From the life of Fujieda Tarô Teruyoshi

Again I want to elaborate on the difficult time of the bakumatsu and subsequent Meiji era, this time using the swordsmith Fujieda Tarô Teruyoshi (藤枝太郎英義) as example. Teruyoshi was born in the sixth year of Bunsei (文政, 1823) as first-born son of the local swordsmith Gyokurinshi Terukazu (玉鱗子英一, civilian name „Suzuki Masa´emon“, 鈴木政右衛門) in the village of Kawai (川井, also written with the characters [川合]) in Kôzuke province.  At that time, his father was already 35 and his mother Mie (みゑ) 27 years old. That means the couple was blessed with a son rather later and so they had already adopted Kamekichirô Eiji (亀吉郎英二) as successor. But in Bunsei nine (1826), they got another son, Masanosuke Hidetoshi (政之助英利), who took later the name „Suzufuji Yûjirô“ (鈴藤勇次郎). And in Bunsei eleven (1828), their third son Masanojô Hideoki (政之丞英興, his name might also read as „Teruoki“) was born. That makes with the adopted Eiji four sons, and with the students living at their home, the family faced of course a great financial burden. Incidentally, Eiji was 16 years older than Teruyoshi.

The Suzuki family were local farmers for many generations and the old records mention them with the comment „family with a pedigree“. That means we can safely assume that they were a well-known family in that area. His father wanted to become a swordsmith already at a young age and it is possible that also his ancestors made swords as a sideline to support their livelihood as farmers. But Terukazu was not only a swordsmith, he also devoted himself to scholarship. He had studied under the then famous Confucian teacher Ettsumi Sekizen (江積積善) of Kôzuke´s Takasaki fief (高崎藩). Sekizen saw his dilligence and talent and married him to his daughter Mie. That means Teruyoshi´s father and mother came from a highly educated family and so it is only logical to assume that besides of his training as a swordsmith, he got a profound education from his parents. In Tenpô eight (天保, 1837), his father Terukazu was adopted into the Fujieda family (藤枝) and was employed by the Kawagoe fief (川越藩) as gunsmith (teppô-kaji, 鉄砲鍛冶). From that time, i.e. with the employment, the family changed its name from „Suzuki“ to „Fujieda“ and moved from Kawai to Maebashi (前橋). Terukazu decided that the adopted son Eiji should stay in Kawai to take over the Suzuki family but the then 15 years old Teruyoshi accompanied his father to Maebashi. Terukazu had gained some fame as swordsmith within the fief and this came eventually to the attention of the then lord, Matsudaira Naritsune (松平斉典, 1797-1850). He wanted to convince himself of Terukazu´s skill and so he invited him, his son and two students in the fifth month Tenpô eleven (1840) to Kawagoe Castle to display their craft of sword forging. This was a great opportunity for Terukazu and Teruyoshi. Terukazu was rewarded for that not only with fame but also with a promotion from the rank of a craftsman to the rank of a petty official (koyakunin, 小役人). In the records of the Matsudaira family we read that Terukazu received as reward 3 ryô of gold, his son Shigetarô (i.e. Teruyoshi) 200 hiki (= 2.000 copper coins) and 1 ryô 2 bu of gold, and his two students together 5 ryô. Performing his craft in front of the fief´s lord was a great honour for the young Teruyoshi and compared to what was the „uijin“ (初陣), the first battle, for a young warrior in earlier times. That means it was a baptism of fire and decisive for his future career as a swordsmith.

