Dear Readers, I am leaving for Florence to attend the Katchu symposium at the Stibbert so if you read this, I am probably already on my plane. I am looking very much forward to this meeting, to all the interesting stuff and insights, and of course also to make some new friends 🙂 Upon return, I will continue with the Kantei series by dealing with the Rai smiths in the vicinity of Kunitoshi, the Nakajima-Rai lineage, some of the more unknown Rai smiths, and will then arrive at the Ryokai lineage which goes into Nobukuni. Apart from that, I will start again an Easter eBook Sale in a little. In this sense, emails reponse might be slow and larger translations might have to wait until I am back in office, what will be on March 14th.

Oh, and before I leave. Something funny from a project that is about to be finished. It is one of those episodes that gives us a little understanding of how some of these Edo period masters worked:

Takahashi Kinai (高橋記内, ?-1696) was a tsuba artsist from Echizen Fukui. His first name was Gonbei (権兵衛) and it is recorded that he was skilled in carving the hard iron. It is said that he was openhearted and loved the sake and that he often had to stop working because of his episodes of heavy drinking. Once his daimyō wanted to have the roosters the fief bred depicted on a tsuba and placed an order with Gonbei, loaning him one so that he can study the bird in detail. Kinai let the rooster free in his house and watched it for several days whilst drinking. Well, he eventually ran out of sake doing so and short on money, he decided to sell the precious rooster to buy some more. The lord of the fief heard of this and bought the rooster back and decided that it should be better to lock up Kinai in his house so that the production of the ordered tsuba can finally move forward. Well, when Kinai was checked up on some days later, he was lying there completely drunk. They woke him up and he promised that he will deliver but being locked up in his house with every door and window shut, it is just too dark to make a tsuba he complained. So he asked for permission to open the windows half-way and also asked if he can have the rooster back for studying purposes. This was granted and Kinai eventually delivered a wonderful masterwork…

Who was Horiuchi Kanpei?

I have a kind of log book where I write down interesting things I come across along my various translating and research jobs which I want to study in depth at some point in the future. Mostly they sit there for a while as time is tight but sometimes I come across certain things on that list again but from another context and then I usually see this as an incentive to finally dig deeper into that matter. The following thoughts are such a case and it all started when I was trying to find out where exactly Kiyomaro lived when he had escaped to Hagi. Well, to tell you right away, his exact Hagi whereabouts are unknown but thought to have been in the Saikumachi (細工町), the craftsman’s district, located just about 1.2 km to the east of Hagi Castle (the area still bears that name today). Now this was forwarded by local NBTHK Yamaguchi branch member Kunihiro Kôsuke (國廣浩典) in Tôken Bijutsu 654 (July 2011) and in his article, he refers to a student Kiyomaro had whilst staying in Hagi, namely to a certain Toshikimi (俊卿), whose real name was Horiuchi Kanpei (堀内寛平). A quick search in my Swordsmiths of Japan revealed that I have not listed this smith, at least not under Toshikimi, but I list a Horiuchi Kanpei who was active in Nagato around Ansei (安政, 1854-1860) under the name Kiminao (卿直) (whom both Hawley and Stan list with the reading “Norinao”). So who was this man?

Now Kunihiro refers to Tôken Bijutsu 517 (February 2000) for a further reading on Toshikimi as his main focus is Kiyomaro. Digging out the issue in question I learn that Iida Toshihisa (飯田俊久) introduces two blades of Toshikimi and says that his name is not to be found in the meikan and that his origins are unclear. He also says that although quoted as Toshinori, his name was more likely read as either Toshiaki or Toshikimi. So with this in mind, Hawley and Stan’s listing of Kiminao, who was obviously the same smith, as Norinao is understandable. My listing as Kiminao goes back to the Tôshô Zenshû where he is listed in the section of smiths whose names beginn with Ki, thus Kiminao. Well, I am not sure where the Nori reading comes from as none of the dictionaries I consulted offer Nori as a possible name reading for the character (卿). They say either Aki or Kimi with the former being the more modern name reading. Therefore I stay with Kimi and Kiminao and Toshikimi for the time being. But I am convinced there must be a reference to the Nori reading somewhere out there because it surely doesn’t come from nowhere.

Iida sensei introduces two blades of Toshikimi, a tantô and a shôbu-zukuri wakizashi (see picture 1). The former is signed “Horiuchi Toshikimi saku” (堀内俊卿作) and the latter with his full name, “Horiuchi Kanpei Toshikimi saku” (堀内寛平俊卿作). Both are dated Tenpô 14 (天保, 1843), the tantô with the eighth month and the wakizashi with the second month of that year. This wakizashi from the second month of Tenpô 14 is the earliest known dated blade of Toshikimi and apart from that, there exists one more from Tenpô 15 (1844) which is signed with the supplement “Nagato no Kuni ni oite” (於長門国, “made in Nagato province”). This syntax suggests that we are facing here a so-called chûtsui-mei (駐槌銘), a signature marking a temporary workplace or place of residence. Also the Kiminao signature I list in my Swordsmiths of Japan is of that category and starts with “Chôyô ni oite” (於長陽), “Chôyô” being a different name for Nagato province. In other words, if Toshikimi was a permanent resident of Nagato, he would have just signed with something like “Nagato no Kuni Hagi-jû,” i.e. without ni oite (“at”). It is interesting that both Iida and Kunihiro don’t mention the Kiminao/Norinao signature variant of this smith and as the meikan list him under that name around Ansei, it suggests itself that he must have changed to this name later in life.


Picture 1: wakizashi, mei “Horiuchi Kanpei Toshikimi saku – Tenpô jûyonnen nigatsu hi” (堀内寛平俊卿作・天保十四年二月日), nagasa 40.9 cm, sori 1.0 cm, shôbu-zukuri, iori-mune

So how about his connection to Kiyomaro? Iida says that there are no historic records or any kind of entries extant that do definitely proof a master-student relationship of the two but both workmanship, tang finish, signature style, and local and chronological coincidence strongly suggest that Toshikimi had learned from Kiyomaro. It remains unclear where this relationship originated. We know that Kiyomaro arrived in winter of Tenpō five (1834) at Edo. He was then 21 years old and signed with the name Hidetoshi (秀寿) at that time. He changed it a few years later to Masayuki (正行) and left Edo under that name to arrive in Nagato somewhere in the first half of Tenpô 13 (1842). He left Nagato in the sixth month of Tenpô 15 (1844) but did return to Edo only via a stopover in Komoro in Shinano province. So far and very briefly the relevant years of Kiyomaro’s CV. And before we come back to Horiuchi Kanpei, I want to elaborate on the similarities in workmanship. The wakizashi from picture 1 shows a kitae in itame that is mixed towards the ha with nagare and that features plenty of ji-nie and much chikei. The hamon is a very nie-laden gunome mixed with chôji, ko-notare, and an abundance of kinsuji and sunagashi. The nioiguchi is wide and the bôshi is midare-komi with a relative wide ko-maru-kaeri. So we have here clearly the Sôshû-inspired workmanship of Kiyomaro he favored at that time (and emphasized later). Also the sharp sugata with the scarce fukura and the finish of the tang in sujikai-yasurime and a somewhat bulbous kurijiri matches with Kiyomaro. And so does the signature. Picture 2 shows the mei of the wakizashi next to that of a Kiyomaro katana which is dated Tenpô 13 (1842). As Iida points out, please note the striking similarity in how the characters for Tenpô (天保) and (十) executed, i.e. with the same curve of the lower right ending of the (人) radical of Ten, the entire (呆) radical of , and how the horizontal stroke of (一) extends to the right.

