The first generation Hizen Munetsugu (肥前宗次) was originally called Sakai Mitsuemon or Sakai Sanuemon (境三右衛門). His first residence was in Nagase in Saga-gun. He later moved to the castle town of Saga. He and his family were priests for the Tenman-gu Shinto shrine in Nagase. They made swords in their spare time. Since Nagase was within the territory of the Ryûzôji Daimyo family, the Munetsugu (宗次) smiths were retainers and occasionally took part in the Ryûzôji’s battles.
During the twelfth year of Tenshô (1584) Munetsugu (宗次) succeeded to the head of the family and as such he also became the head priest of the Tenman-gu shrine. In the eleventh year of Keichô (1606), Munetsugu (宗次) received the title of “Iyo no Jô” (伊予掾) and in 1608 he was appointed Jô Tsuka-no-Kashira. Jô Tsuka-no-Kashira is the person in charge of all of the Hizen smiths. This would theoretically put him above Tadayoshi I (忠吉) who was in charge of all of the Hashimoto smiths. In fact it is thought that the first generation Tadayoshi (忠吉) studied under the shodai Munetsugu (宗次) in his early career (before he went to Kyoto to study with Umetada Myôju (埋忠明壽)). Very early works by the first Tadayoshi (忠吉) closely resemble works by Munetsugu (宗次) and are very different from the later style that he developed after studying with Myôju (明壽).
As with many sword smiths of the early Shinto period, it appears that Munetsugu (宗次) carried out a lot of experimentation, producing blades in Bizen, Soshu (Shizu style), and Yamashiro styles. He was a very good smith and is rated as Jo-saku. A number of his Bizen and Soshu blades are extant. There is a theory that not many of his Yamashiro blades survived because they were of such quality that sword dealers of his time shortened them and sold them as Rai and Enju works.
For more information about this smith, please refer to the following article, Munetsugu.
I am pleased to present for sale a very fine daisho made by Shodai Munetsugu (初代宗次). When viewing these swords, the first thing one notices is the great variation of working styles represented by these two blades.
The katana of this daisho is a splendid example of his work in the Sôshû tradition, especially the works of Shizu. It is signed Hizen (no) Kuni Jûnin Iyo (no) Jô Minamoto Munetsugu (肥前国伊予掾源宗次). It is a wide and robust blade measuring 28.25 inches or 72.3 cm. The moto-haba is 1,24 inches or 3.1 cm and the saki-haba is 0.9 inches or 2.2 cm. The slightly koshi-zori is 0.29 inches or 0.7 cm. The hada is itame mixed with mokume and nagare hada is hadadachi-gokoro. The ji-nie is very fine.
The hamon is basic gunome-midare mixed with ko-notare. It is squarish and pointed and the ko-gunome contain many ashi. The presence of togariba, the pointed variation, is an especially key trait of his workmanship and an important kantei point. Sunagashi and kinsugi can be seen in several places. The bôshi is in perfect proportion with the size of this blade and the pattern is irregular forming a ko-maru shape with a short kaeri (turn-back). The nakago shows the unique characteristics of this smith in that there is a sharp tapering forming a tanago-bara (fish belly) shape used by the Sôshû school.
All in all a very stunning blade and a fine example of Munetsugu’s work in this tradition. It comes with NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon papers attesting to its authenticity and quality.
The wakizashi is quite different in forging tradition and shows strong Bizen traits. It is signed Iyo (no) Jô Minamoto Munetsugu (伊予掾源宗次). It has a nagasa of 20.75 inches or 52.7 cm. The moto-haba is 1.19 inches or 3.0 cm and the saki-haba is 0.82 inches or 2.1 cm. The deep koshi-zori is 0,72 inches or 1.8 cm.
The hada of this blade is itame mixed with mokume with areas of ji-nie forming chikei. The hamon is gunome-midare forged in a quite wild pattern. It is interesting to note that there are also areas of togariba (pointed hamon) as one would expect from this smith. Their presence should lead us away from a mainline Bizen kantei of this blade. The boshi has a wide temper done in a ko-midare pattern that has a ko-maru shape and a short turn-back. The nakago is ubu with a six character mei and has the slight narrowing on the ha edge toward the nakago jiri. It comes with NTHK papers attesting to its quality and authenticity.
This daisho of swords comes in a custom made wooden box.