Masterpieces of Arms ... Japanese Swords, Sword Guards and GunsThemed Exhibition at Hikone Castle Museum in Shiga Prefecture23 March 2016 - Sightseeing/Events
A themed exhibition, "Craft Workers who lived in Omi Province ― Blacksmith of KATANA (Sword), TSUBA (Iron Plate) and Matchlock Gun ―" is being held at Hikone Castle Museum in Konki-cho, Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture, to display masterpiece swords, sword guards and guns created by Shiga-based artisans.
Arms had been produced in Omi Province, or modern Shiga Prefecture, since ancient times. There are a variety of records such as the "Shoku Nihongi," or Continuation of Chronicles of Japan, compiled in the Nara Period and in which there are descriptions of blacksmiths' activities, as well as documentation of the province's annual presentation of a sword to the Imperial Court in the Heian Period.
Later, there appeared many outstanding craftspeople and groups of blacksmiths, including sword craftsman Sadamune, who is commonly known as Sadamune Takagi, in the Kamakura Period; Shimosaka blacksmiths who mainly produced spearheads in Shimosakano-sho, Sakata County, which corresponds to today's Shimosakanaka-cho and Shimosakahama-cho, Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture; Soten Soheishi, a craftsman of sword guards in the mid Edo Period; Kunitomo blacksmiths who gained the national fame for gun production in Kunitomo-mura, Sakata County, or today's Kunitomo-cho, Nagahama City.
The themed exhibition has 17 masterpieces displayed, created by these craft workers related to Omi Province, mainly from the Edo Period. Five of them are displayed for the first time.
Engraved on the backside of a 64.8-centimeter-long sword produced by Kanemasa Fujiwara, a swordsmith in the early Edo Period, is an inscription that reads "residing in Hikone, Omi Province." Although Kanemasa is believed to have been a swordsmith in Echizen, or Fukui Prefecture, it can be seen that he also produced swords in Hikone.
Judging from his works' inscriptions, it appears that Soten Soheishi worked based in Nakayabu, Hikone. A set of a large sword guar measuring 8.2 centimeters in diameter and a small sword guard measuring 7.9 centimeters in diameter, has on them a description of a battle between a samurai and an uncanny-looking figure, in which the characters and the landscapes are carved higher with a wide array of colors. These traits are called "Hikonebori" or Hikone carving. It is said that they were very popular in those days.
Besides those, matchlocks and a reflecting telescope of the Kunitomo blacksmiths are also on exhibit. The exhibition is open every day until April 12. The general entrance fee is 500, or 250 yen for elementary and junior high students. For more information, call the museum at 0749-22-6100.(translated by Galileo, Inc.)