Kunihiro(国廣)is considered by many to be the foremost master of all Shintô sword makers in terms of both his skill and the large number of excellent students who trained under him. In addition, he was one of the most prolific of smiths having produced swords from Tenshô 4 (1576) up until the year before he died in Keichô 19 (1614) at the age of 84.
Kunihiro(国廣)demonstrates two different kinds of workmanship. The first is called his “Tenshô-uchi” or “Koyu–uchi” which indicates the style of blades made during his Tenshô days of wandering. The second is called “Keichô-uchi” or “Horikawa-uchi” which indicates the blades he made after settling down in the Horikawa section of Kyoto. The “Tenshô-uchi” swords show definite traits of Sue-Sôshûand Sue- Seki influences. The “Keichô-uchi” or “Horikawa-uchi” swords show strong orthodox Sôshûtraits of such smiths as Masamune, Sadamune, and Shizu Kaneuji.
The list of other important smiths who learned from Kunihiro (国廣)is long and impressive. Some of them were, Osumi-no-jo Masahiro (大隅掾正弘), Izumi-no-kami Kunisada (和泉守国貞), Dewa-daijo Kunimichi(出羽大掾国路),Echigo-no-kami Kunitomo (越後守国儔), Yamashiro-no-kami Kunikiyo (山城守国期よ清), and others. For more about this important smith, please refer to the following article: Kunihiro.
The tantô that we are offering here is a superb example of this Sôshû style works of the “Horikawa-mono” period and it clearly shows the influences of Masamune. It is a fairly well-known example that can trace its ownership through several known owners from the Edo era to the 20thcentury
.It was known to have belonged to a Samurai by the name of Tokuichi Ide who lived in the Edo era and served the Nabeshima clan of Hizen Province. It later passed into the collection of Tetsuma Akaboshi who was a famous industrialist during the Meiji era. In fact, when this sword was published in the Kunihiro Ko, it was listed as Tetsuma Akaboshi’s tantô. Akaboshi was President of the Daisho bank and a noted collector reportedly owning 7 Jûyô Bijutsuhin swords and who liked Sôshû Den tantô. His dates appear to be b. 1883, d. 1951. The tantô later passed to Hideo Kawasaki as noted on the old shirasaya dated 1970.
This tantô is also published in the Kunihiro Taikan as number 58. The description is as follows:
Size: 8 sun 7 bu; Curvature: Uchizori; Moto-haba: 8 bu 7 rin; Moto -kasane: 2 bu 6 rin; Nakago length: 3 sun 6 bu. Hira-zukuri, mitsu-mune, uchi-zori, standard shape.
Signature is two characters, Kunihiro; ubu, 2 mekugi ana. It is forged in the Sôshû style during the Keichô era. The forging pattern is ko-itame with rich ji nie over the jigane and the temper line is hoso-suguha and ko-notare. On the omote is a deeply engraved dragon and Fudo and on the reverse; bonji, gomabashi and rendai.
This is a magnificent piece and representative of Kunihiro’s best work in the Sôshû tradition. This tantô has a nagasa of 11.56 inches or 29.3 cm. It has a moto-haba of 1.03 inches or 2.6 cm and a saki-haba of 0.85 inches or 2.2 cm. The thickness of the Kasane is 0.28 inches or 0.7 cm. There is no sori.
The horimono on this tantô is also outstanding. The engraving of “Fudo Myo’ standing on the head of a dragon” is one of only two known examples to have been forged by Kunihiro with this engraving. The engraving is deep and is superior to the other sword which has been polished so often the face of Fudo has disappeared. The reverse, as has been noted, contains bonji, gomabachi, and rendai all of which are also well carved.
As noted in the photos below, this tantô comes with two shirasaya. The old shirasaya has a sayagaki by a famous sword polisher ‘Tokutaro Inuzuka’ who included the information in his description that it was owned by the aforementioned Tokuichi Ide, and that “now Hideo Kawasaki family inherited it.” Date 1stAugust 1970. This serves to establish continuity of ownership from the Edo era to the present. It was put into its new shirasaya at the time of its last polish. It was awarded NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon certification in 2003 attesting to its authenticity and quality.
This tantô comes with a wonderful Momoyama style koshirae described as Shu urushi gin giden Fuji no hana mon daisho. This means laquered red with a silver Fuji flower design. It is quite beautiful and like the sword it accompanies it is in superb condition.