Horiuchi2Picture 2: Signature comparison. Toshikimi left, Kiyomaro right.

Both Kunihiro and Iida assume that it is likely that Horiuchi accompanied Kiyomaro from Edo to Hagi and as hardly all of Toshikimi’s blades got tôrokushô papers from Yamaguchi Prefecture (i.e. former Nagato province), and as he is listed under Kiminao as a Nagato smith, it is most likely that he stayed there and did not return to Edo. Either he found an employer and/or a wife there and settled down, or he did want to accompany his master but not via a stopover in Komoro so he stayed and was maybe waiting in vain for Kiyomaro inviting him back to the capital. Because when Kiyomaro returned to Edo, he had to clean up the mess he left behind with fleeing from the Bukikô lottery (more details here) to Nagato. Another interesting thing in all of this is that all the master students Kiyomaro had were trained after his return to Edo. So if Toshikimi was a student of Kiyomaro, and everything points towards that, then he was probably his very first one? I mean, he was just about to turn 30 when he left Edo for Hagi in 1842. Maybe Toshikimi would have become more famous if he had showed up again at the new Edo forge of Kiyomaro in the late 1840s but life had chosen different for him.

Anyway, I tried to find out more about the origins of Horiuchi Kanpei by going through vassal registers, for example that of the Chôshû fief, but no success. It is interesting that the area between the aforementioned Saikumachi and Hagi Castle is named Horiuchi (堀内) what might suggest that Horiuchi Kanpei actually came from here at a glance. But I think that this is just a coincidence as this name means literally just “within the moat” and many castle towns had areas within the moat that were just named as that, i.e. Horiuchi. One Horiuchi family was originally from Kii province and after being at Sekigahara on the “wrong side,” they were reassigned to become retainers of Katô Kiyomasa and accompanied him to Kumamoto. Well, Kumamoto was taken from Kiyomasa and given to the Hosokawa shortly afterwards and the descendant of this Horiuchi family ended up as retainers of the Tsu fief (津藩) of Ise province. Another Horiuchi family served as retainers and later as karô elders of the Sôma family (相馬), the daimyô of the Nakamura fief (中村藩) of northern Mutsu province. And then there was the Horiuchi family of Omotesenke tea masters that originated in Kyôto and that served from the latter half of the 18th century the Takatsuki fief (高槻藩) of Settsu province as head of all tea-related affairs.

Well, I can’t really draw any connection between Kanpei and any of those Horiuchi families. The things above are just the result of a very first and brief research and this would be the point where you have to visit local libraries and go through possible local registers of vassals and fief-employed craftsmen. Also looking for registers of deaths of temples in and around Hagi would be an option but this all is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But maybe one day some other blade of Toshikimi or Kiminao pops up that gives us another hint about his life and career. But another thing that makes me wonder in this whole issue is the use of the character Kimi (卿). This is an extremely rare character for a swordsmith name and apart from Toshikimi/Kiminao, I could not really find any other smith using it. But it is not only extremely rare, it also comes with a pretty significant connotation, and that is its meaning of being a suffix that either marks a high official position held by a person of nobility or another very high ranking person. I mean, swordsmith names were to a certain degree arbitrary but the characters were usually also understood by their meaning. Thus there were no-go characters with negative meanings or negative connotations for example. And as Toshikimi stayed with that character when he changed his name later, i.e. he dropped toshi and added nao, the character must have had a certain meaning to him, maybe he had received it from someone special. Well, I don’t know if Kiyomaro (the then Masayuki) had anything to do with that but I doubt it because in this case, we would expect something like Toshimasa (俊正) or Toshiyuki (俊行), i.e. using one character of the master’s name. Also the quality of the work and the overall “self-confidence” with which he chiseled his signature (see picture 3) makes me wonder if Horiuchi Kanpei was actually older than Kiyomaro?

Horiuchi3Picture 3: Reference signature of the aforementioned tantô from Tenpô 14.

Also he must have had some money to be able to accompany Kiyomaro from Edo to Hagi (if we assume that it took place that way). Kiyomaro was very busy at that time due to the Bukikô project and money was surely coming in but his mentor Kubota Sugane kept him tight so that he wasn’t able to waste all the money on drinking. So it seems to me that Kiyomaro was not in the position to support a student and pay for both of them the whole trip down to Hagi. On the other hand, Kiyomaro made in Hagi some blades for important local royalists, so he had an income there. Maybe it was enough for both of them making a decent living in the capital of Nagato province. But when we take into consideration the rare use of the character Kimi with the nobility connotation, the assumption that Toshikimi was older than Kiyomaro, and the assumption that he had some money, it could be possible that Horiuchi Kanpei was from a higher ranking family who just forged swords as a hobby? But then again, his name should be recorded somewhere and easier to be tracked down. Anyway, the whole thing just doesn’t appear to me that Kanpei was a youngster who fled with his barely older master Edo and then deliberately stayed there by eking out a living as local swordsmith. But maybe it was just like that. I guess we will never know…

KANTEI 4 – YAMASHIRO #19 – Rai (来) School 5

After Kunimitsu we arrive right away at Rai Kunitsugu (来国次) who is listed, amongst others, as son-in-law of Rai Kunitoshi or as older cousin of Rai Kunimitsu (well, bearing in mind the then family system and situation of adoptions an so on, it is quite possible that actually both is true). As mentioned in the chapter on Rai Kunitoshi, Kunitsugu made some daimei for the master and we can assume that he also supported his cousin when the latter succeeded as head of the school. Interesting is that Kunitsugu deviated noticeably from the traditional Rai style and we can only speculate if he did so on his own initiative, finding himself in a situation where it didn’t make much sense for him – either in terms of artistic demands he placed on himself or order situation – to make exactly the same blades as his cousin, or if the school, i.e. the newly appointed Kunimitsu, made the conscious decision that Kunitsugu better meets the customer requests concerning the then very much thriving Sôshû tradition whilst Kunimitsu as head covers more the traditional Rai style. Anyway, dated works of Rai Kunitsugu are very rare and we only know a few from between Karyaku (嘉暦, 1326-1329) and Shôkyô (正慶, 1332-1334) but we can safely say that he was active at the same time as Rai Kunimitsu, and that is from the very end of the Kamakura to the early Nanbokuchô period.

