伝康継

THE YASUTSUGU SCHOOL OF SWORD SMITH'S

 

 

The Yasutsugu line of Sword smith's was one of long tradition, spanning an unbroken linage of eleven generations. The first generation Yasutsugu was born the son of the Suekoto sword smith Hironaga, c.1532.  Hironaga was the last descendent of Yamato no Kuni Senjuin, and was a member of the Yamato Senjuin Ha.  Hironaga's works were rated chujosaku as well as wazamono. In fact, Yasutsugu's entire family was involved in the sword making profession.  His Grandfather Kanemasa, was a Mino sword smith.  This is speculated as to why many of Shodai Yasutsugu's works exhibit traditional Mino characteristics.

Shodai Yasutsugu, was born in Shimosaka which was located in Omi Province, and was known as Shimosaka Ichizaemon.  Prior to the Bunroku period (1592-1596) his works were signed "Echizen no Kuni Shimosaka". 

Please note:  There are many extant blades which exhibit this same signature, but do not match the signature style of early Yasutsugu.  It is documented that there were other Echizen smiths who signed with the same signature of "Echizen no Kuni Shimosaka". *It is important to keep in mind, that not all swords signed this way are by Shodai Yasutsugu.

During the Bunroku period he received the title of "Higo no Daijo" and his works were signed both "Echizen no Kuni Shimosaka" and "Higo no Daijo Fujiwara Shimosaka".  It was also during this time he moved to Fukui in Echizen province where he was retained by Yuki Hideyasu. In approx. 1603, by the Ogosho or highest authority, he was granted the use of the "Aoi" or Hollyhock Mon. The Aoi Mon was the official mon of the Tokagawa Clan. It was at this same time he was also granted the use of the kanji "Yasu" 康 by Tokagawa Ieyasu and changed his mei to "Yasutsugu".  After this important point in his life, he was required to leave Echizen for Edo every other year in order to work as Kaji for the Tokagawa Kei. This continued up until the third generation, when  a dispute over who would become the Sandai prompted one faction of the school to relocate to Edo permanently. 

Shodai Yasutsugu (Keicho 1596) was a highly skilled sword smith. He was skilled not only at forging swords in his own style, but also a master of replicating (utushi-mono) old Koto blades and the art of re-tempering (saiha). These utushi-mono were commissioned by the Tokagawa Shogunates such as Hideyasu, Ieyasu, as gifts to distinguished Daimyo and officials.  He was known to have made excellent copies of Masamune, Sadamune, Nobukuni and others. Many of the old Daimyo mumei heirlooms found today are thought to be  utushi-mono made by Shodai Yasutsugu. Once the battle of Osaka (1614 - 1615) had ended, Shodai Yasutsugu was summoned to Osaka. Here he was commissioned for the restoration (saiha) or replication (utushi-mono) of a great many masterworks which had been destroyed when Osaka Castle was burned.

Shodai Yasutsugu made Katana, Wakizashi, and Tanto. Most katana and wakizashi were done in either Shinogi-zukuri or Kiriha-zukuri, though many wakizashi and most tanto were done in Hira-zukuri. His works generally exhibited exaggerated measurements such as a wide mihaba with little or no taper towards the kissaki, extended nagasa, chu sori, extended kissaki and an extended boshi typical of the Keicho-Shinto or beginning Shinto style. He is known for forging a jitetsu of fine, tight Itame hada mixed with some Mokume hada. The shinogi ji typically exhibits Masame.  Kitae contains ji-nie and exhibits areas of dark blue tint contained throughout the steel. These works also tend to exhibit Shirake or white patches in the surface of the steel . These areas are a characteristic of the  school and is sometimes referred to as Echizen-gane. Yasutsugu made various hamon styles such as gentle notare with ashi, while others exhibited abundant nie in the habuchi with sunagashi, kinsuji, ara nie and tobiyaki as well as many others His boshi exhibits a modest undulation with a slightly pointed tip, hakikake and long kaeri. The kaeri characteristically extends below the yokote. The  nakago exhibit Kaku-mune with slender saki. The jiri are mostly kengyo or iriyamagata and occasionally kurijiri. The yasurime seen are katte-sagari and ko-sujikai.

