Etchu Norishige was Japan’s most famous swordsmith in the 14th Century. Norishige’s Forge was located in Nei, Toyama Prefecture. From there, he supplied the finest quality katana to the warriors of Japan’s Kamakura period.
Norishige’s most impressive weapons were made with great skill, and they lasted for centuries. Shimazu Norioki was the 27th samurai Lord of the Shimazu clan, and eventually, one of Norishige’s blades became his. He ruled the Satsuma Domain (now Kagoshima) around 200 years ago. Kagoshima lies halfway across the country, but this katana’s found its way to Australia.
Ian Brooks, a Melbourne resident who is a sword collector, is currently the sword owner. Brooks saw a katana of very high quality on an Internet auction four years ago. His bid was approximately Aus$5,300, or about U.S.$3,810. He began looking into its significance after receiving the sword. It was as good as he expected. Its length and the handguard engravings suggested that it could be an unsigned sword. A katana with the smith’s signature not engraved into its hilt. This Norishige is known as Katana Mumei Norishige. It was a particular one that was designated as a national treasure of Japan but had been missing for many decades.
The character 島神社 was slightly visible by looking at the faded Japanese text on a piece of paper wrapped around the sword’s handlebar. These characters match the last three letters of Kagoshima Jingu/Kagoshima Shrine‘s name, a shrine in Kagoshima’s Kirishima City to which Lord Shimazu presented the Katana Mumei Norishige two centuries ago. It still exists today. Brooks has reached out to Kagoshima Shrine, and both parties believe that the sword Brooks purchased at the auction is the missing national treasure.
Although it is unknown how the sword was initially shipped from Japan, it was reportedly seized in 1945 by the Allies. Brooks bought the blade from a New York seller, but he does not believe there was an intent to deprive Japanese cultural relics. He believes that efforts were made at that time to keep swords with historical significance in Japan, but some pieces got lost in the shuffle due to poor communication.
Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs will perform a final appraisal because they want to determine if the katana is the real deal. However, this seems like a formality since even the cataloging numbers printed on the scabbard wrap appear to match the records in the shrine’s records.
Brooks stated that he would like to keep his sword while he’s alive but has made a provision in his will that says that the sword must be given to the Kagoshima shrine when I die. He also said that a visit to this shrine is something Brooks hopes to do.
The priests in the Kagoshima Shrine said that they never thought that the legendary sword would ever be found again and was happy about the news. They hope that the sword can rest at the shrine for a long time this time.
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