The first generation (shodai) Dewa-daijô Yukihiro (出羽大掾行廣) was called Kurôbei and he was born as the second son of Hashimoto Yashichibyôe Nobuyoshi (橋本七兵衛吉信) in the third year of Genna (1617). He was the son-in-law of Musashi-daijo Tadahiro (武蔵大掾正廣). He was the younger brother of the first generation Kawachi-daijô Masahiro(河内守正廣). Yukihiro (行廣) was born when his older brother, Masahiro (正廣), was eleven years old.
Yukihiro’s (行廣) first dated work was produced in the sixteenth year of Kanei (1639) when he was 23 years old. He was awarded the title of Dewa-daijo (出羽大掾) in the fifth year of Shôhô (1648) at the age of 32. In the third year of Kanbun (1663), he was promoted and given the title of Dewa-no-kami (出羽守). He was 47 years old at that time. Two years later, his older brother, Masahiro (正廣), passed away.
In the third year of Keian (1650), two years after he became Dewa-daijo (出羽大掾), he is said to have moved to Nagasaki to study the Dutch method of forging (Orlanda-kitae (以阿蘭陀鍛)) under Hisatsugu (久次) and Yakushiji Tanenaga (薬師寺種永). After that time many of his swords were inscribed with the words, Orlanda-gitae o motte (以阿蘭陀鍛). He is said to have continued his studies together with his fellow student, Harima-daijô Tadakuni (播磨大掾忠国), when he studied the traditions of the Bizen Ichimonji (備前一文字) school under the Edo Ishidô (江戸石堂) smith, Shirobei Noriyoshi (四郎兵衛則吉). After that time, he started adding the kanji character, Ichi (一), above his mei on many of his swords.
In Yukihiro’s (行廣) early days while he used the title Dewa-daijo (出羽大掾), he signed either with or without Fujiwara(藤原) in his mei. Common signatures were Hizen no Kuni Dewa Daijo Fujiwara Yukihiro (肥前国出羽大掾藤原行廣) or Hizen no Kuni Dewa Daijo Yukihiro (肥前国出羽大掾 行廣). His mei using Hishû (肥州) or Hishû no Jû Dewa Daijo Yukihiro (肥州住出羽大掾 行廣) are found on his wakizashi or naginata. After he acquired the Dewa no Kami (出羽守) title, he added the character Ichi (一) centralized just below the habaki. After this time, he usually used either a go-ji mei(five-character signature) or a naga-mei (long signature including the province name). His naga-mei usually reads Hizen no Kuni Dewa no Kami Yukihiro (肥前国出羽守 行廣). We also often find a reference to his using Dutch forging in his mei. Such terms as Oranda Gitae o Motte Kore o Tsukuru (以阿蘭陀鍛之作) or Oranda Gitae o Motte Tsukuru (以阿蘭陀鍛作) were used to express this. His dated works are few and it is an important kantei point that his mei always along the left side of the nakago mune.
He eventually began to serve Nabeshima Sakyô, a local Daimyo, and he lived in the town of Nagase. It is also said that he went to Geishû Hiroshima to produce swords. He passed away on the twenty-seventh day of May in the second year of Tenwa (1683). He was 66 years of age.
The following are some general characteristics of shodai Yukihiro and his school:
SUGATA: They produced mainly shinogi-zukuri katana and wakizashi. Their mune is usually iroi-mune. Most of their katana are formed to have an average width and a medium sized kissaki, but sometimes they are wide with a somewhat extended kissaki. In shinogi-zukuri wakizashi the width is broader and the medium kissaki is longer than in their katana. They seldom produced wakizashi in a hira-zukuri style, but when he did they are wider and longer with a thick kasane. Some have a mitsu-mune.
JITETSU: Their kitae is a tight ko-itame hada with fine and dense ji-nie, i.e. the typical konuka hada of the Hizen school. Occasionally there will be areas of small mokume mixed in. Their hada will be slightly coarser than the works produced by the mainline Hashimoto Tadayoshi (橋本忠吉) and Tadahiro (忠廣) lines and their jitetsu will have a slightly darker hue.
