Companion sword and scabbard

1600-1650 (made)


[sword blade] Length: 47.1 cm

M.24:1 to 4-1912 EAS

Japanese companion sword (wakizashi) signed yasutsuga

This Japanese companion sword (‘wakizashi’), is signed by Yasutsugu of Echizen province (part of modern-day Fukui Prefecture). The wakizashi was the shorter of the two swords (known together as ‘daisho’) worn by the samurai. It was suited to fighting at close quarters, especially in towns. The blade is probably by the second smith to bear the name of Yasutsugu, who died in 1646. It has a very slight curvature and also shows the distinctive strong lines of tempering and fine-grain steel that were typical of the work of Yasutsugu. The first of the Yasutsugu dynasty of swordsmiths came under the patronage of Matsudaira Hideyasu, who was the third son of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Hideyasu was the appointed regional ruler (‘daimyo’) of Echizen province and as such was able to employ expert swordsmiths such as Yasutsugu. Around 1606, Yasutsugu’s reputation as a smith was such that he was called to the shogun’s court in Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to work directly for the shogun himself. He died in 1621 and in 1623 his son also received an official summons to Edo to work as smith to the shogun’s court. The swords produced by Yasutsugu II are generally regarded as equal to those of his father. Many complicated issues of succession followed, but the last of the Echizen Yasutsugu line, the ninth generation, died in 1879, three years after the final banning of the wearing of swords and abolition of the samurai as a distinct class in Japan.

Location: In Storage

View this object on the V&A website