By Houki Yasutsuna
Heian period/10-12th century
Tokyo National Museum
The number of extant works by the swordsmith Yasutsuna is comparatively large. Yasutsuna lived in Hôki (present-day western Tottori Prefecture) during the Heian period (794-1185). The Edo-period (1615-1868) sword manual Kyôhô Era Handbook of Famous Works (J. Kyôhô meibutsuchô) records the legend that this sword was used by the great warrior Minamoto Yorimitsu to bring down the monstrous Shuten Dôji of Mt. Ôe in Tanba, thus earning the epithet of "Dôji-slaying Yasutsuna" (J. Dôjigiri Yasutsuna). The legend of the Shuten Dôji-either a demon or a highwayman-is thought to date to the Muromachi period (1392-1573).
Warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536?-1598) and shoguns Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) and Tokugawa Hidetada (1579-1632) all owned this sword. It was later bequeathed to Matsudaira Tadachika (1661-1728), the lord of Echizen (present-day Okayama), and then kept in the Matsudaira family of the Tsuyama region (modern northeastern Okayama).