The tantō Uraku Rai Kunimitsu

In this story we learnt that swords were considered as essential presents for higher ranking bushi. As Hideyori received a tantō from Katō Kiyomasa, quasi as the first and last personal sword gift of the Toyotomi warrior, he in turn was of course obliged to present swords to allies and major retainers. One of them was a tantō by Rai Kunimitsu (来国光, see picture below). It was handed over to Oda Urakusai Nagamasu (織田有楽斎長益, 1547-1622), the younger brother of Oda Nobunaga, and this is why it received the nickname Uraku Rai Kunimitsu (有楽来国光).*1

The Kyōhō Meibutsu Chō mentions the provenance of the sword as follows: “Present from lord Hideyori to lord Nobunaga´s younger brother Gengorō Taira Nagamasu Nyūdō Uraku (源五郎平長益入道有楽). On the request of [Maeda] Toshitsune and by agency of [Hon´ami] Kōho (光甫), it went later to lord Awaji no Kami (淡路守). But the mentioned sword is now back in the possession of the Kaga lords.” “Awaji no Kami” refers to Toshitsune´s second son Maeda Toshitsugu (前田利次, 1617-1674). When Toshitsune retired in Kan´ei 16 (寛永, 1639) part of the Kaga fief were assigned to his second and third sons. That means Toshitsugu received the newly founded Toyama fief (富山藩) in Etchū province and the third son Toshiharu (前田利治, 1618-1660) received Kaga´s Daishōji fief (大聖寺藩). And in the last sentence of this entry the Kyōhō Meibutsu Chō of course refers to the Maeda family, the lords of Kaga.



kokuhō, tantō, mei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), nagasa 27.7 cm, uchizori

We can only speculate about the backgrounds of this sword presented to Oda Urakusai. Contrary to his older brother Nobunaga, the battlefield was never the home of Urakusai and he was also not greatly involved in the wheelings and dealings of the three great unifiers. Urakusai focused mainly on the tea ceremony and so became a student of Sen no Rikyū (千利休, 1522-1591). He also founded his own school of tea called Uraku-ryū (有楽流). In the 18th year of Tenshō (天正, 1590) he retired to lands in Settsu province worth 2.000 koku, given to him by Hideyoshi. In turn he was ordered by the latter to guard and supervice his concubine and second wife Yodo-dono (淀殿, 1596-1615), who was Urakusai´s niece. Despite his connection with the Toyotomi, Urakusai, with his eldest son Nagataka (織田長孝, ?-1606), was in the command of force of 450 men belonging to the eastern army of Ieyasu at Sekigahara. It is recorded that Urakusai took two heads during the squirmish. After the battle he again sided with the Toyotomi, but at Ōsaka he joined the side of the more moderate Hideyori supporters.

It is not known that Hideyori was an enthusiastic follower of the tea ceremony and so it can rather be ruled out that the presentation of the Rai Kunimitsu had something to do with tea. It was probably a gesture towards Urakusai, to ensure and strengthen the Oda alliance. Anyway, after the fall of Ōsaka, Urakusai devoted himself even more to the tea ceremony in Kyōto.


Portrait of Oda Urakusai.

I would like to introduce here another kokuhō blade by Rai Kunimitsu (see picture below). Kunimitsu was, according to tradition, the second son of Rai Kunitoshi (来国俊) and active in Kyōto around Karyaku (嘉暦, 1326-1329). There are dated signatures extant from the first year of Karyaku and the second year of Kan´ō (観応, 1351). The blade in question is a tachi which was worn by Matsudaira Tadaaki (松平忠明, 1583-1644) – one of the numerous grandsons of Ieyasu – during the Ōsaka campaigns in 1614 and 1615. With the end of the Edo period it eventually went into the possession of the wealthy Iwasaki family (岩崎), whose member Yatarō (岩崎弥太郎, 1835-1885, see picture below) founded the Mitsubishi-zaibatsu (三菱財閥) financial clique in 1893.


Iwasaki Yatarō (left), Yamagata Aritomo (right)

Later the tachi was owned by the polititian Yamagata Aritomo (山縣有朋, 1838-1922, see picture above), a general of the Satsuma Rebellion and the first prime minister of the Meiji Restoration. Aritomo presented the piece to emperor Meiji, who in turn donated it to the Tōkyō National Museum which was founded in 1872. And in 2005, the kokuhō was finally transferred to the newly opened Kyūshū National Museum (九州国立博物).


kokuhō, tachi, mei “Rai Kunimitsu” (来国光), nagasa 80.7 cm


*1 Some sources also list this name as “Yūraku Rai Kunimitsu” but this is not correct.

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