Australian sword collector, Ian Brooks, has stumbled upon a once in a lifetime Katana sword.
Originally purchased for just $5300 AUD from an online auction, the Katana was deft of any original engravings, a typical red flag for collectors. However, with his keen and knowledgeable eye, Brooks was able to make out the last three characters on the faded paper (島神社 ) showing the potential for the sword to have roots at the Kagoshima Shrine (a shrine from the time of the first Japanese emperor). Combine this with its remarkable quality, and he jumped at the opportunity to purchase the sword.
What he didn’t expect to buy was a Japanese National Treasure made by one of the greatest swordsmiths of the 14th century – Etchu Norishige – whose forgery was in the fief of Nei.
— NHK鹿児島放送局 (@nhk_kagoshima) February 24, 2022
What is Toyama Prefecture today, the sword was originally crafted in the fief of Nei, home to Etchu Norishige (1290-1366).
In the years since it was made, the Katana somehow ended up in the hands of the 27th samurai lord of the Shimazu clan, Shimazu Narioki, whose family gifted it to the shrine approximately 200 years ago. From there, the sword would end up being lost at some point in the 20th Century. How it left Japan is still a mystery but sources suggest it was seized by Allied occupation forces following the end of World War II.
The swords length, quality, and handguard engravings hinted at this particular piece being a quality item (alongside a similar sword being featured in a portrait of Shimazu Norioki), but only Brooks had the eye and knowledge to estimate that this might be an unsigned Norishige known as Katana Mumei Norishige, one designated as a national treasure in Japan but found to be missing for decades. After contacting the Kagoshima Shrine the two parties believe that this is indeed the missing national treasure.
“I would like to keep the sword while I’m alive, but I’ve put a provision in my will to say that when I die that the sword is going back to the Kagoshima Shrine,” said Brooks in a statement.
According to Luxatic, the most expensive Katana sword ever sold at auction was a Kamakura from the 13th century which was sold to an anonymous collector for the impressive sum of $418,000 USD. Private sales are said to have fetched even more, however, Brooks would rather donate the Katana back to the shrine following his death. An admirable offer.