Back from Japan. A real agonizing grind due to the excessive heat and too many things on the list to do.
I got to view the Tokuju exhibit. Everyone if they can should try to get out and see this exhibit and the Juyo when they are on. It is the best way of setting your eyes to the best work.
This show had some great Soshu blades out, and these are always my focus. Side by side you have a rare chance to see Hiromitsu, Go Yoshihiro, Shizu, Masamune, Sadamune and Yukimitsu. In this set the real blowout sword was the Yukimitsu, I found it to be head and shoulders above the rest. The second best was the Takagi Sadamune, then Shizu… followed by Masamune, after which was a big gap down, then the Go and the Hiromitsu. There were two Go that passed Tokuju and only one was on exhibit, a big blade with a nickname Kabuto-giri, but to tell the truth, I wasn’t too fond of this blade at all and I am in general a fan of the work of Go. Sometimes things like history, family ownership, and which Honami made the attribution are a big factor in how high a blade can go.
Yukimitsu’s work is almost always excellent, as he was not really a target in the Edo period for trying to transfer the works of other smiths. Rather, works of Yukimitsu are sometimes transferred out to Masamune and Sadamune.
Shizu, the same thing, works are not usually going to be exaggerated into Shizu, rather, his works are often transferred out to Masamune.
Takagi Sadamune, this smith is not yet settled as either Sadamune in his old age or else a son or student of his in his retirement. When you look at the greatest works of Takagi Sadamune they are well above the weakest works attributed to Soshu Sadamune. I am a bit biased because this is my blade but it is my blade because my eyes saw when they saw before it was Tokuju. The blade is wide, long, with clear and fine jihada, bright midareba hamon and most importantly the sugata has a narrow shinogiji and exemplifies the most ideal shape you would want for Sadamune. Inside the bohi is a ken which is another little gift to associate the work with Sadamune. It’s one of my favorites of all time.
However I am not biased enough to not recognize the Yukimitsu as king of the show. Congratulations to that owner.
People tend to think that Yukimitsu works are a grade less than Masamune and Sadamune but it’s not true at all, the skill level is very close in all of these smiths (Go and Norishige and Shizu also included). The finest works of each of those smiths exceed the worst works of any of them easily. Just the styles are a bit different and the rarity is different. And similarly one should never just dismiss Takagi Sadamune because of the Takagi, the fine works are just as good as Soshu Sadamune but you can get a discount. It is very likely that historically they are one and the same smith. Some books have the first Hiromitsu changing his name to Sadamune around the time of the death of Masamune, and then later on moving to retirement in Takagi. The long-mei Hiromitsu by this reckoning is the second generation Hiromitsu.
We have no time machine to verify any of this but we have to keep it in mind when we view the work.