Blade for a Sword (Katana)

Swordsmith: Blade inscribed by Masazane (Japanese, Ise, documented 1515–26)

Date: dated 1526

Culture: Japanese

Medium: Steel

Dimensions: L. 36 1/8 in. (91.8 cm); L. of blade edge 29 9/16 in. (75.1 cm); D. of curvature 3/32 in. (2.4 cm)

Classification: Swords

Credit Line: Purchase, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gift, 2001

Accession Number: 2001.574


Masazane was a swordsmith active in the late Muromachi period in Ise (in present-day Mie prefecture). He was one of the most important swordsmiths of the Sengo Muramasa School. His best known work is a spear, the so-called Tonbogiri (dragonfly cutter), one of three famous spears, each of which was made by a renowned swordsmith.
This sword has a highly distinctive steel surface, made in the ayasugihada (concentrically curved grain) pattern. Blades with the ayasugihada pattern have been the trademark of the celebrated Gasan School of swordsmiths since the fourteenth century. This Masazane sword is the only known example of a blade with the ayasugihada pattern made by a swordsmith outside of the Gasan School. It is thus an important example of the work of Masazane and of the influence of the Gasan School on other swordsmiths. The sword is in perfect condition, is signed and dated, and has an extremely rare grain pattern, a combination of important qualities seldom found in a single sword. The tang is inscribed on the front, FUJIWARA MASAZANE SAKU (Masazane made this), and on the reverse, DAIEI ROKUNEN HACHIGATSU JŪNINICHI (August 12, 1526).