Kaneuji (兼氏) was born in the late 13th century in the Yamato area. Around the Geno Era (1319-1321), the latter part of the Kamakura period, Kaneuji (兼氏) left Yamato and moved to Taki-gun Shizu. Prior to this point he is considered to have been a master smith of the Yamato Tegai School. Around the time of his move to Shizu (志津) in Mino Prefecture, he spent some time as a student of Masamune (正宗) of the Soshu School. In fact, Kaneuji (兼氏) is considered to be one of the ten famous students of Masamune (正宗). Returning to Mino after his studies with Masamune (正宗), we find a marked transformation in his sword making. He dropped most of the Yamato characteristics and adopted a strong Soshu influence in his workmanship.
He soon developed his own style of forging that while it contained a strong Sôshû influence, it also retained some small amount of Yamato traits and, more importantly, contained characteristics of his own. His workmanship shows more of the Sôshû influence than the Mino traditions since the Mino tradition was still in its developmental stage. Kaneuji (兼氏) is considered to have been the founder of the Mino den, the last of the five major schools of the Koto period. The Mino tradition continued to evolve with the students of Kaneuji (兼氏). These students of the Naoe-Shizu (直江志津) school developed a sugata that is grander than that of Kaneuji (兼氏). The jihada has more masame combined within it, the jigane is whitish, and the hamon is mixed with considerable togare gunome.
The works of Kaneuji (兼氏) can be broken down into several categories depending on where he was living and studying. His earliest works are thought to have been signed with these kanji, 包氏, and were done in pure Yamato Tegai workmanship. Unfortunately, no works remain with this signature. Upon moving to Shizu (志津), he changed the first character “Kane” from 包 to 兼 thus using the form of the character that we today call the “Mino Kane”. There is a signed tachi that once belonged to the Ikeda family in Otsuka that is done in the Yamato style of workmanship with the signature (兼氏). Unfortunately, since Kanuji (兼氏) worked during a time when very long swords were the norm, today we have mostly o-suriage mumei katana. There are enough zaimei tachi, however, to allow sword scholars ample material to form solid opinions as to the changing work styles of Kaneuji (兼氏). Also, a good number of signed tanto survive to further support this research.
I would like to make a short digression to clarify the terms used to describe the works of Kaneuji, i.e. Yamato Shizu (大和志津), Shizu (志津) and Naoe Shizu (直江志津). The term Yamato-Shizu refers to Shizu Saburō Kaneuji (志津三郎兼氏) from before his studies with Sōshū Masamune and when he signed his name with the homonymous characters (包氏). In addition, the term is also applied to smiths who continued to work in Yamato under the Kaneuji (包氏) name during the Nanbokuchō period. After leaving Yamato, Kaneuji (兼氏) moved to Mino and settled down in Shizu (志津). Hence we often refer to him simply as Shizu (志津). In all cases when we are using the term Shizu (志津), we are usually talking about Shodai Shizu Saburo Kaneuji（志津三郎兼氏).
In later times the students of Kaneuji (兼氏) moved from Shizu (志津) to Naoe (直江) that is also in Mino. Hence when we speak of a blade being a Naoe Shizu (直江志津) blade, we are referring to a blade made by one of the students of Kaneuji (兼氏), but never by Kaneuji (兼氏) himself.
This katana is a lovely sword that has been attributed by the NBTHK to Yamato Shizu. It was awarded Jûyô Tôken status at the 19th shinsa on June 1st 1970. The following is a translation of the Jûyô Tôken zufu document:
Designated Jûyô Tôken at the 19th Shinsa of 1 June, the 45th year of Shôwa (1970)
Katana, Unsigned; den Yamato Shizu (大和志津).
Measurements: Length: 68.0 cent.; Curvature: 2.0; Width at Base: 2.8 cent.; Width at Point: 1.9 cent.; Length of Point: 3.2; Nakago Length: 16.0 cent.; Nakago Curvature: 0.2.
Characteristics: The construction is shinogi-zukuri with an iori-mune. Although the blade is ô-suriage, the curvature is rather deep, and the kissaki is medium sized with a stubby feeling. The kitae is itame-hada with flowing masame near the ha, and the ura is almost entirely masame. The entire jigane is well covered in ji-nie. The hamon is ko-notare mixed with gunome. There is a great deal of ashi and yô activity. The nioi is thick and there are streaks of sunagashi. There is kinsuji activity and the habuchi is well covered in ko-nie. The bôshi is sugu with an ô-maru and brushed tip. There are bôhi carvings on both sides of the blade that tapper off onto the nakago. The nakago is ô-suriage, the tip is shallow kurijiri, and the yasurime are sujikai. There are two mekugi-ana, and the blade is unsigned.
Explanation: This is an ô-suriage katana that is attributed to Yamato Shizu.
Regarding Yamato Shizu, this designation refers to those works produced during the period that he signed Kaneuji (包氏), which was before he signed Shizu Saburô Kaneuji (志津三郎兼氏) and studied under Sôshû Masamune (相州正宗). Moreover, these works differ from the Nambokuchô period smiths with the same signature Kaneuji (包氏) residing in Yamato.
The Yamato Shizu style of workmanship is essentially a notare-gunome hamon with streaks of sunagashi, kinsuji activity and a particularly powerful nie covering. In comparison to Yamato works, the ji-ha is more vivid; however, the construction and the style of workmanship have a conspicuously Yamato appearance.
This sword truly has these Yamato characteristics; however, it is also a work that is close the works of the Kaneuji (兼氏)period. The ô-maru bôshi is also something to which I want you to pay attention.
The blade comes in an old shirasaya with a sayagaki by the famous Kanzan Sato, one of the founders of the NBTHK. It has a two-piece gold foil habaki and is in perfect polish with no problems or flaws of any kind.
It is accompanied by a very striking koshirae of the late middle to later Edo era. The saya is lacquered in black and done in a brushwork design. There are a few very minor losses to the lacquer around the kojiri. The menuki are shishi lions done is shakudo. The tsuka ito is comprised of thin leather strips that are done in what can be called the katatemafi (battle type) of pattern. The leather has been lacquered black and is in a wonderful state of preservation. The balance of the metal parts of the koshirae (fuchi, kashira, tsuba, koiguchi, kurikata, and kojiri) are all made of shibuichi background with gold maple leaves. The tsuba is especially nice with the maple leaves done in kebori with some of them filled with gold and some left in their natural carved state. Probably Kaga goto work.