The Tsunahiro Connection of Suishinshi Masahide

In my Nihon-shinshinto-shi published least year I also addressed Suishinshi Masahide´s (水心子正秀) acquisition of the Sôshû tradition from the 10th generation Tsunahiro (綱広). And I also mentioned an extant blade from the eighth month of Kansei three (寛政, 1791) which is signed with the supplement “Kamakura-jûnin Masamune-masson Minamoto Tsunahiro Sôden no kitae” (鎌倉住人正宗末孫源綱広相伝鍛之, “forged in the Sôshû tradition of the Masamune-descendant Tsunahiro from Kamakura”). But there exists even an earlier blade, or to be more precise a blade from the year before, which demonstrates the relationship of Masahide and Tsunahiro. And starting with this blade, I want to go into greater detail of the Tsunahiro connection of Suishinshi Masahide. So let me introduce the blade in question. It is a katana with a nagasa of 70.3 cm and a sori of 1.3 cm. It is in shinogi-zukuri with an iori-mune, shows an ô-itame with plentiful of ji-nie and chikei, and narrow notare-chô along the lower half which turns into a wide and heavily nie-loaden suguha-based mix of ko-notare and gunome with many yubashiri and sunagashi which make the upper half even appearing as kind of sudareba. Also the bôshi is widely tempered, tends almost to ichimai, but shows some roundish kaeri with nie-kuzure. Interesting of course is also the signature which reads on the omote: “Gorô Nyûdô Masamune masson Minamoto Tsunahiro chakuden o motte Masahide kore o saku” (以五郎入道正宗末孫源綱広嫡伝正秀作之, “made by Masahide in the tradition of Gorô Nyûdô Masamune which had been inherited to Minamoto Tsunahiro”). The ura side is dated “Kansei ninen nigatsu hi” (寛政二年二月日, “a day of the second month Kansei two [1790]”) and bears two more names: “Enshû Yokosuka-shin Mitsuhide” (遠州横須賀臣三秀, “Mitsuhide, retainer from Yokosuka of Tôtômi province”), and “Tsunahiro-chaku Ôgitani-jûnin Yamamura Tadasaburô” (綱広嫡扇谷住人山村直三郎, “Yamamura Tadasaburô, heir of Tsunahiro and resident of Ôgitani [in Kamakura]”).


Picture 1: gassaku of Suishinshi Masahide and two of his students

Before we continue, let me introduce the basics of Masahide´s career until he met Tsunahiro (for a detailed biography please refer to my Nihon-shinshinto-shi). Hide was born under the name “Suzuki Saburô” (鈴木三郎)  in the third year of Kan´en (寛延, 1750) in Dewa province and worked there as a village blacksmith. It is said that he had learnt the craft of forging from a certain Yoshizawa Sanjirô (吉沢三次郎) from a village close to his. But Masahide had decided early for himself to become a swordsmith and his first station in this goal was Sendai where he became a student of a later generation Kunikane (国包). His smith name was “Takuei” (宅英) at that time. After this initial training he moved to Hachiôji (八王子), in Musashi province, where he learnt from the local Shitahara master Musashimaru Yoshiteru (武蔵丸吉英) who was in turn a student of Musashi Tarô Yasukuni (武蔵太郎安国). With this master-student relationship he changed his name to “Terukuni” (英国) and was hired by the Akimoto family (秋元), the daimyô of the Yamagata fief (山形藩), in the third year of An´ei (安永, 1774) whereupon he changed his name again, namely from “Terukuni” to “Masahide”, and his entire civilian name to “Kawabe Gihachirô” (川部儀八郎). With his employment at the Yamagata fief he was able in terms of money to travel further and further, to take lessons in the Bizen tradition at the Ishidô school (石堂) and as mentioned in the Sôshû tradition under the 10th generation Tsunahiro.


Picture 2: seishi of Masahide addressed to Yamamura Uhei

The start of master-student relationship to Tsunahiro can be narrowed down to the first year of Kansei (寛政, 1789) because there is a written oath (seishi, 誓詞) extant (picture 2) within the Yamamura family (i.e. the family of the Tsunahiro lineage) which is dated third day tenth month Kansei one and which contains Masahide´s will to learn the Sôshû tradition from Yamamura Uhei (山村宇兵衛), i.e. from the 10th generation Tsunahiro. So Masahide was already 39 years old when he visited the forge of Tsunahiro. That means he was already a fully trained smith by then working for the Akimoto family for about 15 years so his turning up at the forge of Tsunahiro has to be understood as a refinement of his craft. When we take a look at the aforementioned blade, we see at a glance that he had mastered the Sôshû tradition within a year because it is truly interpreted in the magnificently “relaxed” but daring style of the great Sôshû masters. And on the basis of the quality of the work and the production time it is safe to assume that Tsunahiro had initiated Masahide to all family secrets just as if he was his son and heir. Interesting are also the other two names appearing on the tang, Mitsuhide and Yamamura Tadasaburô. The 10th generation Tsunahiro died the very next year, i.e. in Kansei three (1791), and both Mitsuhide and Tsunahiro´s heir Tadasaburô appear later on the list of Masahide´s students. So it is likely that Masahide took care of Tsunahiro´s son and some of his students after the death of the master. Incidentally, Mitsuhide changed his name later to “Kuniyasu” (国安).


