Monday, February 18, 2008

Nihanto . . .

. . . or what you would call a "Samurai sword."

My grandfather, John Osborne was an eclectic gentleman. Scoutmaster, Eagle Scout, church deacon, soldier, militaria collector, woodworker, gardner and fisherman. He was also diabetic, and died in 1957 at the age of 66. I was only fourteen.

He had a shed that he jokingly (I hope) called his "doghouse." Presumably for use when he and grandma . . . well, never mind. I remember that the doghouse had a small bunk bed, a gun rack and lots of other stuff. Grandma gave me quite a few items from the doghouse, and I still have them all. But I recently became interested in finding out more about a rather plain-looking sword that appeared to be a Japanese Nihonto.

All I knew about Samurai swords, I learned from the movies - which means that everything I knew was incorrect. Thank heaven for the internet.

I thought that the scabbard was very plain, because I was used to all the movie glitter. I found out that the sword was encased in a storage scabbard (shirasaya). The shirasaya protects the sword when it is not mounted for carry and use.

I learned that the information concerning the maker and dating of the sword was located on the tang (nagako). One side of the nagako usually has the date (nengo) and the other side has the smith's signature (mei).

Are you bored yet? There's more.

I was hoping against hope that this would be an ancient, valuable nihonto, weilded by a famous swordsman. OK, that's not likely, but one can always hope.

When I carefully removed the handle (tsuka), I found the expected inscriptions (kanji). The kanji are read from top to bottom. I rotated the pictures to cut down the length of the post - so if you read Japanese, I apologize for the crick in your neck.

This is the nengo or dating of the blade. It reads Showa jyu hachi nen san gatsu kichi jitsu, which means: "on a fortunate day in March in the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Hirohito, (March, 1944).

This is the mei or swordsmith's signature. It reads oiete toto hizen no kuni Tadamitsu tsukuru kore, which means: "at Tokyo, Tadamitsu of Hizen Province made this".

Regardless of whether or not this sword is worth any $$$$, it has great sentimental value to me - and I learned something. It's always a good day when you learn something.

Grandpa, I know you're watching from somewhere, and I want you to know that I still eat those salami sandwiches you used to make for me when we went fishing. Oh, and I can't pick a fresh tomato without thinking of your garden between the "doghouse" and the workshop.