Thursday, June 29, 2023

Gendaito and Otanto

 Around 2017 or so, one of my classmates and friend, Ron Plumsteel, had been toying with the idea of selling two of his nihonto.  Eventually, he decided to pass on the responsibility of stewardship over this sword to me.


According to Hiro sensei, the gendaito pictured here was likely crafted around 50 years ago, and is on a balance of probabilities authentic and made in Japan by a Japanese smith in the traditional way.  In effect, it is likely made with folded steel and water tempered, and it was made from tamehagane or oroshigane.



There are no tang stamps (Showa, Naval, Mukden, or Seki etc to indicate a gunto blade) and sensei tells me that he does not recognize the name of the smith.  A lot of fakes will engrave the names of a famous smiths to boost their perceived value, but a possible indicator of authenticity would be a smith that may not necessarily be famous.  My sword is not certified by NBTHK or NTHK, but I am satisfied that it is a nihonto, and I hope that one or both of my kids will appreciate such finely crafted swords as I do.  I haven't decided if I will have it fitted with furniture, but it is something I may consider doing because it is the same dimensions as my iaito, coming in at about 2.45 shaku.

 A few interesting tidbits I got from Ron about the history of this sword is that he's had it (along with the otanto) for about 30 years (That puts the purchase date sometime in the mid to late 80s). 

 He bought both blades from a Japanese man who worked for JAL at the time.  The man had other swords, some with certificates, but Ron decided on these two as they were less expensive because they had no certificates.  Ron was told that the katana was previously owned by a yakuza.  Apparently the yakuza had at least on one occasion used the sword in a fight with a rival yakuza, and cut the other yakuza's arm off.  Now, it's not likely that this story could ever be corroborated, but it's an interesting story nonetheless, and I have no doubt that what Ron told me was exactly as he heard it.

 The second blade that I acquired from Ron was this otanto.  Again, the blade came in shirasaya as the katana did.  Actually, I was hoping to buy only this otanto because he didn't mention that he was thinking about selling his long sword as well, but in the end, Ron decided he didn't need either anymore and let me buy them from him.


According to Hiro sensei, this blade on the otanto is likely about 200 years old or so.  The smith's name is known to my sensei, but apparently not famous.  Again, there are no certificates from NBTHK or NTHK, but I trust Ron, as well as the opinion of my sensei



 The tip has a slight chip in it, but it's not catastrophic and can be polished out


 The two toshin on their own.


 So after a little investigation on the katana and the signature on the tang, we found this:





 筑州住宗勉作 -  Chikuzen Sumuneun studies.  My sensei tells me the smith's name is Sou Tsutomu, and his father was Sou Kunimitsu.


昭和四十八年八月吉日 which says Showa 48th, 8th month (1973).  Mine appears to read Showa 49, 8th month (1974) . 

 A note that what appears to be:


 is actually:


Ron said he had the sword for about 30 years, making my sword only about 13 years old at the time he acquired it. 

Other information that appears on the website:



時代 昭和~平成

法量 2尺4寸5分

 Shubetsu-gatana kuni Fukuoka ken jidai Shōwa ~ Heisei-hō-ryō 2-shaku 4-sun 5-bu

 Which suggest it was forged in Fukuoka prefecture during Showa Heisei, sword length, 2.45 shaku

 More info:





 Shinsaku meitō-ten mu kansa tōshō kinkise nijū habaki shirazaya Fukuoka ken tōroku: Shōwa 48-nen 12 tsuki 20-nichi kōfu



