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Monthly Archives: February 2015

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KENKICHI

The top image is an advertisement from the March 18th, 1877, issue of the Yomiuri Shinbun (newspaper) announcing the introduction of the newly invented ‘Yamatotsue’. The 14th headmaster of ‘Jikishinkage-ryū’, Kenkichi Sakakibara (榊原鍵吉, 1830–1894), also known as Kagikichi, was one of the most well-known and deadly swordsmen of his time. An instructor at the Tokugawa Shogunate’s ‘Kobusho’ school, Kenkichi was also the personal bodyguard of the shogun Iemochi. Yet, upon Iemochi’s death in July of 1866, he resigned his post. In 1877, following the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the subsequent Sword Abolishment Edict, the Haitōrei, Kenkichi created the ‘Yamatotsue’. The ‘Yamatotsue’ was an unassuming wooden weapon of about four feet in length that brandished an iron ‘kagi’ (hook), like the smaller policing weapon, the ‘jutte’. Upon receiving permission from the Meiji government, the ‘Yamatotsue’ was put into mass production by Kenkichi as a new tool that could be carried by, not just the remaining samurai population of Japanese society, but also the masses. Kenkichi taught samurai how to wield the unimposing ‘Yamatotsue’ based on the ‘gekken’ sword-fighting methods he was renowned for. For the average citizen of Meiji-era Japan, the ‘Yamatotsue’ was touted as a very practical tool for walking, carrying heavy loads, locking Japanese screen doors, aiding in duties as a bouncer, and defending oneself from not just ruffians, but also small house fires as well.