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Old 9th July 2009, 10:00 AM   #1
Lee
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Thumbs up Japanese Spear - Hira-sankaku Omi-no-yari

The most unexpected things will turn up at the huge Brimfield, MA flea market.

From Roald & Patricia Knutsen's Japanese Spears, I understand this to be a Hira-sankaku (three-sided isosceles cross-section) Omi-no (long bladed) yari (spear).

From the standpoint of the proper Japanese blade collector, I fear this this would be unsigned (yes, I am sure), out of polish, quite tired (as manifested by loss of superfical horimono or engraving on the blade) and in shabby dress. For at least one general ethnographic collector, it remains a marvelous old thing to behold.

I'll speculate mid to late Muromachi for the forging of the blade and later Edo for the mounts and most recent polish. Overall, the whole spear with pole is relatively short, being about 6 feet (~176 cm). The flattened triangular cross-section (2.8 cm wide and 0.8 cm thick in the mid-section) blade has a cutting edge of 52 cm (20.5 inches) and a total length with tang of 127 cm.
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Old 9th July 2009, 12:01 PM   #2
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Lee -

Nice find. I agree with your assessment of the yari - Muromachi period.
Unusual to find them this long. Good piece, not in too bad a shape judging
from your pics.

Rich S

The Japanese Sword Guide
http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/nihonto.htm
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Old 9th July 2009, 05:51 PM   #3
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Great find!! Wish I could find something like that on a flea market.
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Old 9th July 2009, 09:30 PM   #4
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I really like that, Lee.

Short-hafted/long-bladed spears "do it" for me, somehow.
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Old 9th July 2009, 09:34 PM   #5
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Andrew -

Just a minor clarification. Yari are not spears, they are lances - i.e. not intented
to be thrown.

Rich S

The Japanese Sword Index
http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/nihonto.htm
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Old 9th July 2009, 10:18 PM   #6
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wow, if that came at a flea market price then OMG, what a lucky day!
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Old 10th July 2009, 03:36 AM   #7
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Nice find! Got to love it when you happen upon something like this in an unexpected place Definitely a thrill Thanks for sharing
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Old 10th July 2009, 04:34 AM   #8
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I agree with the thrill of getting a bargain and this one takes the cake! I especially love the cover scabbard. Are these referred to as tsuka, as are the sword scabbards? Forgive my ignorance... Very nice piece, though.
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Old 10th July 2009, 05:32 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich
Andrew -

Just a minor clarification. Yari are not spears, they are lances - i.e. not intented
to be thrown.

Rich S

The Japanese Sword Index
http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/nihonto.htm


I understand, thanks. Should have been more precise.
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Old 10th July 2009, 02:54 PM   #10
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Smile Splendiferous - yes, for me, that also applies here

While Brimfield is largely a huge flea market - and that is what the township license to sell actually states - a number of decent antique dealers also set up. This particular yari came from the tables of a firm that does estate liquidations out of the New York metropolitan area and their stock ran from modern art to this yari, with much diversity in between. I would not characterize this as having been inexpensive, another collector just before me had rejected it at the price on the basis of being too tired, but I found it to be splendiferous, to borrow a word and feeling from Tim's knobby club thread, and I happened to have enough in my pocket to buy it. I have no idea of its actual cash value - I understand polearms trade at quite a discount to swords - and I do not even care as I like it for what it is, and very much so. I do not recall having seen in person such a long-bladed, short-poled yari before, except in woodblock prints - though I obviously must have stood before many when visiting Japan in the 1970s. Andrew, I agree, and I really like the 'all business' feeling it gives in the hand; M Eley, I too am also most fond of the scabbard. Thank you all for your kind remarks.

Most of my research ended up coming out of the Knutsen's book and from their discussions, I interpret that this yari had two previous lives:

Muromachi: initially a very robust weapon for serious hand-to-hand close combat; the type typically used by samurai (as opposed to foot soldiers who carried the long shafted, short bladed yari). While the condition of the horimono clearly implies that the blade is 'tired', it remains extremely robust and usable for this original purpose. Rich, thank you for responding to my bait, you are correct in your assessment, there is only superficial rusting, discoloration and scuffing (though cracked and faded the scabbard did its job) so this yari will eventually be a candidate for a re-polish.

Edo: now re-polished and redressed as a status indicator or mochi-yari. Spears are disfavored by the Shogunate for use as weapons, but are now occasionally carried by a bearer accompanying a high ranking samurai, for example on the annual parade trips to the Edo court so well remembered in woodblock prints.

A few more photos:
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Old 10th July 2009, 07:55 PM   #11
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The more or less low quality of the horimono makes me think they were added in the lade edo or meiji era, but I could be wrong.
Great piece, and...
Quote:
I have no idea of its actual cash value (...) and I do not even care as I like it for what it is, and very much so.