Picture 3: gassaku-katana of Masahide and the 11th generation Tsunahiro

Eight years after this joint work, Masahide worked once again with Tadasaburô on a blade. The latter had already succeeded as 11th generation Tsunahiro. The blade in question (picture 3) is dated “Kansei jûnen nigatsu hi” (寛政十年二月日, “a day of the second month Kansei ten [1798]”) and is signed “Suishinshi Masahide + kaô” on the ura, and “Tôdaijô no kenkô Minamoto Tsunahiro” (東大城之剣工源綱広) on the omote side. The katana has a nagasa of 72.7 cm and a sori of 1.8 cm. It is in shinogi-zukuri with a mitsu-mune and shows a standing-out itame mixed with mokume, thick chikei, and plentiful of ji-nie. The hamon is based on a heavily nie-loaden shallow notare-chô mixed with ô-gunome along the monouchi and apart from that with nie-kuzure, hotsure, kinsuji, sunagashi, yubashiri, tobiyaki, and muneyaki. The bôshi is a rather narrow and slightly undulating sugu-bôshi. So we can see at a glance a straightforward Sôshû-deki.  Interesting is also the prefix of Tsunahiro´s signature. “Tôdaijô no kenkô” means literally “Swordsmiths from the Great Castle in the East”. The castle refers of course to Edo Castle and from the syntax experts assume that this unique term refers to a bakufu employment. Well, the Tsunahiro lineage does not appear in the bakufu records of employed swordsmiths like Yasutsugu (康継), Korekazu (是一), or Hôjôji Kunimasa (法城寺国正) but the aforementioned present-day Yamamura family is also in the possession of records which proof that their predecessors made during the bakumatsu era swords on orders of the koshimono-bugyô (腰物奉行), the bakufu magistrate responsible for everything sword-related. These documents also show that the family had an Edo-mansion granted by the bakufu so everything points towards an official employment by the Tokugawa shogunate even if the contemporary official records lack their name. So the blade in question is also an important reference for the bakumatsu-era employment conditions of the Tsunahiro lineage. Anyway, it was a great honor for a smith to receive orders by the bakufu and so with some imagination it is possible that the following took place.

After acting as head of the school and family for eight years, the 11th generation Tsunahiro had finally made himself a name in Edo and was thus informed about the bakufu´s intention to employ him. To celebrate this recognition, he visited once again his former master Suishinshi Masahide who also took care of him after his fathers death to make a special blade which reminds of their connection. And Masahide of course agreed to that because he also owed a lot to the Yamamura family as Tadasaburô Tsunahiro´s father introduced him to the Sôshû tradition, an act which helped him a lot in his professional development of the fukkotô movement. Please note that unlike the Kansei two blade, Masahiro switched here to the ura side of the nakago to place his signature. This shows his respect towards Tsunahiro as being the leading artist of this “project.” And again it is interesting to see what vivid picture of a certain phase of a swordsmith´s career we can draw just on the basis of two swords and their signatures.

Cutting ability nicknames of swords

By a recent inquiry of a collector I came across a blade´s nickname that had given me a little headache a time ago in another context. This other context was a blade by Kotetsu (虎徹) I introduced in my Kantei volumes (No 237.621, Shinto & Shinshintô-kantei pages 124-125; Shintô & Shinshintô-kantei zenshû pages 198-199) (see picture 1). The mei of the blade reads: “Dôsaku horu kore (同作彫之) – Nagasone Kotetsu Nyûdô Okisato” (長曽祢虎徹入道興里), and the kinzôgan-mei: “Konkaidan (坤皆断) mitsu-dô, futatsu-dô setsudan no sono hoka shosho muichifu tameshi no yue gô Konkaidan” (三ツ胴二ツ胴截断之其外処々無一不試之故号坤皆断, “because of the cutting test where the blade cutted through two, three bodies and also because it never failed, it shall be named ´Konkaidan´”) – “Yamano Ka´emon no Jô Nagahisa + kaô” (山野加右衛門尉永久).


Picture 1: katana by Kotetsu, nagasa 71.2 cm, sori 1.2 cm

Konkaidan is, as mentioned in my Kantei volumes, a term from the divination system of the I-Ching, and after sending an inquiry to Japan, I was told that the konkaidan trigram also stands for the Dainichi-nyorai (大日如来), the Vairocana Buddha. Well, I was not that satisfied with that because of the lack of connection. A reference to the Vairocana Buddha alone would have been ok for me but the wording of the tameshi-mei “because of the cutting test … it shall be named ´Konkaidan´” made me doubt as if there is a better explanation. Now the Kantei volumes had to come to an end but this inscription preyed upon my mind. And some months later, it fell like scales from my eyes when browing through my Kantei volumes on the search for a certain blade by Kotetsu´s successor Okimasa (興正). The nickname of the blade has not so much to do with the Vairocana Buddha and the konkaidan trigram, or to be more precise the kon trigram (坤), has to be taken “literally” as a symbol. As seen in picture 2 it is composed of three broken lines which just look like three severed bodies positioned atop of each other for a cutting test! So the nickname of the blade Konkaidan translates roughly as “cut through three bodies like the kon trigram.”


Picture 2: The kon trigram and three bodies positioned at the dotanbarai.

The second blade I addressed was shortened to a wakizashi. It shows a flamboyant Bizen-style hamon with utsuri and has old tokubetsu-kichô papers to Heki Mitsuhira (日置光平), although the midare-komi bôshi and the workmanship in general made me and the owner of the blade also think that it might be a work of Tatara Nagayuki (多々良長幸). Anyway, the shortened nakago was inlayed with the nickname Konkaidan and interesting is, that this wakizashi comes with a habaki onto which the kon trigram is engraved (partly visible in picture 3).


Picture 3: The nakago of the supposed Mitsuhira wakizashi with the kinzôgan-mei “Konkaidan”



Picture 4: Flamboyant hamon of the supposed Mitsuhira wakizashi, nagasa 54.0 cm, sori 2.0 cm

So much for the supplements to the kinzôgan-mei “Konkaidan.” Now I want to introduce some more nicknames of swords which go more or less back to their cutting abilities, namely such nicknames which do not necessarily refer to the cutting ability of a single special blade but which are more “general” and thus might also be found inlayed on more than one blade.

