Kannai Norimune

Whilst compiling my two-volume set Index of Japanese Swordsmiths, I often came across the smith Kannai Norimune (関内徳宗) because he obviously trained a lot of local smiths. But information on him is quite sparse and thus I try to deal with him in more detail in this article. We know that his civilian name was „Kannai Kôzaemon“ (関内幸左衛門) and that he was born in Kansei seven (寛政, 1795) as son of Kannai Jihei Norimasa (関内治兵衛徳政) in the village of Yatsu (谷津) in the Ibaraki district (茨城郡) of Hitachi province which is just about 12 km to the northwest of Mito. Norimune eventually went to Mito, the capital of the fief of the same name, and entered an apprenticeship under the great local master Ichige Norichika (住毛徳鄰, 1777-1835). By the way, Norichika came originally from Hirakue (開江) which is exactly half way en route from Yatsu to Mito. Norichika was working for the Mito fief from Bunka six (文化, 1809) onwards. Norimune was actually a rather low-ranking smith working for the Mito fief since Tenpô twelve (天保, 1841), but he was able to get closer to the 9th Mito-daimyô Tokugawa Nariaki (徳川斉昭, 1800-1860) by assisting him in sword forging as the latter was a passionate swordsmith himself. But for the time being, he worked just as every other „run of the mill“ smiths fulfilling his orders from the fief and the local samurai.

Things changed considerably when Commodore Perry landed in Kaei six (嘉永, 1853) in Uraga. The bakufu had to react immediately and one of their numerous measures was to appoint their resolute relative Nariaki with coastal defence. Nariaki proposed a xenophobic policy and further presented the bakufu 74 cannons to defend Edo and one year later the Western-style sail warship Asahi-Maru (旭日丸) but which should not be finished until Ansei three (安政, 1856). One year before, i.e. in Ansei two (1855), the bakufu entrusted Nariaki also with a military reform. But Nariaki was not only involved in bakufu issues and had also to take care of his own fief. Soon he was openly opposed by the tairô Ii Naosuke (井伊直弼, 1815-1860) who was pro an opening of the country. All the signs were that war was coming and so Nariaki ordered the erection of a new arms and armour production centre on the eastern outskirts of Mito Castle. And this was the time of Kannai Norimune who was namely order to work from the new attached forge and train from there as many swordsmiths as possible. The Kannai family is in the possession of Norimune´s disciple records called „Kannai Norimune nyûmon-chô“ (関内徳宗入門帳) which features a lot of names, even famous ones like the 1st generation Katsumura Norikatsu (勝村徳勝). Other students were for example Tani Masatsune (谷弥政常), Hida Masayoshi (肥田政好), Komatsu Morinori (小松盛徳), Muneshige (宗重), Yamamoto Nobuyoshi (山本信義), Sugiyama Noriie (杉山徳家), Norikane (徳包), Norikane (徳包), Koibuchi Norimitsu (鯉淵徳光), Kannai Norimitsu (関内徳光), his nephew Kannai Norisada (徳貞), Naitô Norishige (内藤徳重), Asano Noriyuki (浅野徳行), Takagi Shigegana (高木重長), Aibara Shigetsuna (相原重綱), Shimizu Terutaka (清水輝高), Ôhara Toshitsugu (大原利次) and Koyama Munetsugu´s second son Koyama Yoshitsugu (固山義次) who worked for the Kuwana fief (桑名藩). But he also had the honour to instruct Tokugawa Nariaki´s son Yoshiatsu (徳川慶篤, 1832-1868) who forged blades as a pastime whose smith and priest name was Junkô (順公). Norimune died on the fifth day of the fifth month Meiji six (明治, 1873) and was succeeded by his eldest son Norikane (徳兼, 1829-1903), civilian name „Kannai Asanosuke“ (関内朝之助) and later „Kannai Hikoshirô“ (関内彦四郎) who in turn had also refined his craft under Koyama Munetsugu (固山宗次).

Well, unfortunately not much works are going round of him and also most of the oshigata collections do not feature him. But a yari of Norimune can be seen here and an unsigned tantô attributed to him here.

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