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The third generation of smiths who went by the art name of Tsunahiro belonged to what is known as the Sue-Soshu period of swordmaking. This is the name given to the Soshu smiths who worked from the beginning of the Muromachi Era. This name corresponds to the term Oei-Bizen, the name given to the smiths of Bizen at this same period of time. The unification of the two courts was achieved in the 1392 and the fifth day of the seventh month of the following year is counted as the starting point of the Oei Era and thus the beginning of the Muromachi Period.

The overall workmanship of blades made in the Soshu tradition does not, as a rule, measure up to the Soshu blades made during the Kamakura and Nambokucho Eras. This is particularly true of the early Sue-Soshu smiths. Around 1532 there came a smith who is considered to be the best of the Sue-Soshu smiths and the pillar of the Sue-Soshu group. His name was Tsunahiro. The generally accepted school of thought is that the yondai Soshu Masahiro received the character “Tsuna” from the Daimyo Lord of the Hojo Kei, Hojo Ujitsuna; thus changing his name to Tsunahiro. Some believe that it was, in fact, the smith Hiromasa who was thus honored. The final decision is still under discussion and perhaps further research in the future will decide which is correct.

In either event, the quality of this smith’s work in highly regarded and thus the Tsunahiro line was established and would continue into and through the Shinshinto Era. The family name of the Tsunahiro line was Yamamura and the first generation worked in Odawara for the Hojo Kei as has been noted. The third generation Tsunahiro’s family name was Yamamura Soumonojo and he lived in the Ogigaya section of Kamakura. Later, at the request of the Lord of the Tsugaru Han, he moved there and made three hundred daisho for this Daimyo. He finished this work in Keicho 11 (1606) and returned to his home Kuni. He made works in midareba, hitatsura, and suguba ko-midareba. Many of his blades have horimono, as do the works of the entire Tsunahiro line of smiths. He died on the 27th day of February in the 9th year of Kanei (1632) at the age of 91.

This beautiful wakizashi is typical of the work of the third generaiton. It is hira-zukuri with bo-hi and a rendai (lotus flower) on both sides. The nagasa is 17 13/16 inches or 45.2 cm. The jigane is hard and does not differ significantly from the Soshu tradition of the earlier periods. It consists of itame mixed with mokume hada, which is inclined to become a coarse O-hada. The hamon is his very typical sue-soshu hitatsura with areas of temper scattered throughout the ji. The boshi is o-maru with a substantial turn-back. The blade is signed Soshu Ju Tsunahiro. The polish is old but in very good condition.

This blade comes in a shirasaya with a sayagaki by Tanobe Sensei. It also comes with NBTHK Hozon papers attesting to its quality and authenticity. If you are a fan of Soshu blades, don’t miss out on this one.