Ishida Mitsunari and two Masamune less

In the last chapter we have read that Hosokawa Yūsai handed over his beloved Yukihira sword because he was besieged by Ishida Mitsunari, but Mitsuhira too lost two famous swords in the course of the turmoils before and during Sekigahara. Mitsunari has always been an ally of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and when the latter had himself installed as kanpaku regent (関白) in the 13th year of Tenshō (天正, 1585) due to an adoption of the noble family Konoe (近衛), he appointed Mitsunari as one of his Five Commissioners (go-bugyō, 五奉行) who were charged with governing the capital city of Kyōto and the surrounding areas. The other four – all of them being strong supporters of Hideyoshi´s former lord Oda Nobunaga – were Asano Nagamasa (浅野長政, 1547-1611), Natsuka Masaie (長束正家, 1562?-1600), Maeda Gen´i (前田玄以, 1539-1602), and Mashita Nagamori (増田長盛, 1545-1615).

Eleven years later the invasion of Korea had begun and when Hideyoshi´s health declined arpidly from the fifth month of Keichō three (慶長, 1598), he gathered the most imprtant daimyō of the country in his Fushimi Castle to arrange matters of his still underage heir Hideyori (秀頼, 1592-1615). He installed a commission of five guardians (go-tairō, 五大老) consisting of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Maeda Toshiie, Mōri Terumoto (毛利輝元, 1553-1625), Ukita Hideie, and Uesugi Kagekatsu (上杉景勝, 1555-1623), who should continue Hideyohi´s policy until the full age of Hideyori. Here too it applies that too many cooks spoil the broth but Hideyoshi had no other choice because an exclusion of one of the major daimyō of that time would have made things even worse. Three months later Hideyoshi died and Ishida Mitsunari´s rash, arbitrary, and unauthorized actions only a couple of days later overturned the go-tairō and go-bugyō constellation which was doomed to fail from the start. Also Katō Kiyomasa (加藤清正, 1587-1611) and Fukushima Masanori (福島正則, 1561-1614), both famous generals in the Korea campaign and old vassals of Hideyoshi felt betrayed and when above that all an attempted murder of Mitsunari on Ieyasu leaked out, all the daimyō involved wanted to see the agitator dead. Mitsunari fled in a cloak-and-dagger operation – disguised as a female and hidden in a woman´s sedan – out of Ōsaka Castle and went, you may not believe it, directly to Ieyasu who then stayed at Fushimi Castle. Ieyasu spared him and was even prepared to mediate between Mitsunari and his pursuers. He suggested that Mitsunari should retreat to his castle in Sawayama (佐和山)*1 in Ōmi province and assigned his own son Hideyasu as escort.

As a sign of gratitude he gave Ieyasu a sword of Masamune which had the nickname Kirikomi-Masamune (切込正宗) because of its numerous battle marks (kirikomi, 切込). According to legend he said: “Lord Ieyasu, you are circumspect, of a sharp mind, and consider carefully every word. Even if you are yet hardly over thirty years, you are able to accurately assess every behaviour and situation. A truly unrivalled warrior!”

Ishida Mitsunari himself got the blade as present from Ukita Hideie who on the other hand bought it – according to the Kyōhō Meibutsu Chō – for 400 kan (貫 = 100 ryō)*2 from a certain Mōri Wakasa no Kami (毛利若狭守).*3 For comparison, the annual salary of a simple vassal of a fief (hanshi, 藩士) without any office-related special payments was about 3 ryō. After Hideyasu received the sword of Mitsunari, he gave him the name Ishida-Masamune. He kept it for the rest of his life and later it came into the possessions of the Tsuyama branch of the Matsudaira family which was already mentioned in chapter one. Today it is designated as jūyō-bunkazai and is preserved in the Tōkyō National Museum.

Pic16jūyō-bunkazai Ishida-Masamune, mumei, nagasa 68.8 cm, sori 2.4 cm, shinogi-zukuri, deep sori, chū-kissaki, ō-suriage

As the title of this chapter suggests, Ishida Mitsunari owned once two blades of the famous, if not even the most famous of all swordsmiths – Gorō Nyūdō Masamune (五郎入道正宗), who is traditionally dated to the Kareki era (嘉暦, 1326-1329). The second pieces was a tantō which he presented to Fukuhara Naotaka (福原直高, ?-1600),*4 the husband of his younger sister. But before we deal with this blade, I want to enlarge upon sword presentations we repeatedly read of in the last chapters. Why did a daimyō or other person feld compelled to part with a certain blade in his collection? The answer lies in the obligatory and semi-obligatory sword presentations, especially in the New Year´s celebrations held by the bakufu. At those celebrations, certain families had to donate certain things and in the same sense, specified presents were exchanged. When for example on the 17th day of the first month the mato-hajime (的始), the first ritual test shootings of the archery dōjō in the year took place, the responsible persons and the participants of the evening ritual of the first shooting contest (kuji-mato-hajime, 籤的始) were presented with swords on the very next day. Other occasions where swords „had“ to be presented were the official New Year´s banquet in the residence of the shōgun, the so-called ōban (埦飯), the visi and the departure of the shōgun himself (onari, 御成), the succession as head of a family, the participation in a battle, the granting of a rank or title, as well as at special meetings, gatherings, and so on and so forth. Quasi the starting signal for the official calender of events of the Muromachi-period bakufu was the so-called “sword presentation of the three deputies”*5 (on-dachi-kenjō no gi, 御太刀献上の儀) right after the New Year´s celebrations. For this purpose the rank or rather the condition (i.e. if signed, unsigned, shortened or unaltered) was exactly defined. As an example I would like to quote from the etiquette regulations of the Ōuchi family (Ōuchi Mondō 大内問答, published in Eishō six [永正, 1509]):

“Regarding sword presentations it has to be mentioned that such blades which became a katana by cutting-off the tang or tachi with no signature from the beginning are not suitable for a present of highest degree, that means for the shōgun. Each and every sword has to be examined carefully in advance for its usability as present. Regarding unsigned blades, they are not suitable for a large celebration but well suited for a common festival.”

