Matchlock Gun from Japan

Step 5 of 7

... to the warrior Horio Yoshiharu

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Just like the gift giver, the receiver of this gun is also indicated by an inscription on the barrel: this was the warrior lord Horio Yoshiharu 堀尾 吉晴 (1542- 1611). Horio Yoshiharu was a warrior of humble origins who served alongside Toyotomi Hideyoshi from 1573 after he had come to his attention while hunting a giant boar. As he rose through the ranks, he earned the reputation of being one of Hideyoshi’s best officers, and is remembered for becoming the first leader of the Matsue clan.

On the gun, Horio Yoshiharu’s name is indicated as Horio Taito 堀尾帯刀, and is accompanied by a combination of characters which indicate his estates: 雲 un, standing for the area of lzumi, 隠 in, standing for the Oki-islands, and 城 jo, indicating his castle. From these sprang his title Un’in-jōshu 雲隠城主, with the added shu 主 meaning governor of, or lord of.

Unlike many inscriptions found on Japanese guns, it is believed that these are trustworthy when it comes to telling the history of the gun. However, it is also believed that they were not applied at the time of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s gifting, but rather that it was done later as a way to record the provenance of the gun.

Through these inscriptions, the gun tells the story of two great warriors, embodying their political, and perhaps personal, relationship.