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英語:“Priceless Sword Discovered in Ceiling at Kasuga Taisha Restored”

An important twelfth-century Japanese sword, discovered hidden in the ceiling during a 1939 refurbishment of the treasure house at Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara, will now be put on display.

The sword appears to be in very good condition, showing little evidence of use and remains close to its original state. After repolishing and appraisal, it has been attributed to the Ko-Hoki School. The accompanying Kuro-urushi- yamagane (black lacquered mountain iron) tachi mountings are thought to date from the fourteenth century. The sword is believed to have been dedicated to the shrine sometime during the Nanboku-cho (1336-1392) and early Muromachi (1336-1573) periods.

The blade is unsigned, but as it bears a close resemblance to the famous Doji-giri sword in the Tokyo National Museum by the Ko-Hoki mastersmith Yasutsuna, and it is thought that it could be his work as well. The Doji-giri is known historically as one of the Five Greatest Swords Under Heaven. Motoki Sakai of the Tokyo National Museum said that the sword discovered at Kasuga Taisha “is a very important example of work of the period in excellent condition.”

Kasuga Taisha Shinto priest, Hirotada Kasan-no-in, said that discovering the sword was “amazing, like finding a time capsule.” He went on to say that he thought that the sword was “probably donated to the shrine by someone wishing for divine protection by the residing deity.” The sword and mountings were designated as an Important Art Object by the Agency of Cultural Affairs.

The sword was sent for restoration to polisher Koshu Hon’ami, who is a Living National Treasure. Hon’ami has re-polished the sword back to its original splendor. The Hon’ami family is said to have been sword polishers and appraisers since as far back as the Kamakura Period, and were later employed by the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo Period. They also issued appraisal certificates and valuations for important swords, as well as compiling various sword compendiums.

The Ko-Hoki School derives its name from Hoki province, which is the archaic name for modern Tottori Prefecture in western Japan. The Ko-Hoki School is thought to be one of the earliest curved-sword schools in Japan. From the third to sixth centuries, straight swords were mainly imported from the Asian mainland. Beginning during that period of importation, straight swords of continental Asian design were also produced in Japan. Later, around the mid tenth century, Japanese swordsmiths began making uniquely Japanese curved swords.

Swords are often dedicated to shrines across Japan as offerings to the shrine’s patron deity or as vessels, in which the patron deity may reside. The sword itself can then be worshipped as an incarnation of that deity. The practice of donating swords to shrines was very common in the Nanboku-cho and Muromachi periods, when many eleventh- and twelfth-century swords housed in Hyogo-gusari Koshirae (robust metal-covered mountings with chain suspension fittings, popular among warriors during the Kamakura period) were dedicated to various shrines.

The Kasuga Taisha sword is at its original intended length, unsigned, with a cutting edge length of 82.4 cm, a curvature of 3 cm and a blade width at the base of 3.3 cm.

It will be on display from January 30 to March 26, 2018, at the Legendary Sword Masterpieces exhibit at the Kasuga Taisha Treasure House in Nara, as part of the 1,250th anniversary of the construction of the shrine.

2017 JAPAN Forward association Inc. All rights reserved.
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日本語:“春日大社で見つかった日本刀、最古級と判明”

 春日大社(奈良市)の宝庫で昭和14年に見つかった太刀が、伯耆(ほうき)国(現在の鳥取県中西部)の刀工によって平安時代後期に製作された最古級の日本刀と判明し、同大社が22日、発表した。刀身には使用したり研いだりした形跡がほとんどなく、「当時の長寸太刀は現存数が少なく、貴重な資料」としている。30日~3月26日に大社国宝殿で公開される。

 太刀は無銘だが、刀身の古さから“天下五剣”に数えられる国宝「童子切(どうじぎり)」(東京国立博物館蔵)で名高い刀工「安綱」作の可能性もあり、南北朝~室町時代初期に武家から奉納されたとみられる。

 太刀の刀身は刃長82・4センチ、反り3センチ、幅3・3~2センチ。昭和14年に宝庫の解体修理の際に天井から見つかった太刀の一振りで、刀身が錆(さび)に覆われていたことから、人間国宝の本阿彌光洲(ほんあみ・こうしゅう)氏に研磨を依頼していた。

 この際、東京国立博物館の酒井元樹・主任研究員が調べたところ、反りの形状から、平安時代後期の太刀と判明。地鉄(じがね=肌模様)や刃文などから伯耆国の刀工が製作した「古伯耆物」と分かった。

 国内の刀剣は、刀身がまっすぐな直刀だったのが、平安時代後期ごろに現代人が日本刀としてイメージする反りや鎬(しのぎ=刀身の側面で小高くなっている部分)などがあるものに推移。今回の太刀はその成立時期に当たるという。

 酒井主任研究員は「長寸である上、当初の姿をとどめており極めて貴重」と指摘。花山院弘匡(かさんのいん・ひろただ)宮司は「タイムカプセルのように残っていて驚きだ」と話している。

2018 The Sankei Shimbun & SANKEI DIGITAL All rights reserved.
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