Wine-making samurai’s sword found in ruins of California fires
The Asahi Shimbun by Tomoya Nozaki/ Staff Writer April 3, 2018
A sword of Kanaye Nagasawa discovered from under burnt ruins (Provided by the Paradise Ridge Winery)
KAGOSHIMA—The cherished sword of a samurai who established a prominent winery in California was found in the ruins of a building destroyed in wildfires that swept the U.S. state in October.
The Paradise Ridge Winery had kept the blade of Kanaye Nagasawa (1852-1934), from what is now Kagoshima Prefecture, at an exhibition facility in Santa Rosa, along with his tuxedo, traditional “hakama” trousers and other possessions.
The fires in northern California last autumn burned the facility to the ground.
During debris removal work on March 13, the burnt and blackened sword was uncovered.
Rene Byck, a co-owner of the Paradise Ridge Winery, expressed his elation on Facebook about the discovery of the blade. He described it as the “best news ever.”
Late last year, Byck said he wanted to rebuild the exhibition room but acknowledged it would be difficult to find any articles that survived the disaster.
Nagasawa was a retainer of the Satsuma domain (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture) who studied in Britain and then moved to the United States.
He set up one of California’s largest wineries in Santa Rosa. The Paradise Ridge Winery later took over parts of Nagasawa’s grape fields.
Kanaye Nagasawa (Provided by the International University of Kagoshima)
Takaharu Mori, a professor of American literature at the International University of Kagoshima, said the sword is especially significant among Nagasawa’s mementos.
“Nagasawa respected the spirit of the samurai even after moving to the United States,” Mori said. “Thus, the sword for Nagasawa must have been as important as life itself.”
According to Mori, Nagasawa is believed to have practiced martial arts of the Jigen-ryu school with a wooden sword in the United States. He reportedly drew his sword to show it to American guests at his home.
An official of Ichikikushikino, Kagoshima Prefecture, welcomed the finding of the sword. The municipality is home to the Satsuma Students Museum, which displays materials related to Nagasawa and 18 others from the domain and had asked the Paradise Ridge Winery for help in starting operations.
“When I visited there (California) in February, there were only burnt debris and ashes,” said Yosuke Okunosono, a member of the city’s tourism and exchange division. “It’s a miracle that the sword has been discovered.”
Kanaye Nagasawa’s sword, center top, on display at an exhibition room before the October 2017 wildfires in northern California (Provided by the Paradise Ridge Winery)