Kamakura Tachi signed Ryokai


Kamakura Tachi signed Ryokai in Shirasaya old but reasonable polish some small kitae kizu and coarser areas of Hada.

Ryokai  was a very early son of grand master Rai Kunitoshi, born when Kunitoshi was only 17 years old. He entered priesthood at an early age of 16, taking the very name Ryokai, but returned later to secular life to forge swords, allegedly not only with his father but also learning from Ayanokoji Sadatoshi . As always, there are several traditions and theories going round. One says that he was actually a Nara smith who came to Kyoto to study with Kunitoshi. Another one suggests that he started a normal career as a swordsmith and entered priesthood only later in life, whilst sources who follow the approach that Niji Kunitoshi and Rai Kunitoshi were different smiths say that Ryokai was the son of the former and thus the brother of Rai Kunitoshi. Well, when we take a look at the extant date signatures of Ryokai, which start from Shoo three ( 1290), followed by date signatures from Einin ( 1293-1299) and Kagen ( 1303-1306) to Enkyo two ( 1309) as the latest, we learn that he was active at about the same time when Kunitoshi signed in sanji-mei. We know that Kunitoshi was born in 1240. So when we follow the tradition that Ryokai was born when Kunitoshi was 17 years old, we arrive at Kogen two ( 1256) as year of birth for Ryokai (or at Shoka one [1257] if we follow the Western way of counting years). This date (Kogen two) is also forwarded by the Koto Meizukushi Taizen by the way, what means that not all of its data is far-fetched. This in turn means that he was 34 when he made the earliest extant dated blade from Shoo three (1290) what sounds very plausible. The Koto Meizukushi Taizen also says that Ryokai died in Shokyo four at the age of 72 but the Shokyo era (…, 1332-1334) only lasted for two years, and apart from that, if you count 72 from Kogen two (1256), you arrive at 1328 (or 1327 according to the Japanese way), what in turn would correspond to Karyaku three. Taking into consideration that Ryokai’s known date signatures end noticeably before those of Kunitoshi (of whom we know date signature up to 1321), I tend to think that he might have died before his father and indeed in the Karyaku era ( 1326-1329). Or in other words, the Koto Meizukushi Taizen might be right about his age at death but not about the year he died in.