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ICHIHARA NAGAMITSU

Nagamitsu is one of the most famous names in the history of Japanese swords. There have been various swordsmiths named Nagamitsu who worked from the mid 1200’s through the 1940’s. The most famous of them worked in Bizen, although swordsmiths by this name are recorded as having worked in Satsuma, Yamato, Yamashiro and other locations. Ichihara Ichiryushi Nagamitsu worked during the Showa Era in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

It has been established that Nagamitsu was a participant in the first Army Shinsakuto Exhibition held in 1944, in which he entered under the name of Ichihara Nagamitsu. Nagamitsu resided in Okayama and is mentioned in the Tosho Zensho by Shimizu which lists him as a Rikugun Jumei Tosho (Army approved swordsmith) and as a member of the Rikugun Gunto Gijutsu Tenrankai(3). He was awarded the Kaicho-sho prize at a sword competition held by Riku-gun Gunto Sho-rei Kai before the war.(6)

Some Nagamitsu blades will have a small, faint “saka” stamp on the nakago or nakago-mune. This indicates a blade made for the Osaka Rikugun Zoheisho (Osaka Army Arsenal). Several smiths including Ichihara Nagamitsu, Gassan Sadakatsu, Kawano Sadashige and Kosaka Masayoshi made blades for the Osaka Rikugun Zoheisho (7).

On May 20, 1984, a Nagamitsu blade was awarded Shinteisho origami by the NTHK(4). Nagamitsu blades have also received Hozon origami from the NBTHK in Japan (3). This attests to the high regard that these blades are currently getting in Japan and the fact that they are judged to be true gendaito.

Swordsman Saruta Mitsuhiro, head of the Musashi Dojo Ryuseika of Osaka, used a blade made by Ishiryushi Nagamitsu to perform kabutowari (helmet cutting). The blade successfully cut several centimeters into the iron plate helmut without sustaining significant damage, thus demonstrating the excellent quality and resilience of Nagamitsu’s swords.(5)

It has been thought that Ichihara Nagamitsu and Chounsai Emura were the same swordsmith or at least that their work was related in some way. It has been speculated that perhaps Nagamitsu also worked at the Okayama Prison; however, I have not seen nor heard of documentary evidence to this effect. It is now known, thanks to new evidence developed by Chris Bowen, that they are totally different and unrelated swordsmiths, but this debate has been a tale of confusion.

Ichihara Ichiryushi Nagamitsu often carved mei using an unusual style of Kanji for the “naga” character. “Naga” is usually written with three horizontal strokes to the right of the top vertical stroke. On many Ichihara Nagamitsu blades the “naga” Kanji is written with only two horizontal strokes. It is my belief that this is a “trademark” of Ichihara Nagamitsu and an important kantei point in distinquishing his blades from those of other swordsmiths who signed Nagamitsu during this period. However, there are several Nagamitsu blades known signed with a standard “naga” Kanji which may be a variant and from the same forge as the others (see oshigata “T” and “V”). Much has yet to be learned about the blades of from the forge of Nagamitsu.