Asaarashi (朝嵐): Asaarashi means literally “morning storm” and refers to strong storms in the morning which make it impossible for fresh snow to remain on mountain peaks. But it can also refer to a heavy storm which makes you slip and fall from a wintery mountain, so we have here basically the same allusion as the nickname → Sasanoyuki.

Daiyagawa (大谷川) Taki no mizu (滝之水)

Funabashi (船橋) → Tanahashi (棚橋)

Fusenaikyô (無布施経・布施無経): This term means literally “no offering at Sutra reading” and refers to the practice that monks usually received offerings (fuse, 布施) when paying a visit and reading Sutras. But sometimes the parishioners did not give any offerings and in such a case the monks so to speak showed up without their kesa robe, almost in the sense of “no money, no honey.” In sword terms, fusenaikyô just means to perform a kesa-kiri (袈裟斬り), i.e. a cut diagonally over the chest following theoretically the seam of a monks kesa robe. So, a saying among monks developed from this context, which was: “Take off your kesa when going to read Sutras with no offerings” (fusenai-kyô ni kesa-otosu, 布施ない経に袈裟落す), and with this context, the nickname in the context of swords could also mean: “Here, I take the kesa off for you with my sword!” For example, there is supposedly a blade by the Kan´ei-era (寛永, 1624-1644) Owari smith Ujikumo (氏雲), and one by the Osafune Sanenaga (真長) bearing the nickname Fusenaikyô.

Gibôshi-fusetsu no todomarazu (擬法珠風雪不溜): “Snow does not accumulate on a gibôshi.” A gibôshi is the onion-shaped ornament on a bridges handrail and so this nickname refers to a blade so sharp that it cuts through an object as easily as a snow slides from such a gibôshi.

Hachimonji (八文字): This nickname goes back to a legend which says that Satake Yoshishige (佐竹義重, 1547-1612) cut with his Chôgi blade (長義) in the tenth year of Eiroku (永禄, 1567) in a battle a mounted enemy into halves. Because the blow went through the helmet down to the saddle, both body halves slided down to the left and right of the horse. This “sliding” resembled the character (monji, 文字) for “eight” (hachi, 八) and this is why the blade got its nickname “Hachimonji.”


Picture 5: The meibutsu Hachimonji-Chôgi, nagasa 78.5 cm, sori 2.1 cm

Hatchô-Nenbutsu-dango-zashi (八丁念仏団子刺し): There is the legend about Suzuki Magoichi (鈴木孫一, 1534-1589) who cut with his sword at a monk but who kept reciting the nenbutsu and walked away from the scene as if nothing happened. Magoichi was so perplexed and wondered about the sharpness of his sword so that he stabbed angrily on the ground several times. After he had calmed down he looked down at his sword which had skewered stones (sashi/zashi, 刺し) like dumplings (dango, 団子). Then he followed the tracks of the monk and found him dead, cut intwo two halves, at a distance of eight chô (hatchô, 八丁 ~ 870 m). Thus he nicknamed his blade by Bizen Yukiie (行家) Hatchô-Nenbutsu-dango-zashi, about “if you cut somebody with this blade, the person doesn´t notice it because of the sharpness and can still make eight chô, and apart from that, you can skewer stones with it like dumplings.”

Jigokuzue (地獄杖): This term means literally “hell cane.” It is found for example as kinzôgan-mei on a Bungo-Takada blade and stands for the sword in general, i.e. the sword being a “cane” which sends you to hell.

Kagotsurube (籠釣瓶): This term is found on quite many blades. It means “woven bamboo basket (kago, 籠) as sinking bucket (tsuruba, 釣瓶).” A woven bamboo basket can´t hold water of course and as easy the water leaks out from such a basket, as easy cuts a blade with that nickname. An about identical nickname is Kotsurube (古釣瓶), i.e. a lit. “old basket” which can´t hold water. It is found as kinzôgan-mei on a wakizashi by Osafune Motoshige (元重) which was once a heirloom of the Tsuyama-Matsudaira family (津山松平).


Picture 6: katana by No-Sada with the kinzôgan-mei “Gô Kagotsurube” (号笭釣瓶), nagasa 66.8 cm, sori 1.7 cm. Please note that a different character for “Kago” was used for this inscription.

Kokesa (古袈裟): This name has basically two meanings. One alludes again to the kesa cut and the other one goes back to the symbolism of a very old kesa robe, i.e. a ko-kesa, which tears by itself and without any further force, quasi cutting through something so easily as if doesn´t need any extra force to do so. There is a blade by the Sue-Seki smith Kanemine (兼峯) which bears the ginzôgan-mei “Kokesa” (古けさ). A similar nickname is → Yaregoromo.

Kotsurube (古釣瓶) Kagotsurube (籠釣瓶)

Kusarinawa (腐り縄・クサリナワ): Kusarinawa means literally “rotten straw rope.” This nickname is found as kinzôgan-mei and in katakana syllables on an Aoe blade and refers like → Kokesa to an easily tearing rope, i.e. in the figurative sense to a very sharp blade which cuts through things easily.

Matsukaze (松風): This nickname is used for a sword which cuts through things as if nothing had happened, just making the sound of the wind soughing through pine trees. The kinzôgan-mei “Matsukaze” is for example found on a blade of the Sue-kotô Sakakura-Seki smith Masatoshi (酒倉正利).

Michishiba no tsuyu (道芝の露) Sasanoyuki (笹雪・篠雪)

Odoributsu (踊仏): Literally “dancing Buddha”, this term alludes to Buddha or a monk starting to dance and taking off the kesa from the shoulder. So again we have here a reference to the kesa cut. This nickname is found for example on a katana by Etchû no Kami Masatoshi (越中守正俊).

