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.

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