The Kotô Meizukushi Taizen says that Kunitsugu was born in Hôji one (宝治, 1247) and died in Shôchû one (正中, 1324) at the age of 78. It further says that he went in Bun’ei eleven (文永, 1274) at the age of 28 to Kamakura where he became a student of Masamune and that he returned in Kengen one (乾元, 1302), aged 56, to Kyôto. Well, there are now basically two theories about that: One says that it is quite possible that he indeed visited Kamakura to learn so to speak at ground zero the technical approach of the just established Sôshû tradition, and the other suggests that it was rather unlikely for a Kyôto smith of his time to travel that far just to undergo a training under a certain master and that the stylistic peculiarities in Kunitsugu’s blades go merely back to an all local adjustment to the now so much in fashion Sôshû tradition. Consequently, there exists the nickname “Kamakura-Rai” for Kunitsugu and this term is ambiguous enough not to dismiss it, i.e. it can be understood as a reference to him visiting Kamakura, or just as a reference to his Sôshû-influenced workmanship. Just the same case as Bizen Sukezane being called “Kamakura-Ichimonji.” Please note that the term “Sôshû tradition” is a rather recent one and that in earlier times, a reference to this style or approach of sword forging was usually made by its birthplace or major production site Kamakura, thus “Kamakura-Rai” and “Kamakura-Ichimonji” and not “Sôshû-Rai” or “Sôshû-Ichimonji” respectively. Before we continue with Rai Kunitsugu’s workmanship, it is also interesting to note that when talking about Kunitsugu, it is always said that he did not make many tachi and that he focused more on tantô and ko-wakizashi. But when we check out his body of work, we learn that the number of extant signed long swords is actually pretty equal to that of extant signed short swords and that there are actually quite a few ô-suriage mumei long swords going round that are attributed to him. For example, five blades of him bear designations by the Agency of Cultural Affairs, 1 kokuhô and 4 jûyô-bunkazai, of which two are short, and three are long swords. And way more than half of the about 50 jûyô of Kunitsugu are long swords too. So I have a hunch that the old saying that tachi of Rai Kunitsugu are so much rarer than tantô needs to be rethought. In any case, what we learn when we take a look at his body of work is that he focused much more on longer and wider tantô (or ko-wakizashi) than Kunimitsu did, even if he was senior to him. That means, this peculiarity can not be explained by him being active later than Rai Kunimitsu and thus approaching more the heyday of the Nanbokuchô period. Maybe this has to be seen in the above mentioned Sôshû context too, i.e. him adjusting much more to the latest fashions than Kunimitsu.


Now to his works. First one of his tachi that is designated as a jûyô-bunkazai (see picture 1). It is completely ubu and has an impressive nagasa of 82.0 cm and shows the sugata from the late Kamakura period, i.e. it is wide, has some funbari, tapers, but not that much, has a moderate sori, and ends in a chû-kissaki. The kitae is a rather standing-out itame with plenty of ji-nie and some chikei and ô-hada. The hamon is a nie-laden gunome-chô mixed with ko-midare and a few sunagashi. The nioiguchi is wide and the bôshi is sugu and runs out as yakitsume. The overall interpretation is rather classical for Rai Kunitsugu and blades like this or such which are hardened in suguha-chô are often placed in his early period, i.e. showing the remaining influence of his master Kunitoshi.


Picture 1: jûyô-bunkazai, tachi, mei “Rai Kunitsugu” (来国次), nagasa 82.0 cm, sori 2.5 cm, motohaba 3.1 cm, shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, the blade was once a heirloom of the Kaga Maeda family

Another one of these supposedly early works is seen in picture 2. It is an ubu tokubetsu-jûyô tachi that is more on the elegant side and sticks much more to the traditional Rai style than his later interpretations. The kitae is truly Rai and appears as a dense and finely forged ko-itame that is mixed with some jifu, a few ô-hada areas here and there, and that features plenty of ji-nie, fine chikei, and a nie-utsuri. The hamon is a ko-nie-laden suguha-chô mixed with shallow notare, ko-gunome, ko-chôji, ashi, , fine kinsuji and sunagashi, muneyaki (towards the base), and nijûba along the monouchi. The bôshi is a thin sugu with a very brief ko-maru-kaeri. The ha is as a whole close to Rai Kunitoshi and I this would be a very tricky kantei blade.



Picture 2: tokubetsu-jûyô, tachi, mei “Rai Kunitsugu” (来国次), nagasa 74.1 cm, sori 3.2 cm, motohaba 2.9 cm, shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune

Although not as prominent as seen via his short swords, Rai Kunitsugu also had the Sôshû approach “slip” into his tachi. The blade seen in picture 3 is such an example. The tachi is suriage and although it keeps a relative deep sori, it is due to the lack of distinct taper and the compact, almost ikubi-style chû-kissaki of an overall rather stout sugata. The kitae is a somewhat standing-out itame mixed with mokume and shows ji-nie and a little jifu, and the hamon is a nie-laden mix of ko-notare and ko-gunome that features a noticeable amount of ups and downs, a bright nioiguchi, and an abundance of hataraki like ashi, , sunagashi, kinsuji, yubashiri, prominent muneyaki, and some tobiyaki. The bôshi is midare-komi with a ko-maru-kaeri that shows some hakikake and that connects with the muneyaki. The nie are pretty strong in ji and ha and the interpretation truly lives up to his nickname Kamakura-Rai.



Picture 3: tokubetsu-jûyô, tachi, mei “Rai Kunitsugu” (来国次), nagasa 69.7 cm, sori 2.5 cm, motohaba 2.85 cm, shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune

As just indicated, the Sôshû influence is more obvious at Rai Kunitsugu’s tantô and I want to introduce first his one and only kokuhô and his most famous work in general (see picture 4). The tantô in question would actually come under the classification of a wakizashi today as it has a nagasa of 32.7 cm. So you can either name it sunnobi-tantô or hira-zukuri ko-wakizashi to transport that it is overlong and not one of those standard-sized (jôsun) tantô of the Kamakura period. It has a wide mihaba and might thus look like an Enbun-Jôji work at a glance but the kasane is too thick and the sori is, although there is sori present, too shallow for a blade from that time. Or in other words, at a blade in Enbun-Jôji-sugata, the sori would be much more noticeable. The kitae is a dense ko-itame with ji-nie and much chikei and here we have just arrived at a feature that distinguishes Kunitsugu from Kunimitsu and Kunitoshi, and that is the presence of chikei. So if you can make out chikei on a Rai blade, you better go for Kunitsugu. Apart from that, weaker Rai-hada areas are very rare for Kunitsugu but as the exception proves the rule, a hint of Rai-hada is actually present on that kokuhô. The hamon of this tantô or rather sunnobi-tantô is a very nie-laden ko-notare-chô mixed with gunome, nijûba, yubashiri, plenty of ashi and , and some kinsuji and sunagashi. The nioiguchi is wide, bright, and clear and the bôshi is a notare-komi with a somewhat pointed ko-maru-kaeri and some nijûba and kuichigai-ba along the monouchi. The interpretation of the bôshi distinguishes him from Rai Kunimitsu. As mentioned in the previous part, Kunimitsu emphasized his bôshi in contrast to the rest of the hamon in case of a midareba. In other words, at those blades he hardened in midareba, Kunimitsu added a so to speak “extra touch” of midare and “wildness” to the bôshi whereas Kunitsugu lets his midareba calm more down in the bôshi. And this “calmness” in the bôshi also distinguishes Rai Kunitsugu from “real” Sôshû works as these often come with wild bôshi that tend to ichimai or ichimai with enclosed islands of unhardened areas in between. In addition, also his jigane distinguishes him from true Sôshû because in direct comparison you learn that his jigane (and his ha) is actually much more Rai than Kamakura. So if you have a Rai blade from the very end of the Kamakura and the early Nanbokuchô period where the hamon is noticeably midare and comes with much nie, it is safe to go for Kunitsugu.