Oni-Hôchô (鬼包丁): A wakizashi in kata-shinogi-zukuri – a shape where one side is in shinogi-zukuri and the other one in hira-zukuri – by Hata Mitsuyo (秦光代) with a nagasa of 42,4 cm was the favourite sword of the famous Shinkage-ryû (新陰流) swordsman Yagyû Ren´ya Yoshikane (柳生連也厳包, 1625-1694). When Ren´ya was surprised one night by an assassin, he drew this short sword and killed his opponent with one single blow. Due to this incident, the blade received the nickname “Oni-Hôchô” (鬼包丁), lit “devil´s kitchen knife.” The peculiar shape was copied later by other smiths too whereas the nickname “Oni-Hôchô” was kept for such blades.


Picture7: Oni-Hôchô-style blade attributed to Hata Mitsuyo, nagasa 62.2 cm, sori 0.7 cm

Sasanoyuki (笹雪・篠雪): Literally “snow on a bamboo leaf,” this term alludes to no force needed to cut with such a blade just like snow slips from a bamboo leaf without further ado when too heavy. A similar nickname is Michishiba no tsuyu (道芝の露). It alludes to the dew (tsuyu, 道露) on roadside grass (michishiba, 道芝) which also slips from the leaves without any further ado. This rather uncommon name was used for a blade of Kimura Shigenari (木村重成, 1593-1615) who fought an all-out battle at the Siege of Ôsaka but was caught and beheaded. And the same allusion is used by the nickname Take no ha no arare (竹葉霰・竹の葉のあられ), lit. “hail slipping from bamboo leaves.”

Sotto-hasamibako (ソット挟箱): This nickname is found for example as inscription on a blade by Kanefusa (兼房). It refers to a certain storage box (hasamibako, 挟箱) for spare clothes worn by a servant via a stick over the shoulder. At this certain form of such a box, clothes were pinched between two bamboo sticks and carried over the shoulder to let them dry. But they sometimes fell down, silently and unnoticed (sotto, ソット) as the weight did not much decrease and not making any noise when hitting the ground. So a sword nicknamed that way is so sharp that the enemy doesn´t even notice that he had been hit.

Take no ha no arare (竹葉霰・竹の葉のあられ) → Sasanoyuki (笹雪・篠雪)

Taki no mizu (滝之水): Nickname for a blade which is so sharp that a severed body part falls off like the water (mizu, 水) of a waterfall (taki, 滝). A blade by the Kan´ei-era (寛永, 1624-1644) Owari smith Bungo no Kami Masamitsu (豊後守正全) is named that way. A nickname with the same meaning is Daiyagawa (大谷川). It refers to Kegon Falls (華厳滝) along the Daiyagawa in the Nikkô National Park.

Tanahashi (棚橋): A tanahashi is a bridge without any railing, i.e. a bridge from which one can fall from easily. The Yamano family used this term to mark a very sharp blade, for example found as kinzôgan-mei on a blade of Yamato no Kami Yasusada (大和守安定). A similar term is Funabashi (船橋), a “bridge” made out of aligned boats. Crossing a river via aligned and moving boats without any railings is of course dangerous and one can slip easily. The nickname Funabashi is for example found on a blade by Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi (丹波守吉道).

Tôrinuke (通抜): This term means as verb torinukeru (通り抜ける) “to cut through, to go through,” i.e. it refers to a sharp sword which cuts through things easily.

Unomi (鵜呑): A sword which cuts through things as easy and fast as a cormorand (u, 鵜) swallows (nomi, 呑) fish. A blade by Hachiya Kanesada (蜂屋兼貞) for example bears this nickname.

Yaregoromo (弊衣・破衣): The term means “worn out clothes”, i.e. so worn out and thin that they tear easily. It is said that Tokugawa Mitsukuni (徳川光圀, 1628-1701) nicknamed his blade by Onizuka Yoshikuni (鬼塚吉国) that way when punishing a dissolute priest with it. That means the sharp blade cut so easily through the poor monk like worn out clothes tear apart. Another nickname with the same meaning is Yareginu (破絹), lit. “worn out silk.” It is found on a blade by Harima no Kami Teruhiro (播磨守輝広).

Yume no aida (夢の間): This term means “as in a dream” or “like dreaming.” It is found for example on a blade by Suishinshi Masahide (水心子正秀) which with a wakige (脇下) test cut through the armpits went through the body as if nothing had happened, i.e. just like everything was a dream.

On the Kaimoto Smiths

In the course of my research on the more unknown schools, I want to introduce this time the Kaimoto smiths (甲斐本) of Bungo province. First of all, let´s address the name of the group. It goes back to an area of the same name in Nakao (中尾). Nakao in turn is located about 3 km to the southwest of the city of Bungo-Ôno (豊後大野市) and about 30 km to the south of the city of Ôita (大分市) and at the limits of the village of Nakao, there are still the graves of the Kaimoto smiths extant. The i in “Kaimoto” is usually not pronounced, i.e. with kay like in okay but with a longer “a” and not stressing the “y”. Older topographies transcribe the area also as “Kehinomoto” (ケヒノモト) and write the name with the characters (賀井本), or (賀井ノ本) respectively when the particle no was noted too.


Picture 1: The red dot marks Nakao/Kaimoto (© 2014, Google, ZENRIN)

