Very Rare Toribuki no Tachi with mythological bird handle and an edo era blade.
A Most Impressive Ho-oh Bird Kuge (Yefu) No Tachi in Jindachi-Zukuri mounts
A phoenix hilted Japanese tachi. As seen in the Emperor's Court. The phoenix was known as a Ho-oh bird in China and Japan. This sword is a variation of the efu tachi and were carried as court swords during many periods of Japanese history, and they continued to be made as presentation swords into the Showa era. Efu tachi, also called Hoso tachi, were likewise only worn by the highest ranking daimyo and officials of the court. Efu tachi have a distinctive shitogi tsuba. These are generally considered ceremonial mountings rather than combat mountings. Efu (Hoso) tachi were made from Koto through Showa times. This sword was made in 18th century and has a shortened blade.
The Phoenix design was originally carried by the commander of the Palace guards and Efu means to protect the Imperial house.
The legendary Ho-oh Bird has been used throughout Japanese history, even by the Tokugawas. The sword has a Shitogi Tsuba, Fuchi, Kabuto-Gane of Ho-oh bird (10 in.), 2-piece Seppa (Rope & Scallop) and applied Tawara-Pyo (5 Rice Barrels).
It was made as either a presentation/ceremonial piece of holiness and authority. In fact, two "Kokubo" (National Treasure) Bird's-Heads Tachi's remain unaccounted for after the post WWII occupation by American forces. The phoenix is a mythical Chinese bird, thought to have been introduced to Japan in the Asuka period (mid 6th to mid 7th century AD). The phoenix has a bird's beak, a swallow's jaw, and a snake's neck; the front half of its body is thought to resemble a giraffe, the back half a deer. Its back resembles a tortoise, and its tail is like a fish.
Swords with this type of mountings are very rare and usually worn by important persons more for ceremonial purposes than actual useage in battle.
It was the custom of Shogun, daimyo, emperor and important persons to present rare swords mounted in this kind of bird furniture to Shrines that they frequent as form of gratitude for battle success or any other special occasion. These swords are mostly classified as Important Art Object or even National Treasure.
This sword was presented to a temple in 1920 and taken forcefully by some rogue GI defying the order from General MacArthur that all swords classified as National Treasures and Important Art Objects were not to be removed from the rightful owners. Most of these swords were taken back to the US and sold by the GIs to museum and second hand stores with some rusting away in some attic and basement.
Some of these swords started to surface at estate sale after the death of the veterans.
In the book SWORD & SAME by Joly & Inada there is reference to a Torikubi no Tachi given by Saga Tenno to the Shingu Temple of Kumano (a national treasure) Because of the Hoo Bird, the sword was thought sacred and is depicted on portraits of Michizane, Kamatari, and even Tokugawa Iyeyasu according to the Sword & Same book page 18. The bird - looks like the mythological Hoo / Phoenix Bird.
The Blade is 26" long and has dragon horimono and buddhist sanskrit incised on the blade. Large gunome hamon w/very tight hada. Nice medium kissaki and fairly thick/heavy feel.
The shortened tang incised with characters of 1920 as the year of presentation and the name of the presenter who was stated as 13th generation on the other side. The handle has a beautifully executed cast bird and fuchi are nice. Scabbard is in excellent condition. The habaki, seppa and tsuba are all curved to fit snuggly.
I have done some cosmetic touch up and hopefully in future, sent for a professional polish to bring out the beauty of the blade to its fullest..
It is depicted in this website and hopefully someday, its rightful owner could be traced.
A very beautiful sword that is usually seen in the collection of museum, major shrines and Imperial Collection.
This is same sword as SC0075 with additional pictures to show the beauty of this important sword and a photo of some of the antique tachis in my collection.
All my swords are licensed by the Police and not for sale or exchange.