Picture 4: kokuhô, tantô, mei “Rai Kunitsugu” (来国次), nagasa 32.7 cm, sori 0.1 cm, motohaba 3.3 cm, hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, the blade was once a heirloom of the Kishû-Tokugawa family

Another good example for him staying much more at Rai with the jigane and having, apart from chikei in cases as mentioned above, the Sôshû approach mostly affecting his ha is the tantô seen in picture 5. Darcy put it perfectly in one of the recent threads on NMB by saying that Rai Kunitsugu was Sôshû influenced but he did not make Sôshû swords. That means, some might be called hybrid at a max but in general these blades were not made from scratch by following the technical Sôshû approach of steel combination and treatment. So Rai Kunitsugu was basically sticking to the Yamashiro Rai approach of forging and had Sôshû influence his ha. The tantô seen in picture 5 is again wide and sunnobi, but with a nagasa of 27.4 cm not as long as the kokuhô. It has a thick kasane and only a hint of sori, so clearly no Enbun-Jôji-sugata here. The kitae is a dense and finely forged ko-itame with plenty of ji-nie and a nie-utsuri. The hamon is a relative widely hardened and ko-nie-laden shallow notare-chô mixed with some gunome, ashi, fine sunagashi, and nie-suji. The nioiguchi is wide, bright, and clear and the bôshi is sugu with a ko-maru-kaeri that tends a little bit to ô-maru on the omote side.


Picture 5: tokubetsu-jûyô, tantô, mei “Rai Kunitsugu” (来国次), nagasa 27.4 cm, only a hint of sori, motohaba 2.6 cm, hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, the blade was once a heirloom of the Ôkubo (大久保) family, the daimyô of the Odawara fief

Finally, I would like to mention that Kunitsugu sometimes also “went full Rai,” for example as seen as in picture 6. This blade has an about jôsun nagasa of 25.3 cm and a hint of uchizori and is thus, also with the curved furisode-style nakago, classical Kamakura. The kitae is an itame mixed with mokume and some nagare and shows plenty of ji-nie and although it features some chikei, the jigane is very much Rai-like, also due to the presence of a nie-utsuri. The hamon is a calm and ko-nie-laden suguha that is mixed with some ko-ashi, some fine hotsure, and a little kuichiga-ba on the ura side. The bôshi is sugu too and runs back in a ko-maru-kaeri with some hakikake. If you bear in mind this and similar tantô and also the tachi in suguha-chô that are extant by Rai Kunitsugu, it is not at all like day and night between him and Kunimitsu as some of the older sources suggest.


Picture 6: tokubetsu-jûyô, tantô, mei “Rai Kunitsugu” (来国次), nagasa 25.3 cm, hint of uchizori, mihaba 2.4 cm, hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, the blade was once a heirloom of the Uesugi (上杉) family

KANTEI 4 – YAMASHIRO #18 – Rai (来) School 4

Rai Kunitoshi was succeeded by his son Kunimitsu (国光) who took over an already very much flourishing Rai School. Well, as so often when talking about such relative early smiths, there are several traditions extant, like that he was actually the younger brother, grandson, or mere a student of Kunitoshi but the widely accepted one is that he was straightforward his son. As for his active period, we know date signatures from Karyaku one (嘉暦, 1326) to Kan’ô two (観応, 1351) and the Kôsei Kotô Meikan introduces a dated blade from Shôwa two (正和, 1313). However, we can assume that he was mostly engaged assisting his father at that time, as daimei works from the first two decades of the 14th century show. Rai genealogies, historic documents, and certain blades (and signatures, more on this later) furthermore suggest that there was a second generation Kunimitsu, but we can’t say for sure when the shift of generations took place. The Kotô Meizukushi Taizen says that the first generation Kunimitsu was born in Bun’ei one (文永, 1264) and died Shôkyô four (正慶, 1335) at the age of 72 but odd here is that the Shôkyô era only counted brief two years. Maybe the author mixed up the then partially overlapping and double counting of nengô eras of the Nanbokuchô era. Anyway, the source also says that the second generation was active around Kôei (康永, 1342-1345) and this approach is also followed by several experts, e.g. Satô Kanzan. Tanobe sensei in turn thinks that the differences in workmanship and signature style of the later works dated with Jôwa (貞和, 1345-1350) and Kan´ô (観応, 1350-1352) might just go back to the advanced age of the master, i.e. that there was maybe just one generation Kunimitsu. But when we take into consideration that his greatest masterworks are dated somewhere around Karyaku (嘉暦, 1326-1329) and Gentoku (元徳, 1329-1331) and assume on the basis of that he had achieved full artistic maturity at that time, it really seems as if the blades made 20~25 years later go back to the hand of a successor. So, to recap: I think that Kunimitsu took over the Rai School pretty soon after the third year of Gen’ô (元応, 1321) as this is the last known dated blade of his father who was then already 82 years old. In case he was the biological son of Kunitoshi, he was already a fully trained master smith at the height of his career at the time he became the newly appointed head of the forge (remember, Kunitoshi was born in 1240). Thus he was able to continue without interruption to satisfy the exquisite customer base of Kunitoshi, therefore the masterwork output right after his succession. In other words, there was no “experimental” post-succession phase which gradually leads to artistic maturity, no, Kunimitsu took the reins being already an undisputed Rai grandmaster. He also ranks about equal to his father Kunitoshi when it comes to designations by the Agency of Cultural Affairs and the NBTHK, 26 in terms of the former (3 kokuhô and 23 jûyô-bunkazai), and slightly over 200 (about 180 jûyô and more than 20 tokubetsu-jûyô) in terms of the latter category.

Now to Kunimitsu’s workmanship, beginning again with long swords. Kunimitsu did make some classical and slender tachi with a ko or rather a smallish chû-kissaki but the majority shows a more or less elongated chû-kissaki and a mihaba that does not taper that much and as stated in some of the previous posts of this kantei series, I am a sugata guy and this is for me a key element in distinguishing him from Kunitoshi. In short, his tachi are just overall more magnificent and wide and give us some idea of what is coming, and that is the heyday Nanbokuchô trend to overall larger blades. No wonder, was most of his career taking place in the Nanbokuchô period anyway (i.e. Rai Kunimitsu was active from the very end of the Kamakura to the beginning of the mid-Nanbokuchô period). However, it is interesting to see that his signed blades are by trend from the more classical and elegant camp but this again is insofar actually not that odd as the wider and more magnificent blades were all of a longer nagasa too and got therefore shortened (and lost their mei).

