Signature supplements of Satsuma Masayoshi

Whilst correcting a certain information relevant to the career of Satsuma Masayoshi (薩摩正幸) here – I had erroneously stated that he signed with the supplement Satsuma-kankō (薩摩官工, about “official smith of the Satsuma fief”) only later in life (still trying to find the source where I got that from, and thank you Kimotsuki Kaneyoshi for pointing that out) – I thought it might be of interest if I address two more supplements which the smith occasionally added to his mei.

The first one is Chitenmei (知天命), as seen for example here. This is not a pseudonym (, 号) but actually a reference to the smith’s age, going back to The Analects of Confucius. In Book 2, Good Government, Confucius says:

子曰。吾十有五而志于學、三十而立、四十而不惑、五十而知天命、六十而耳順、七十而從心所欲、不踰矩。
“At fifteen my heart was set on learning; at thirty I stood firm; at forty I was unperturbed; at fifty I knew the mandate of heaven; at sixty my ear was obedient; at seventy I could follow my heart’s desire without transgressing the norm.”

(Translation by A. Charles Muller, Link)

So, Chitenmei (知天命), read Tenmei o shiru in the Japanese transcription, refers to Confucius’ age when he “knew the mandate of heaven,” i.e. the age of 50. How does it compare to the blade in question? Well, the blade is dated Tenmei five (天明, 1785), and when we calculate (the Japanese way) from Masayoshi’s year of birth, Kyōhō 18 (享保, 1733), we arrive at the age of 53. This then brings us to another interpretation of The Dialects, namely as a general guideline for a man, and that is, a man should be set on learning as a teenager, should stand firm at the latest in his thirties, should be unperturbed at the latest in his forties, should know the mandate of heaven at the latest in his fifties, should have an obedient ear at the latest in his sixties, and should follow his heart’s desire without transgressing the norm at the latest in his seventies. In other words, the Chitenmei/Tenmei o shiru supplement can be applied to a person at the age of 50 or to a person in his/her 50s as well.

Another supplement we occasionally find in Masayoshi’s mei is that of Chichibu matsuyō (秩父末葉), as seen for example here. It means literally “late descendant of the Chichibu family,” and its context is as follows. Masayoshi was from the Ijichi (伊地知) family which was founded at the end of the Heian period by Ijichi Shigemitsu (伊地知重光), who was ruling the lands of the same name, Ijichi, in Echizen province. Shigemitsu was the eldest son of Hatakeyama Shigeyoshi (畠山重能) who in turn was the son of Chichibu Shigehiro (秩父重弘), and voila, here you have the Chichibu origins Masayoshi was referring to. Incidentally, the Shimazu connection of the Ijichi goes back to Ijichi Suemichi (伊地知季随, ?-1351) who was a descendant of Shigemitsu. Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏, 1305-1358) imprisoned Suemichi and confiscated his lands on the basis of a false charge but Shimazu Sadahisa (島津貞久, 1269-1363) stepped in and mediated in favor of Shigemitsu as Suemichi was a close friend of his son Ujihisa (島津氏久, 1328-1387). That is, Sadahisa helped Takauji winning in 1336 the Battle of Tatarahama (多々良浜の戦い) against the Kikuchi (菊池) clan whereupon he released Suemichi. Suemichi then repaid this favor by sacrificing himself for Ujihisa when the Shimazu lost against the Kikuchi in a later local battle.

2 thoughts on “Signature supplements of Satsuma Masayoshi

  1. Dear Markus,

    Glad that I was able to point that information out to you. Hoki Kami Masayuki was a very interesting man in his day and a serious scholar with a regard of history and it’s past. Apart from the books I had earlier pointed out I’ll see what extant examples my family still has in its possession to consult or else discover unknown examples that we may still have. Most of the Kimotsuki family’s collection (my line is a bunke or branch family) is deposited with the Reimeikan in Kagoshima so must go personally and examine them when I am in Kagoshima once again.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Dear Markus,
    I do have a question in regards to a Rai Kunimitsu tanto? Do you have an email to write to.
    Best reg.
    Esben Juhl
    Member N.B.T.H.K.
    Copenhagen-DK

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