Kotani Kenzo ( Yasunori )
The Last Yasukuni Shrine Swordsmith


Kotani Kenzo (Yasunori) from Hiroshima prefecture was born on 7 January 1909. He was taught by his uncle Kajiyama Taketoku (Yasutoku) and along with his cousin Kajiyama Toshimichi (later Yasutoshi) became his uncle's sakite on July 1933 at the Yasukuni Shrine. On 1 July 1935, Kotani Kenzo was granted the swordsmith mei YASUNORI by Army Minister Hayashi Senjuro. His swords were highly regarded while working at the Shrine and for two years in 1936 and 1937 he won most of the prizes. Considering that sitting on the panel of judges at the annual bimonthly shinsa was one Kozu Haku sensei, a widely respected authority from the cultural ministry, this was no mean feat and speaks well for Yasunori's ability. He was commissioned to make swords for Higashi no Miya and Field Marshall Terauchi's gunto. He continued working at the Shrine until 1945 when he moved to Kagawa prefecture to continue production. This was short lived as Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945. After the war (1945) he moved to Shikoku and made swords under the name of Takenori. In 1971 Yasunori started to compete at the NBTHK sponsored contests. In five years, 1970, 71, 72, 73, 74 he won the Nyusen Sho or Winner's Award. He died on March 1, 2003 at age 94.

NOTE: Yasunori is listed and/or profiled in the Toko Taikan, the Nihonto Meikan, the Gendai Toko Meikan and Modern Japanese Swordsmiths 1868-1945. He is listed in Hawley's Japanese Swordsmith's Revised (brown cover) as YAS-1045. His blades have received origami from the NBTHK and/or NTHK.

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