It would be quite impossible to discuss the works of the Yasutsugu school without mentioning Horimono. Many elaborate Horimono were carved into the blades of these first two generations of Yasutsugu smith's, but declined markedly in later generations. Many different horimono were seen including Suken, Sank-tsuki-ken, Bonji, Kurikara, Fudomyo, and occasionally  engravings of plum branches and bamboo. While some were thought to have been done by his own hand, the majority if not all, were carved by the famous "Kinai" 記内 school, which had also been established in Echizen Province.

Many works were made from Nanban Tetsu or Imported Steel, and many swords were inscribed as such in the mei. This foreign steel or nanban tetsu produce an extremely hard and equally beautiful jigane. It is of note that nanban tetsu blades may or may not have been made entirely from foreign steel, but may have had varying amounts added to the traditional Tamehagane.

Shodai Yasutsugu passed away in 1621.

 

Nidai Yasutsugu (Kan'ei 1624), who was known as Shimosaka Ichinojo was the chakushi or son of Shodai Yasutsugu.  Nidai Yasutsugu's works were the only other generation's works whose skill compared to, and or competed with the Shodai's. It is speculated that some of the Shodai's works include some which were actually made by the Nidai. Nidai Yasutsugu was known two have made two different styles of blades. Blades in the Keicho era style reminiscent of the Shodai, and blades with more ordinary dimensions typical of the style seen in the Kanbun era. Most all of the Nidai's works contain the Aoi Mon, as did successive generations.

Nidai Yasutsugu worked in the same style as the Shodai as well as his own. The shape of his swords were typically either shinogi-zukuri, hira-zukuri, and kiriba-zukuri. He worked in the Keicho shinto style, as did the Shodai, but also produced blades with more ordinary dimensions typical of the style seen in the Kanbun era. This was simply a sign of the changing times and style preferences.  He was known for his traditional forging of fine, tight Itame hada mixed with some Mokume hada in the Echizen Tradition (see shodai blade characteristics).  He, also was quite adept and known for the use of Nanban Tetsu in his works.  Again similar to the Shodai's,  his hamon were varied with gentle notare with ashi, while others exhibited abundant nie in the habuchi with sunagashi, kinsuji, ara nie and tobiyaki as well as many others. His works also exhibit many beautiful Horimono. The continued collaboration between the Yasutsugu and the Kinai Schools was evident throughout his career.  Horimono were much more rare in Katana than in Wakizashi or Tanto. After the Nidai the number of horimono seen declined dramatically. His Boshi resembles that of the Shodai. While it is said to lack the forcefulness of the Shodai's, it gives a sense of neatness.  The Nakago is Kaku-mune. The Jiri  is Kengyo or Kuri shaped. The yasurime are Katte-sagari.  The overwhelming majority of mei exhibit the Aoi-mon (Hollyhock Crest). Many reflect the use of Nanban Tetsu, and a few exhibit the "Nyumon" inscribed into the nakago.

It is said that during his younger days that he was a member of the Yakuza Gang Dairoppo, or Japanese Mafia.  However later in life, perhaps as a penance, he entered the Priesthood and took the name Koetsu-Nymon.

Nidai Yasutsugu's works were rated Jojosaku by Fujishiro and Ryowazamono for superior sharpness in the book, Kokin Kaji Bikosen by, Yamada Asaumon Yoshichika. He, as was his father, also known for working with Nanban Tetsu or Imported Foreign Steel.

Nidai Yasutsugu passed away in 1646.

 

 The death of the Nidai or second generation Yasutsugu inadvertently caused a split of the school which resulted in the formation of two separate Branches, the Echizen and Edo Yasutsugu Schools. When the Nidai died, his only legitimate heir, his son Umenosuke was a mere child. As a result, the third son of the Shodai and brother of the Nidai, named Shirouemon made a bid for the heirship. Through peaceful negotiation it was decided that there would be two third generation Yasutsugu successors. Umenosuke, son of the Nidai was to become the successor located permanently in Edo, while Shirouemon would become the third generation located in Echizen. Shirouemon was then known as Echizen Sandai and is classified separately.

The Edo Sandai Yasutsugu (Kanbun 1661) was the Chakushi or son of the Nidai. He was originally called Umanosuke and later Ichinojo. He was active in the Kanbun period and his works resemble the first and second generations, though he was known for a fine Itame jitetsu and a flamboyant hamon. He was rated Josaku for skill by Fujishiro and Wazamono for sharpness in the book, Kokin Kaji Bikosen by, Yamada Asaumon Yoshichika.

