Photo/IllutrationThe replica of the Hotarumaru sword is carried at Asojinja shrine in Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, on June 17 as sword enthusiasts look on. (Hiroyuki Kikuchi)

  • Photo/Illustraion

ASO, Kumamoto Prefecture--A replica of a long-lost sword was presented to Asojinja shrine in a ceremony held here June 17 as a “symbol of the postquake recovery.”

Many sword enthusiasts gathered at the shrine to catch a glimpse of the reconstructed Hotarumaru sword, which is worth a king's ransom.

“It is deeply moving to have the sword back even if it is a replica,” said Harutaka Aso, chief priest of the shrine in central Kyushu, which was ravaged by the series of strong earthquakes in April 2016.

Two swordsmiths originally from Kyushu reconstructed the Hotarumaru based on a rubbed copy and photographs of the original, the blade of which measured about a meter.

“Our part is done, but it will take another year or so to complete the fittings, such as the sheath and handguard,” said Fusayuki Fukudome, 32, who made the sword with Fusaoki Koroki, 35.

The Hotarumaru, which is said to have been forged by swordsmith Rai Kunitoshi in the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), had been passed down for generations by the Aso family, who also inherit the chief priest position at the shrine, until it was lost in the postwar chaos.

Fukudome, who is originally from Fukuoka and currently based in Saki, Gifu Prefecture, and Koroki, based in Takeda, Oita Prefecture, came up with the idea of forging the Hotarumaru again.

Securing the cost of making it was the problem, and they turned to Internet crowd-funding. They raised 45.12 million yen ($407,000) from 3,193 supporters.

The Hotarumaru is featured in “Token Ranbu,” a popular online game that has personified characters of legendary swords and blades owned by famed historic figures.