After the training under his father, Teruyoshi travelled around to learn also from other masters. The smith Nankai Tarô Tomotaka (南海太郎朝尊) refers to this time in his „Shintô-meishû-roku“ (新刀銘集録) as follows: „He learned initially from his father. Around the Tenpô era (1830-1844) he was invited by a certain Oka (岡) of the Sakura fief (佐倉藩) of Shimôsa province to stay there for some months to forge ten swords for him. At that time, he signed with ´Musashi no Kuni Haruhiro´ (武蔵国治広). Later he traveled around and became eventually a student of [Hosokawa] Masayoshi (正義).“ And in the document Teruyoshi handed over to his student Masaki Tatsunosuke Hidetoki (正木辰之助英辰) in the course of his initiation, he outlined his own training days as follows: „I visited and trained at the forges of 36 smiths all over the country. I can´t point out a particular master except Masayoshi. At the time I traveled around I signed with the name ´Haruhiro´“. In another document he writes: „I was initiated by Masayoshi, took a character of my father Terukazu and one of my master Masayoshi and changed my name later with becoming a retainer of the Kawagoe fief to ´Tarô Teruyoshi´. Later I went again from Kawagoe to Edo to the Nishinokubo-Kamiya district (ニシノクボ神谷町) from where I am studying at home.“ We know that Teruyoshi was initiated by Masayoshi only after the very short training time of about one and a half year. To understand why Teruyoshi gained a foothold in Edo that fast and arranged a training with the famous master Masayoshi we have to take a look at a certain phase of his father´s career. Terukazu had to interrupt his training because his master Shinrinshi Katsuichi (震鱗子克一), who worked for the Takasaki fief (高崎藩) of Kôzuke province, was in some difficulties and fled. He was wandering through several provinces to avoid arrest. So Terukazu had no choice but to study by his own. But he did his best as a local swordsmith, facing all the difficulties and hardships. His efforts became eventually known within the fief and paid off in the end, because as mentioned, his talent came eventually to the attention of Matsudaira Naritsune. This autonomy and self-reliance must had rubbed off on Teruyoshi. Anyway, we also read in the „Shintô-meishû-roku“ that Teruyoshi became a disciple of the famous sword tester Yamada Asaemon (山田浅右衛門) and that he „beared the sharpness of his blades in mind“. That means he had also a practical approach to his work and was full of enthusiasm. It is interesting how detailed Nankai Tarô Tomotaka deals with Teruyoshi in this work. In another passage he writes: „His swords focus solely on practical use and there is no single blade which does not cut well. Further, one does not have to worry that the blades of this at the moment unrivalled Edo master bend. Besides of that he is in the prime of his life and is still striving for the utmost forging quality.“ So Tomotaka´s publication surely contributed greatly to Teruyoshi´s fame and we can assume that both smiths exchanged experiences.

In Kaei six (嘉永, 1853), the fief ordered Teruyoshi to change his inherited profession from gunsmith to swordsmith. So probably the fief reacted appropriately as they had a promising smith in their ranks. But there is also another point of view on this changing of profession. On Teruyoshi´s tombstone we read: „He made on orders of his lord 200 nagamaki, katana and naginata each …“ This could suggest that his lord had him changed profession just for the porpose that he equips the fief with weapons in larger numbers. However, the Matsudaira chronicles do not deal with the exact reasons. Of course Teruyoshi made blades for the fief in larger numbers and there is a considerable number of specimen extant which proof this. The vast majority of them are naginata which are simply signed with „Bu Teruyoshi“ (武テルヨシ, in katakana syllables) or „Teruyoshi“ (英義) and showing for example the numbers 11, 19 or 31 engraved at the area of the habaki or a little below. In the „Hanshi-daijiten“ (藩史大辞典, an encyclopedia on the history of the fiefs) we read that the Kawagoe fief installed in the eleventh month of Kaei six arsenals on the coast at Kami-Shingashi (上新河岸) and Shimo-Shingashi (下新河岸) and that material and men were sent to guard the fort in Edo´s Takanawa (高輪). At that time, the Shingashi river was a main artery for transportations between the Kawagoe fief and Edo. In the sixth month of that year, Commodore Perry had landed at Uraga (浦賀) and so it is likely that Teruyoshi´s ordered change of profession was a measure of the trend to rearmament of those days.

Teruyoshi was eventually elevated from the rank of a craftsman to a bushi and his inherited salary of 12 koku and the stipend for the support of three persons was increased to 15 koku and 1 to. What about Teruyoshi´s private life. He married a daughter of the Mizuno family (水野) from the same fief. The couple remained childless for some years and so they adopted the student Yamaguchi Suekichi (山口末吉). But on the first day of the second month Bunkyû one (1861), their son Heiji (兵次) was born. In the family register we see that the name of his second wife Mino (み乃), the daughter of Watanabe Shôbei (渡辺庄兵衛) from the same fief, was added for the 15th day of the second month Bunkyû three (1863). That means it is likely that his first wife died right or shortly after giving birth. On the 19th day of the third month Genji one (1864), Mino gave birth to their first daughter Mutsu (むつ) and on the 24th day of the seventh month Keiô two (慶応, 1866) to Teruyoshi´s second and her first son Torazô (寅三). So Teruyoshi faced the same experiences as his father: Being childless for a longer time, adopting a heir, and being later blessed after all by own children. Well, the Matsudaira family ordered in the tenth month of Keiô two (1866) all their retainers to relocate to Maebashi, the new center of the fief. From the Matsudaira chronicles we learn that the retainers received allocated sites of residence. In the same document we find that also Teruyoshi was given a piece of land but also that he asked for another place because the sandy soil hindered him to carry out his profession properly. This was granted and so he moved to Maebashi´s Tachikawa-machi (立川町) whereas it is assumed that he turned his back on Edo and went to Maebashi to erect his house and forge in the third year of Keiô (1867).