Let me start with some of the signed works, with the most representative ones the two tachi that are designated as kokuhô (the third kokuhô is a tantô and will be introduced later). One is completely ubu and is dated in kakikudashi manner, a feature that is also seen at his father Kunitoshi, with “Karyaku ninen nigatsu hi” (嘉暦二年二月日, “a day in the second month Karyaku two [1327]”). The blade (see picture 1) has a normal mihaba, a deep toriizori with funbari, and a straightforward chû-kissaki, i.e. it maintains with the deep curvature and the noticeable taper still a certain elegance. The kitae is a very fine ko-itame with plenty of ji-nie and the hamon is a ko-nie-laden hiro-suguha-chô that is mixed all over with ko-chôji, ko-gunome, plenty of ashi and connected , and some kinsuji. The nioiguchi is rather tight and the bôshi is a widely hardened sugu with a hint of notare and a ko-maru-kaeri. A bôhi is engraved on both sides that ends in kakudome at the machi. This is by the way the only known dated long sword of Rai Kunimitsu.



Picture 1: kokuhô, tachi, mei “Rai Kunimitsu – Karyaku ninen nigatsu hi” (来国光  嘉暦二年二月日), nagasa 78.8 cm, sori 3.6 cm, motohaba 3.6 cm, sakihaba 1.9 cm, shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, preserved in the Tôkyô National Museum

The other signed kokuhô is seen in picture 2 and this one is suriage. This was once a very long blade as its shortened nagasa is still 80.6 cm! It shows a deep toriizori and a chû-kissaki and as it does not taper that much like the previous blade, it looks overall more magnificent and stout, i.e. with the chû-kissaki almost a little bit like ikubi at a glance. The kitae is a very dense ko-itame mixed with some masame and plenty of ji-nie. This blade and the previous one do not show any areas of weak or so-called Rai-hada. The hamon is a ko-nie-laden suguha-chô mixed with ko-midare, ko-chôji, ko-gunome, plenty of ashi (mix of ko, chôji, and gunome-ashi), and . Please note that the hamon of this blade is sometimes described as hiro-suguha but it is in my opinion not that wide to pass as hiro. The bôshi is sugu with a ko-maru-kaeri and this time, the bôhi ends due to the shortening in marudome in the tang. Again, please remember that this blade had once a nagasa of over 90 cm! Some more info on it can be found on my “sister site” here.


Picture 2: kokuhô, tachi, mei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), nagasa 80.6 cm, sori 3.3 cm, motohaba 3.0 cm, sakihaba 2.2 cm, shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, preserved in the Kyûshû National Museum

As you can see in the oshigata to blade 1, the hamon is truly interpreted as suguha-chô, i.e. running straight but mixed with an abundance of ko-chôji and ko-gunome or rather with chôji-ashi and gunome-ashi for most of the time. But Rai Kunimitsu also worked in pure suguha, or to be more precise, in a somewhat undulating suguha, i.e. not in a perfectly straight suguha as for example seen on a Hizen blade. The blade shown in picture 3 is a good example for this field of his repertoire and I picked it not only because I had the opportunity to study it hands on but because it it shows two important characteristic features of Rai Kunimitsu, and that is isolated sections of njûba and brief kuichiga-ba. And not to forget, it also shows a feature that distinguishes him from Rai Kunitoshi, namely that his ha comes with a somewhat tighter and more “defined/precise” habuchi. The blade has a magnificent and wide sugata that so to speak anticipates the later grandeur from the heyday of the Nanbokuchô era and the kitae is this time a somewhat standing-out itame that is mixed with mokume and that is not as tightly forged as at the two kokuhô. It also shows plenty of ji-nie and a nie-utsuri. The hamon is as mentioned a suguha in ko-nie-deki that tends overall a little to notare and is mixed with ko-ashi and some nijûba towards the yokote. The bôshi is sugu with a ko-maru-kaeri and kuichigai-ba and both sides bear the so to speak “obligatory” Rai Kunimitsu bôhi that runs due to the ô-suriage as kaki-tôshi through the tang. Incidentally, the blade was once a heirloom of the Owari-Tokugawa family and Hon’ami Kôchû issued (in Genroku three, 1690) an origami for it, giving it a value of 500 kan.


Picture 3: tokubetsu-jûyô, katana, mumei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), nagasa 73.6 cm, sori 1.6 cm, motohaba 3.1 cm, shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune

Let’s talk about another typical interpretation from the oeuvre of Rai Kunimitsu, demonstrated via the katana shown in picture 4. This time the hamon is still a ko-nie-laden suguha-chô but which mixed with shallow but conspicuous notare waves. Apart from that, it is mixed with ko-gunome, ko-chôji, plenty of ashi and , muneyaki, and with some fine kinsuji and sunagashi. And with the appearance of hotsure, uchinoke, nijûba, and yubashiri and with the sugu-bôshi that shows hakikake and that runs out as yakitsume, we can even grasp a hint of Yamato. But the steel is different from Yamato and appears as very dense, fine, and beautifully forged ko-itame with ji-nie that truly speaks for Kyô.


Picture 4: jûyô, katana, mumei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), nagasa 71.8 cm, sori 2.6 cm, motohaba 2.85 cm, shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune

Before we continue with Rai Kunimitsu’s tantô, let me first repeat his three basic long sword styles and second, address the sensitive point of Rai-hada. One of his basic styles is the suguha-chô that is mixed with ko-chôji and ko-gunome or rather with chôji-ashi or gunome-ashi (picture 5 a). The other basic style is an almost pure suguha with just some ashi or slanting Kyô-saka-ashi and a little nijûba and/or kuichigaiba (picture 5 b). And the third one is an undulating suguha that shows horizontal, layered, “yamatoesque” hataraki (that remind if you want a little bit of Rai Kuniyuki) (picture 5 c).


Picture 5.

As for Rai-hada, this is a feature which I would typically place with Rai Kunimitsu right away, or in other words, it is seen at Kunitoshi sometimes but hardly at all at Kunitsugu what means if you can make out Rai-hada on a blade that you can nail down as Rai main line work (i.e. obviously no Rai offshoot like Ryôkai or Enju) somewhere from the very end of the Kamakura to the early Nanbokuchô, I would recommend going for Kunimitsu right away. Now those weaker areas of Rai-hada usually appear for long swords somewhere from the monouchi to the yokoto, and for tantô often right where the grooves end, i.e. again more in the upper area. And apart from that we can say that this feature is generally more often seen on tantô than on tachi (at least as far as Rai Kunitoshi is concerned).


