View Full Version : Identify this Mystery Deba of Doom?

08-06-2012, 09:47 PM
Well, not really 'of Doom' - but who can resist such a snappy, alliterative title....

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-l8XeBE7yLWA/UCBvz927coI/AAAAAAAAAPY/YhnItySzOIE/h120/deba_1.jpg https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-vyOfwC0js3w/UCBv6fjrTLI/AAAAAAAAAPo/0miRppRGGhA/h120/deba_rt.jpg https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-SIo_lpF8edc/UCBwfBkDp_I/AAAAAAAAAP4/_3WZQaREP6c/h120/P1040038.JPG

This small Deba dates from the late '40's or early '50's - part of a set made for a woman who was about 4' 10" tall and maybe 95 pounds dripping wet - so all of the knives are somewhat undersized, but they seem well-made, all have fitted Sayas, and have seen many years of hard service.

One unusual feature on all four knives is the inset bolster and pinned tang - which I've not seen on any recent knives. Yeah the recessed bolster does have a smooth, sleek, 'aerodynamic' look, but it has to be seriously weak, as three of the handles show repaired cracks.

The set consists of four knives, a 155mm Deba, a 210mm Yanagiba, a 180mm Nakiri, and a 220mm Suminagashi - my furshlugginer camera died while shooting the Deba, but I'll post more pictures to this thread when it returns.

All of the blades are signed, so if someone on the board can read cursive Kanji, or perhaps hirigana script, maybe their origin can be found - we think that they may have been purchased through the Kintetsu Department store in Osaka, but that's a guess since we know the family had an account there.

Here's a close up of the maker's signature in a vertical orientation:


Which may help to read the letters - and no, I've not a clue as to why these pictures are coming out so blessedly small - mutter, mutter, mutter....

Any help would be much appreciated.



08-06-2012, 11:58 PM
Need better pics.....

08-07-2012, 12:26 AM
:juggler:lol maybe the pics are huge but the knife being so small is keeping the pics small.

(I hope that makes sense.)

08-07-2012, 12:33 AM
Need better pics.....

Yes, I know the tiny pictures suck, but for some reason - I assume as an anti-spam measure - I can't attach pictures, and using the in-line URL reference limits them to a very small size.

Sent a note to the site admins requesting edit & attachment rights - hopefully the post will look better soon.



08-07-2012, 12:36 AM
You need to deselect the box that says "Retrieve remote file and reference locally". Otherwise your pictures will be tiny.

08-07-2012, 01:20 AM

we'll try to look into this tomorrow if we have time

08-07-2012, 02:23 AM
Hmmm - I may have borked my Picassa albums, so back to photobucket and try these:

Rght side of Deba:


Left side of Deba:


Spine of Deba:


There - these should be a <bit> better, and JBroida was kind enough to download the full-sized version of the Knife's signature in his post - thanks JB...

This was stupidly difficult, but now there should be enough detail for someone to offer an identification.



08-07-2012, 08:58 AM
The pinned tang is supposed to be a traditional feature of wa handled knives. My Tadatsuna gyuto has a pinned handle, but I don't recall seeing it on any other production knives (and to be fair, I don't see, collect or handle traditional J-knife shapes, so my scope is pretty limited)

One unusual feature on all four knives is the inset bolster and pinned tang - which I've not seen on any recent knives....

Cutty Sharp
08-07-2012, 12:27 PM
Right, I can tell you this: the kanji is 正宗二十三代 總廣作 and it would be read as 'seisounijyuusanndai soukousaku'. I think the first bit, 正宗二十三代, can mean that it's been produced for 23 generations.

Are you sure it's only around 50 years old? ;) Hehe..

08-07-2012, 01:28 PM
That's a pretty robust-looking deba. Nice shape, if you ask me! [I know nothing]

Picasaweb defaults to 144 pixels; you just have to use the dropdown to choose a different size in the link, or right-click on the picture itself and copy the URL directly.

08-07-2012, 08:03 PM
Many thanks to Cutty Sharp, who transliterated the Deba's script into machine-readable Kanji - I fed his characters into this site:


Which spat out some very interesting translations for the first group:

"總 satoshi given name"
"廣 hiroshi given name"
"作 saku a work of"

Which I'd take to be the blacksmiths signature e.g. 'a work of Hiroshi Satoshi," but this may be overly simplistic thinking on my part.

The second group seems fairly unambiguous, and I think that Cutty Sharp nailed it - here's what the translator said:

"正宗 masamune surname"

"二 ni number two"

"十 juu number ten"

"三 san number three"

"代 dai generation, counter for generations"

So it looks like this claims to be the 23rd generation of Masamune, which I took to be a bit of braggadocio - like Murray Carter claiming to be a "17th Generation Yoshimoto Bladesmith" - until I ran across this shop in Kamakura:


"Shop of Tsunahiro Yamamura - 24th descendant of the legendary swordsmith Masamune." {photo used with permission from tobze's Flickr stream http://www.flickr.com/photos/tobze/2127548299/}

The shop is still in business, primarily as swordsmiths, but they do manufacture and sell cutlery, their website is here:

While this is nowhere near enough information to establish the provenance of my knife set, at least this is a plausible first stab at discovering its history.

Thanks much everyone, this has been a fun journey through the cutting edge of the InterWeb....



Eamon Burke
08-07-2012, 09:20 PM
Um, don't the last two characters on that building say "Satoshi" -> "Hiroshi"?

I don't speak or read a word of this, just saying it looks to be a dead match of the last two characters on that building to the MM on your Deba.

I also thought those were first-names, not surnames.

Cutty Sharp
08-08-2012, 03:15 AM
I checked with a Japanese friend, and he said the maker or 作 is 總廣 read as 'Soukou'. Remember that kanji can be read in various ways, with different pronunciations.

Um, don't the last two characters on that building say "Satoshi" -> "Hiroshi"? I don't speak or read a word of this, just saying it looks to be a dead match of the last two characters on that building to the MM on your Deba. I also thought those were first-names, not surnames.

Nope! Look more carefully, Eamon. The final character 廣 is the same, yes, but the 2nd last is not 總. It's different.

... And Jim, I think you're right in your interpretation of 正宗二十三代 . Like with M.Carter who's a '17th generation Yoshimoto bladesmith,' my guess is this kanji's telling us that this knife was made by the 23rd generation Soukou bladesmith - whoever that was! Maybe it's not really such braggadocio, as you said, perhaps more just the normal/traditional style to write this on knives, recording the generation and name of the maker.