We don´t know exactly when smiths started to forge swords in the Kaimoto neighborhood but it is assumed that this was at the latest in the Sengoku period. The earliest written reference we have today is on a document with a joint signature of five magistrates (bugyô, 奉行) of the Ôtomo family (大友) from Eiroku five (永禄, 1562). From this document we learn that the Ôtomo provided the Kaimoto smiths from within Bungo´s Mie district (三重郷) with charcoal and iron and paid them a salary of 50 koku. Also we have genealogic informations on the group or rather family compiled by the 6th Kaimoto-generation Yukihisa (行久). Therein he states that the ancestor of the family was a certain Magoshirô Yukinaga (孫四郎行長) and the actual founder of the school his successor Matazaemon Yukinaga (又左衛門行長). Yukihisa states that the Kaimoto smiths were employed like the Takada smiths (高田) by the Ôtomo family and that they received initially a salary of 50 koku what matches with the bugyô document. But further he writes that when their lord Ôtomo Yoshishige (大友義鎮, 1530-1587), aka Sôrin (宗麟), retired and moved to Usuki Castle (臼杵城) in Tenshô four (1576), the salary was reduced to 10 koku. This is insofar interesting as it shows that the Kaimoto smiths played a more important role for the earlier Ôtomo campaigns, e.g. against the Kikuchi (菊池), Ryûzôji (龍造寺), and Môri (毛利) and until about the time Yoshishige was appointed shugo governor of Buzen and Chikuzen province and Kyûshû-tandai (九州探題) in Eiroku two (1559), compared to the later fightings against the Shimazu family (島津) and their fighting for Hideyoshi in the course of his Kyûshû Campaign in Tenshô 15 (1587). It surely also played a role that Yoshishige´s son Yoshimune (大友義統, 1558-1610) was accused by Hideyoshi in Bunroku two (文禄, 1593) of deserting under enemy fire in Korea and lost so all Bungo domains, a measure which basically sounded the bell for the end of the Ôtomo family.

After Yoshimune was removed by Hideyoshi, the lands of Usuki, i.e. where Kaimoto was located, were given to his retainer Ôta Kazuyoshi (太田一吉, ?-1617). But Ôta sided with Ishida Mitsunari at Sekigahara and so his lands were again confiscated and transferred by Ieyasu to Inaba Sadamichi (稲葉貞通, 1546-1603) as he changed sides in favor of the Eastern Army during the battle. And the Inaba family held the Usuki fief (臼杵藩) until the abolition of the feudal system. Back to the Kaimoto smiths. We know from fief records from Keian four (慶安, 1651) that the Kaimoto smith Matazaemon (又左衛門) received still the salary of 10 koku and that the family was treated like with the same social status as that of a village head, whatever that means. It is assumed that this entry refers to the same sixth Kaimoto-generation Yukihisa who made the aforementioned copy of the families genealogy. So if this is correct than the meikan must be corrected because they date Yukihisa around Tenshô (天正, 1573-1592). Then we find an entry from Kyôhô eleven (享保, 1726) which states that the Kaimoto smith Sôzaemon (惣左衛門) is “doing a good job”, lit. “saiku mo yoroshiku tsukamatsuri-sôrô” (細工も宜く仕り候). But Kyôhô eleven seems too late for Kaimoto Toyoyuki (豊行) who was the one who bore the first name “Sôzaemon.” From another document we learn that the family was granted the status of o-memie (御目見), i.e. qualified to meet with the shôgun, in Hôreki nine (宝暦, 1759) what meant usually samurai status. But then for Kansei eleven (寛政, 1799) we read that the Kaimoto smith Ka´emon (嘉右衛門) couldn´t cope with the fief´s demands in him as a craftsman – lit. “shokubun-fushussei” (職分不出精) – and that so the status of o-memie was again withdrewn. After that time, i.e. entering the late Edo period, we loose track of the Kaimoto smiths. However, a document from the Usuki fief from Bunsei three (文政, 1820) in which several local merchants ask their government for the permission to have a bridge erected on their own costs mentions the name “Kaimoto Gensuke” (甲斐源助) as being as tea dealer (chaya, 茶屋) one of the petitioners.

A nice wakizashi of Toyoyuki with some utsuri can be seen here.


Picture 2: wakizashi, mei: “Toyoyuki” (豊行).


Picture 3: Signature comparison of the two Toyoyuki wakizashi.

So that was basically the history of the Kaimoto smiths and as a reference, I want to present a genealogy which bases largely on the information provided by Yukihisa but which was enlarged by other available data. But it must be mentioned that there is some confusion with the Bungo smiths, especially around the transition from kotô to shintô. For example there are several smiths from the Kaimoto and Takada group using the same name and in the meikan some shinshintô smiths pop up which are supposedly sons or students of the early shintô smiths. Also a question raises the naginata of the supposed 7th Kaimoto-generation Yukiie which is dated Kan´ei two (寛永, 1625) and which is today an important cultural object of Ôita City. To be more precise, when the 2nd Kaimoto-generation Yukinaga died in Jôô one (承応, 1652) as a transmission says, that how can the 7th generation be active at about the same time or even a bit earlier? The information provided by Ôita City says further that Yukiie, the maker of the naginata, was the son of Yukihisa what matches with the genealogy, but also that he was the younger brother of a Yukinaga.


Apart from that, Yamada Masato (山田正任) presents in his 1974 publication Zusetsu Bungo-tô (図説豊後刀, p. 414) a blade signed “Bungo no Kuni Mie-jû Fujiwara Yukinaga” (豊後国三重住藤原行長) dated Keichô 13 (慶長, 1608). So one of the Yukinaga did not only sign with “Kaimoto-jû” but also with “Mie-jû”, i.e. with the district or larger area instead of the local neighborhood. Well, the naginata of Yukinaga which is signed with “Kaimoto” (without “jû”) and which is dated Keichô 16 (1611) presented by Yamada on page 349 seems to go back to a different Yukinaga, at least this is what the noticeable differences in signature style, in particular in the characters for “Yuki” (行), suggest (see pictures 4 and 5).


Picture 4, signature comparison: Yukinaga naginata from 1611 left, Yukinaga katana from 1608 right.


Picture 5: Line-up of the differing characters in question.

My conclusion is that the Kaimoto genealogy provided by Yukihisa is sound as long as it is “enjoyed” by itself. As soon as we add data from outside, like for example extant date signatures and the genealogies of the Takada smiths, problems occur. I think that the Kaimoto smiths were surely working for the Ôtomo in late Muromachi times and that they were still pretty active in the Keichô era, i.e. right after Sekigahara. But with the establishment of the han system, the shifting of all major industries to the castle towns, and the general decreasing demand for swords, there was probably no longer much to do for a family of swordsmiths deep inside rural Bungo province. On the other hand, the chronicles of the Usuki fief still refer much later to certain Kaimoto smiths, so there must had been something going on. But maybe by then the Kaimoto smiths were already working from the fief´s capital, the coastal town of Usuki of the same name.

