By Fred Weissberg, edited by Elliott Long


The third generation of smiths who went by the art name of Tsunahiro belonged to what is known as the Sue-Soshu period of swordmaking. This is the name given to the Soshu smiths who worked from the beginning of the Muromachi Era. This name corresponds to the term Oei-Bizen, the name given to the smiths of Bizen at this same period of time. The unification of the two courts was achieved in the 1392 and the fifth day of the seventh month of the following year is counted as the starting point of the Oei Era and thus the beginning of the Muromachi Period.


The overall workmanship of blades made in the Soshu tradition does not, as a rule, measure up to the Soshu blades made during the Kamakura and Nambokucho Eras. This is particularly true of the early Sue-Soshu smiths. Around 1532 there came a smith who is considered to be the best of the Sue-Soshu smiths and the pillar of the Sue-Soshu group. His name was Tsunahiro. The generally accepted school of thought is that the yondai Soshu Masahiro received the character "Tsuna" from the Daimyo Lord of the Hojo Kei, Hojo Ujitsuna; thus changing his name to Tsunahiro. Some believe that it was, in fact, the smith Hiromasa who was thus honored. The final decision is still under discussion and perhaps further research in the future will decide which is correct.


In either event, the quality of this smith's work in highly regarded and thus the Tsunahiro line was established and would continue into and through the Shinshinto Era. The family name of the Tsunahiro line was Yamamura and the first generation worked in Odawara for the Hojo Kei as has been noted. The third generation Tsunahiro's family name was Yamamura Soumonojo and he lived in the Ogigaya section of Kamakura. Later, at the request of the Lord of the Tsugaru Han, he moved there and made three hundred daisho for this Daimyo. He finished this work in Keicho 11 (1606) and returned to his home Kuni. He made works in midareba, hitatsura, and suguba ko-midareba. Many of his blades have horimono, as do the works of the entire Tsunahiro line of smiths. He died on the 27th day of February in the 9th year of Kanei (1632) at the age of 91.


Sugata: As for katana there are some that are around 2 shaku 1 or 2 sun (about 63 cm to 67 cm), and there are also some long ones of around 2 shaku 5 or 6 sun (about 76 cm to 79 cm). The sori is shallow and is a saki sori style. Those in which the mihaba is wide have a tendency for the kissaki to be elongated.

Tanto with about the same dimensions as in the previous period are the most common. There are various types such as some with a very strong saki zori and some with takenoko sori that are around 8 sun 5 bu (25.8 cm) like those of the master smith, Rai Kunitoshi of Yamashiro. There are also some that are called sun-zumori (short) yoroi doshi in which the length is about 7 sun (21.2 cm).


Jitetsu: The jigane is hard and does not differ significantly from the Soshu tradition of the earlier periods. Itame mixed with mokume hada, which is inclined to become a coarse O-hada.


Hamon: He worked in several styles of Hamon. Examples can be found with midare-ba, hitatsura, and suguba ko-midare. Generally a lot of nie will not be found and when it is, it tends to be detached and uneven.


Boshi: Tends to be midare-komi with a long kaeri.


Horimono: Various types of Kurikara (dragons around ken swords) are the most common. Bonji, kuwagata and Rendai can also often be found.


Nakago: Katana with kurijiri are common and tanto with the typical Soshu style tango are also often encountered.






Hiromasa Katate-uchi