The Echizen Sandai Yasutsugu (Kanbun 1661) was the third son of the Shodai and younger brother of the Nidai. He was called Shirouemon and later Ichiuemon. His works resemble the first two generations, and his skill was said to be equal to that of the Edo Sandai. His works were rated Chujosaku by Fujishiro.

Yondai Edo Yasutsugu (Jokyo 1684) was the last of the Yasutsugu Sword Smith's to produce any high quality works, according to the old texts. While his works may not have been the quality of the Shodai or Nidai, he was rated Chujosaku for skill by Fujishiro.  His mei is at times confused with the mei of the Nidai or Second generation Yasutsugu. While they do have a similar appearance, it is quite easy to differentiate them (see chart below).  His works exhibit a style closer to Shodai Tsuguhira (c. 1684), and it is speculated that he may have actually been the Shodai Tsuguhira.

There were very few works from the fifth through the tenth generations, and little if any information available regarding their works. What information I have obtained is listed in the "Characteristics" below.

Juichidai Edo Yasutsugu (Ansei 1854), the eleventh and last generation of the Yasutsugu line of swordsmith's was known to have made many works, which was due to the warring times associated with the Bakufu, or end of the Tokagawa Regime. Contrary to what is written in the older texts, Fujishiro's rates this Yasutsugu's work at Chujosaku.

The death of the Juichidai Yasutsugu ended a linage of sword smith's that spanned over 250 years.

It is written that after the Nidai, the quality of works produced by the Yasutsugu school began to decline. Both Echizen and Edo Sandai's were considered competent and equal in skill, producing quality works in the style of their predecessors. Throughout the following successive generations however, only the Yondai produced works of any notable quality.  As food for thought it might be considered that when most of these texts were written only Koto period swords were highly regarded. Today the later generations, while perhaps not the quality of the first few generations, might be viewed upon more favorably.  Just as we have seen in the last few years with the acceptance of Shinshinto and Gendaito makers which were once frowned upon.  As an example, we tend to consider any maker listed in Fujishiro's to be above average. Fujishiro lists the skill level of Edo Rokudai and Hachidai Yasutsugu as Chusaku and the Juichidai as Chujosaku.

 

 

SHODAI YASUTSUGU'S BLADE CHARACTERISTICS:
 

c.1596


Sugata
:
Most katana and wakizashi were done in either Shinogi-zukuri or Kirha-zukuri, though many wakizashi and most tanto were done in Hira-zukuri. Wide mihaba with little or no taper towards the kissaki, extended nagasa, chu sori, extended kissaki and an extended boshi typical of the Keicho-Shinto or beginning Shinto style.


Jitetsu:
Fine, tight Itame hada mixed with some Mokume hada. The shinogi ji typically exhibits Masame.  Kitae contains ji-nie and exhibits areas of dark blue tint contained throughout the steel. These works also tend to exhibit Shirake or white patches in the surface of the steel . These areas are a characteristic of the  school and is sometimes referred to as Echizen-gane.
 

Hamon:
Gentle notare with ashi, while others exhibited abundant nie in the habuchi with sunagashi, kinsuji, ara nie and tobiyaki as well as many others.


Horimono:
Suken, Sank-tsuki-ken, Bonji, Kurikara, Fudomyo. Occasionally  engravings of plum branches and bamboo. While some were thought to have been done by his own hand, the majority were carved by the famous "Kinai"
記内 school, which had also been established in Echizen Province. All were outstanding.


Boshi:
Exhibits a modest undulation with a slightly pointed tip, hakikake and long kaeri. The kaeri characteristically extends below the yokote.

Nakago:
Kaku-mune with slender saki. The jiri are mostly kengyo or iriyamagata and occassionally kurijiri. The yasurime are katte-sagari and ko-sujikai.

 

SHODAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

MOTTE NANBAN TETSU OITE BUSHU EDO ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU (most prevalent)

ECHIZEN NO KUNI JU YASUTSUGU

OITE BUSHU EDO ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU

HIGO (NO) DAIJO FUJIWARA ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU

ECHIZEN NO KUNI SHIMOSAKA

HIGO NO DAIJO FUJIWARA SHIMOSAKA

 

SHODAI YASUTSUGU EXAMPLES
 

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NIDAI YASUTSUGU'S BLADE CHARACTERISTICS:

c. 1624

Sugata:
Shinogi-zukuri, hira-zukuri, and kiriba-zukuri. He worked in the Keicho shinto style, as did the Shodai, but also produced blades with more ordinary dimensions typical of the style seen in the Kanbun era. This was simply a sign of the changing times and style preferences.

