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…


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