Fujisakae Shrine is located in Minakuchi, Koka City, Shiga Prefecture, the predecessor of which was Yoshiaki Reisha Shrine founded in the early 19th century in order to enshrine feudal lord Yoshiaki KATO, Founder of the family, governing Minakuchi area in the Edo period. The shrine has a variety of treasures, which are said to have been possessed by Yoshiaki. The Western style sword with a black lacquer sheath, which is said to have been granted by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, is one of them. Mostly intact in form, this sword is in no way inferior to the rapiers produced in Europe from the 16th to the 17th century. Although it seems to be the only Western sword handed down to the 21st century in Japan, the rapier has been stored at the Minakuchi Museum of History and Folklore in Koka City for many years without attracting much concern so far.
In September 2016, the rapier was investigated from art historical and physicochemical perspectives by the five members of Ms. Akiko NAGAI (Board of Education in Koka City), Mr. Toshihiko SUEKANE (Tokyo National Museum), Ms. Motoko IKEDA (Kyoto National Museum), Prof. Kazutoshi HARADA (Tokyo University of the Arts), and me, Koji KOBAYASHI. The summary and the outcomes of our study were reported at the 10th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held on February 24th, 2017.
The presentations made by the members are “Historical Background on the Western Cruciform Sword Stored at Fujisakae Shrine” by Ms. Nagai; “Study of the Substantiality and Age of the Rapier Handed Down to Fujisakae Shrine – Reconnaissance with Museum Collections, Excavated artifacts and eary modern genre paintings” by Kobayashi; “Regarding the Western Sword Housed by Fujisakae Shrine” by Mr. Suekane; “The Western Sword Possessed by Fujisakae Shrine: X-ray CT Scanning and Fluorescent X-ray Analysis” by Ms. Ikeda; and “The Western Sword Belonging to Fujisakae Shrine – Comparison with Overseas Materials –” by Prof. Harada. The outcomes of our preliminary study were presented from diversified perspectives, including the reference to historical backdrops on swords and related artifacts, the study of hilt patterns and production techniques from the viewpoint of the metalworking history, the report of the data obtained through CT scanning and fluorescent X-ray analysis, and comparison with rapiers stored overseas, in addition to topics on Fujisakae Shrine and Yoshiaki KATO.
Furthermore, whether this Western sword was produced at home or abroad is an important issue in considering the craftsmanship in the Momoyama period and its historical evaluation. We discussed the issue by exchanging various opinions and views after the presentations, which did not result in any consensus. We recognized the importance of this sword and the necessity of its further research anew.