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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.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing the advertisement for the Yamatozue. My teacher in Japan Mr. Kondo has several originals he inherited. I am a Daito-ryu student and the founder, Takeda Sokaku, was a student of Sakakibara sensei so I’m sure he must have picked them up from him and passed them down to present. They seem like a clumsy weapon. I also study Jikishinkage-ryu but nothing has survived for the weapon in the ryu. An interesting footnote in Meiji era budo.
    Cheers
    Chris

    • Hi Chris, yes, it seems like such an interesting weapon. I would love to see an original. Good to make your acquaintance!

      Best Regards,
      BRANDON ALVAREZ


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