A kozuka full of references

Let me introduce a kozuka of the great Tsuchiya Yasuchika (土屋安親) which does not look so spectacular at a glance. First the technical terms. It is of suaka and with shibuichi and shakudô hira-zôgan and measures 10 cm in length. It is signed via a kinzôgan seal which reads “Tô´u” (東雨), so we learn that we are facing a work from his later years. The kozuka depicts or rather represents a famous tea scoop container (chashaku-zutsu, 茶杓筒) made by Kobori Enshû (小堀遠州, 1579-1647).


Picture 1: Kobori Enshû (left), Shôkadô Shôjô (right)

You may already be familiar with Kobori Enshû, the famous aristocratic tea master and “allround artist” who developed his own style of the tea ceremony and who taught among others the third Tokugawa-shôgun Iemitsu (徳川家光, 1623-1651) the ways of the sadô (茶道). One day, Enshû received a gift of Shôkadô Shôjô (松花堂昭乗, 1584-1639) in the form of a hanging scroll. The Buddhist monk Shôjô was a master of the tea ceremony too who became also famous as calligrapher as one of the “Three Brushes of the Kan´ei Era” (Kan´ei-sanpitsu, 寛永三筆). As a return gift, Enshû presented him a self-made tea scoop container with the nickname aogoke (青苔, “green moss,” sometimes also quoted as seitai). This nickname is a reference to the 78th chapter of the Ise-monogatari (伊勢物語) in which the court noble Fujiwara no Tsuneyuki (藤原常行, 836-875) is on his way back from a memorial service and stops at Prince Saneyasu´s (人康親王, 831-782) residence in Yamashina (山科) to the north of Kyôto. The prince entertained Tsuneyuki and so he gave him as a gift a beautiful rock from Chisato Beach (千里の浜) of Kii province which was once intended to be a present for Tsuneyuki´s father but did not arrive in time for the festivities. But although beautiful, just a rock would not be adequate as a present for a prince and so Tsuneyuki scaped away the green moss from the surface until characters in the form of a poem remained. The Ise-monogatari speaks of “scraped away the green moss from the rock until … the words stood out like the raised design of a makie lacquerware.” The poem goes:

Akane domo iwa ni zo kafuru iro mienu kokoro o misemu yoshi no nakareba.
“Inadequate though it be, this rock must represent those feelings that 
by their nature have no color to arrest the eye and thus cannot be made 

So this receiving and returning of gifts must had reminded Enshû of Tsuneyuki and the prince and when he made the tea scoop container for Shôjô he added an inscription which is an allusion to the above mentioned poem:

Ise-monogatari ni wa aoki-koke o kizamite to ari, take o kizamite 
okashiku, akane domo take ni zo kafuru iro mienu kokoro o misemu yoshi 
no nakareba.
“The Ise-monogatari tells of an inscription in the form of green moss 
of which I was thinking carving this bamboo. Inadequate though it be, 
this bamboo must represent those feelings that by their nature have no 
color to arrest the eye and thus cannot be made visible.”


Picture 2: chashaku-zutsu kozuka of Yasuchika, in´mei “Tô´u” (東雨)

Yasuchika now took Enshû´s tea scoop container and turned it – with a certain artistic freedom – into a kozuka. He also added Enshû´s inscriptions via a shakudô hira-zôgan on the back and front and also copied the worm damage of the front. The inscription on the front reads: “Takimotobô, chashaku, Sôhoshi” (瀧本坊・茶杓・宗甫子). The Takimotobô was the temple of which Shôkadô Shôjô was the chief priest and “Sôhoshi” (mostly without “-shi”) was a pseudonym of Kobori Enshû. Please note that the original tea spoon container of Enshû seems to bear a slightly inscription, namely “Takimoto onbô” (瀧本御坊, “monk Takimoto”). The chashaku-zutsu is owned by the Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Fine Art and a picture can be seen here. Yasuchika´s adaption is very tasteful and has the typical more calm and introverted approach of his later years. There is no other kozuka of him known representing a tea spoon container and so it is possible that it was made on request and/or it was maybe a return gift for somebody?


Picture 3: Bodhidharma kozuka of Yasuchika, mei: “Yasuchika” (安親)

As comparison, I would like to introduce a kozuka from Yasuchika´s earlier years. It is of shakudô with a nanako ground and depicts the Bodhidharma in his form as great teacher. The inscription reads: “Ma iwaku – mu-kudoku” (磨曰・無功徳), “Daruma said: No merits.” This line refers to an encounter of the Chinese Emperor Wû of Líang (梁武帝, 464-549), who was a fervent patron of Buddhism, with Bodhidharma whom he didn´t know yet: Emperor Wû asks Bodhidharma how much karmic merit he has yet earned by doing so much for Buddhism and Bodhidharma replied: “No merits. Good deeds done with wordly intent bring good karma, but no merit.” Upon this Emperor Wû asks: “So what is the highest meaning of noble truth of Buddhist wisdom?” And Bodhidharma replies again: “There is no noble truth, there is only emptiness.” Then Emperor Wû wonders and asks: “Then, who is standing before me?”, and Bodhidharma finally replies: “I don´t know.” This kozuka takes the viewer into the position of Emperor Wû, being confronted with the enlightened teacher Bodhidharma, whose at a glance incomprehensible answers make one to rethink his approach so far. And with quoting explicitly the line “No merits”, the kozuka reminds the viewer of doing good things but in an unselfish manner.

