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Swords & Gift Exchange
Topic Started: Aug 6 2018, 01:58 AM (99 Views)
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Tosa no kami
I thought I'd started a thread about the gifting of swords at some point already, but I can't seem to find it.

As you all might well be aware, it was very common practice in the Sengoku and Edo periods (and in earlier periods as well) for samurai to present swords as formal gifts to their lords, or to their vassals. Presenting and receiving swords - especially swords by famous smiths or with notable provenances - contributed to binding or maintaining interpersonal feudal/political ties between individuals. Many of the most famous swords in major Japanese museums today, if they passed through the hands of the Tokugawa or major daimyo families, were likely given and re-given numerous times, by daimyo to the Tokugawa as a show of their loyalty, or from the shogun to the daimyo as a show of his favor, and so forth. Morgan Pitelka writes about this extensively in his book Spectacular Accumulation.

S-A member Nagaeyari also recently introduced me to a new 2018 book by Fukai Masaumi 深井雅海 entitled 「刀剣と格付け」. Like most of Fukai's works, it's a very readable book meant for a popular audience, rather than a scholarly one. If you're interested in these sorts of things, he talks a fair bit about which swordsmiths' swords were considered higher or lower rank as gifts, how many swords by which smiths are recorded as being exchanged within particular documents, and so forth.

I'm still looking for any source that explicitly solidly states that the giving or receiving of a sword was directly explicitly connected to the notion of (re)affirming one's loyalty in a feudal sense, or some other specific ritual/political meaning, or that it decidedly was not. I certainly feel as though it takes on some kind of special significance separate from the exchange of any other gifts, but as the circumstances in which they were presented and received go beyond only those contexts which might most clearly, most explicitly, suggest a re-affirmation of the feudal relationship (e.g. the fact that swords were regularly presented by the shogunate to the Imperial Court, and by Imperial envoys to the shogun, as well as by tributary states to the Chinese emperor, outside of any context of specifically samurai/warrior customs), I'm just not sure...
Edited by Toranosuke, Aug 6 2018, 02:02 AM.
上り口説 Nubui Kuduchi – Musings on the arts of Japan and beyond
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Tosa no kami
If you're interested in learning more about precisely which smiths' swords were given and received, and in what numbers, and which smiths' swords were considered to be gifts of a higher or lower significance, I'm afraid you'll have to read the book for yourself... but, here are some of the key points which I took away:

*Daimyo typically presented swords to the shogun after becoming head of their house & lord of their domain, and upon their retirement, as well as when expressing congratulations or gratitude to the shogun on various other occasions (e.g. the shogun visiting the lord's mansion, a shogunal heir being born, or simply the shogun inviting the lord for Noh or tea).
*The gosanke and kunimochi lords, and certain others of especially elite status, regularly received 下賜 swords from the shogun on occasions coinciding with (1) being granted court rank and/or a character from the shogun’s name, e.g. Ieyasu bestowing “ie” on Shimazu Iehisa, (2) the lord’s genpuku, (3) being granted leave from Edo, (4) in gratitude for the lord's contributions to public works.

*In the early Edo period, it was a standard ritual requirement for the Kunimochi, Gosanke, and certain others to present the shogun with a real sword 真の刀を献上 as part of the gifts they presented after their succession to the headship of their house (and lordship of their domain). In 1722, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune issued edicts, however, reducing the amount or value of gifts to be presented on formal occasions. The amount of silver was reduced by 9/10ths, the amount of textiles was reduced, and the occasions when a real sword should be presented were changed. Those who had previously presented a real sword on the occasion of their succession to their house would now present a decorative sword and a horse. (the horse was restricted to only those of 50,000 koku or more) Or, they would present a sword. (The language of the original edict, transcribed by Fukai here, is rather unclear: 家督御礼のとき真の太刀を差し上げた者は、今より作り太刀と馬…を差し上げ、また、刀を献上すること。See pp112-113.)

-On very special occasions 格別重い祝儀御礼事があるときは、people were still to present real swords. As well as a horse.
-Those who had presented real swords at 一同の御礼 (the same ritual?) would now present decorative swords and a horse.
-From now on, when presenting a tachi or katana, only swords valued up to 20 pieces of gold should be presented.
-At New Year’s and Hassaku, when presenting swords, those of 10,000 koku or higher should present ceremonial ones made in Edo.

- Following this edict, the Gosanke, Kunimochi, Tamari-tsume, and certain others presented both ceremonial swords 作り太刀 and real ones また、刀 on the occasion of their succession. Lesser daimyo never presented real swords, it would seem, and presented instead a combination of ceremonial swords, textiles, and silver.

*This shows that there were customs of presenting both real swords, and ceremonial ones. Such ceremonial swords were made of wood and were painted or lacquered black. As the shogunate amassed great numbers of them through such gift-presentation rituals, the vast majority were given down to kensanya 献残屋, shops where they would be repaired or polished up, and sold to daimyo or others to be presented again.
上り口説 Nubui Kuduchi – Musings on the arts of Japan and beyond
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