Nihonto.com is pleased to present this uchi-gatana together with its important and historical tachi koshirae that belonged to Hoshina Masaari (保科正益), the 10th and final Daimyô of the Iino domain (飯野藩) . The Iino domain (飯野藩) was one of the several that made up the larger Kazusa Province (上総) and from 1648 to 1868 it was the residence of a branch of the Hoshina (保科) daimyo with an annual income of 20,000 Koku. Kazusa Province (上総) was one of the fifteen provinces along the Tôkaidô (東海道), one of the major traveling arteries of the main Honshû island.
From 1648 until 1868, when the feudal system was abolished, the Iino domain (飯野藩) was ruled by a branch of the Hoshina (保科) family and valued at 20,000 koku. Though this was a relatively minor domain, the Hoshina (保科) family was a branch of the much larger Matsudaira Daimyô (松平) of Aizu (會津), whose founder, Hoshina Masayuki (保科正之)was the older brother of the Iino (飯野藩) founder, Hoshina Masasada (保科正貞). Hoshina Masayuki (保科正之) was born in Edo, the illegitimate 4th son of the 2nd Tokugawa Shōgun, Tokugawa Hidetada (徳川秀忠).
Hoshina Masaari (保科正益) was born on March 22, 1833 and passed away on January 23, 1888. As noted, he could trace his heritage directly through the Aizu (會津) clan back to the second Tokugawa Shôgun, Tokugawa Hidetada (徳川秀忠). The Aizu Daimyô family was fiercely loyal to the Tokugawa regime up to and including the time of the Meiji Restoration. They fought for the Tokugawa against the Imperial forces during the Boshin War.
Hoshina Masaari (保科正益) was born in Edo to the 9th Iino lord, Hoshina Masamoto. Since Masaari (正益) was initially a weak child, his father did not notify the Tokugawa shogunate of his birth. However, after Masamoto’s first and second sons died in quick succession, he notified the shogunate of Masaari’s (正益) birth in 1836. It is for this reason we sometimes find Masaari’s (正益) birthdate given as 1836.
Masaari (正益) was made heir to the domain in 1847 and succeeded to the family headship after his father’s death in 1848. He received his family’s hereditary title of Danyô no chû in 1850. In 1853, Masaari (正益) led Iino troops and took part in the defense of Uruga upon the arrival of Commodore Matthew C. Parry and the U.S. Navy’s East India Squadron.
As the lord of Iino domain (飯野藩), he held a variety of minor posts in the Tokugawa administration, most notably becoming a wakadoshiyori (junior elder) in the second year of Keiô (1866). He was also chief commander of the multi-han military force active in the Chôshû Expedition, leading forces on the Iwami front.
After the Boshin War he was ordered by the new Meiji government to investigate those who were “responsible” for the war. It was as part of this action that former Aizu military leader, Kayano Gonbei, was executed in Masaari’s residence at Azabu in 1869.
As with many other former daimyô, Masaari (飯野藩) became a member of the kozoku and became a Viscount (shishaku) in the Meiji era, passing away in 1888.
Perhaps we should take a moment here so that I can explain about the importance of Samurai family mon and how we can use them to verify ownership as we have done with this piece. Few people realize that in order to narrow down the prior ownership of an object such as a koshirae, the object in question must have two family mon, a primary clan mon and a secondary personal mon. After the fall of the Shogunate in Japan at the beginning of the Meiji Era, the most well-known mon in the country was the Aoi mon of the Tokugawa family. Since at that time the Shogunate became obsolete and along with it the restrictions of the use of that famous mon, we find an absolute plethora of items bearing that mon including a vast number of tourist items created in the late 19th century, through the 20th century, and continuing even today.
What sets this fine Itomaki no Tachi koshirae apart and allows us to surmise the actual prior ownership is the fact that it contains both the primary and secondary mon. It is resplendent with the family mon of the Hoshina family and more specifically those of Hoshiina Masaari. Below is a snapshot from the saya of this tachi showing both mon:
The primary family mon on the right is the family mon of the Hoshina family whose ties go all the way back to Hoshina Masayuki who founded the Aizu family dynasty who were major supporters of the Shogunate until its fall in the 1860’s when the Shogunate was abolished and governmental power was returned to the Emperor. It also displays on the left the secondary or personal mon of Hoshina Masaari who was the owner of this tachi. How do we know this? Well, we consult a set of four books that were published throughout the Edo era called the Taisei Bukan. This means a Compilation of Samurai Heraldry. This book was published by the Shogunate and used by various bureaucrats including the bakufu officials who manned the various way stations along the major roads to identify the various daimyo as they traveled throughout Japan. It showed all the pertinent information such as heraldry, family mon, size of their fief (how important they were), etc. The pertinent page for this tachi is shown below:
This koshirae has 77 Hoshina family mon and 71 personal family mon of Masaari. It is in excellent condition and has been well cared for since it was in the possession of Hoshina Danojô Masaari. As stated at the outset of this description, this is a very important and historical tachi koshirae that belonged to the 10th and final Daimyô of the Iino domain who controlled 20,000 koku.
This koshirae also contains Masaari’s blade which is a uchi-gatana signed Ryokai. This is not a blade by the famous Yamashiro Ryokai of the Kamakura Era. Rather it appears to be a blade from the Muromachi Era (1400’s-1500’s) by a later generation of Ryokai. The specifications of the blade are a nagasa (length of the cutting edge) of 21 5/16 inches or 54.15 cm. The moto-haba (width at the base of the blade) is 1.1 inches or 2.82 cm. The saki-haba (width at the point) is 0.79 inches or 2.0 cm.
It has a graceful torii sori (curvature) of 0.56 inches or 1.43 cm. The hamon (temper line) is suguha with the habuchi being nie deki. The jitetsu (grain of the steel) is itame with some masame. The polish is old and could use a light refreshing. There is no rust or flaws with this blade. The nakago (tang) is ubu with two closely placed mekugi-ana (holes). The mei is lightly chiseled and reads Ryokai followed by three kanji which are difficult to read (at least by me). Overall, this blade could use some more research. The habaki is solid silver. The blade comes in a new shirasaya (holding case) and the koshirae has a tsunagi (wooden sword).
The koshirae has been submitted to shinsa and has easily passed Tokubetsu Hozon. The blade has not yet been submitted to shinsa, but as I said earlier, I am quite sure it is not by the famous Ryokai from the Yamashiro school who lived in the Kamakura era. I would place this blade no earlier than the Muromachi era.
If you would like to own a true historical blade and koshirae that was owned by a Daimyo family who could trace their lineage back to the founding Tokugawa Shogunate, this is your opportunity. Aside from being a thing of beauty, it has definite historical significance.