Swords Collection
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Shizu Saburo Kaneuji, NBTHK Juyo Token,

Shizu Saburo Kaneuji is a grand master swordsmith working from the end of the Kamakura period into the beginning of the Nanbokucho period. He was highly influential, and is the founder of the Mino tradition - one of the five general koto styles of swordsmithing. His path through life lead him from his beginnings in Yamato as a Tegai smith most likely working under Kanenaga, to tutelage under Masamune in Kamakura, and finally settling in Mino, Shizu where the mastery of these two styles emerged from his teachings as the Mino tradition.

Though he signed as Kaneuji, he is most often referred to as Shizu for the place in Mino in which he settled. Prior to his move to Kamakura he signed with Kaneuji as well, but used different characters to represent the Kane sound.

Swords from his time period in Yamato are refered in backronym style, as Yamato Shizu. The work after his time with Masamune are simply referred to as Shizu. This makes for some points of confusion, because the students he left behind in Yamato are collectively referred to as Yamato Shizu, and best scholarship today indicates a Nidai Kaneuji working in Yamato after he left. The students he left behind in Mino after his passing are called Naoe Shizu, as they moved and settled in Naoe, in Mino province. These Naoe Shizu smiths are known individually as Kanetsugu, Kanenobu, Kanetomo, and Kanetoshi and may also have been sons of his. Since they typically made Nanbokucho style sugata that have been cut down with signatures lost, it is particularly difficult to establish enough workmanship to make specific determinations between the Naoe Shizu smiths on mumei work, which leads to the frequent use of the school classification when attributing to them.

Shizu attributed work however is always by the grand master Kaneuji.

In spite of his fame as founder of the Mino tradition, his own work style when classified as Shizu is almost entirely Soshu with inspired contributions from Yamato and so is a clear hybrid of the two.

Shizu's work has in the past often been judged as Masamune due to the strong resemblance between their work styles. He is in general, the closest craftsman to Masamune in terms of style, and is usually considered one of one of the leading Masamune Juttetsu.

One of the traits that is common in the works of Shizu that is used to differentiate from Masamune is the presence of masame or straightish grain near the ha and shinogi, with itame between. This leads to frequent sunagashi and kinsuji in the hamon, as these activities will follow the grain under the yakiba. His work is usually marked with togariba, though in practice these are also seen in Masamune and not all Shizu blades bear togariba (pointed gunome). The hamon though is usually based in some type of mix of midare and gunome, in nie with these activities as mentioned. As well, when his blades are signed they are done so with a very rustic looking and lightly made signature. Fujishiro theorizes that this was a trait done to preserve the integrity of the sword during impact. He cites an example where a sword fractured in the nakago with a fault line running through the strokes of the mei. It's possible that the lack of signature on koto Soshu blades and the rustic looking and light signatures that do exist in the older period blades were in fact a feature meant to defeat this kind of failure. Fujishiro concludes that the various signatures of Choji, Kanemitsu, Samonji, and the fine small mei that are seen in the Muromachi Bizen blades at the beginning of this period, were in fact all design elements meant to preserve the integrity of the nakago as much as possible.

Regardless of the period of work, he seems to have experimented, along with Sadamune, more than other smiths in the variety of shapes of sword he made. He was surely not conservative, with his mixed background and various styles of sugata he produced. We see every type of shape, kissaki, hi, horimono and sori in his work, but always they are linked somehow to a seed of Yamato and strong presence of Soshu traits in the ji and ha, with very clear steel and a wet, black and formidable look that is very pleasing.

These works of his have been treasured for centuries in Japan, and were held in high esteem by many daimyo and powerful families. Today his works rank from Juyo and Tokubetsu Juyo, to Juyo Bijutsuhin and Juyo Bunkazai. He is of course regarded by Fujishiro as Sai-jo Saku, the rating of a grandmaster swordsmith.

nagasa 69.6 cm, sori 1.7 cm, motohaba 2.95 cm, sakihaba 2.05 cm, kissaki-nagasa 3.5 cm, nakago-nagasa 19.1 cm,
nakago-sori 0.1 cm

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