Photo/IllutrationThe sword confirmed to have been carried by samurai Sakamoto Ryoma at the time of his assassination is in the collection of the Kyoto National Museum. (Provided by Sakamoto Ryoma exhibition committee)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--The sword that storied samurai Sakamoto Ryoma was armed with when he was assassinated has been authenticated by experts.

Positive identification of the blade was made 85 years after it was donated by a descendant of Ryoma to the Kyoto National Museum.

The sword was the one Ryoma (1836-1867) had with him when assassins attacked him in Kyoto, the museum said when making the announcement.

It was made by a swordsmith who went by the professional name of Mutsu no Kami Yoshiyuki.

Ryoma played a key role in the transfer of power from the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji government in the closing years of the Edo Period (1603-1867). He is historically one of the most popular and famous samurai, and has been the focus of many books and TV shows.

The sword was donated to the Kyoto National Museum by Sakamoto’s family member in 1931, but its identity was disputed as it did not bear the usual characteristics of a Yoshiyuki sword--it had too little curve and a different pattern on its blade.

Documentation written at the time of the sword's donation was found in 2015 during research conducted by the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum in Kochi Prefecture.

The documentation revealed it had lost its curve in a fire, which broke out at the house of Ryoma’s descendant in Kushiro, Hokkaido, in the northern most part of Japan, in 1913. The sword was polished after the incident.

It also showed that the scabbard that was said to have borne sword damage as Ryoma tried to fight off the assassins was lost in the fire.

Kyoto National Museum examined the sword using the latest technology. It confirmed traces of the original pattern on the blade which had been obscured by the repolishing.

“Based on the documentation and scientific investigation, we are certain it is genuine,” said Teiichi Miyakawa, a senior curator and researcher of the museum.

The sword will be displayed to the public in a special traveling exhibition at four venues around Japan: the Kyoto National Museum (Oct. 15-Nov. 27), the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture (Dec. 17-Feb. 5, 2017), the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Tokyo (April 29-June 18, 2017) and the Shizuoka City Museum of Art (July 1-Aug. 27, 2017).