Homecoming Project of the National Treasure of Bizen Sword “Yamatorige” to “Bizen Osafune”

Setouchi City of Okayama Prefecture will launch “Yamatorige Homecoming Project” from Nov. 1, 2018 (Thur) with the aim of purchasing the famous Japanese sword “Yamatorige” and retunning it to its original home. The Japanese sword “Tachi Mumei Ichimonji,” known as “Yamatorige” (and commonly known as “San-cho-mo”; now in a private collection), is said to be the supreme masterwork of the “Bizen Sword” and had been owned by Uesugi Kenshin, a famous daimyo lord of the Sengoku period. Currently it is registered as a national treasure. Setouchi City held the press conference for the project in Tokyo on Oct. 23.

Homecoming Project of the National Treasure of Bizen Sword “Yamatorige” to “Bizen Osafune”

(Photo: replica of Sanchomo)

At the press conference, Mr. Akinari Takehisa (the mayor of Setouchi City), Mr. Paul Martin (the trustee of The Japanese Sword Culture Promotion Association), Mr. Hirosuke Sato (a researcher of Tokyo National Museum) and Mr. Kazuki Kawashima (a swordsmith) appeared to relate the background of the launch of the Yamatorige Homecoming Project, the project method, and its significance.

(Photo: (right to Left) Mr. Akinari Takehisa, Mr. Paul Martin, Mr. Hirosuke Sato and Mr. Kazuki Kawashima)

Interest in Japanese swords is growing not only in Japan but also in other countries. Based on this situation and following the trend of reappraisal of Japanese swords, the Yamatorige Homecoming project is expected to further boost the appreciation of Japanese swords both nationally and internationally.

(Photo: replica of Sanchomo)

Bizen Osafune, the Sacred Place of Japanese Swords
The Japanese sword is a representative artistic handcraft of Japan and is internationally acclaimed as “art of iron.” Okayama has been a renowned center for the production of excellent swords since long ago. In particular, the area including Osafune Town of Setouchi City, known as “Bizen Osafune,” was the leading producer of Japanese swords in Japan throughout the medieval period of Japanese history. (Bizen is the old name for Okayama.)

This area has been called as “the Sacred Place of Japanese Swords” since approximately half of swords that are designated as a national treasure or important cultural property are Bizen swords. Specifically, 47 swords among 111 in the national treasure category are “Bizen swords.”

(Photo: Mayor Akinari Takehisa and replica of Sanchomo)

National Treasure “Yamatorige” – valued at more than 500 million yen
“Yamatorige” is considered the highest achievement of the Bizen sword and is registered as a national treasure of Japan under the name of “Tachi Mumei Ichimonji Yamatorige.” Yamatorige has high historical value based on its ownership by Uesugi Kenshin, one of the most famous and powerful daimyos of the Sengoku period.

Its name “Yamatorige” is composed of the characters“Yama,” meaning “mountain,” “Tori” meaning “bird,” and “Ge/Ke” meaning “feather” or “hair.” The name is said to come from its intricate and dynamic-looking hamon (“blade pattern” – a visual effect created on the blade by the hardening process), which could imply both the featherers of a copper pheasant or burning mountains and fields.

(Photo: Hamon on replica of Sanchomo)

According to Mr. Hirosuke Sato, the researcher of Tokyo National Museum, the highly complex pattern on the blade of Yamatorige is actually a product of chance which took form “miraculously,” and thus can be called a “work of God.” Mr. Sato says that, “Based on its dynamism and beauty as an artwork, Yamatorige is one of the masterpieces not only of the Bizen sword, but also of Japanese sword craft overall.”

(Photo: replica of Sanchomo)

According to an external evaluation committee consisting of knowledgeable members, “Yamatorige” has a value of 500 million yen or higher.

(Photo: Researcher Hirosuke Sato (left))

Facing the Crisis of Conservation of Sword Culture
As of today, “Yamatorige” is not in its hometown, “Bizen Osafune”; rather it is owned by an individual in Okayama Prefecture (with the sword consigned for display at Okayama Prefectural Museum). Furthermore, Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum, which is built and is well known in this region owns no swords of the national the treasure /important cultural property grade.

(Photo: replica of Sanchomo)

And today, there are only seven swordsmiths of Bizen Osafune who work in Setouchi City. This means that the traditional culture of the Bizen sword and the inheritance of the techniques of sword making are confronted with crisis. In light of this situation, Setouchi City decided to start up the “Yamatorige Homecoming Project.”

(Photo: swordsmith Kazuki Kawashima)

Outline of “Yamatorige Homecoming Project”
In this project, the city’s first crowdfunding effort, both national, aims to raise funds of 500 million yen, which is equal to the value of “Yamatorige,” in order for the city to purchase the sword without spending taxes that were collected from local citizens.

Mayor Takehisa said that the project plans to raise funds via a combination of three methods, mainly. The scheme aims for an ideal breakdown of 280 million yen through “crowdfunding based on Furusato Nozei,” 20 million yen through “international crowdfunding,” and 200 million yen through “Furusato Nozei for Enterprises.” With regard to the “crowdfunding based on Furusato Nozei” and the “international crowdfunding,” a thank you gift will be provided to the donors (with some conditions).

(Photo: Mayor Akinari Takehisa)

If Setouchi City successfully purchases “Yamatorige,” “Yamatorige” will be moved from Okayama Prefectural Museum, the facility where the sword is currently on display, to Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum, which is managed and operated by Setouchi City. We believe this will have great social significance since it may contribute to children’s education and to revitalization of the region. Also, publicity about the value of the Bizen sword will help promote knowledge of Japanese traditional culture overseas, as well as enhance the motivation and sword making techniques of swordsmiths.

(Photo: replica of Sanchomo)

From the viewpoint of tourism, it is expected to bring more tourists both from Japan and foreign countries. Tourists visiting Setouchi City will be exposed to the unique sword culture of the city and will enjoy the city’s abundant natural environment and the excellence of local foods.

(Photo: Mr. Paul Martin, the trustee of The Japanese Sword Culture Promotion Association)

[Outline of the Crowdfunding]
> – Period
Nov. 1, 2018 (Thur) – Jan. 31, 2019 (Thur) (tbd)
(International: Nov. 1, 2018 (Thur) – Dec. 31, 2019 (Mon)) (tbd)

– Access Method
Via the special website, the crowdfunding portal website, the reception counters or a bank transfer.

Setouchi City’s Special Website for ”Yamatorige Homecoming Project” Crowdfunding
“Furusato Choice” (https://www.furusato-tax.jp/gcf/446)
“Furunavi” (https://fcf.furunavi.jp/Project/Detail?projectid=30)
“Kickstarter” (URL: TBD)

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