The overall workmanship of blades made in the Sôshû tradition does not, as a rule, measure up to the Sôshû blades made during the Kamakura and Nambokuchô Eras. This is particularly true of the early Sue-Sôshû smiths. However, around 1532 there came a smith who is considered to be the best of the Sue-Sôshû smiths and the pillar of the Sue-Sôshû group. His name was Tsunahiro (綱廣). The generally accepted school of thought is that the yondai Sôshû Masahiro (相州正廣) received the character “Tsuna”(綱)from the Daimyo Lord of the Hôjô Kei (北條系), Hôjô Ujitsuna (北條氏綱); thus changing his name to Tsunahiro (綱廣). Some believe that it was, in fact, the smith Hiromasa (廣正) 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 (綱廣) line was established and would continue into and through the Shinshintô Era. The family name of the Tsunahiro (綱廣)line was Yamamura (山村) and the first generation worked in Odawara for the Hôjô Kei (北條系) as has been noted. The third generation Tsunahiro’s (三代綱廣) family name was Yamamura Soumonojô (山村宗宗右衛門尉) and he lived in the Ôgigaya section of Kamakura. Later, at the request of the Lord of the Tsugaru Han of Mutsu in northern Honshû; he moved there and made three hundred daisho for this Daimyo. He finished this work in the eleventh year of Keicho (慶長) (1606) and returned to his home Kuni of Kamakura. 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 (寛永) (1632) at the age of 91.
The following are some of the general characteristics of the Sue-Sôshû school of sword making:
SUGATA: As for katana there are some that are around two shaku one or two sun (about 63 cm to 67 cm), and there are also some long ones of around two shaku five or six sun (about 76 cm to 79 cm). The soriis shallow and is a saki sori style. Those in which the mihaba is wide have a tendency for the kissaki to be elongated.
Tantô 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). 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 Sôshû tradition of the earlier periods. Itame mixed with mokume hada, which is inclined to become a coarse o-hada.
HAMON: They 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. When it is found, it tends to be detached and uneven.
BÔSHI: 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 tantô with the typical Sôshû style tango are also often encountered.
The blade being offered here is a good example of one of the later generations of Tsunahiro smiths. It is a pretty massive blade with a nagasa (length) of 29.6 inches or 75.2 cm. It is wide with a moto-haba (width at the base) of 1.25 inches or 3.18 cm and a saki-haba (width at the point) of 0.94 inches or 2.39 cm. The kasane (thickness) is 0.28 inches or 0.7 cm. It has a shallow torii sori (curvature) measuring 0.52 inches or 1.32 cm.
The forging characteristics of this blade pretty much follow the school characteristics outlined above. It is shinogi zukuriwith a mitsu mune as one would expect from a Sôshû blade. The jigane (texture of the steel) is a tight ko-itame that is flowing in areas with some mixing in of mokume hada here and there. There is a hardness to the steel. There is profuse ji-nie forming an almost hitatsura pattern here and there, but it is primarily in the shinogi-ji and down the mune of the blade. It is not deep into the blade but almost floating on the surface. It is nonetheless very impressive. This characteristic, however, leads me to believe that this blade was by a later generation of the Tsunahiro lineage.
The hamon is very well done, indeed. The ura side of the blade’s yakidashi starts out fairly suguha with a slight upwards slant. It quickly turns into a wild and spectacular midareba that reaches the shinogi in areas and quiets down only when it reaches the kissaki and enters the bôshi in a undulating pattern (notare midare) with a ko-maru turnback and very little kaeri. The hamon on the omote (front) side of the blade is quite different. It starts out in a fairly quiet notare midare that continues up the length of the blade and enters the bôshi looking much the same as on the ura side, i.e. the same notare midare pattern. The turnback on the omote side is also much the same as on the ura. This is very impressive work and clearly shows that this smith was capable of creating various types of Sôshû hamon at will.
As one would expect, the omote side of the blade bears a typical Sôshû style ken-maki-ryu of horimono depicting a dragon wrapped around a sword. The ura has two soe-hi (small grooves) and one bonji character. All of the horimono on both sides of the sword show wear from successive polishes as one would expect from a blade that is several hundred years old.
All in all, I would say that this is a very impressive blade that is in excellent polish and condition. This is evidenced by the fact that it was awarded Tokubetsu Hozon papers from the NBTHK attesting to the validity of the signature and the condition and quality of the blade. It also comes with Fujishiro papers further evidencing these facts.