On the Rai school´s character “Rai”

Between two sword club meetings with main focus on the Rai school,  I thought I do some research to provide some background on the origins of the school as I am unfortunately unable to provide some Rai blades for appreciation. We known that the Rai school originated in Kyôto, Yamashiro province, somewhere in the mid-Kamakura period, and that in terms of workmanship it is probably linked to the Awataguchi school. These are the facts we have about the school´s origins, now to the theories. Most old relevant sources quote Kuniyoshi (国吉) as founder of the Rai school and the Kanchin´in-bon mei-zukushi (観智院本銘尽) from Ôei 30 (応永, 1423), the oldest extant sword document, states that Kuniyoshi was a Korean smith who had immigrated, or who had came to Japan, and sees the origins of the school´s name in the term raigoku (来国). Raigoku means namely literally “came to [our] country” and so the first character was adopted as name of the school and the second character, koku/goku or in its Japanese reading kuni, was adopted as tôri-ji (通字), as distinctive character used in the names of all people belonging to a single clan or school. So raigoku extended by another character became “Rai Kuni-X”, e.g. “Rai Kuniyoshi” (来国吉). This theory, i.e. that Kuniyoshi was from Korea and had immigrated to Japan where he founded the Rai school, is also found amongst Fukunaga Suiken´s (福永酔剣) seven theories on the Rai school´s character “Rai” forwarded in his publication Nihontô-daihyakka-jiten (日本刀大百科事典). Two more of these seven theories are pretty similar, namely one says that the Rai school´s ancestor – no concrete name is mentioned, just “ancestor” – came from Korea, and one says that Kuniyoshi´s ancestor was from Táng China (唐, 618-907). So these two theories too go with the assumption that the school´s use of the character “Rai” goes back to an earlier immigration. Another, similar theory from the seven says that Kuniyoshi´s supposed son Kuniyuki (国行) was a copper craftsmen from another country (no specification here) who came to Japan, and because his skills were of use for the country, he was granted with the family name “Rai” by the court. This practice was pretty common and we can confirm from historic sources that several Korean immigrants were naturalized by the court and received family names.

Another theory of the seven says that “Rai” (来) was an abbreviation of the Korean family name “Rae.” This name is written with the left-hand radical (阝) and the old variant of “Rai” (來), but as this character is not available in modern charset, I have to quote it as (阝來). Reading of this theory, I immediately remembered a tantô which had been a confusing jigsaw piece in explaining the origins of the Rai school for now half a century. The tantô in question (see picture 1) was once owned by Mr. Asabuki (朝吹). It is dated “Bunji ninen nigatsu ?-nichi” (文治二年二月?日, “? day of second month Bunji two [1186]”) and its signature is mostly quoted as “Rai Sama no Jô Minamoto Kuniyori” (徠左馬尉源国頼). Already Dr. Honma writes in his Nihon-kotô-shi that it is possible that the Rai connection of this tantô goes back to an erroneous transcription of the character “Chin/Jin” (陳). So according to Honma, “Chin/Jin” (陳) became “Rai” (徠). But with Fukunaga´s forwarding of the theory with the Korean family name “Rae” in mind, maybe the tantô is not signed with “Chin/Jin” but with “Rae” (阝來)? So the chronicler was just wrong with the left radical, i.e. (彳) compared to (阝), instead of getting the entire character wrong, i.e. (徠) compared to (陳). The problem is that the first character of the signature is hardly legible. But who was this Kuniyori? His name does not appear in the old sword documents and it seems that he slipped into the meikan just towards the beginning of the Edo period. The Kokon-mei-zukushi (古今名尽) quotes him as ancestor of the Awataguchi school but says that he was not a swordsmith and that he lived in Yamato province. He is followed in the genealogy in question by his son Kuniie (国家) who in turn is listed with the comment “he was the first who carried out the profession of a swordsmith” and that he was a descendant from Yamato´s Kôfukuji (興福寺), although it doesn´t say in which context this “descent” has to be understood. Anyway, the aforementioned tantô shows typical Awataguchi characteristics, i.e. a nashiji-hada, beautiful ji-nie, a nie-loaden chû-suguha, and an ô-maru-bôshi. And because of this typical Awataguchi deki, the inscription was brushed aside as not showing the characteri “Rai” (徠) but “Chin/Jin” (陳). But with the Korean family name “Rae” (阝來) as a possibility, we might come back to a direct Awataguchi-Rai connection. However, Kuniyoshi and his son Kuniyuki (国行), who are today considered as actual founders of the Rai school, were active about 70 or 80 years later than this tantô was made. Honma also mentions another Kuniyori tantô dated Gennin one (元仁, 1224) but he is doubtful of the authenticity of the signature. I haven´t seen any oshigata or pictures of this tantô yet and he also doesn´t go into detail regarding its workmanship. Incidentally, the Kokon-mei-zukushi says in another context that the Awataguchi-ancestor Kuniyori was active around Kôji (康治, 1142-1144). So all these speculations might lead – with a little phantasy – to a new theory, namely that maybe both the Awataguchi and the Rai school had their origins in Korea or in a smith whose ancestors had immigrated from Korea?


Picture 1: tantô, mei “Rai? Sama no Jô Minamoto Kuniyori – Bunji ninen nigatsu ?-nichi” (徠左馬尉源国頼・文治二年二月?日)

Let us now turn to the fifth theory on how the Rai school came to the character “Rai.” This theory, which goes according to Fukunaga back to the Honchô-kaji-bikô (本朝鍛冶考, 1796) and Kokon-kaji-bikô (古今鍛冶備考, 1830), sees the etymological origins of “Rai” in context with the swordsmiths school in the Yamato period. At the time of the Yamato state, people were basically divided into three social groups, the uji (氏, clans or kin groups), be (部, occupational groups), and yatsuko (奴, servants or slaves). That means each be group was responsible for a specialized task and named that way and this name turned later into a clan, and even later into a real family name. And the theory now quotes the be group of the Kumebe (来目部・久米部) as possible origin of the character “Rai.” The Kumebe were professional warriors under the command of the powerful Ôtomo (大伴) and when it was later “time” to use the be name or parts of the be name as family name, “Kumebe” (来目部) was abbreviated to “Ku” (来), i.e. “Rai.” For example the clan name “Ôtomo” was later abbreviated to “Tomo” (伴) and so on. And as the Kumebe were professional warriors, it is safe to assume that they had certain swordsmiths working for them, and so the theory is not too far-fetched. However, we are speaking of Yamato and maybe Nara times, so a lot of time passed until the emergence of the Rai school of swordsmiths.