...great attitude as well.
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Old 11th July 2009, 11:49 AM   #12
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Thumbs up

Thank you, Stekemest, for your kind comments. I was very fortunate to live in Stuttgart for several years in the mid 1980s and it was there that I first discovered flea-markets. I still have most of the fleas I attracted, or rather, that attracted me.

Having the obvious huge advantage of seeing this yari up close, instead of in a few poorly-lit photographs, I am pretty sure that the engraved plane of the blade has lost at least 2 mm from the original surface, if not more, and therefore about two-thirds to three-quarters of the engraved design. So what we are seeing now are only the remains of the deepest extent of now largely perished horimono. The engravings once ran three-fourths of the blade length and very faint traces of an engraved ken handle remain. I have a very tired tanto with a similarly largely lost ken sword engraving in the same style that a shinsa deemed mid-Muromachi, and this is where I got that impression.

The engravings are a detraction now, but I suspect they must have given a better impression before all of the lightly and moderately deep detail was ground away. The other two blade faces must have lost a similar depth of material, narrowing the engraved face of the blade by as much as 5 mm, so that the engraved remains of characters now appear too wide. Perhaps edge nicks would have demanded this degree of material loss? So, the nihonto collector ahead of me at the flea market was entirely correct in pronouncing this a very tired blade. When new, it must have been incredibly robust. The current weight with pole but not the scabbard is 1.8 kg.
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Old 11th July 2009, 11:47 PM   #13
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CONGRADULATIONS LEE SUCH FINDS ARE WHAT KEEPS THE COLLECTING PASSION HOT
I LIKE IT A LOT AND ITS FOR SURE IT IS AN OLD WARHORSE THAT COULD TELL MANY INTERESTING STORIES
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Old 12th July 2009, 02:53 AM   #14
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You mention that it is a "tired specimen", Lee, so I will gladly put it to bed in my collection if you wish -
I think that by definition, many of the weapons of Japan are tired because they were recycled and handed down over many generations. As such, I would never see this as a deterrant. Due to financial constraints several years ago, I sold off some of my Japanese pieces including a very tired wak with darkened/scratched blade, stained/worn wrap and ed scabbard. Many Japanese collectors would have turned away disapprovingly, but this piece really had character. It was koto, pre-1590, and that said something to me. Thanks for posting your find.
Mark
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Old 12th July 2009, 08:47 AM   #15
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Default Congrats Lee

Congrats Lee,

As everyone has noted it is a rare and lovely piece and complete to boot!

Arms of this nature are seldom spoken of in these forums and as I am not a student of Japanese arms I will certainly enjoy what comes to light on the subject.
I have however been given a great honour here in OZ to view and handle the remainder of a famous collection of Japanese items (the arms long since gone). The individual who founded the collection was a guest of the Meiji emperor over many years and by decent the remainder of the collection is now close to me, some pieces have also been given to me to place amongst my own collections.
Through the course of this discussion, if anyone well versed in the arts and markings of Japanese items could PM me or someone could point me in the direction of an expert it would be appreciated.
I sit and wait to enjoy what may be revealed here Lee, I always enjoy the relevence of images found in both art and weapons.

Regards

Gav
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Old 12th July 2009, 11:40 AM   #16
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Gav -

Check out the Nihonto Message Board at:

http://www.militaria.co.za/nmb/index.php

Several well versed Aussies on the board and a lot of
good, knowledgeable folks.


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http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/nihonto.htm
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Old 13th July 2009, 11:48 AM   #17
Jeff Pringle
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Nice score, Lee!
That is in much better shape than the similar “big spear with two lives” I ran across a while back…
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Old 13th July 2009, 12:15 PM   #18
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Gav, if you need help concerning japanese swords, you might show up at the "Sydney Token Kai", an Australian sword study group:

http://www.sydneytokenkai.com/

Swords are best appraised when seen in person.
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Old 14th July 2009, 09:03 AM   #19
Lee
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Smile I think this is probably the 'real deal', but...

Again, thanks all for your comments. Rest assured that while I may now be awake in the middle of the night, I am not fretting about the tiredness of the yari. I am delighted to have it. On the basis of the patination of the tang, I do not believe this to be a shinshinto revival piece, although I suppose it would not be impossible for a samurai to have had a new spear made and then at once worn away by heavy polishing to create an instant 'family heirloom' to enhance the spectacle of his long annual pilgrimage to Edo.
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Old 14th July 2009, 10:59 AM   #20
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Lee -

I don't think this is a Shin-shinto piece. Also I wouldn't worry about it being
a bit tired (that alone pretty much says pre-Shinshinto). I've a lovely Kamakura
period tachi that is very tired. I get along just fine with it as we both sort of go
together - both old and tired :-)

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