The fine blade is by Tadayoshi I of Hizen province. Born Hashimoto Shinzaemon in Saga in 1574, he became a retained swordsmith of the ruling Nabeshima clan of Hizen. In 1596 he was sent to Kyoto, where he studied under Umetada Myoju for three years. Returning to Hizen, he set up forge in the castle town of Nagase to establish a school, which was to last beyond the Edo period. In 1624 he was invested with the title of Musashi daijo, and assumed the name Tadahiro, which he used until his death at the age of 61 in 1632.
Hizen-school swords are characterized by the finest ko-nie hada with rich and even jinie. The hamon of rich ko-nie varies from suguha to gunome and a characteristic form of rounded choji with long ashi, sometimes reaching down close to the cutting edge. The work of the first generation, in particular, often has pronounced chikei and sumihada, with fine variations in the hamon. These same characteristics are evident on two Juyo token blades by Tadakuni, a contemporary and pupil of Tadayoshi, lots 37 and 38 in this sale.
The mounts are of commensurate quality to match this fine blade, and a rare example of a complete set of en-suite metal fittings by the master sculptor Araki Tomei (1817-1874), the scabbard lacquered black and the fittings of black shakudo with gold inlay of millet, the speciality of this artist.
The millet leaves have fine details in both gold and copper inlay on the shakudo ground. The mounts are signed on the koiguchi, Issai Tomei, by Araki Tomei, a sword-fittings artist of Kyoto and a leading pupil of Goto Ichijo, whose specialty was the sculpture of millet. The quality of the work compares with that of the daisho set of menuki depicting millet overflowing from various baskets by Tomei exhibited in "Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor, 1156--1868," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 21 October 2009--10 January 2010.