTHK took pains to describe it as kenzen in both Juyo and Tokuju setsumei, which is the highest statement for preserved condition. The jigane shows all of Kagemitsu's typical tight construction and fine even kitae. It shows very clearly why he is always described as being better than his father (and probably makes him the best in Bizen) at forging jihada. If you scroll back up and look at the Koryu Kagemitsu, it features the same strong utsuri and similar hamon construction to this blade.

In spite of the top condition of this blade, it was indeed used for combat. There is a kirikomi in the bohi on one side where this sword was struck by another sword. These kirikomi are nice battle scars and show that a sword like this was not simply for court, but was proved on the battlefield. This kind of shortening by the way was probably done around the time the cut was made, in the Muromachi period. Careful refinishing of the nakago after shortening rather than being cut straight across is something we see before the Momoyama period and more likely to be earlier in the Muromachi. In this case the nakago-jiri has taken on the shape of typical Osafune work of the period. There are instances of other Bizen blades being taken to the Sukesada workshop where this kind of work was done.

If you do not yet know what utsuri is, this sword will teach you all about it. Utsuri is a misty area of activity in the ji that will glow when lit. Most of the time it's hard to see, because the sword was made with dim utsuri to begin with or it's been polished away. Between the hamon and the misty utsuri is a dark region called the antei. In a sword that presents with good utsuri, it should be complimentary to the hamon and there should be an artistic balance between utsuri, antei and hamon. As a necessity in accomplishing this, we need a smaller hamon than the florid Fukuoka-Ichimonji works of the middle Kamakura. The shrinking of the size of the hamon that we see with the end of Nagamitsu and in Kagemitsu works, as well as Ichimonji of their time period, seems to be related to making a more robust sword that was less prone to breaking. When the hamon came down in size it allowed these smiths more area in which to add utsuri related activity. The end result can be like in this sword, where you have all of the great activity of an Ichimonji but scaled down and with greater detail, plus you have fantastic utsuri that dances above the hamon the way the Aurora Borealis dances above mountains in the far north. It is in my opinion a much more beautiful style to look at than a sword that becomes entirely flamboyant hamon, and I feel the same way with Soshu blades that feature strong chikei and beautiful jihada without becoming preoccupied with filling the ji in hitatsura. Balance and presentation of various activities of ji together with hamon is something that I hold most important in sword construction. I think it's short sighted to just focus on hamon, but that focus can be because it is so rare to see a sword like this that has everything going for it. Every sword has a hamon, regardless of whether or not the jihada is forced well or beautifully. So it becomes the default area for looking at interesting activity and people can become too focused on it by habit.

It's not entirely clear what the goal was for Bizen smiths in making utsuri nor do we know for sure how they achieved it. Throughout time various smiths have been able to emulate its construction but we don't know now if that is kind of parallel evolution... that is, they achieve an utsuri like effect but we are not sure if the process is the same as what was done in the Kamakura period. Some recent thinking on utsuri is that it serves as a method to make a blade more rigid or resilient.

There are various styles of utsuri and Aoe blades often have the best. This one has choji midare utsuri and far outranks simpler utsuri construction. The utsuri stands in counterpoint to the hamon, it keeps time but feels very much like a reflection of the hamon, which is the origin of the term utsuri. So everywhere you go along this sword you are addressed with this interplay and dance between hamon, utsuri and antei. It is really fantastic.

This sword lets us understand how a Bizen smith aimed high and what they were able to achieve in this style, because so many of these blades are now polished enough that hamon and utsuri both are altered past the original vision. In this sword we see all of the reputation of Kagemitsu as a careful artist come through to us. The shape is perfect and subdued in its elegance. The hamon and utsuri sit in perfect counterpoint to each other, in a state of tension and balance, like two dancers. One positive and one negative, and sharing the space in the sword so that your eyes go back and forth between these two beautiful constructions and enjoy them at the same time. There is as much going on in this blade in the activities in the ji due to the strong utsuri present, as there is in the hamon.

Most Bizen swords do not feature strong utsuri because in some cases the smith could not make it. Though the work of Chogi is so good, we normally don't see much in the way of utsuri because of how the smith had to make his swords. After his time, utsuri quite rapidly falls out of the Bizen repertoire. And blades from the Kamakura period and before when utsuri hataraki is at its best, tend to have been polished so much that most of the utsuri is gone.

I have carefully tried to pursue these Bizen examples I have gotten access to that show off excellent utsuri because it is so very close to the Bizen archetype and as such is something that can truly represent the best of the Bizen tradition in any collector's collection. For me it becomes a very strong reason to celebrate a blade, when it shows off all of the smith's habits and advocates strongly for the distinct features of the smith's tradition.