This brings us to Rai Kunimitsu’s tantô where we see again a wide variety of interpretations, for example classical ones in standard size, wider ones, wider and longer ones in sunnobi-style, and even a couple in kanmuri-otoshi-zukuri, with the majority showing either a katana-hi or some other kind of horimono like gomabashi or suken (or both, i.e. gomabashi on one, and a suken on the other side). This means, we can not name one specific tantô style for Rai Kunimitsu. First I want to introduce the third kokuhô of Kunimitsu (see picture 6), and that is the meibutsu Uraku Rai Kunimitsu (有楽来国光), named after the fact that it had once been owned by Sen no Rikyû’s master tea student Oda Urakusai Nagamasu (織田有楽斎長益, 1547-1622). More info here. The blade is with a nagasa of 27.7 cm rather on the long side and is wide and thick but maintains an uchizori, i.e. the thickness of the kasane and the presence of uchizori as well as the nagasa being just not long enough tells us that we have still not arrived yet in the heyday of the Nanbokuchô period. Incidentally, the blade is dated around Karyaku (1326-1329). The kitae is a fine ko-itame with chikei and plenty of ji-nie and we also seem some Rai-hada here and there. The hamon is a wide and nie-laden notare mixed with gunome and ashi and comes with a wide and very bright and clear nioiguchi. The bôshi is a prominent midare-komi with a rather pointed and long running-back kaeri. The entire bôshi is quite nie-laden and tends with its kuzure to kaen. The blade is vigorous and powerful and as the mihaba is wider than usual and the hamon shows much midare, the blade can be mixed up with a work of Rai Kunitsugu at a glance but the wild bôshi shows the hand of Kunimitsu. That is, Kunitsugu did often harden a vivid midareba but it usually runs into a relative calm bôshi in notare with a ko-maru-kaeri whereas at Kunimitsu the bôshi is mostly emphasized.


Picture 6: kokuhô, tantô, mei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), nagasa 27.7 cm, uchizori, motohaba 2.7 cm, hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, the blade is owned by the NBTHK

Picture 7 shows one of the two Kunimitsu tantô that are interpreted in kanmuri-otoshi-zukuri. It is designated as a jûyô-bunkazai and is also a meibutsu, namely the Ikeda Rai Kunimitsu (池田来国光) as it was once owned by Ikeda Sanzaemon Terumasa (池田三左衛門輝政, 1564-1613). The blade is rather wide, muzori, and shows again a thick kasane. The kitae is a dense and very uniformly forged ko-itame with ji-nie that does not show any weak areas of Rai-hada and apart from that, we see the Rai-typical nie-utsuri which focuses on the fukura/monouchi area. The hamon is a nie-laden shallow notare that is mixed with ko-gunome, ashi, , and kinsuji and the bôshi is slightly undulating, widely hardened, shows hakikake, and runs back in a long manner.


Picture 7: jûyô-bunkazai, tantô, mei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), nagasa 26.3 cm, muzori, motohaba 2.5 cm, kanmuri-otoshi-zukuri, mitsu-mune

Now these two tantô have shown pretty much midare so let me introduce next an interpretation in suguha. The blade shown in picture 8 comes in a sunnobi-sugata, i.e. it is long and wide, but still does not show any sori and features a relative thick kasane. The kitae is a densely forged ko-itame with plenty of ji-nie, much fine chikei, and a nie-utsuri. The hamon is a slightly undulating, ko-nie-laden suguha that is mixed with ko-ashi, fine kinsuji and sunagashi, and along the monouchi with some nijûba. The nioiguchi is bright and clear and the bôshi appears as slightly widening sugu with a ko-maru-kaeri. Now the nijûba elements might make one think of Awataguchi Kuniyoshi or Yoshimitsu but at the former, the nijûba would be much more prominent and appear in longer connected sections, and from the latter, we would expect that the ha gets thinner along the fukura. In addition, we would expect some connected ko-gunome and more nie-hataraki in the bôshi on a Yoshimitsu tantô but apart from that, the horimono are anyway too far from the mune for an Awataguchi work.


Picture 8: jûyô, tantô, mei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), nagasa 29.15 cm, muzori, motohaba 2.8 cm, hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, this blade was once presented by shôgun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (徳川綱吉, 1646-1709) to Iechiyo (家千代, 1707), the second son of his adopted son Ienobu (徳川家宣, 1662-1712) who had died at the age of only two months .

As mentioned, Kunimitsu also made some classical tantô, for example the jûyô-bunkazai seen in picture 9. This blade has a so-called standard nagasa (jôsun) of 24.5 cm, uchizori, and is with the curved furisode-style nakago pretty conservative. It shows a fine ko-itame with plenty of ji-nie and a nie-utsuri and the hamon is a very bright and clear chû-suguha in ko-nie-deki that features a rather tight nioiguchi and a ko-maru bôshi with a long kaeri. The work is elegant and noble and reminds of his father Rai Kunitoshi.


Picture 9: jûyô-bunkazai, tantô, mei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), nagasa 24.5 cm, uchizori, hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, the blade was once owned by the Akimoto (秋元) family, the daimyô of the Tatebayashi fief


What about that 2nd generation Rai Kunimitsu? As indicated at the very beginning of this chapter, it is possible that the shift of generations took place somewhere around Kôei (康永, 1342-1345). When it comes to distinguishing features, many sources take the quality route, i.e. they say that late Rai Kunimitsu blades which are somewhat inferior in overall quality and which show a more smallish and thinly chiseled signature might be works of the second generation. That quality aspect is defined by a hamon that lacks both hataraki and that tight nioiguchi that is typical for Rai Kunimitsu and a kitae where the ko-itame stands more out and is mixed with some nagare and masame and which shows a hint of shirake rather than a nie-utsuri. Also possible supplements in the mei like “Yamashiro no Kuni-jû” (山城国住) or “Sahyôe no Jô” (左兵衛尉) are said to be associated with the second generation.

I want to introduce two blades which bear the latest known date signature of Rai Kunimitsu. Both are tantô and the first one is signed “Rai Kunimitsu – Kan’ô ninen rokugatsu” (来国光・観応二年六月, “sixth month of the second year of Kan’ô [1351]”) (see picture 10). It has a nagasa of 25.9 cm, is rather wide, has only a hint of sori, and features a thick kasane. Please note that this tantô has an iori-mune, what is uncommon as Rai Kunimitsu usually made tantô with a mitsu-mune. The kitae is a densely forged ko-itame that is mixed with some itame here and there and that shows ji-nie, fine chikei, and a faint nie-utsuri. The hamon is a bright and clear chû-suguha in ko-nie-deki that is mixed with some ashi, , and fine sunagashi. The bôshi is sugu with a little notare and turns back (on the omote) with a somewhat “awkward” ko-maru-kaeri (the ura shows a normal ko-maru-kaeri) but which is seen sometimes at tantô of Rai Kunimitsu. When introduced by the NBTHK in their kantei series, there was no mention of a second generation having a hand in this one and although not labelling it explicitly “Nidai” in the jûyô paper, we find the remark it “might be a work o the second generation when we follow the traditional classification via date signatures.”


