Odawara-Sōshū Yasuharu (小田原相州康春)

Number

NC-E-001

Smith Name

Yasuharu

Active Period

Daiei (大永, 1521-1528)

School

Odawara-Sōshū

Province

Sagami

Mei

Sōshū-jū Yasuharu saku

Nagasa

45.3 cm

The most important and famous ko-wakizashi by Sōshū Yasuharu


Odawara-Sōshū Yasuharu (小田原相州康春) period of artistic activity span around Daiei era (大永, 1521-1528) and he was very skilled and famous Sōshū-Den smith of that time period. Originally, Yasuharu came from Suruga (駿河) Province and became a disciple of Shimada Yoshisuke (島田義助). It is said that Yasuharu was probably the son of Sōshū Yasukuni (相州康国). Initially, Yasuharu signed as 泰春, however, later, as a sign of confirmation of his achievements in swordsmithing art, he received the 康 kanji from Hōjō Ujiyasu (北条氏康, 1515-1571) for forming his own swordsmith name. 

Yasuharu was closed related to the Shimada School and was famous as maker of wakizashi with horimono. He was retainer of the Go-Hōjō family and lived in Odawara which was the castle town of the Go-Hōjō family. There are katana, wakizashi and tantō extant from the Eishō era (永正, 1504-1521) to the Tenbun era (天文, 1532-1555). According to the Fujishiro Yoshio (藤代義雄) rating, Yasuharu’s works occupy the jō-saku (上作) level (the high level of workmanship). He made wakizashi with wide mihaba, sakizori and small dimensioned tantō with uchizori that had not been seen before. The jigane was forged in a rather standing-out itame and hamon was in flamboyant gunome-midare, hako-midare made in nioi-deki with addition of yahazu and tobiyaki. The mystery of Sōshū-Den has already been lost and one can see hitatsura-hamon examples in nioi-deki like of Shimada School. Unfortunately, hamon consisting of brilliant nie by the great Sōshū smiths of the Kamakura and Nambokuchō periods are not seen anymore.

The third siege of Odawara (Odawara seibatsu, 小田原征伐) occurred in 1590, and was the primary action in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's campaign to eliminate the Hōjō clan as a threat to his power. After three months of the siege consisted of traditional starvation tactics with only a few small skirmishes erupted around the castle, the Hōjō surrendered by losing the will to fight, Ujimasa and Ujiteru committed seppuku. Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Hideyoshi's top generals in this time, was given the Hōjō lands, including eight provinces of the Kantō region. 

The Shitahara (下原) School was a very large family having the area of residence in settlements Uehara (上原) and Shitahara (下原). This School was originally under Tokugawa Ieyasu patronage and in their swordsmithing practices copied the work of Sue-Sōshū. Therefore, after the events associated with the fall of the Hōjō clan and gaining control by Takugawa Ieyasu over their land, the process of mutual relationships, influence and partial unification of the Odawara-Sōshū, Shitahara and Sengo schools began. According to opinion of Naoji Karita (直治苅田), Yasuharu was actively involved in this process, and was one of the senior teachers at the Shitahara School. A more information about the processes that took place in Odawara province at that time can be found in the Naoji san's book, coming soon.

Currently, only one of the Yasuharu’s sword designated as Jūyō Tōken is known: katana (Jūyō #4), signed as Sōshū-jū Yasuharu saku (相州住康春作) and not dated.

This ko-wakizashi sword is the most beautiful, famous and precious work by Yasuharu. 

Measurements: nagasa: 45.3 cm; sori: 1.15 cm.

Sugata: the blade has a very rare and unusual shape: the sashi-omote side is hira-zukuri but the sashi-ura side is kanmuri-otoshi-zukuri with a maru-mune. The fukura in this case is not full the shape strengthened by saki-zori

Kitae: is dense itame hada with flowing masame in the areas located near mune covered in ji-nie.

Hamon: is gunome-midare with scattered nie in habuchi area; nioiguchi is narrow with addition of ko-ashi; there are hitatsura-hamon near the fukura. Following of Francesco De Feo’s description, based on his personal impressions of this sword: "the hamon is nie-loaden and is quite similar to the classic Sōshū-Den activity because it increases dramatically in the monouchi and also the ji is powerful".

Bōshi: is deeply tempered with the long kaeri.

Nakago: is ubu with kattesagari-yasurime; there is one mekugi-ana.

Signature: Sōshū-jū Yasuharu saku (相州住康春作),

Date of production: on a day in 12th month of the 1st year of the Ei ?? era (永◯元年十二月日). 

(Incidently, the second kanji in the date is partly illegible and probably was altered from the "roku" 禄 in the Eiroku era (永禄, 1558-1570) to the "shō" 正 of the Eishō era (永正, 1504-1521). It seems that it have been changed again later. 

Horimono: There are characters Fudō-myōō (不動明王) surrounded by flames with heavenly clouds becoming a suken are engraved on the sashi-omote side of the blade. Fudō-myōō is the full Japanese name for Acala-vidyaraja, or Fudō (o-Fudō-sama etc.). It is the literal translation of the Sanskrit term "immovable wisdom king." Acala is said to be a powerful deity who protects «All the Living» (sattva, shujō, 衆生) by burning away all obstacles (antar-aya, shōnan, 障難) and cleaning from filth, thus helping them advance to enlightenment.

On the sashi-ura side are engraved rendai symbol and characters Marishisonten (摩利支尊天). Marishisonten is a Buddhist deity associated with both justice and war, the guardian deity of various ryū (it is close connected especially to the history of Takenouchi-ryū, Katori-Shintō-ryū and Araki-ryū). Marishisonten is a god of war in India, and in Japan it is considered as a guardian deity for samurai warriors. He has three faces and six arms and appears on a wild boar. In the Marishisonten-do temple in Kyōto one can find wild boar statues everywhere in the precincts. It is also believed that your wish will be heard if you walk around the hall praying hard.

This sword of Yasuharu was presented for exhibition by Francesco De Feo. It is a masterpiece work of Yasuharu combining together a gunome-midare hamon with a tendency to hitatsura and extensive engravings that visually display the characteristics features of Odawara-Sōshū School specialised in horimono especially. This sword photo and oshigata can be found in various sword books and old manuscripts. According to the owner’s opinion, this Yasuharu wakizashi is a vivid example of the so-called mamori-gatana (守り刀) sword, i.e. the blade carried by samurai for a direct self-defence purpose. 

The Tōken Oshigata (刀劔押形) by Yamada (山田), 1791-1852, Volume 4, p. 81.