Another entry of the Muromachi-period Hōkō Kakugo no Sho (奉公覚悟之書, “Records about the Knowledge in the Civil Service”) dealing explicitely with blades for presentations reads:

“Famous blades suited for presentations are: Jinsoku, Sanemori, Masatsune, Tomonari, Yoshimitsu, Masamune, Kuniyoshi, Hisakuni, Yukihira, Munechika, Nobufusa, Arikuni, Kanehira, Kunitsuna, Norikuni, Kunitomo, Kunitsugu, Kiku-Ichimonji, and the like. In the case of attending an onari, two or better three representative blades by the above mentioned swordsmiths should be prepared.“

And the Sōgo ōzō Shi (宗吾大艸紙) written in the first year of Kyōroku (享禄, 1528) contains a detailed list of swordsmith´s names whose names and/or signatures are suitable for a present at an onari:

“Jinsoku (神息, Buzen), Amakuni (天国, Yamashiro), Sanemori (真守, Hōki), Munechika (宗近, Yamashiro, Sanjō school), Masatsune (正恒, Ko-Bizen), Nobufusa (信房, Ko-Bizen), Yukihira Kishindayū (行平紀新大夫, Bungo), Tomonari (友成, Ko-Bizen), Miike Denta (三池伝太, Chikugo), Hisakuni (久国, Yamashiro, Awataguchi school), Kuniyoshi (国吉, Yamashiro, Awataguchi school), Arikuni (有国, Yamashiro, Awataguchi school), Yoshimitsu Tōshirō (吉光藤四郎, Yamashiro, Awataguchi school), Kunitsuna (国綱, Yamashiro, Awataguchi school), Masamune (正宗, Sagami), Sadamune (貞宗, Sagami), Kunitoshi (国俊, Yamashiro, Rai school), Kanehira (包平, Ko-Bizen), Norikuni (則国, Yamashiro, Awataguchi school), Yasukuni (安国, province unknown), Kunitomo (国友, Yamashiro, Awataguchi school), signatures in the form of a 16-petalled chrysanthemum, Kunitsugu (国次, Yamashiro, Rai school), and the like. Blades by other smiths might be suitable too but it must be born in mind that they should be at least tachi.”

But back again to Mitsunari´s Masamune which was in the meanwhile in the possession of his brother-in-law Naotaka. Naotaka was a vassal of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and ruled a fief in Bungo province. According to this loyalty, he fought on Mitsunari´s, i.e. the western side at the Battle of Sekigahara, and together with Kakemi Iezumi (垣見家純, ?-1600) and Kumagai Naomori (熊谷直盛, ?-1600) – both long-standing vassals of Hideyoshi too – he was detached to support the strategically important Ōgaki Castle (大垣城, Mino province) which was then held by Itō Morimasa (伊藤盛正, ?-1623). Ōgaki was attacked by an alliance of several daimyō and Naotaka had to give up and surrender the castle. He asked if he is permitted to enter priesthood but because he was via his wife a relative of Mitsunari this was not granted and he had to commit seppuku. One of the attacking generals of the eastern army was Mizuno Katsunari (水野勝成, 1564-1651), who made sure that he got hold of Naotaka´s Masamune tantō at this occasion. Because Katsunari bore later the honorary title Hyūga no kami (日向守), this name was applied to the blade too and thus it is mentioned as Hyūga-Masamune in the Kyōhō Meibutsu Chō. According to tradition, the original nickname of the blade was Katada-Masamune (堅田正宗) but the exact backgrounds of this name are not known. However, the Hyūga-Masamune came later in the possessions of the Kii branch (紀伊) of the Tokugawa family. Today it is with its excellent Edo-period mounting preserved in the Mitsui Memorial Museum (三井記念美術館, Tōkyō) and is moreover designated as national treasure.


kokuhō Hyūga-Masamune, mumei, nagasa 24,8 cm, very shallow sakizori, hira-zukuri, ubu-nakago. The Kyōhō Meibutsu Chō notes that the two gomabashi (護摩箸) called grooves on one side of the blade were added on order or rather on the recommendation of Hon´ami Kōtoku (本阿弥光徳, 1554-1619), the ninth head of the Hon´ami family.


*1 The Sawayama fief was given to Mitsunari in Bunroku four (文禄, 1595) by Hideyoshi. It was worth 194.000 koku.

*2 1 ryō (両) was the unit for one piece of gold of abut 16.5 g and was equivalent to 1 koku of rice.

*3 It is assumed that this entry refers to Mōri Terumoto.

*4 He is also listed with the name Fukuhara Nagataka (福原長堯).

*5 The families of the Shiba (斯波), Hosokawa (細川), and Hatakeyama (畠山), together called san-shoku (三職) or san-kanrei (三管領).

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