This sword is our tribute to one of the most feared, respected and ruthless of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s generals, Kato Kiyomasa. General Kato Kiyomasa was known as a ferocious and ruthless fighter, a true warrior; so intense that he was called “Kishokan” or “Devil General”. He was the son of a blacksmith, born near Nagoya. Kiyomasa first rose to prominence thanks to his accomplishments fighting for Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the Battle of Shizugatake (1583), and became known as one of the “Seven Spears of Shizugatake”.
Kiyomasa played a large role in Hideyoshi’s invasions of Korea (1592-1598), commanding one of two vanguard divisions. The invasion later stagnated due to Korean naval campaigns and Chinese intervention. The Japanese settled in and built many forts and castles to solidify their position. Kiyomasa designed and oversaw the construction of several, skills he would later use to greatly expand Kumamoto Castle to the form we know now. During the war, he apparently hunted tigers for sport, using a spear, and later presented the pelts to Hideyoshi.
The design of the tsuba features Kato Kiyomasa hunting a tiger in a bamboo grove. The fuchi shows a yumi and yanone (Japanese bow and arrows). One of the menuki shows a spear and a kabuto (helmet), and a naginata and part of an armor on the other. The kashira shows a kabuto and a saihai (baton carried by samurai commanders in feudal Japan, a sign of rank and signal device).
Below is an ukiyo-e (woodblock print) of Kato Kiyomasa hunting tigers.