HAMON: Their hamon is either the traditional suguha or midareba. Midareba is more frequently produced with notare mixed with gunome and chôji variations or with chôji-midare mixed with gunome and many long ashi. Occasionally they produced their unique patterns consisting of large midare, which are scarce in other Hizen works. In all instances, their hamon consists of deep nioi with many ko-nie forming sunagashi. It should be noted that their midare contains yahazu-fû patterns stretched sideways, which is a unique characteristic of their works. In hira-zukuri wakizashi, they sometimes produced hamon with basically straight but modestly undulating on the lower half of the blade changing to a chôji mixed with gunome and tobiyaki as well as muneyaki in the upper half. This gives it an almost hitatsura appearance. Generally speaking, their ha compositions have a disorderly appearance and lack neatness.
BÔSHI: As with all Hizen blades, the bôshi is usually smooth and follows the shape of the edge ending in a ko-maru shape with kaeri.
NAKAGO: The nakago has a kurijiri shape with a swollen end. The yasurimei are sujikai or else ô-sujikai.
MEI: The katana mei is written on the sashi-ura (tachi-mei) as is the characteristic of the Hizen school. The wakizashi mei is written on the traditional sashi-omote side, however. The position of the mei on the nakago is very important when judging whether a blade is by the first generation Yukihiro. The shodai (first generation) signed his mei next to the mune as opposed to in the middle of the nakago.
In the matter of workmanship, sometimes it is very difficult to determine as to whether a certain blade was made by the first generation Yukihiro or the second generation Yukihiro. The way that certain kanji characters are written. The characteristics that distinguish between the mei of the Shodai and the Nidai lie in the formation of two strokes, one stoke in each of the kanji for Hiro (廣) and Kuni (国). Referring to the illustration below, please note that the Shodai’s character for Hiro (廣) is formed like (1) while the Nidai’s is like (2). In regard to the character for Kuni (国), the bottom chisel stroke immediately to the left of the center vertical line in the Shodai’s starts from the right as in (3), while the Nidai’s starts from the lower left as in (4). These differences are crucial kantei points when judging generations.
The kantei blade presented here is a beautiful katana by the first generation Hizen smith, Yukihiro. It is signed on the tachi-mei side Ichi Hizen (no) Kuni Dewa (no) Kami Yukihiro (一肥前国出羽守行広). The ura has the inscription, Orlanda-kitae motte tsukuru (以阿蘭陀鍛作). This means that he made this blade using steel imported from Holland.
We also know that this signature indicates that this blade was made after the third year of Kanbun (1663) when Yukihiro was given the honorific title of “Dewa (no) Kami”. Since Yukihiro also put the character “Ichi” before his name, it was made after he studied with Shirobei Noriyoshi of the Edo Ishidô school who specialized in reproducing the works of the Kotô Bizen Ichimonji smiths.
This is a beautiful blade with a cutting edge measuring 69.7 cm or 27 .48 inches. It has a graceful torii sori measuring 0.77 inches or 21.96 cm. and a stretched kissaki giving the blade a long and graceful appearance. The width at the moto-haba (base of the blade) is 1.26 inches or 3.2 cm and the width at the saki-haba (beginning of the point) is 0.83 inches or 2.11cm. The kasane (thickness of the blade) is 0.30 inches or 0.76 cm.
The bôshi is a typical Hizen bôshi being a ko-maru and of uniform width and a slight kaeri. The hada is a beautiful flowing itame with ji-nie forming what is known as Hizen hada mixed with areas of o-hada. The hamon is a gunome-midare with clouds of nie floating on the habuchi and in the ji. A very interesting and beautiful blade which merits hours and hours of enjoyment and study.
This blade is in fresh polish done in Japan before it was recently submitted to the NBTHK for shinsa where it was awarded Tokubetsu Hozon status. This authenticates the validity of the signature and confirms the quality of this sword. It comes in a new shirasaya with a gold foiled habaki that is beautiful as can be seen in the photos.