In the hamon, we see so much detail and careful structure. We see square choji and gunome elements which come from Nagamitsu, and Kagemitsu went on to develop into kataochi-gunome. So within this hamon we see his trademark feature though generally for Kagemitsu he only made kataochi-gunome over the whole hamon in tanto. In these choji and gunome shapes, inner workings are retained and details far beyond simple hamon structure. Though Kagemitsu did not make the large florid hamon of early Nagamitsu work, he preserved all of the same activity but put it into a smaller area. So this sword is just packed with fine activities everywhere you look in the hamon.

In the case of Kagemitsu, the smith is so highly ranked, with Kokuho (National Treasure) works to his name and centuries of fame behind him, that to own one is indeed going to give you this kind of representative work for your collection. But to own one like this is even more, this not only advocates but celebrates everything that Bizen does best. It is a miracle to receive in this condition and with this kind of activity all through the blade. In this sword everything comes together: preserving the signature (to some extent), exquisite jihada, gorgeous active hamon, vivid utsuri with choji midare base, perfect condition, and top rank for skill and quality and reputation of the maker.

Owning a blade like this is an interesting experience, because it has a way of making everything else look boring. It is hard to go back to lesser swords, or find time for them, when you have something like this to spend your time with. For two years I asked to look at this blade and I tried over this time to acquire it. So I have been thinking about this listing and these photos for all of this time. It's fair to say I'm proud to have a work like this on my site, and for me at least, it's a sword like this that gives my site a reason to exist. There is no work in documenting this sword or writing this, it is just joy, because the sword itself is a source of so much pleasure and satisfaction.

If I retire and pull the plug on my website, something I think about from time to time as dealing in swords is not always the fun experience one can hope that it would be, this is the kind of item I hope that I am left with. If it finds no new home past this, I will be content. Because a sword like this is something that you need to hunt down over decades and if it falls into your lap, it is at the end of a Rube Goldberg machine of unusual events. So you need to be lucky in the first place, persistent, patient, and focused.

I can only hope that it will go to someone who will understand the difficulty of locating a blade with this much activity and beauty and importance. Every year that new Tokuju arrive, I go and look at the exhibit. Some blades I want to clap for right in the museum, many I scratch my head and wonder why it's there. This one is one I would clap for and not only does it deserve its ranking of Tokubetsu Juyo, this blade is in the top five percent of Tokubetsu Juyo. The only way to improve on it would be to get an ubu nakago, but at this point the blade would be Juyo Bunkazai and beyond reach.

Though the nakago has been shortened, there is a bit less than half of the original still present on it. Three characters of the mei remain and Kagemitsu has been added as shumei some time after the blade passed Juyo. There is a kao on the other side, this was all clear at the time of Tokubetsu Juyo but now it's coming off a bit. It must have been done by one of the modern Honami but so far nobody has been able to identify the kao, I will try to run it down more in Japan. The three remaining characters are of course a perfect match for Kagemitsu's writing, and as well, the construction is absolutely perfectly in the middle of his best quality and style of work. All of it speaks to the very top level of a Bizen master smith's output.

This blade in all of its exquisite construction is something you will never tire of for the rest of your life. It's wonderful quality has been recognized by a past owner in making a solid gold double habaki for the blade. These are quite expensive to make, so I hope you will recognize it as a sign of the prior owner's love for the blade.

Really, a sword like this is what it is all about. If you own one like this, you may not need to own any others.

Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi Oshigata

Juyo Token Tachi

Appointed on the 10th of August, 1967 (Session 16)

Tachi, Zaimei (partial mei) - Den Kagemitsu (伝景光)


shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, due to the suriage a shallow koshizori, chū-kissaki


very dense itame that features a prominent chōji-utsuri


suguha-chō with a rather tight nioiguchi that is mixed with ko-chōji, ko-gunome, and many ashi and yō


on the omote side a notare with a slight tendency towards midare-komi, on the ura side a little bit notare-komi, on both sides with a ko-maru-kaeri


on both sides a bōhi which ends in marudome on the omote side and which runs as kaki-tōshi through the tang on the ura side


suriage, kurijiri, katte-sagari yasurime, two mekugi-ana, the tang retains at the tip and towards the nakago-mune the characters Bizen no Kuni, the mei is attributed to Kagemitsu


The blade is suriage and parts of the mei have been cut off in course of the shortening but we are in agreement with that the attribution must be to Kagemitsu. Kagemitsu was the son of Nagamitsu (長光) and the third generation of Osafune. He only worked very rarely in the flamboyant chōji-midare of his father Nagamitsu as he focused more on a deki in suguha-chō mixed with chōji or in a gorgeous kataochi-gunome which was introduced by him. Kagemitsu’s jigane is superior to that of Nagamitsu and his bōshi follows the style of the school. This tachi is of an excellent deki and is in a perfectly healthy condition (kenzen).

Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi Tokuju PhotoKo-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi Origami

Tokubetsu Juyo Token Tachi

Appointed on the 29th of May, 1996

Tachi, Zaimei (partial mei), 備前国 (Bizen no Kuni) – Osafune Kagemitsu of Bizen Province


shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, normal mihaba and kasane, relatively shallow sori, chū-kissaki


fine and dense ko-itame that features a prominent midare-utsuri


suguha-chō with a clear and rather tight nioiguchi that is mixed with ko-gunome, chōji, many ashi and yō, and kinsuji


a little bit notare-komi with a ko-maru-kaeri


on both sides a bōhi which ends in marudome on the omote side and which runs as kaki-tōshi through the tang on the ura side


suriage, shallow ha-agari kurijiri, sujikai-yasurime, two mekugi-ana, the sashi-omote retains at the tip of the tang and towards the nakago-mune the characters Bizen no Kuni and bears above and on the hira-ji the shu-mei Kagemitsu, the ura side shows a shu-mei kaō


Osafune Kagemitsu from Bizen Province.


Kagemitsu (景光) was after Mitsutada (光忠) and Nagamitsu (長光) the third generation of the Osafune main line. Extant dated works go back to the end of the Kamakura period and span roughly 30 years from the Kagen (嘉元, 1303-1306) to Kenmu (建武, 1334-1338) eras. Kagemitsu did not harden such a prominent amount of chōji as his father Nagamitsu did and focused more on a gunome-based midareba whose elements are overall rather small dimensioned and about uniformly wide. That is, his hamon is not as flamboyant as his father’s but his excellent and densely forged kitae surpasses that of Nagamitsu in terms of fineness.

Another characteristic feature of Kagemitsu is that he perfected a hamon variant referred to as kataochi-gunome, whereas a pure kataochi-gunome is only seen on tantō as at tachi, the kataochi-gunome is mixed with other elements and thus just appears in sections.

This tachi was shortened and cut right after the three characters Bizen no Kuni but the signature style and the workmanship of the blade leave no doubt that we have here work of Kagemitsu. The kitae is a fine and dense ko-itame that features a prominent midare-utsuri, the hamon is a suguha-chō that is mixed with ko-chōji, ko-gunome, and angular elements, and the bōshi is a sansaku-bōshi. Thus, we clearly recognize the characteristic features of Kagemitsu. The blade is overall of an excellent deki and its jiba is extraordinarily healthy (kenzen).

Ko-Osafune Kagemitsu Tachi Sayagaki


This sword has a new sayagaki done at my request by Tanobe Michihiro, the retired former head researcher at the NBTHK.

  1. 備前國長船景光
    Bizen no Kuni Osafune Kagemitsu
  2. 第十四回特別重要刀剣指定品
    Dai jūyonkai Tokubetsu Jūyō Tōken shitei-hin
    Designated as Tokubetsu Jūyō Tōken at the 14th shinsa
  3. 磨上ゲテ銘切ナレド書風的ニモ同工ナルハ自明而朱書ガ加ハリタリ
    Suriagete mei-kiri naredo shofūteki ni mo dōkō naru wa jimei shikamo shusho ga kuwaharitari kare no shinkotchō to shō-subek.
    The blade is shortened but the style of writing of the remaining parts of the signature is that of Kagemitsu, which is reflected in the red-lacquer inscription accordingly.
  4. 彼ノ真骨頂ト称スベキ緻密ナ地銕ヲ見セ乱映ガ鮮ヤカニ立チ廣直刃仕立テニ小丁子・小互乃目・角互乃目ヲ交ヘテ逆ガゝる刃文ヲ焼キ更ニ三作帽子ニ結ブナド典型的ナリテ殊ニ地刃ノ冴ヘ見事矣
    Chimitsu na jigane o mise midare-utsuri ga azayaka ni tachi hiro-suguha shitate ni ko-chōji, ko-gunome, kaku-gunome o majiete gyaku-gakaru hamon o yaki sara ni sansaku-bōshi ni musubu nado tenkei-teki narite koto ni jiba no sae migoto i.
    The fine and delicate jigane is a true match for the smith’s forte as well and also very typical are the vivid midare-utsuri and the hardening of partially slanting ko-chōji, ko-gunome, angular gunome that are arranged as hiro-suguha that concludes with a sansaku-bōshi. Particularly magnificent with this blade is the clarity of its jiba.
  5. 珍々重々
    Very rare, very precious.
  6. 長弐尺二寸五分余
    Nagasa 2 shaku 2 sun 5 bu yo
    Blade length ~ 68.2 cm
  7. 時在己亥皐月深山識「花押」
    Jizai tsuchinoto-i satsuki Tanzan shirusu + kaō
    Written by Tanzan in May of the year of the boar of this era (2019) + monogram