 Sō Tsutomu tōshō wa, Shōwa nijūichinen ni chichidearu Sō Seikō tōshō ni shiji shi, Shōwa san jū-nen ni bijutsu tōken-rui seisaku shōnin o uke, dōnen shinsaku meitō-ten ni hatsu shuppin, sonogo, Bunkachō chōkan-shō Kaoru-san-shō nado ikuta no tokushō o renzoku jushō shi, heiseininen ni wa tōshō-kai no saikō-idearu mu kansa ni nintei sa remashita. Sono sakufū wa, kinsuji sunagashi nado hachūnohataraki to henka ni tonda Aishū-den o mottomo tokui to shite imasu. Kono katana wa, koitamehada yoku tsunda seibina kitae ni,-chi nie mijin ni atsuku tsuku. Jinmon wa henka ni tonda Tagai no me midare, ashi futoku nagaku shikirini hairi, nioi fukaku ko nie yoku tsuki, nioikuchi akaruku saeru nado, Sō tōshō no kōdona giryō o zonbun ni shimeshita sakuhindesu.

 Another sword with the same name found on Giheiya:


種別Category 刃長Blade length 76.8cm

反りCurvature 2.4cm 目釘穴a rivet of a sword hilt 1

元幅Width at the bottom part of blade 33.5mm 先幅Width at the top 21.0mm

元重Thickness at the bottom part of blade 7.0mm 先重Thickness at the top 5.0mm

重量Weight 刀身855g 時代Period 昭和

銘文Signature and Date (表)筑州住宗勉作


登録Registration Code 昭和60718 福岡県教育委員会

品番 02-1207








宗勉、本名は宗勝、昭和2年生まれ、福岡市博多区山王住。銘を筑州山王住宗勉作、筑州住宗勉作などと切り相州伝を得意とします。昭和二十一年に父である宗正光刀匠に師事し、昭和三十年に 美術刀剣類制作承認を受け、同年新作名刀展に初出品、その後、文化庁長官賞・薫山賞など幾多の特賞を連続受賞し、平成二年には刀匠会の最高位である無鑑査に認定されました。



ハバキ:素銅地金着一重。 白鞘が付属


研ぎ: 研ぎ上げたばかりです。

: 傷は有りません。

Some nakago comparisons:


Giheiya, Touken-Sato, mine.


Giheiya, Touken-Sato, mine.

At least there's a bit more history about the sword than I can pass on to my son one day.  

Vincent also found this little nugget of information:

 If you scroll down to 1990, that's when Sou Tsutomu received his Mukansa recognition.  I'm not sure if I will get my sword certified by NBTHK, but that might be worth looking into.

 As the smith did not receive his award until 1990, I see little reason for someone to make a fake with his name on it 30+ years ago.

Some other links that popped up associated with So Tsutomu:

 Now I just have to find the history of my o-tanto:


Tozando / Nishijin Shinken

Nishijin/Tozando branded shinken.  Purchased in 2011 from Todo Kai member.   

How the furniture appeared when first acquired from Chris

According to Nishijin's website at the time:

"Nishijin Sword's Iaito swords have already received numerous praises from the users with its superior balance, workmanship and finish.  Now with the new hard carbon steel blade, you can experience the real Japanese sword feeling and test cutting.  Unlike other competitors in the market, each and every sword is specifically handmade under the supervision of Tozando/Nishijin Sword and the technical guidance of the Japanese master sword craftsman in Seki of Gifu.  Although the final product is assembled in China, the quality of the fitting materials is as same as the one available in Japan and as such ornaments as Tsuba and Tsuka are shipped from Japan"  

In an e-mail to Nishijin, they indicated that they used T-10 steel for the toshin.  There was also talk of some of Tozando shinken (at the time) being forged and finished in Germany, but that information seems to have been lost with the sands of time.

 The previous owner (Chris), had an Edo-period tsuba fitted to it, however it seems a bit smallish and may have been meant for a wakizashi rather than katana.

The sword has since required some repair work to the saya, and was reinforced with rattan wrap near the koiguchi.  The tsuka was also removed just to take a look at the nakago, which was never done since taking ownership.  The tsuka was built well, as was the wrapping job, and even after a decade + of use, the wrap is still extrememly tight and doesn't need to be redone.