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Dual purpose matchlock!

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  • Dual purpose matchlock!

    Well, with Piers soon heading off into his autumn season of battles, I thought it fitting to celibrate this auspicious occation by posting about a matchlock I picked up at the end of last year.
    I’m quite conservative when it comes to my matchlocks. In order to catch my attention, they must be manufactured according to standard for that specific school. Pref down to a single pin, if possible. This is actually a great way to keep your collection in check as most matchlocks out there displays some sort of deviation in the construction.
    This gun should be labeled as a Hoso-zutsu or translated, long and slim gun.
    It measures 136 cm total length and due to the long barrel, weighs in at 3,6kg.
    The caliber is just north of 1,1cm making it a 1,5 Monme matchlock.
    Sawada san writes in his book about ”dual purpose-matchlocks” which means that they were most likely made for hunting and target practice.
    The cut-off end to the stock, right away points us to the Tazuke-ryu school.
    What’s extra nice with this example is that it displays all of the traits of a Tazuke-ryu. These are the round bisen-screw, the covered pan lid and the round finish to the lock plate (see detailed pictures below). Most of the parts got a small sign engraved, which translate to ”wa”. Usually these markings are numbers which helped the gunsmiths matching all the parts to the correct gun.
    When I first saw the gun up for sale, I could have made a small bet that it came with a Kunitomo signature, as many of these Tazuke-ryu matchlocks were made in Kunitomo.
    But this one is signed ”Sesshu ju Enami Hanbei saku”. It also bears the kanji for ”Maki-bari” which means wrapped. Usually these kanji are beginning with a mentioning of double or tripple wrapped. Only having the simple ”maki-bari” engraving, might point to this being an earlier made matchlock, as there otherwise would be quite pointless stating this old way of wrapping a barrel amongst the more advanced way of constructing the barrel, which developed later.
    Sesshu was of course the area where Sakai is located. The family Enami is quite famous even if most signatures was written as Enamiya.
    When you see the patination of the barrel plus the fact that some modifications to the barrel that secure the the pins which holds it firmly in the stock, has been made, this might point to this being an old barrel, fitted to a later made stock. As everything fits very snuggly together, this must have been made by a skilled artisan.
    So here we might have an answer to where some of the earlier made matchlocks ended up. The best barrels from well-known gunsmiths were simply recycled and kept being used during the Edo-period.

    The long and slender shape of a Hoso-zutsu. The round bisen screw.
    Jan - Sweden

  • #2
    Jan, a lovely example. These hosozutsu are way underappreciated today in Japan. Indeed, I am organizing a teppo display this weekend here, and I have deliberately elected not to take any big guns in order to help visitors focus their eyes on the beauty, simplicity and dignity of the slim ones.

    The quality of yours suggests that if it was a hunting gun it was for someone of higher class than a regular Matagi or mountain huntsman. Use for the shooting range on the other hand does sound entirely possible.
    I have noticed in Ukiyo-e hanga prints that famous snipers are depicted with hosozutsu.
    (In one painting I see that two Lords are out hunting birds with good-looking high class 5/6 Mon-me weapons. This could of course be artistic license.)

    Yours could well be an early example. Even the name Enami fits in my opinion, because the -ya on the end of most simply means 'house/shop', something like '...& Sons' in English, indicating the work of a skilled smith that grew with his disciples into an enterprise. I wonder if he admired Kunitomo work and set to reproducing this style in Sakai? Almost as if he said "Yes, we can do Kunitomo too!"
    Piers D - Japan / UK


