Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) has long been considered to be a pupil of Masamune (正宗) (Masamune Juttetsu). His oldest remaining dated work is dated Bunwa 4 (1355) and his latest is Kôan 1 (1368). Most of his dated works are from the Enbun era (1356-1361). Given the fact that his working dates appear to be somewhere around twenty years after Masamune (正宗), this connection can be considered to be somewhat dubious. There are also opinions that based on the surname Hasebe (長谷部), that his native place was Yamato (大和). However, Kôzan Oshigata and other authorized synopses list the name Hasebe (長谷部) as having been used also by Shintogo Kunimitsu (新籐五国光) and his sons, Kunishige (国重) and Kunihiro (国廣). This seems to indicate that the Shintôgo (新籐五) and the Hasebe (長谷部) were consanguineous.
Therefore, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that it was the first generation Kunishige (Shintôgo Kunishige (新籐五国重) who was the direct student of Masamune (正宗) since he belonged to the Shintôgo (新籐五) school that descended from the teachings of Shintôgo Kunimitsu (新籐五国光), one of Masamune’s (正宗) teachers. That theory would make more logical sense when we consider the working period of the smith we know as Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重). The relationship between Hasebe (長谷部) and Shintôgo (新籐五) has not been clarified definitely. It is obvious, however, that both groups bear strong Sôshû characteristics in both the ji and ha sections of their works. For more information about this outstanding school, please refer to the following article: The Hasebe School.
Nihonto.com is very pleased to offer this fine o-suriage, mumei katana attributed to the Hasebe school. It was awarded the rank of Jûyô Tôken at the NBTHK’s 53rd Jûyô shinsa in 2007. The following is a translation of the Jûyô Tôken zufu that thoroughly describes this wonderful blade:
Designated Jûyô Tôken at the 53rd Jûyô Shinsa of the 24th of October, the 19th year of Heisei (2007)
Katana, unsigned, Den Hasebe (伝長谷部)
Suzuki Kazuo of Hokkaidô
Dimensions: Length: 70.7 cent.; Sori: 2.0 cent.; Width at the Base: 2.9 cent.; Width at the Point: 1.9 cent.; Kissaki Length: 3.7 cent.; Nakago Length: 24.6 cent.; Nakago Sori: almost nothing.
This is a shinogi-zukuri katana with an iori-mune. The blade is wide with slight difference between the base of the blade and the point. The blade is thin, the curvature is high that is slightly wa-zori, and the chū-kissaki is long. The kitae is itame mixed with mokume that is flowing here and there, with a prominent feeling, and that is thickly covered in ji-nie with a great deal of chikei. The entire jigane is powerful. The hamon is shallow notare in style with a mixing in of gunome, ko-gunome, togari style ha, and chôji style ha. There is ashi and yô activity. The nioi are wide and thick, and the habuchi is covered in nie. There are streaks of sunagashi and kinsuji activity. There is a great deal of yubashiri in the ji with a mixing in of tobiyaki, and the addition of muneyaki, becoming hitatsura in style. The entire nioiguchi is bright and vivid. The bōshi is midare-komi that is pointed with a kaeri and hakikake on the sashi-omote side and an ō-maru-like tip with a kaeri on the ura. The nakago is ō-suriage with a kirijiri, kiri-yasurime, four mekugi-ana, three of which are plugged, and the blade is mumei.
The Hasebe School, together with the Nobukuni School, was the representative group of Yamashiro sword-smiths during the Nanbokuchō period. In this same school, the two most prominent smiths were Kunishige (国重) and Kuninobu (国信), and they specialized very much in the hitatsura-ba that appeared during this period. Occasionally, a notare gunome based hamon with midare-ba is seen.
This katana is ō-suriage and mumei, and its width, thinness, long chū-kissaki, and high wa-zori style shape are characteristic of the mid-Nanbokuchō period. The kitae is itame that is flowing here and there, and thickly covered in ji-nie with chikei activity. The jigane is powerful. The hamon is shallow notare in style with a mixing in of a hint of gunome, togari-ba and chôji. The nioi is wide and thick and the habuchi is covered in nie. There are streaks of sunagashi and kinsuji activity. There is abundant yubashiri with a mixing in of tobiyaki in the ji, and with the addition of hitatsura, the hamon becomes hitatsura-ba in style. With such features as the ô-maru style bōshi with a kaeri on the ura side, there is the powerful impression that the Hasebe characteristics have been appropriately displayed with the abundant variations. The yubashiri and tobiyaki appear in an ostentatious but natural manner and are thus highly tasteful, and with the perfectly healthy ji-ha, we have here a masterpiece among all blades attributed to this school.
This blade also comes in a shirasaya with a sayagaki by Tanobe Sensei, the world’s foremost living authority on Japanese swords. He writes as follows:
Dai gojūsankai jūyō-tōken
Ō-suriage mumei nari. Haba-hiro, ō-kissaki, wazori-fū no Nanbokuchō-ki Enbun-Jōji-kata no yūken naru shitai de ari ji-nie atsuku chikei o shikiri ni orinasu onjun naru hada-ai ni asaku notare-chō gunome, togariba o majieru hamon o yaki nie-nioi fukaku sunagashi, kinsuji karami sara ni ji ni wa yubashiri, tobiyaki obitadashiku kakari muneyaki mo aimatte hitatsura-fū to nari bōshi mo ura ga ō-maru-fū o teisuru nado dōha no tokushoku o meiji-suru ajiwai fukaki yūhin koto ni nie no kyōchaku to musakui no yubashiri no jō ni wa e mo iwarenu myōshu kore ari.
Nagasa ni-shaku san-sun san-bu yo kore ari.
Koretoki kanoe-ne yayoi Tanzan shirusu + kaō
Jūyō-tōken at 53rd jūyō shinsa
Hasebe from Yamashiro Province
[This blade is] ō-suriage mumei. It reflects with its wide mihaba, ō-kissaki, and wazori [toriizori] the powerful Enbun-Jōji shape of the Nanbokuchō period. The “wet” looking forging structure is entwined with plenty of ji-nie and much chikei and the blade is hardened in a nie-laden and gently undulating notare-chō that is mixed with gunome, togariba, sunagashi, and kinsuji, and with the abundance of yubashiri, tobiyaki, and the presence of muneyaki, the hardening tends overall to hitatsura. This interpretation of the jiba plus the ō-maru-like kaeri of the bōshi on the ura side of this highly tasteful masterwork represent typical characteristics of this school. Particularly noteworthy with this blade is its dynamic interplay of nie and nioi and the very natural appearance of its yubashiri, resulting in an exquisite and indescribable charm.
Blade length ~ 70.7 cm
Written by Tanzan [Tanobe Michihiro] in March of the year of the rat of this era (2020) + monogram.
This blade has been described by the NBTHK in the Jûyô documents as a “masterpiece of all of the works attributed to this school” and by Tanobe Sensei in his sayagaki as a ”masterwork of this school”. This is a blade that one never tires of enjoying and it will be the highlight of any collection.
This wonderful blade is accompanied by its Edo period koshirae that is absolutely exquisite. The photos below clearly show the quality of the soft metal (shakudo) work which is tastefully decorated with the family mon (crest) of its former owner.