Jitetsu:
Traditional fine, tight Itame hada mixed with some Mokume hada in the Echizen Tradition (see shodai blade characteristics).  He was quite adept and known for the use of Nanban Tetsu in his works as well.

Hamon:
Again similar to the Shodai's.

Horimono:
Again as did the Shodai's, Nidai Yasutsugu 's works exhibit many beautiful Horimono. The continued collaboration between the Yasutsugu and the Kinai Schools was evident throughout his career.

Boshi:
Resembles that of the Shodai. While it is said to lacks the forcefulness of the Shodai's, it gives a sense of neatness.

Nakago:
Kaku-mune. The Jiri  is Kengyo or Kuri shaped. The yasurime are Katte-sagari.

Mei:
The overwhelming majority exhibit the Aoi-mon (Hollyhock Crest). Many reflect the use of Nanban Tetsu, and a few exhibit the "Nyumon" inscribed into the nakago.

 

NIDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU

YASUTSUGU NYUDO SAKU

MOTTE NANBANTETSU OITE BUSHU EDO

ECHIZEN (NO) KUNI YASUTSUGU

ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU MOTTE NAMBAN TETSU OITE BUSHU EDO TSUKURU KORE

OITE BUSHU EDO ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU

MOTTE NAMBANTETSU OITE BUSHU EDO ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU

YASUTSUGU NYUDO OITE BUSHU EDO TSUKURU KORE

 

NIDAI YASUTSUGU EXAMPLES

 

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EDO SANDAI YASUTSUGU'S BLADE CHARACTERISTICS:

c. 1661

Sugata:
Edo Sandai's worked in traditional style resembling the first and second generations as well as a style exhibiting a beefy or stout Sugata, thick Kasane, and deep Sori.

Jitetsu:
Fine Itame mixed with Mokume in the traditional manner (see shodai blade characteristics), although some works show an increase in the Mokume.

Hamon:
There seems to be some discrepancies in the information presented. The Token Bijutsu indicates that only quite types of Hamon were produced. Fujishiro's on the other hand states this Sandai was known to produce exuberant Hamon's on some works.

Horimono:
Horimono are rare.

Boshi (Point):
 The Boshi varies from the first two generations in that is Suguba.

Nakago (Tang):
Same as the first two generations, both Kuri and Kengyo Yasurime are Katte-sagari.

Mei (Signature):
The overwhelming majority exhibit the Aoi-mon (Hollyhock Crest). Some reflect the use of Nanban Tetsu.

 

EDO SANDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

YASUTSUGU MOTTE NANBANTETSU OITE BUSHU EDO SAKU KORE

ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU

EDO SANDAI YASUTSUGU EXAMPLES

 

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ECHIZEN SANDAI YASUTSUGU'S BLADE CHARACTERISTICS:

c. 1661

Sugata:
Same as the Edo Sandai's.

Jitetsu:
Same as the Edo Sandai's.

Hamon:
Various Suguba and occasionally shallow Notare. A very few which exhibit Notare-gunome.

Horimono:
Horimono are rare.

Boshi:
Mostly Suguba. On occasion Notare is seen slightly past the Yokote.

Nakago:
Kengyo with Sujikai Yasurime.

Mei:
Aoi-mon were used in this smith's works.

ECHIZEN SANDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

YASUTSUGU OITE ECHIZEN SAKU KORE

ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU SAKU KORE MOTTE NANBANTETSU

ECHIZEN SANDAI YASUTSUGU EXAMPLES

 

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EDO YONDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1684

His style was a Ji of Mokome and Hamon of Suguba or Sugu Ko-Midareba.

