By Osafune Kagemitsu
Kamakura period/Genkou 2(1322)
Tokyo National Museum
Active in the latter part of the Kamakura period (1185-1333), Kagemitsu was the third-generation master of the Osafune School of swordsmiths, which was established in Bizen (present-day southeastern Okayama prefecture) by his grandfather Mitsutada. The flamboyance of Kagemitsu's style sets him apart from his father Nagamitsu, and the skill displayed in the finish of the metal surface (J. jigane) is superb. His extant works include tachi blades (curved swords worn with the blade down), daggers (J. tantô), curved halberds (J. naginata), and ken (double-edged, symmetrical sword) blades.
The tang of the blade is inscribed "Kagemitsu, master of the Osafune of Bizen Province; fifth month of Genkô 2 (1322)." The groove on the face of the blade bears a relief image of Kulika (J. Kurikara), a dragon entwined around a sword that represents the Buddhist deity Fudô (Skt. Acalanatha). A Sanskrit letter rises out of the trough on the other side. Since it appears as though the dragon is peering out from the groove, the sword is also called "Peeking Dragon Kagemitsu" (J. Nozoki ryû Kagemitsu). At the end of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867, the sword became the property of Yamada Asaemon and was later presented to Emperor Meiji (1852-1912, r. 1867-1912).