Testing a New Sword on a Central Pillar 

from the Righteous Samurai Collection, 1920

by Suga Tatehiko

IHL Cat. #2246


The fifteenth print appearing in Volume 3 of Gishi taikan, edited by Fukumoto Nichinan. 

Pictured is Muramatsu Sandayū Takanao 村松三太夫高直 (1677-1703), one of the Righteous Samurai, sword in hand, with fellow avenger Mimura Jirozaemon 三村次郎左衛門 (1666-1703), testing the sharpness of his sword against a pillar at the sword sharpener's shop in Yanagihara, Kanda in Edo. According to legend, Sandayū brought his beloved sword to be sharpened before the raid on Kira's mansion. In section 180 of Fukumoto's Genroku Kaikyoroku, he notes in the appendix to that section that this story does not appear in Issekiwa 一夕話 [Akō gishi den issekiwa 赤穂 義士 傳 一夕話, written in 1854], a source he often references, but that "some of the stories that happened in Edo are often recognized as true, so I have included them here for the time being."

In the same section of Genroku Kaikyoroku he relates that Sandayū's comrade Mimura Jirozaemon knew of a sword sharpener called Togiya 研屋(とぎや)\who lived in Yanagihara, Kanda and that Sandayū wanted his favorite sword carefully sharpened. Leaving the sword with Takeyo, they returned on December 12, two days before the assassination of Kira, asking if the sword was ready. Applying in the affirmative, Togiya presented it to Sandayū. In looking at the sword they were impressed with its "heavenly sensation" and that the sword reflected light in all directions. Sandayū then asked if he could test the sword against the middle pillar of the shop and receiving Togiya's affirmative response "cut the middle pillar by more than two centimeters." Afterward "the three of them sat in a circle, drinking and chatting, and soon the two guests left Takeya's in a state of utter exultation."

Fukumoto goes on to relate that after the vendetta was successfully carried out Togiya "carefully wrapped the pillar on which Sandayū had inflicted the sword wound with silk and made it a family honor" which people from all around came to see. [1]

[1] all quotations are my translations of Section 180 titled 村松喜兵衛と三太夫 of Fukumoto's Genroku Kaikyoroku. 

Print Details

artist signature and seal

click on image to enlarge

Tribute Preceding Print by

Tsuchiya Hōshū

土屋鳳洲 (1841-1926), Osaka poet

from Volume 3 of Gishi Taikan

image source: The Early Japanese Book Portal Database, Art Research Center AkoRH-R0419-3

click on image to enlarge

Print Commentary from Volume 3 of Gishi Taikan


image source: The Early Japanese Book Portal

Database, Art Research Center AkoRH-R0419-3

Artist Profile

Suga Tatehiko at the age of 64.

image source: Mitsukoshi Osaka, "Gaka hōmon dai-3-kai," Mitsukoshi (July 1942) 

Suga Tatehiko 菅楯彦 (1878-1963)

Suga Tatehiko was born in Tattori prefecture and as a young man moved to Osaka.  His given name was Tōtarō 藤太郎.  He learned Tosa-style painting from his father and studied Japanese and old Chinese literature which strongly influenced his drawing style.  He painted scenes of history and customs in the yamato-e (Japanese pictures) style.  He exhibited at the Nitten and was a member of the Osaka Art Society and won a number of prizes including the Imperial Prize in 1957.

For more information on this artist go to  Suga Tatehiko 菅楯彦 (1878-1963).  

Sources: Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1992, p. 138; A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 165.