The first generation Bizen Osafune Katsumitsu was active around Ōei (応永, 1394–1428) and his lineage continued to exist until the late Muromachi period. Particularly skilled masters from this lineage were Ukyō no Suke Katsumitsu (右京亮勝光), who was active around the mid-Muromachi period Bunmei era (⽂明, 1469–1487), and his son Jirōzaemon no Jō Katsumitsu (⼆郎左衛⾨尉勝光), who was active around Eishō (永正, 1504–1521). Works of both have been designated Jūyō-bunkazai (Important Cultural Properties) and Jūyō-bijutsuhin (Important Art Objects). The two smiths and Ukyō no Suke’s younger brother, Sakyō no Shin Munemitsu (左京進宗光), are regarded as two of the most representative masters of the Sue-Bizen group. It is said that Sakyō no Shin Munemitsu instructed Akamatsu Masanori (⾚松政則, 1455– 1496), the shugo-daimyō of the provinces of Harima, Mimasaka, and Bizen, in the craft of sword making.
Although this blade does not bear the first names of the smiths, its Eishō era date identifies it as a joint work of Jirōzaemon no Jō Katsumitsu and Sakyō no Shin Munemitsu. The katana has a short tang and a katateuchi-sugata. Its jigane features fine chikei and utsuri and the temper line (hamon) shows the typical koshi no hiraita-gunome style of this period. The ha is rich in ko-nie, kinsuji, nie-suji, and sunagashi. It has a bright nioiguchi.
The maker of this sword, Jirōzaemon no Jō Katsumitsu (⼆郎左衛⾨尉勝光) is rated as a Saijô-saku (highest skill) smith by Fujishiro. His uncle, Sakyō no Shin Munemitsu (左京進宗光), who made this blade with him, is rated as a Jôjô-saku smith (second highest skill). This is great praise indeed. This is an excellent example of the smaller, one-handed, katana that was very popular during this period of constant warfare that existed in Japan during the Muromachi era. Because most of the fighting was done on foot, smaller blades became the norm because of the close-in fighting and the need for lighter and shorter for the one-handed style of fighting that was used during these fast and furious battles.
The overall characteristics of the blade are as follows:
Mei on omote: Bizen no Kuni-jū Osafune Katsumitsu Munemitsu saku(備前国住⻑船勝光宗光作) – “Made by Osafune Katsumitsu and Munemitsu, residents of Bizenprovince”
Mei on ura: Eishō nen hachigatsu hi (永正年⼋⽉⽇) – “On a day in the eighth month in a year of the Eishō era(1504–1521)”
Nagasa: 61.4 cm (24 3/16 in.), sori 1.4 cm (9/16 in.), motohaba 2.7 cm (1 1/16 in.), sakihaba 2.6 cm (1.0 in.),kissaki-nagasa 2.9 cm (1 1/8 in.), nakago-nagasa 15.6 cm (6 1/8 in.).
Province: Bizen, mid-Muromachi period.
Sugata: Shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, normal mihaba and sori, sakizori, chū-kissaki.
Kitae: Dense ko-itame that is mixed with ko-mokume, mokume, and nagare and that features plenty of ji-nie, fine chikei, and a midare-utsuri.
Hamon: Koshi no hiraita-gunome in ko-nie-deki with a bright nioiguchi that is mixed with chōjiba,togariba, many ashi and yō, kinsuji, nie-suji, and sunagashi.
Bōshi: Ichimai with hakikake at the tip.
Nakago: Ubu, kurijiri, katte-sagari yasurime, two mekugi-ana.
Habaki: Double and gold-foiled.
This blade comes in a nice Edo period uchigatana-koshirae with glossy black-lacquer saya. The tsuba is an iron sukashi tsuba with a motif of autumnal vegetation. The fuchi/kashira is signed “Takakiyo saku” (隆清作) and is made of shakudō with takabori relief and gold iroe accents. The Menuki are of shakudō, depicting autumnal vegetation, in katachibori, with gold iroe accents.
The overall condition of the blade is very good with some areas of slightly rough hada due to its many polishes over its more than 500 year life during which it has survived many battles. It is in very good polish with no rust, nicks, or flaws. It comes with NBTHK Hozon papers attesting to the validity of the signatures and the quality of the blade. If you are looking for a real piece of Samurai history, this would be an excellent blade to add to your collection or to begin a new collection.