    • #3
      Yes, except for the rear sight, the whole matchlock screams of Kunitomo. So you might be right in that this matchlock was his way of showing off his broad skills towards his clients. Or perhaps the one ordering this gun was used to handling Kunitomo matchlocks and wanted a very close copy to be made. We know from other styles of matchlocks, for example the Choshu-style, that the Sakai smiths were very good at making any type of styles requested by the buyers.
      The closed pan cover is an interesting feature seen on many Tazuke ryu matchlocks. It think it was Sugawa san that wrote that this feature was seen on guns used on ships. I guess the idee was to prevent splashing water from hitting the pan.
      But this gun is clearly not military-grade. Well, if small caliber matchlocks were indeed used by snipers, I guess it could have been used in that capacity. Like the sniper that shot Lord Nelson at Trafalgar. Might explain the complex rear sight.
      Theorising about an objects orgin is so much fun

      Jan - Sweden


      • #4
        .....listening and learning also
        Uwe Sacklowski / Germany


        • Jan Pettersson
          Jan Pettersson commented
          Editing a comment
          I hope so

        • David M
          David M commented
          Editing a comment
          Same here!

      • #5
        Jan, The idea that a craftsman would work in any style asked is corroborated by some translation I am doing on a diary of Myochin Munechika that lists the armours he made. Some he notes were requested to be in the same style as 'that worn by XXX' . What the customer wanted was what he got.
        Ian Bottomley
        Ian Bottomley - UK


        • Jan Pettersson
          Jan Pettersson commented
          Editing a comment
          Yes, we also see it in the many styles of matchlocks carrying Kunitomo signatures. However, this can be tricky sometimes as records shows gunsmiths from Kunitomo relocation to other areas and still including Kunitomo in their signature. I saw several examples of thid whilst visiting a museum in Sendai. Matchlocks with all the features expected from Sendai-zutsu but with Kunitomo signatures.
          I guess the word Kunitomo carried such weight that anyone with connection to this area, would keep using it all through their life. I wonder if it was the same within the world of armor?


      • #6
        Wonderfull insight in the world of teppo , gentlemen. Maybe this matchlock I have can contribute a little to the assesments above...It is similar to Jan's in the way of lenght , weight and caliber.
        It also carries a similar rear sight. The rest looks different though , like the muzzle and the shape of the front sight. The jiita is engraved with two hare's chasing each other. The blackened wood around the pan area suggests the gun has been fired . In the sales document of october 9 , 1961 , the seller states ; " signed Kunitomo Kuhei Ryokuju who lived in Goushou no Kuni or present Ishikawa prefecture. Made
        late Edo period ". I like to show pic's of the bisen and barrel but I cannot get the front pin out , like the ramrod it is stuck thight. Any advice appreciated ! also like to know if this matchlock can be classified as a
        Hoso-zutsu ? And is this an "original "Kunitomo or a "branded "one ? What would it take to wake up this matchlock from a sixty year sleep and get it to fire again ?



        • #7
          Jon, yours is a good solid example of a Kunitomo flat-butt type matchlock, typical of those made in Kunitomo Village. I suspect that the reading of the Mei is 95% correct, Kuhei being Kyubei, and Goshu not being Ishikawa but Ohmi (also Gōshu, as is Australia!) near Lake Biwa in Shiga where Kunitomo is located.
          The front pin should come out from left to right, but people in the West often put the wrong thing in there, as your seller must have done. Gently encourage it with a little hammer and flat pin/nail shaft in every direction until you sense movement. Your ramrod too looks to be not original.
          I would love to see the Mei and what Kanji are used.
          Most importantly, good luck on your adventure!
          Piers D - Japan / UK


          • Teppotai
            Teppotai commented
            Editing a comment
            Oh, and dedicated artisans would have created the designs on the ji-ita, boar perhaps appropriate for a hunting gun for someone with aspirations to the gentry! By then they would have seen examples of the decorations on better quality Western guns.

        • #8
          Hi Piers !

          Very exciting info ! Thank you ! I shall bring it to a historic gun smith and let him work on it . As soon as I have access to the barrel I will post the pictures of the Mei and Kanji , so
          bare with me...In the meantime good luck with your weekend "battles " and looking forward to see some footage of this year's spectacles.
          Kind regards