VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.
The province of Hizen in Western Kyushu consisted of a number of fiefdoms, the leading of which during the Edo period was that of the Nabeshima clan, descended from the Shoni, a branch of the great Fujiwara clan, who had settled in Nabeshima during the unrest of the 15th century.
Nabeshima Naoshige (1537-1619) had supported Toyotomi Hideyoshi in his campaign in Kyushu in 1587, thereby established his family's rights to the Saga domain. His later support for Tokugawa Ieyasu at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, having turned coat during the battle, was sufficient for the victorious Ieyasu to allow him to retain Nabeshima Han as a Tozama daimyo. The Nabeshima clan were to again support the Tokugawa shogunate during the 1615 Osaka castle campaign, and during the Christian rebellion at Shimabara in 1637. Hizen contained the important town of Nagasaki, in whose harbour lay the island of Deshima where the Dutch and Chinese trading posts were established. Although Deshima was under the direct control of the shogunate, the Nabeshima clan remained responsible for military and civil security of Nagasaki. Nabeshima Han thereby enjoyed a trusted relationship with the Tokugawa government throughout the Edo period, and with a high income in terms of rice allowance they were able to consolidate and secure internal matters. The Han sponsored both agricultural and manufacturing activities, including the most important ship building, ceramic production, and armaments industries.
The stability of the Han owing largely to their military strength ensured that the highest degree of technology was maintained there throughout the Edo period. And during the 19th century the first Japanese steam ship was built in Hizen, steel for cannon was made with the latest reverbatory furnace technology introduced from England, and up-to-date weapons like the Armstrong cannon were imported.
Two great craft traditions were to make their mark throughout Japan, and eventually throughout the world. These were the arts of porcelain manufacture, and sword making. The technological perfection of both has ensured that they were to become regarded as the highest art forms. Hizen porcelain is well known all over the world under names such as 'Hirado', 'Arita', the town where many kilns operated, 'Imari', the name of the port from whence porcelain was exported, 'Nabeshima' after the special ware made for the use of the Nabeshima clan, and 'Kakiemon', the name of a family who made characteristic enamelled ware throughout the Edo period. There is scarce a European country house in which excellent Hizen porcelain is not on view, and never an auction sale without it. But Hizen-to, the swords of Hizen, are so highly treasured that the best are seen only occasionally. Since the Nabeshima Daimyo allotted income to their citizens the sword smiths were not required to sell their work, and so were able to devote their time wholly to producing the best. The swords were made for the samurai of the province, but were also traded elsewhere in Japan, and were proudly-given presents for other daimyo in Japan.
The mainstay of the long-lasting Hizen swords tradition is the school of Tadayoshi, founded by the first generation Hashimoto Shinzaemon (1572-1632). As an orphan he is believed to have been apprenticed to the smith Munetsugu (1584-1633) (Lot 447), and to have studied in the Enju tradition in neighbouring Higo province (see Lot 452). In 1596 he was sent by Lord Nabeshima to study at the forge of Umetada Myoju, known as the ancestor founder of the Shinto [New Swords] tradition, in Kyoto. He returned to Hizen after three years study, having absorbed Myoju's style inspired in part by the old Kamakura Rai school tradition of Kuniyuki and Kunimitsu, and having received the name Tadayoshi with the character 'tada' from the name 'Umetada'. His swords are characterized by the finest close grain with martensitic crystals of 'nie' richly covering the blades. Such pure steel has been called 'konuka hada' [rice powder] after the use of that substance as a ladies' cosmetic. As with the clarity of all Hizen pottery, this purity of steel is found on virtually all Hizen swords. The hamon can be 'suguha', or straight, or choji 'clove pattern' with long characteristic ashi, or a mixture with gunomeba, always rich in nie. The most typical boshi is komaru. The shape of Hizen swords is uniformly archaic and beautiful, and remains so into the Shinshinto era.
This collection contains not only swords by the early and great smiths including two by the first generation master, but examples of the works of lesser known though superior smiths which few collectors will have ever seen. Works by Iyo no jo Munetsugu, said to have tutored the young Tadayoshi, and the sons and pupils of Tadayoshi I, who continued the line, or and those who established separate lineages, like Masahiro, Tadakuni, and Yukihiro are presented.
Dr Frederick Fimio has been a collector of Japanese swords since the 1950's. He was one of the founders of the Ontario Arms Collectors Association, becoming its president in 1961. He later founded the Toronto Tokenkai sword study group. He has widely published on swords of Hizen Province.
He is also a poet, receiving a Merit award from the International Poetry Society for his 2002 publication.