East of Lake Biwa, Kunitomo produced guns for the three great generals, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu and his descendants. Can we see any typical features, or were the very skilled Kunitomo smiths able to produce any gun to any specification?
Kunitomo!!! Now we are talking about a major player in the japanese matchlock industry. I would almost like to compare them with the Myochins from the field of Katchu (no harm intended to the masses outhere rooting for the Saotomes ) A lot of different styles have a "Kunitomo" somewhere in their signatures (if they have a signature). I went through one of my books just for fun trying to find a spread of these Kunitomo smiths. Of the 29 signed matchlocks in this publication, 12 bore the name Kunitomo. They were found on: 1 ex Bizen-style, 2 ex Sendai-style, 1 ex Kishu-style and 1 ex on a Sakai-styled matchlock. The 7 other signatures remaining was impossible for me to file under a specific style. So we have a pretty wide area of operation for the Kunitomo smiths. Did they, like the Myochins, spread out and mastered different styles of making matchlocks? Or did smiths from other parts of Japan gather in the area of Kunitomo, already knowing how to make "their" style of matchlocks, but signing them with Kunitomo?
To find a typical feature is hard. General speaking I would say that Kunitomo matchlocks tend to be of average matchlock length about 1.30 meter. Small to medium caliber. Many has flat locks and octagonal barrels without any ornamentation near the muzzle. A front and a rear sight. To make life even harder for us tepponistas, you have to add the different schools, with which specific traits these guns were made. So we have style and school to consider here. I´m sure the true experts of this forum can add extra information to the above.
I have one matchlock in my collection ingraved with the magic word Kunitomo. It has some of the features I mention above. I call this gun "the mother of all samurai-class matchlocks" or in japanese chyo zutsu. If I was a young handsome looking samurai looking for a gun I could take with me on a quest for many enemy heads, this is the one I would splash out some money on. The length and weight makes it easy to carry. The caliber ensures that I have enough firepower and the signature guarantee it´s high quality.
It´s about 108 cm long with a barrel of 76 cm. The caliber is 1,58 cm making it a 6 monme gun (in Japan this one would be a 5 monme, but who´s counting?). Weighs 4,0 kg. The signature reads Goshu Kunitomo Sukedayu Katsumasa. This smith belonged to some of the first generations of the founding Kunitomo line and was active in the early 17th century.
It´s so far away from a Sakai-style matchlock full of bling, you can come. This is made for penetrating the front plate of an enemys armor and take him out of the game.
It´s deprived of anything that can add extra weight or get in the way. Has a round end to the lock plate which is some what rare.
Even the trigger is small and without a triggerguard. Is it just me or doesn´t the trigger looks like a small wave...
It has that (dare I say) Kunitomo style octagonal barrel with a cubic front sight mounted on top.
The panhole cover is made from one single piece. That together with the round bisen plug and the overall shape of the stock makes this a Tazuke-school Kunitomo style matchlock. Hope I didn´t mess up the facts here, Piers...
On the underside of the cover you see a number (88). That number is also found inside the stock and on the bisen-plug and was used by the artisans putting this gun together at the final stage.
Being such a big industry I´m really hoping to see a lot of "Kunitomos" under this thread. Who knows, we might even be able to find some typical features.
A Kunitomo. 92,5 cm, barrel 59,5 cm, weight 7 kg. caliber 10 monme.
from Pierce; A good-looking gun, Ogino-Ryu school of gunnery, made in Kunitomo. The smith was Goshu (Ohmi Province east of Lake Biwa) Kunitomo Ju ( = living in), Udayu (Udao?) Noriyasu. He seems to have worked in Kunitomo and in Hizen (Kyushu). A 10-Monme gun by him is listed as having been made in Koka 2 (1846) which for period looks about right for your gun. This gun was made as the Western threat was causing increasing anxiety in Japan.
The stock maker's signature says Kawase Kita (who is listed) but there is a further character below that which I cannot yet read.