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Celebrating the 200th Anniversasy of the Artist's Birth
Kiyomaro: Master Swordsmith to the Last Samurai
February 26th, Wendnsday - April 6th, Sunday, 2014
Closed Mondays
Hours 10 am to 5 pm
(entrance closed at 4:30 pm)
General admission Adult 1200 yen, Student 1000 yen
Gallery 1

The Nezu Museum presents the special exhibition Kiyomaro: Master Swordsmith to the Last Samurai in January 2014 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Kiyomaro’s birth. Minamoto Kiyomaro (1813–1855) was a renowned swordsmith active at the end of the Edo period. His fame was such that he was dubbed the Masamune of Yotsuya, echoing the name of the genius Kamakura period swordsmith Masamune and linking it to Kiyomaro’s home in the Yotsuya district of Edo.
Kiyomaro (birth name Yamaura Tamaki) was born in 1813 (Bunka 10) in Komoro in the Shinshū region in Japan. He began making swords at a young age but gave up his career as a swordsmith once. However, he could not shed his fascination with swords, moved to Edo around the age of 21, where he devoted himself to sword making. At the age of 29 he spent about three years making swords in Hagi in western Japan, but then returned to Edo, where he committed suicide in 1855 (Kaei 7) at the height of his popularity. The reason for his suicide remains a mystery.
This exhibition commemorates the 200th anniversary of Kiyomaro’s birth, and presents a selection of approximately 50 of his finest swords. In their day these swords were highly praised for their dynamic form, the beauty of their high quality steel, and the sense of energy in their hamon (pattern on the blade). We hope visitors to the exhibition will share the unforgettable appeal of Kiyomaro’s masterful swords.

Gallery Exhibits

Important Art Object, Nagano Prefectural Treasure
By Minamoto Kiyomaro
Japan Edo period, 1846
Private Collection
This is the first tachi blade inscribed with the name Kiyomaro, after he changed his art name from Masayuki to Kiyomaro. He presented this sword to Kubota Sugane, a military tactician, in gratitude for Sugane’s long support of his sword making activities. This sword is a reminiscent of tachi blades of the Nanbokuchō era (14th century).
Katana, named Ichigo hitokosh
By Minamoto Kiyomaro
Wakizashi, named Ichigo hitokoshi
By Minamoto Kiyomaro
Japan Edo period, 1848
Private Collection
This katana and wakizashi pair is renowned among Kiyomaro’s pairs of swords. Particularly noteworthy is the large impressive form of the kissaki (blade tip), whose scale makes it an ōkissaki (long blade tip). The complex and vivid hamon blade pattern can be considered the pinnacle of Kiyomaro’s sword making talents. The pair is a rare example with the 1848 (Kaei 1) date inscription among the works of Kiyomaro.
By Yamaura Hirotoshi and Masayuki
Japan Edo period, 1830
Private Collection
This wakizashi was a joint work between the 18-year old Kiyomaro (then using the name Ikkansai Masayuki) and his older brother Masao. Despite the youth of its makers, the beauty of the steel and the elegance of the blade pattern indicate the exceptional talent of the two brothers.
By Minamoto Kiyomaro
Japan Edo period, 1833
The Sanada Treasure Museum, Nagano
A famous work created when Kiyomaro was 21 years old. The powerfully incised inscription notes the date and the name of the sword’s owner, Kubota Sugane, a military tactician who advised Kiyomaro on swordsmithing and on the study of classic sword masterpieces. The blade has a valiant form, with its broad, thick shinogi (ridge) and large curving line.