EDO YONDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

YASUTSUGU MOTTE NANBANTETSU SAKU KORE

 

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ECHIZEN YONDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1681

ECHIZEN YONDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU SAKU KORE MOTTE NANBANTETSU

YASUTSUGU OITE ECHIZEN SAKU KORE

 

ECHIZEN YONDAI YASUTSUGU EXAMPLE

 

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EDO GODAI YASUTSUGU

C.1700

EDO GODAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

YASUTSUGU MOTTE NANBANTETSU SAKU KORE

 

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ECHIZEN GODAI YASUTSUGU

c.1704

GODAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU SAKU KORE

YASUTSUGU OITE ECHIZEN SAKU KORE

 

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EDO ROKUDAI YASUTSUGU

C. 1736

He was originally called Motosugu, and later Ichinoji. He was know to inscribe the Aoi Mon. 

Fujishiro's rates this Yasutsugu's work at Chusaku.

EDO ROKUDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

YASUTSUGU

YASUTSUGU MOTTE NANBANTETSU SAKU KORE

 

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ECHIZEN ROKUDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1741

ECHIZEN ROKUDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

ECHIZEN (NO) KUNI YASUTSUGU SAKU KORE

YASUTSUGU OITE ECHIZEN SAKU KORE

 

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EDO SHICHIDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1746

EDO SHICHIDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

YASUTSUGU MOTTE NANBANTETSU SAKU KORE

 

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ECHIZEN SHICHIDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1781

SHICHIDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

YASUTSUGU OITE ECHIZEN SAKU KORE

 

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EDO HACHIDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1781

He also was known as Motosugu and later as Ichinoji. There was a Daisho made as a Gassaku with his Chakushi in 1805.

Fujishiro's rates this Yasutsugu's work at Chusaku.

EDO HACHIDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

TOTO OITE MIYATOGAWA HOTORI HASSE MAGOYASUTSUGU KITAU

YASUTSUGU MOTTE NANBANTETSU SAKU KORE

 

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ECHIZEN HACHIDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1804

ECHIZEN HACHIDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

YASUTSUGU OITE ECHIZEN SAKU KORE

ECHIZEN YASUTSUGU

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EDO KYUDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1804

EDO KYUDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

 

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ECHIZEN KYUDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1868

KYUDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

YASUTSUGU OITE ECHIZEN SAKU KORE

 

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EDO JUDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1818

EDO JUDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

HIGO (NO) DAIJO YASUTSUGU JUICHI SEI TAN KORE

 

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EDO JUICHIDAI YASUTSUGU

c. 1854

The Juichidai or eleventh generation was the last of the Yasutsugu linage. His style of forging was Suguba with Gonome Choji nado. He was known to have made a large number of works, which was due to the turbulent times associated with the end of the Tokagawa Regime.  Fujishiro's rates this Yasutsugu's work at Chujosaku.

EDO JUICHIDAI YASUTSUGU'S KNOWN MEI:

HIGO (NO) DAIJO YASUTSUGU JUISSEI TAN KORE

YASUTSUGU

YASUTSUGU HIGO (NO) DAIJO JUISSEI KITAU KORE

EDO JUICHIDAI EXAMPLE

 

The death of this smith ended a linage of sword smith's that spanned over 250 years.

 

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Written by Ed Marshall.

 

Bibliography:

Yasutsugu Taikan, by Kanzan Sato.

Nihonto Shinto Jiten, by Yoshio and Matsuo Fujishiro (translated by Harry Watson)

Nihon-To Koza, Shinto Kantei. (translated by Harry Watson)

Token Bijutsu, Essay #18, by Tanobe Michihiro (translated, compiled and printed by Fred Fimio)

The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords, by Kokan Nagayama (translated by Kenji Mishina)

Shinto Taikan, by IImura Yoshifume

Japanese Swordsmiths, W. M. Hawley

 

 

The mei of each succesive generation of Yasutsugu was unique, and is an important Kantei point. Most generational mei were different enough to distinguish at a glance, however the Second and Fourth Generation Yasutsugu's were similar. Similar, yet easily discernable when the differences are known. The "Tsugu" character provides the details needed to make this determination. In the charts provided below are the mei for all generations of Yasutsugu smith's. The chart is read top to bottom and left to right. The detailed area of the chart specifies first through fourth generation Yasutsugu.

 

Chart is read top to bottom, right to left.

1st Column: Shodai, Nidai, Edo Sandai, Edo Yondai, Edo Godai.

2nd Column: Edo Rokudai, Edo Shichidai, Edo Hachidai.

3rd Column: Echizen Sandai, EchizenYondai, Echizen Godai, Echizen Rokudai, Echizen Kyudai.