By Soushū Masamune
Kamakura period/14th century
Tokyo National Museum
Masamune, commonly known as Gorô Nyûdô, was a swordsmith from Sagami Province (present-day Kanagawa Prefecture) active at the end of the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Well known as a skilled craftsman, he is thought to have been either the real or adopted son of Tôsaburô Yukimitsu.
Although this sword is somewhat narrow in width, the fine quality of the finish and the glitter of fine particles (J. nie) are matchless. The original tang has been cut down, shortening the length; but the engraving, which includes a Sanskrit letter, remains intact. The piece is called Kanze Masamune because it was originally in the possession of the Kanze, a prominent family active in the world of Noh theater. However, according to the Kyôhô Era Handbook of Famous Works (J. Kyôhô meibutsuchô), an Edo-period (1615-1868) sword manual, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) took it from the Kanze family and gave it to his son Hidetada (1578-1632). It then passed through the hands of a number of the Tokugawa family's retainers. After the Meiji Restoration (1868), the Tokugawa family presented it to the Arisugawa-no-miya family, and it was passed down within the house of their successors, the Takamatsu-no-miya.