Shodai Dewa no Daijo Yukihiro
aka. Shodai Dewa no Kami Yukihiro
|period||Shinto (ca. 1655)|
|designation||NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon|
|nakago||ubu, 1 mekugiana|
|mei||Hishu Dewa Daijo Yukihiro|
Hizen Yukihiro was born in 1617 and was named Kurobei. He is the younger brother by 11 years to Shodai Hizen Masahiro, and his grandfather by way of adoption of his father Yoshinobu, is Shodai Hizen Tadayoshi.
His first work is known to have been made in 1639 at the age of 23. His first title, Dewa no Daijo came at age 32 around the time when he began experimenting with oranda tetsu (Holland steel and Dutch manufacturing techniques) under the swordsmiths Hisatsugu and Tanenaga in Nagasaki. In 1663, he was granted a promotion to Dewa no Kami, and two years after this his elder brother Masahiro passed away.
This swordsmith signed in many interesting ways, rarely dating his swords. After achieving the Kami title, he sometimes utilizes the Ichi character. Though the reasons for this are speculated, there does exist a piece signed Hizen Ichi-mon-ji, so it is thought that he studied and practiced some of the techniques related to this school, and perhaps signifies when they are used with the Ichi character.
Continuing in this manner of "coded" signature items, he is known to sign katana with tachi-mei similar to the other members of the Hizen school, but signed wakizashi with katana-mei (i.e. sashi-omote). As well, the "Hishu" style of signature is something he exclusively used to identify his wakizashi and naginata works. After gaining the title of Dewa no Kami, he sometimes remarked on his swords 以真疑作 (motte shin-gitae tsukuru*), indicating that they were "made in the orthodox style." This may be an indication of his ongoing experimentation and utilization of foreign methods and materials as his normal mode of operation.
(* note I may have the "motte" in the wrong place in the sequence, my reference has jumbled the kanji and the translation so that they do not match, I am making a judgement call on the ordering, but the characters should be correct).
At the end of his career, he was serving under Nabeshima Sakyo in the town of Nagase, and his own death came in 1683 at the age of 66. His line however, continues through 9 generations of Yukihiro smiths into the 1900speriod, and I would hazard a guess that there may be smiths still active today that have inherited this lineage.
Yukihiro is ranked as wazamono for a high degree of sharpness in his swords and Fujishiro rates him at Jo-saku for a high degree of quality in his work. He is also rated highly at 550 man yen in the Toko Taikan.
His brother Masahiro gained the Hiro 廣 character when his lord remarked on the resemblance of his work to Soshu Masahiro and granted the change of name from Masanaga. Masahiro and Yukihiro together show some unique style in the Hizen school, in the words of Fujishiro an "exhuberant midareba" rather than some of the quieter aspects most people are familiar with.
This wakizashi follows suit, with a typical gunome midare (heavy on the midare) hamon based in nioi and utilizing ko-nie. There are various yubashiri and they congeal in places into tobiyaki floating above the hamon. Ji nie are sprinkled throughout the hada, clustering along the mune and forming muneyaki (this is also typical of the smith, that the activities begin to border on hitatsura). In the yakiba can be found kinsuji, sunagashi and yo throughout.
The jigane is a mix of dense ko-itame, with some mokume and O-hada here and there. There is a bit of roughness, and a couple of kitae ware, and it is possible that this is due to a mixture of the "Holland Steel" that is one of the features of this smith. He is noted to have produced a coarser and darker hada than the other members of the Hizen school.
Given what is known about his signature style, it is possible to place this sword roughly around 1655 as it is after the granting of his Daijo title and before the Kami title.
The NBTHK has granted this wakizashi Tokubetsu Hozon papers, authenticating the signature and signing off on the above average quality and importance of the piece. At this price point, it is a very attractive sword both for beginning and established collectors of the Hizen School.
The sword is accompanied by a well executed full length oshigata. This is
additional material that is very helpful for the beginning sword student in
learning to pick out and identify activities in the blade.