Samurai swords are in a class of collectibles currently in high demand. Collectors with a fascination with Japanese history seek the oldest and most unique examples of these objects to add to their collections. The sword-making industry in Japan is monitored by the government to ensure that the historical significance of the cultural aspects is maintained in the quality. It’s a centuries-old tradition that goes back to antiquity. Some of the most valuable Samurai swords date back to historical eras in ancient Japan. The swordmaking tradition is still carried on in Japan with artisans crafting expensive modern pieces also known as the Katana, We highlight the ancient Samurai swordmaking tradition with the five most expensive Samurai swords in the world today for your enjoyment.
Rare Sosho School Katana Price: $69,162
Christie’s auctioned a fourteenth-century Japanese Samurai sword at its auction house for a selling price of just under $70,000. It’s a rare collectible piece that experts assessed and determined that the blade was made by a Japanese swordsmith who lived in the region that is now Kyoto. It is believed to be the work of Hasebe Kunishige, who was a student at the Sosho School and worked under the master wordsmith Masamune back in Medieval times. He was one of the greatest wordsmiths of all time, and he’s a revered legend in Japanese history. One of the most impressive features of the blade is the gold inlay of the designer’s name. It is a forged piece. The sword undoubtedly took time and effort. The sword took a lot of skill to complete. This sword is a reflection of the Nanbokucho Period. It was an era when the imperial throne claimed by two competing families was in dispute. The date of completion of the sword was also inscribed on the blade, confirming its origins. The Sosho School Katana is the third most valuable Samurai sword sold.
Etchu Norishige Sword Price: $4,000 paid but valued as priceless
A 14th-century sword went missing from a collection. It is a Katana that was gifted to the shrine by a Samurai Lord over two thousand years ago. The sword was made by Etchu Norishiga, one of the most famous wordsmiths in the history of Japan. The sword disappeared and was missing for several decades. It recently turned up at an auction where it was purchased by an Australian bidder for under $4,000. The sword is confirmed to be the missing National Treasure of Japan with a priceless value. It’s unknown how the sword disappeared or how it came to be listed on an auction site. The winning bidder knew that he had acquired an ancient piece and had it confirmed to be the product of the Kamakura period in Japan.
(above: Various samurai swords NOT of Masamune’s make. When a sword wasn’t being used by it’s owner, it was kept concealed in a mount known as a Koshirae. The swords above are kept is these mounts to keep the blade unexposed. Photo credit goes to Wikimedia Commons user Rept0n1x and to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.)
What are the physical details of the Honjo Masamune? If it’s anything like the other swords Masamune created, it’s complete with the hamon (blade pattern created by hardening of the metal), the curved blade and the single edge. Different descriptions of the sword have been given over time, but at the time of its design, the Honjo Masamune was 25.6 inches long with a curvature of 0.6 inches.
What happened to the Honjo Masamune? After the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868, the Tokugawa family no longer ruled Japan. However, the Honjo Masamune stayed in the family’s possession until the end of World War II. When Japan surrendered, the Allied forces demanded that all Japanese noble families hand over their collection of swords. Tokugawa Iemasa, the head of the family, wanted to set a good example and willingly handed over his family’s collection of swords. The Honjo Masamune was among the collection. The swords belonging to the Tokugawa family were brought to the Mejiro police station in December of 1945. On January 18th, 1946, the collection was handed over to a sergeant from the 7th Calvary Regiment by the name of Coldy Bimore. However, it’s likely that this man used a fake name. There is no record of a man by that name serving in the regiment and there is no proof of his existence. The Honjo Masamune has been missing ever since “Coldy Bimore” acquired it. The rule that Japanese noble families had to surrender their collection of swords was eventually overturned and the collections should have been returned to the families, but most were long gone by that time. The Honjo Masamune was a spoil of war and many spoils of war were melted down. However, given the importance of the sword, it also could have been given as a trophy to an American officer. Occupation officials likely knew that the Tokugawa sword collection was legendary and may have been hesitant to melt down the Honjo Masamune, which was the crown jewel of the collection.
Did you grow up playing the Final Fantasy series or Chrono Trigger? If so, you may have come across a very powerful weapon, the Masamune sword. That’s not a fictional name made up by the game creators. Masamune was a legendary sword smith. It’s important to know that these weren’t just swords, these were katanas. Katanas have a curved blade and were wielded by the samurai warriors of Japan. Masamune forged a few katanas in his lifetime that bear his name, such as the famous Honjo Masamune.
There are currently three Masamune blades that have been found and proven to be authentic: the Fudo Masamune (a dagger), the Truman Masamune (named for its location at the Truman Presidential Library) and the recently discovered Shimazu Masamune. Researchers hope that the details of these three swords will aid in indentifying the Honjo Masamune if the blade is ever recovered. The discovery of the Shimazu Masamune in 2014 gives treasure hunters hope that the Honjo Masamune could still be out there just waiting to be found.
Do any Masamune swords still exist?
What is the most valuable Japanese sword?