Picture 10: jûyô, tantô, mei see above, nagasa 25.9 cm, a little sorimotohaba 2.6 cm, hira-zukuri, iori-mune

The second one (see picture 11) is signed “Rai Kunimitsu – Kan’ô ninen rokugatsu jûsannichi” (来国光・観応二年六月十三日, “13th day of the sixth month Kan’ô two [1351]”). The sugata and tang finish are about identical to the previous work and this one is labelled by the NBTHK as “Nidai” in their jûyô paper. The blade is a little longer but features a rather thin kasane (and again a mitsu-mune), and the hamon is not suguha but notare-chô mixed with gunome, ashi, , and sunagashi. It is a little suriage so that only the upper part of the character for “mitsu” is left and interesting here is that the date signature is chiselled in two rows.


Picture 11: jûyô, tantô, mei see above, nagasa 28.2 cm, sori 0.2 cm, motohaba 2.7 cm, hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune

Then there is this tantô shown in picture 12 which is dated “Jôwa sannen rokugatsu ichinichi” (貞和三年六月一日, “first day of the sixth month Jôwa three [1347]”) and which is introduced by Satô Kanzan as “early work of the second generation.” It is with a nagasa of 24.8 cm somewhat smaller and has an overall rather classical sugata. The kitae is an itame-nagare with many weak areas and shirake and the hamon is a suguha in ko-nie-deki that is mixed with some shallow notare and sunagashi. The nioiguchi is bright and clear and the bôshi is sugu with a standard ko-maru-kaeri.


Picture 12: tantô, mei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), date see text above, nagasa 24.8 cm, a hint of uchizori, hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune

And last but not least one of the very few long swords that I was able to find which might well be a work of the second generation. It is a tachi bearing an orikaeshi-mei that was once an ôdachi measuring somewhere around 90 cm. It was shortened to 71.4 cm, has a rather wide mihaba, despite the suriage a relative deep sori, and an elongated chû-kissaki. The kitae is a standing-out itame mixed with some nagare and ji-nie appears. The hamon is a shallow ko-notare in ko-nie-deki that is mixed with ko-midare, gunome, ko-chôji, plenty of ko-ashi, sunagashi and kinsuji. The bôshi is a shallow notare-komi with a very brief ko-maru-kaeri and features nijûba. So probably the distinct midareba in combination with the somewhat inferior kitae and the smallish mei are the most important features for attributing this blade to the second generation.


Picture 13: jûyô, katana, orikaeshi-mei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), nagasa 71.4 cm, sori 2.25 cm, motohaba 3.1 cm, shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune

The case of the 5th generation Hayashi


The other day I was looking for a certain Higo-tsuba in my references and so to speak “rediscovered” a work of the 5th Hayashi generation Matahei that is owned by a friend of mine (see picture 1) and that raises some questions. Not the work itself (its papered and published by the way) but the artist, the fifth generation Hayashi, who changed his craftsman name at least four times and who bore the honorary title Iga no Kami (伊賀守). So each of these points in question is not necessarily special by itself but coming together in the very case of this artist is what raises these questions. To tell you right away, I don’t have definite answers but I think that in this case the truth is somewhere to be found in the historical context. So let me first explain what caught my attention and then elaborate on the artist’s historical context.



Picture 1: iron sukashi-tsuba with bamboo design, mei “Iga no Kami Shigeyuki saku – Bunka jûninen yayoi kichijitsu” (伊賀守重之作・文化十二年弥生吉日, “on a lucky day of the third month Bunka twelve [1815]”)


We are talking about Hayashi Matahei (林又平), the 5th generation of the renowned lineage if tsuba artists, who used as a craftsman the names Katsuie (勝家), Shigehisa (重久), Shigeyuki (重之), and probably also Minamoto Yasuyuki (源保之). Katsuie was his early mei and we learn this from a tsuba which is signed: “Hayashi godaime Katsuie jûnana ni te kore o saku – Tenmei rokunen nigatsu gejun kore o shiageru” (林五代目勝家十七ニ而作之・天明六年二月下旬仕上之, “made by Katsuie, the fifth generation of the Hayashi family, at the age of 17, finished in the last third of the second month Tenmei six [1786]”). Then there exists a tsuba dated with the third day of the tenth month Kansei one (寛政, 1789) which is signed “Shigehisa,” so Shigehisa was the name he used next, followed by “Shigeyuki” (重之) which we find on tsuba with date signatures from the Bunka era (文化, 1804-1818). As for the name “Minamoto (no) Yasuyuki” (源保之), there is to my knowledge no work extant that is actually signed that way and all sources are unanimously hesitant, saying that “it is said that he also used the name Minamoto (no) Yasuyuki.” By the way, Itô suggests that Matahei signed with two more names, Shigeharu (重春) and Shigefusa (重房), the latter probably as a daimei for his father.

As indicated, numerous name changes were quite common for Japanese tsuba and kinkô artists and and was mostly linked to an important even in the artist’s life, for example finishing an apprenticeship, entering another master-student relationship, succeeding as head of a family and so on. So what was going on in Matahei’s life? He was born in Meiwa seven (明和, 1770) to the then 26 years old fourth Hayashi generation Heizô (平蔵), craftsman name Shigetsugu (重次). Heizô died in Tenmei four (1784) at the young age of 41 (according to the Japanese way of counting years). Matahei was only 14 years old at that time and his grandfather Tôhachi (藤八, 1723-1791), the third Hayashi generation, was still alive and only 60. Tôhachi was a great and much sought after artist and is equaled in certain aspects with the famous Hayashi founder Matashichi (又七, 1613-1699). As Tôhachi was still alive when his son Heizô died and as Heizô is counted as fourth head of the school, we can confirm that the former had retired for some reason, i.e. the succession of Heizô was not initiated by Tôhachi’s death. Maybe he became ill at that time and maybe his son turned out to be sickly because we know that their employer, the Hosokawa family, ordered in An’ei seven (安永, 1778) Tôhachi to accept the then 24 years old Kamiyoshi Juhei (神吉寿平, 1754-1820) as a student and that he should be initiated into all family secrets of the Hayashi. Incidentally, Heizô was ten years older than Juhei but Itô quotes Juhei’s year of birth from the Higo Kinkô Roku as being Meiwa three (明和, 1766) which would mean that he entered his Hayashi apprenticeship at the age of twelve. Either way, Heizô died only six years after Juhei had started to train with his father what supports the suspicion that he was ill. Please note that I am using the Western way of counting years here and from now on, i.e. all these ages might differ by one when referring to Japanese sources. In short, the Hosokawa saw their cherished Hayashi family of tsuba makers in danger of discontinuation and intervened by arranging that Juhei from the Kamiyoshi family of tsuba makers should be groomed for being the successor, not of the lineage but of its art.

Now back to Matahei. So after the early death of his father, he found himself training under his grandfather and with the decision being made that his fellow student Kamiyoshi Juhei will take over the family’s main or higher end production line. As mentioned above, he was either 16 or four years younger than his direct competitor. We know from historic records that Kamiyoshi Juhei received in Tenmei six (1786) a stipend for the support of three persons what suggests that he had already finished his apprenticeship with Hayashi Tôhachi at that time. Matahei had inherited the salary of the Hayashi family, which was 15 koku plus a stipend for the support of five persons. 1786 is also the year Matahei made the above mentioned tsuba that is signed with Katsuie and at the latest three years later, he changed his name to Shigehisa. So my assumption for the time being is that, a.) Matahei signed for a couple of years with Katsuie, b.) that it was in Tenmei six (1786) when grandfather Tôhachi finally retired, making Kamiyoshi Juhei and independent artist (receiving the stipend) and c.), making Matahei, finally at age, the head of the family whereupon he shortly later changed his name to Shigehisa, eventually adopting the character for Shige that was used on a hereditary basis for the craftsman names of the Hayashi masters.

