|period:||Shinto (ca. 1670)|
|designation:||NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Token|
|nakago:||ubu, one mekugiana|
|mei:||Hizen no Kuni Dewa no Kami Yukihiro|
|uramei:||oranda-gitae o motte saku|
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. On those he made with foreign steel he inscribed them as oranda-gitae o motte saku 阿蘭陀鍛作.
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 1900s, 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.
Yukihiro's 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 "exuberant midareba" rather than some of the quieter aspects most people are familiar with. This katana is signed tachi-mei which is a particular habit of the Shinto Hizen smiths in making katana. They usually signed wakizashi with standard format.
This katana follows suit, with a typical gunome midare (heavy on the midare) hamon based in nie. It roams all over the sword becoming quite wide in areas and it makes me wonder if he was doing his best to emulate one of the Soshu works of Hiromitsu or Hasebe. There are various yubashiri and tobiyaki in the ji and it comes close to being 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. Yukihiro's forging was never as good as the main Tadayoshi line and there is some weakness in the kitae in this blade along with some kitae ware and 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 1675 as it is after the granting of his Kami title and he is using ichi in the signature. This blade was made with steel from Holland as he did inscribe it as such.
This blade was a trade-in on a purchase from a client, and I would like to point out that the blade has no shirasaya but is ranked Tokubetsu Hozon by the NBTHK and is accompanied by fine quality koshirae. This koshirae is in state as found and could do with a little bit of restoration work on the wrap and on the lacquer. However it is as it is, in original condition so it may be fine to just leave it as is. I recommend though that a shirasaya be made for this and can arrange it for the buyer.