The tragic love story of Hosokawa Tadamasa

I like to tell you about the tragic love story of the swordsmith Hosokawa Tadamasa (細川忠正). Tadamasa was born in the eighth year of Tenpō (天保, 1837), the eldest son of Hosokawa Tadayoshi (忠義) who worked for Shimōsa´s Sakura fief (佐倉藩) which was ruled by the Hotta family (堀田). Tadayoshi in turn was the second son of the famous master Hosokawa Chikaranosuke Masayoshi (細川主税佐正義). Already in his early years Tadamasa was introduced to the craft of sword forging by his father and there exists a joint work of father and son from the third year of Kaei (嘉永, 1850), when Tadamasa was only 14 years old (according to the Japanese way of counting years). But ten years later he ended up in distant Kyūshū, to be more precise, in the castle town of Nobeoka (延岡) in Hyūga province. There is a blade extant which he made in the eighth month of the first year of Man´en (万延, 1860) for Kondō Daiyū (近藤大夫), one of the elders of the Nobeoka fief of the same name. Thereupon he was hired by the fief which was ruled by the Naitō family (内藤).

It is said that Tadamasa was a giant and was very arrogant, who boasted everywhere of his great skills. This, and the fact that he was insufferable when he was drunk, did not exactly make him one of the most popular contemporaries. He even fell out with Kondō who was one of his few customers who adored his work. So he wandered through Hyūga with no particular destination. One of his stations was the small Sadoawara fief (佐土原藩) which was a branch fief of the powerful Satsuma fief (薩摩藩). The samurai serving there had not much money and were therefore not able to pay the 10 ryō Tadamasa asked for a long sword. They finally agreed upon free board and lodging as “payment” and they tried hard so that the smith didn’t lack of anything.

When Shimazu Tadahira (島津忠寛, 1828-1896), the last daimyō of the Sadowara fief, supported the Satsuma Rebellion in Keiō four (慶応, 1868) with 500 men, it is said that many of the blades worn by these warriors were works of Tadamasa. After that he visited the southern village of Takaoka (高岡), but the arrogant stranger caused problems from the beginning. The young samurai of the village decided one night to kill the swordsmith but he somehow heard about the conspiracy and was able to escape in a cloak-and-dagger operation via a stopover in Miyakonojō (都城) to the further south Obi fief (飫肥藩). There the daimyō of the fief, the Itō (伊東), hired him as a swordsmith in the second year of Keiō (1866).

In Obi he met Toku (登久), the daughter of a certain Matsuda Kaku´emon (松田覚右衛門), who came from the neighbouring village of Maezuru (前鶴). It was love at first sight. Toku too did not have a good reputation. She was considered as being arrogant, egoistic, nymphomaniac and faithless, that means she was a “perfect match” for Tadamasa. But her father Kaku´emon was against their relationship and strictly against a marriage. So they lived in separate houses during the day and met secretly at night. One balmy May night the secretiveness was too much for Tadamasa and he broke, completely drunk, into the house of Kaku´emon to demand the surrender of his daughter. A fight broke out and Tadamasa started to riot. The incident became public and, in the end, Toku was regarded the most impious and disrespectful towards her father. The fief official ordered that her hair be shaved and arranged a committal to a special prison for sick and juvenile offenders in Edo.

When she became aware of her desperate situation she cut her throat with a razor thirteen days after the incident at her father´s house and bled to death. Devastated, Tadamasa submitted a written application at the fief for a leave of abscence. The same night this was granted he disappeared to an unknown destination. Two months later he wrote two letters to retainers of the Obi fief but then his trace disappears. His name pops up again, on surface only, in the fifth year of Meiji (1872) when everybody had to register in the course of the new personal statute law. At that time he was staying at the Takanabe fief (高鍋藩) which had actually been dissolved the previous year. He had already visited the fief in earlier years when it was ruled by the Akizuki family (秋月). Tadamasa´s year of death is unknown but the latest extant signature with a date is from the second month of the 29th year of Meiji (1896).



katana, mei “Hosokawa Tadamasa saku” (細川忠正作), nagasa 72.1 cm, sori 1.0 cm

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