But then something happened. He received the honorary title of Iga no Kami, changed his name again, from Shigehisa to Shigeyuki (in my opinion most likely in connection with that honor), and switched on top of that to another counting of generations what is another piece in that puzzle. As seen above, he signed his early works straightforward as him being the fifth generation after the grandmaster Matashichi. But then all of a sudden he started to sign with “tenth generation” (there are several tsuba signed that way extant, for example the one of my friend shown above dated 1815 and another one dated 1807). Itô is not sure about that counting and assumes that he started from the ancestor of the family, the late Muromachi and Momoyama era gunsmith Hayashi Kazue (林数枝), but that he must have included some other Hayashi masters because even when we start counting with Kazue, Matahei would be the eighth head. So not sure how he arrived at him being the tenth generation. And what about his honorary title? Provincial governors’ titles like no Kami, no Suke, and no Daijô were in general rare for tsuba and kinkô artist. This means, when we deduct honorary title-bearing swordsmiths who also made tsuba, the renowned Myôchin lineage of armorers, and the Yoshioka Inaba no Suke School, only a little more than a handful of artists remain who had this honor, most famous example the Kyôto kinkô master Ichinomiya Nagatsune (一宮長常, 1721-1787) who bore the titles of Echizen no Daijô and Echizen no Kami. In other words, granting the title of (Iga) no Kami to a tsuba maker was not only rare, it was very very rare.

As mentioned, Matahei’s tsuba signed that way date concentrate on the Bunka era, i.e. on the time from his mid 30s to his mid 40s. From his late 20s to his early to mid 30s he had used the name Shigehisa, so a lot was going on back then. He died in the eleventh month of Bunsei six (1823) at the age of 54 by the way, only eight years after he made the shown bamboo sukashi-tsuba dated 1815.

My preliminary theory is that by the Bunka era, the Hosokawa realized that Matahei turned out to be an apt successor of the Hayashi School of tsuba makers and maybe, whilst leaving the higher end of the Hayashi-tsuba production line with the Kamiyoshi family, they somehow tried to push him or bring him again into the focus by having arranged that he receives a high honorary title such as Iga no Kami. Or maybe this honorary title was kind of a compensation for acklowledging that he was a worthy successor of the Hayashi lineage but leaving everything as it was, i.e. the Hayashi tradition at the disposal of the Kamiyoshi family? This is in my opinion supported by the fact that the Kamiyoshi family started to flourish greatly after Juhei whilst Matahei’s Hayashi successors were rather “also ran” (by the way, Matahei’s successor Matahachi [又八] died in 1840 and his successor Tôshichi [藤七] in 1874 and I haven’t seen any works of them; so if someone has pictures of their works, they would be greatly welcomed).

As indicated at the very beginning, I want to present some more of the historical context, so to speak as a starting point and reference for those who take it from here and find out more about the life of Hayashi Matahei. It was sixth Kumamoto daimô and seventh Higo Hosokawa head Shigetaka (細川重賢, 1721-1785) who had it arranged that Juhei should inherit the secrets of the Hayashi family. Incidentally, the Kamiyoshi had been serving the Hosokawa since the early Edo period but we don’t know what profession the early generations had. Itô suggests that as they are listed amongst gunsmiths and swordsmiths, they must had been involved in the arms and armor production and Fukushi states that they were armorers or made the metal ornaments of armors. It was not until Juhei that tsuba making came into play. He namely learned the craft of tsuba making from Zenshichi (善七) who was from the Tôyama lineage of tsuba artists, Juhei’s cousin (his father had married Juhei’s aunt), and a student of the second generation Nishigaki Kanshirô. Hosokawa Shigetaka was a great man who passed one of the few successful Edo period financial reforms at local fief level. He also established a fief school, the Jishûkan (時習館), and a medical school, the Saishunkan (再春館). Well, his financial reform was critizised because being so radical but of course they were radical, they had to be, and they eventually worked by the early 1760s when the financial status of the Kumamoto fief had greatly improved in comparison to what he had inherited from his predecessor Munetaka (細川宗孝, 1716-1747).

HosokawaShigekataHosokawa Shigekata

The man who must had arranged Hayashi Matahei’s honorary title Iga no Kami was Shigekata’s adopted grandson Narishige (細川斉茲, 1755-1835). Narishige was adopted by Shigekata’s son Harutoshi (細川治年, 1758-1787) who ruled the Kumamoto fief for merely two years. Well, Harutoshi did not have an easy job. Natural disasters struck Higo province just the year after his father had died and the resulting exploding rice prices caused an uprising. He was just in his 20s and died young, aged 30, making his adopted brother-in-law Narishige age 33 lord of Kumamoto. Well, Narishige’s 1792 silver price changes and financial reform were a failure and even caused a riot in 1802 and the burning down of the Edo Hosokawa mansion left another big hole in the fief’s pocket. Not directly related to the case of Matahei, I still want to talk a little bit about the subsequent financial situation of the Kumamoto fief as it might serve as a reference for the one or other.

So when Narishige retired in 1810, the fief was taken over by his third son Naritatsu (細川斉樹, 1797-1826), well, taken over merely on the paper as he was only 13/14 years old at that time. Now Naritatsu was able to save 100,000 koku but he too died young, aged 30. He was succeeded by his adopted son Narimori (細川斉護, 1804-1860) who was acually his nephew. It is recorded that at his time, the Kumamoto fief had amassed a debt of 800,000 koku and was on the edge of bankruptcy. The situation even worsened when the bakufu insisted on obilgatory duties of providing defense for Amakusa and Sagami Bay againt the US and British ships. This almost split Kumamoto into two factions and as his successor Yoshikuni (細川韶邦, 1835-1876) was critizised as being half-hearted and passive, Kumamoto would have probably faced its end, as many other fiefs at that time, if it was not for Emperor Meiji to end the feudal system. Incidentally, Yoshikuni was briefly succeeded, as governor of Kumamoto, by his adopted heir Morihisa (細川護久, 1839-1893), who was by the way the son of Narimori. And Marquis Hoskokawa Moritatsu (細川護立, 1883-1970), the first president of the NBTHK, was the fourth son of Morihisa. Last but not least, the famous Eisei Bunko Museum, the museum that preserves so many of the famous and important art objects passed down in the Hosokawa family, was founded by Moritatsu and turned into a public museum by his son, titular Marquis Morisada (細川護貞, 1912-2005), Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister. His son Morihiro (細川護煕, 1938- ) was Prime Minister of Japan and is present-day board chairman of the Eisei Bunko Museum.