And the seventh and last theory has nothing to do with any immigration and also does not base on etymological assumptions. It says that when Rai Kunitoshi (来国俊), Kuniyuki´s supposed son and Kuniyoshi´s supposed grandson, climbed Mt. Hiei (比叡山) northeast of Kyôto and looked down on Lake Biwa, the sailing ships heading towards him reminded him one day of the character “Rai” and this was when he decided to sign with this character. This theory matches at least with the extant works because no blade predating Kunitoshi is signed with the prefix “Rai.” Also true is that the character for “Rai” really looks like a sailing ship in front view with its bow and fully blown sail (see picture below). But Kunitoshi was and is not the only one noticing this similarity and so this theory is probably nothing more than a nice anecdote.


And since we are on the subject, I want to introduce a blade of a meikan-more Rai smith, i.e. of a Rai smith whois not found in the meikan records, namely of Rai Kunikiyo (来国清). It is dated Meitoku four (明徳, 1393) and dates thus to the very end of the Nanbokuchô period. One year later the Ôei era (応永, 1394-1428) started, what means in historic terms Muromachi period. So this is probably one of the latest dated Rai works known and comes from a time when the school gave up its predominance and left the field to its offshoots like Ryôkai, Nobukuni, Enju, or Chiyozuru. Nothing to do with the main topic I know but I thought he blade is nevertheless of interest.


Picture 2: tantô, mei: “Rai Kunikiyo – Meitoku yonnen hachigatsu-hi” (来国清・明徳二二年八月日, “on a day of the eighth month Meitoku four [1393]”), nagasa 26.3 cm, only a hint of a sori, hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, relative wide mihaba, thin kasane, dense ko-itame mixed with some ô-hada, ji-nie, a little bit of utsuri, chû-suguha which is a bit wider and mixed with hotsure on the ura side, rather wide nioiguchi in ko-nie-deki and with sunagashi, sugu-bôshi with a ko-maru-kaeri

Tsuba with the “bird of prey catching a monkey” motif

Last year, Iiyama Yoshimasa (飯山嘉昌) forwarded in a brief article (Tôken-Bijutsu 677, June 2013) the theory that the famous “bird of prey catching a monkey” (môkin-hoen no zu, 猛禽捕猿図鐔) tsuba of Shimizu Jingo (志水甚吾) (picture 1) depicts actually an eagle rescuing a monkey rather than catching him. When the June magazine arrived last year, I just skimmed through the text as I was quite busy at that time and I even forgot to reply to an inquiry from a fellow enthusiast who asked me if the article is on the eagle motif in general or on Jingo´s eagle interpretation in particular. Now just a few days ago, I stumbled by chance over Itô Sanpei´s (伊藤三平) comment on Iiyama´s article in his highly interesting blog which made me curious and so I reread the article. And as it is really exciting to get a complete new view on a well-known motif, I thought I better share Iiyama´s find with my readers.


Picture 1: môkin-hoen no zu tsuba, attributed to Shimizu Jingo

 Apart from the discussion that this tsuba is actually a work of Nishigaki Kanshirô (西垣勘四郎) – the present owner, the Tôkyô National Museum labels it as work of Jingo, Itô Mitsuru (伊藤満), the author of the excellent Higo books says it’s a work of Kanshirô – all publications quote the tsuba´s motif as mentioned above, i.e. “bird of prey catching a monkey.” Iiyama now saw in an art show on TV a report on the Kangi´in´s (歓喜院) Shôtendô (聖天堂) which was designated as kokuhô in July 2012. The temple is located in Menuma (妻沼) in Kumagaya (熊谷市) in Saitama Prefecture and the Shôten Hall holds a panelling into which the motif “eagle and a monkey” (washi to saru, 鷲と猿) is carved (picture 2). The carvings are attributed to the semi-legendary early Edo-period sculptor and carpenter Hidari Jingorô (左甚五郎). Striking is the similarity of this carving to the motif of the tsuba and now things get interesting. The Shôten Hall´s carving is namely described as follows: “Motif of an eagle rescuing a monkey who fell from a tree into a raging stream … The monkey stands for the hard to control human earthly/carnal desires and the eagle for Shôten (聖天) – also called Kangiten (歓喜天), the patron saint of the temple and Shôten Hall – who rescues us from these desires.” Shôten is generally considered to be the Japanese Buddhist form of the Hindu elephant-headed god Ganesha, but is also identified with the Shôkannon-Bosatsu (聖観音菩薩), the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.


Picture 2: carving of the Shôten Hall

And when we now take a closer look at the tsuba, we see it as Iiyama and Itô write in a different light, namely that we are not facing a like so often described “fierce and determined eagle standing for the austere bushi of the Sengoku period,” but a calm eagle with a closed beak, without any claws, grasping the more grateful than scared monkey right at the shoulders, who is about to drop him off gently onto the ground. Compared to the carving, at which the artist created in the context of the temple an allusion to the deity Shôten, the new interpretation of the tsuba´s motif makes pretty much sense. And so Iiyama suggests that the motif should be renamed to “ôtori saru o sukuu” (鷲救猿), i.e. “eagle rescuing a monkey.”