Omi no Kami Tsuguhiro (近江守継廣) was a member of the Echizen Seki (越前関) school. He was one of many swordsmiths who moved to Echizen province from Seki in Mino province around the middle of the 17th century. They were most active during the years 1658 through 1680. They worked in what we call the Shinto tokuden tradition that was fashionable at the time, as well as their original Mino tradition.
Besides Tsuguhiro (継廣), the following smiths are classified as being part of the Echizen Seki (越前関) school. Shigetaka (重高), Kanenaka (兼仲), Kanetane (兼植), Kanenori (兼則), Kanenori (兼法), Kanemasa (兼正), Kanetoshi (兼利), Kanetaka (兼高), Hirotaka (汎隆), Yoshitane (義植), and Kanenori (彭則).
Omi no Kami Tsuguhiro (近江守継廣) worked around the Kanbun era (1661). He produced swords in both Edo and Ômi. His katana generally have a pronounced mokume jihada and the hamon is normally suguba or gunome midare. He is rated as a wazamono smith (extreme sharpness). An interesting point about some of the Echizen smiths of the Kanbun period is that they did not inscribe the “Kuni name” (Echizen) on the omote, however, there were many who inscribed “Echizen Jû” on the ura. This was common with Tsuguhiro (継廣), Shigetaka (重高), Hirotaka (汎隆), and Kanenaka (兼仲).
The following are some of the more universal traits of the Echizen Seki Kei and, of course, most are also indicative of Omi no Kami Tsuguhiro (近江守継廣):
Sugata: Generally, the blades will have the special Shinto traits of this time-period. However, in many blades we do not see a very demonstrative display of the typical “Kanbun Shinto” traits that we associate with the blades of the Osaka and Edo schools of the Kanbun era. Frequently we find katakiriba zukuri, shobû zukuri, and unojkubi zukuri, especially in tantô. Overall, the sugata of the katana can be described as rustic or even somewhat awkward.
Jihada: The jigane will be hard and tight, and the jihada will tend toward mokume with some masame included. The kitae in the shinogi will be masame. Occasionally muneyaki will be found.
Hamon: The hamon is generally wide and is inclined to be nioi deki consisting of uneven nie. When it is o-midare, notare-midare, or gunome-midare, there will always be at least one area of togari-ba. If it is a wide suguba, the edge of the hamon (nioi-guchi) will be very distinct. Tsuguhiro (継廣) was known for mostly doing a hoso-suguba (wide suguba) hamon. He did, however, produce occasional gunome-midare hamon.
Bôshi: Komaru–togari (pointed) with a long kaeri (turn-back) will be the most common. Occasionally one will find muneyaki.
Horimono: Engravings will often be found on sunnobi tantô some of which will be ranma sukashi (pierced carving). Also on katana and wakizashi one will find bo-hi, kenmaki-ryu, fudo, and bonji. All carvings will be skillfully done. I could not find any direct references to it, but I strongly suspect that the famous Echizen Kinai carvers were often employed to do these carvings. We know that they worked for the Yasutsugu smiths of the Echizen Shimosaka lineage so this is a logical conclusion.
Nakago: Generally, the same as the Echizen Yasutsugu school. The nakago will be a little short, ending in kuri-jiri or kengyo. The yasuri-mei are generally kiri or katte sagari.
Mei: ECHIZEN (no) KUNI SHIMOSAKA TSUGUHIRO: 越前守下坂継廣
ÔMI (no) KAMI SHIMOSAKA TSUGUHIRO on the ura, ECHIZEN JÛ：近江守継廣……..越前住
ÔMI (no) KAMI FUJIWARA TSUGUHIRO: 近江守藤原継廣
TSUGUHIRO SAKU: 継廣作
The blade presented here is a wonderful example of his work. It has a nagasa (length) of 27.96 inches or 71 cm. The moto-haba (width at the hamachi) is 1.26 inches or 3.19 cm. This is a wide blade. The kissaki -haba (width at the point) is 0.84 inches or 2.13 cm. The kasane (thickness) of the blade is 0.30 inches or 0.75 cm. Finally the sori (curvature) is torii sorimeasuringo.54 inches or 1.38 cm. This is a bit of a departure from his usual Kanbun Shintô shape indicating that it might be one of his later blades. Also this blade has horimono in the form of grooves carved on the blade. There is a combination of bo-hi (large groove) and soe-hi (small groove) on both sides of the blade.
The hamon is a hoso-suguha (wide straight temper line) that becomes slightly notare (undulating) in the monouchi area near the point. It is nioi deki with areas of nie floating on the temper line and becoming profuse ji-nie in the monouchi area. The Boshi has a ko-maru turnback with a short kaeri. The jihada is a very beautiful itame with a few areas of ko-mokume. The nakago is ubu with one mekugi-ana. The omote (front) is signed simply, Tsuguhiro Saku (継廣作).
The reverse has a cutting test inlaid in gold. It states: Futatsudô Otoshi Tomita Ya Ichi Saemon Jô Shigetsuna (Kao) Enpo Gosai Hinoto Mi Ju-gatsu Muika. This means, On the 6th of October in 1748 (year of the snake), Saemon Jo Shigetsuna cut through two bodies in one stroke.
The signature and the cutting test are certified as genuine by the NBTHK in Japan who have awarded this sword Tokubetsu Hozon papers (Especially worthy of preservation). Blades with certified gold inlay cutting tests are becoming very rare and difficult to find.
This blade comes in an older set of Edo period koshirae. These mounts do not have the usual soft metal flashy kodogu that one usually finds on mounts of the Edo period. Rather they have a serious and utilitarian feel to the iron fuchi, kashira, and menuki that are contained by a somber dark ito (handle wrap). These are the mounts of a serious Samurai who valued function over glitz.
All in all, this is one of the, if not the, most beautiful examples of Tsuguhiro’s work that I have ever come across and a great piece of Samurai history.