With the end of the Tokugawa-bakufu and the abolition of the han system in 1871, also Teruyoshi had as a craftsman of a fief to leave his residence so we can imagine that he cherished the strong wish to return to his hime village of Kawai. But when his father started to work for the Kawagoe fief in Tenpô eight (1837), his older stepbrother Kamekichirô Eiji – who had been left in charge of the family in Kawai – entered the service of the fief and moved to Maebashi shortly later. So the household was dissolved and nothing was left in Kawai where he could have returned. After leaving his home village at the age of 15, about 34 years had passed and Teruyoshi was now without a job. There is a request extant from the 14th day of the tenth month Meiji four (1871) where Teruyoshi asks the fief for the permission to move to the grounds of the Jion-ji (慈恩寺) in the village of Itakura (板倉) in the Nawa district (名和). Itakura was namely the neighboring village of Kawai. It is likely that he had some connections to the people of Itakura which go back to the time when the family lived in Kawai. So Teruyoshi eventually restored a row house in front of the Jion-ji and settled there. Fujieda Akihiro (藤枝昭広), one of Teruyoshi´s successors, described that the row house was very old and that they had to borrow the village´s wooden mochi mortar as replacement for the rotten lower part of a pillar. And when at the end of the year the time of mochi making came, the villagers were a little upset that their mortar was „misused“ in the Fujieda house. And Akihiro narrated that the villagers helped the family to lift up the building so that the pillar could be restored and complained jokingly that they fell behind their work schedule because of this. When Teruyoshi came to Itakura, his oldest son Heiji was about ten years old. It is said that Heiji always wore a sword when he played with the other kids. That means the family really didn´t like the idea to give up the samurai status.


Picture 1: Teruyoshi´s declaration.

From the time the feudal han system was abolished until the new government was formed, the now unemployed samurai were in a kind of „vacuum“. To demonstrate this I want to introduce a document preserved in the Fujieda family (picture 1). In the seventh year of Meiji (1874), all samurai which had an income below of 100 koku were informed that the government grants them a lump sum in the amount of what they would have received in the subsequent six years. The mentioned document is Teruyoshi´s official declaration that he assigns 5 koku from his salary of 15 koku 1 to to the new Imperial government. Subsequently, he received from the government 187 Yen 62 sen 4 ri as well as government bonds in the amount of 75 Yen. This was the mentioned six-years lump sum payment and using the Consumer Price unit, 187 Yen would be today around 770.000 Yen or around $ 8.000, and the government bonds around % 3.000. However, it is unclear to what extant this was of help for the Fujieda family but in the Matsudaira records we find a lot of entries of people who ask for the permission to buy waste land or forests in the possession of the government to cultivate it and making so their new living before they run out of the lump sum. This too tells us in what difficult situation the ex-bushi were at that time. We also get a vivid picture of this situation from an extant document of Teruyoshi´s successor Torazô. In the 36th year of Meiji (1903) he asked for a government allowance to settle debts but he was informed two years later by the then Minister of Finance that his request was rejected.

The transmission says that Teruyoshi did not forge swords or maintained a forge after he moved to the village of Itakura. But in fact there are two blades from the eighth month of Meiji six (1873) extant. One was made by an order from the former Kawagoe´s chief steward Saitô Noritake (斉藤記武), and the other one by the chief shintô priest Mr. Wada (和田) who ordered it as an offering sword for the Karai-jinja (火雷神社). Both are wakizashi but have a deep sori, are signed with a tachi-mei and show also a tachi-sugata. So even if they are smaller they were nevertheless very carefully made and we can easily imagine that Teruyoshi knew that they were probably the last two blades he was going to make. In short, he must had operated a small forge in Itakura too. Fujieda Akihiro said that his ancestor Teruyoshi was called „sensei, sensei“ by the villagers of Itakura and that they asked him for help and to act as mediator in some cases. In the third month of Meiji nine (1876), the ban on swords, the haitôrei edict (廃刀令) was issued. It is said that he was very disappointed about that. More and more depressed he fell ill and died on the 24th day of the fifth month of the same year at the age of 54. But he was able to look back to an eventful life. First he had as a young man the great honour to demonstrate his craft in front of his lord. Then he left his home and became eventually a student of the famous master Hosokawa Masayoshi. A contemporary swordsmith called him „at the moment unrivalled Edo master“. He trained many students and left us many masterworks. He perfectly fulfilled responsible tasks entrusted to him by the fief and was granted therefore among other things with a the bushi rank and a family crest. He managed to survive the great difficulties of swordsmiths and former samurai after the feudal system was abolished. But we can assume that he stayed always friendly and was held in high esteem within the village community in his later years.


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