Original Japanese Late Edo Period Handmade Women's Kaiken Dagger by NAOKATSU dated 1859

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Purchased at a recent military show, this is a wonderful Japanese Kaiken (懐剣), which translates to "pocket sword". Very similar to the Tanto (短刀 - short sword), these were often worn by women, and were used strictly for combat and self-defense purposes. Typically measuring 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long with a single edged blade, these were usually housed in a plain mount with minimal ornamental fittings.

These were once carried by both men and women of the samurai class in Japan. It was useful for self-defense in indoor spaces where the long blade katana and intermediate sword wakizashi were inconvenient. Women carried them in their kimono either in a pocket-like space (懐 - futokoro) or in the sleeve pouch (tamoto) for self-defense and for ritual suicide by slashing the veins in the left side of the neck. When a samurai woman married, she was expected to carry a kaiken with her when she moved in with her husband.

This example dates from the Edo period (江戸時代, Edo jidai) or Tokugawa period (徳川時代, Tokugawa jidai) of Japanese history. This is the period between 1603 and 1867, when Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional daimyo.

The blade of this wonderful kaiken is signed on one side by the maker: 次郎 太郎 直勝 - JIRO TARO NAOKATSU. Research indicates that this smith was a member of the Suishinshi Masahide school of sword making, which had many distinguished members. Naokatsu was the student of his father, Naotane (直胤), and was active during the mid 19th century. Naokatsu took his own son as his student, and they would succeed them as Naokatsu. It is possible that this was forged by the 2nd generation Naokatsu, Naotane's grandson, however the signature is definitely closer to that used by the 1st gen. The 1st and 2nd generation Naokatsu smiths are both highly rated by Hawley and Toko Taikan.

The other side of the tang has a clear date, written in the standard long form indicating years into the current era: 安 政 五 年 二 月. This would be read: ANSEI ( Japanese Era Name) GO NEN (5nd year of era - 1859) NI-GATSU (2nd Month - February). The tang is quite narrow, so some of the characters do not look quite like they normally would.

The blade has the tell tale characteristics of a traditionally hand-forged Japanese blade:

- The hole in the tang (meguki-ana) is punched, and not drilled.
- The tang of the blade is signed as well as dated by a known maker from the Edo Period.
- Folded steel blade - fold lines are evident on the body and spine of blade, as well as grain typical of folded steel.
- Visible temper line ("hamon") running full length of blade cutting edge.
- Ware and Kizu (blade wounds) from lamination artifacts, only possible on handmade blades.

Offered in very nice condition, the blade shape of this example is a Hira-Zukuri form (sugata), the usual shape seen on shorter tanto and kaiken. It has no blade ridge (SHINOGI) or Yokote. The polish on the blade is still very good, allowing the aspects of the blade to be seen easily. There is a bit of scuffing and staining, but nothing major. The edge is still quite sharp, so care is needed, and there are no nicks or other damage we can see. Blade length is approximately 6 1/16" and overall length 9 1/2". It has a futsu 普通 (regular) Nakago with a Kiri (cut - straight) nakago-jiri (tang tip).

The blade has a vibrant visible hamon (temper line), which is a lovely gentle NOTARE (wave or swell) type, with a lot of internal activity. There are multiple lamination lines along the blade, and there are clear NIE crystals along the temper line, and the correct NIOI cloudiness. The blade shows what looks to be MASAME (straight) hada (grain) on the body, and it has a YAKIZUME (no turnback) boshi (tip temper line). There are some faint blade wounds (KIZU), in the form of WARE (lamination splits). The knife has a nickel plated copper "rain" pattern habaki, typical of the period.

The Tsuka (handle) looks to be original, and is black lacquer with what looks to be twisted fiber wrapping, which is also lacquered. It is an AIKUCHI (合口) type, where there is no crossguard between the tsuka and habaki. The handle is held on by a very interesting threaded Mekugi, which has designs on the circular ends. It looks to be silver plated as well, now a bit worn and tarnished.

The saya (scabbard) is very nice, and has a lovely textured black lacquer finish. It looks to be more recent than the Tsuka, though that may just be the paint on the body, which still has very crisp texture. It has a kurikata (knob) with an attached sageo (sword cord). These are exactly the type of fittings that would hold it in place in the sleeve of a lady, at the ready if needed.

A very nice Kaiken Dagger from the late edo period with lovely fittings, signed and dated by a desirable maker! Ready to cherish and display!

Blade Length: 6 1/16"
Blade Style: "Hira Zukuri" tanto
Overall length: 9 1/2“
Scabbard Length: 7 1/4"

It has been over one thousand years ago that the art of making swords appeared in Japan. The swordsmiths of the time may not have known it but they were creating a legendary sword. The Samurai sword has seen combat in many battlefields. From the early days of the Samurai warrior to the fierce battles in the South Pacific during WWII.

Each hand-made Samurai sword is unique because it is forged from steel stock. A tremendous amount of work is dedicated to creating these pieces. They were an instrument of war as much as a beautiful artifact to adorn a room.

The Samurai sword has grown to be one of the most highly desired military antiques.

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