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The Heritage of the Prestigious Miyairi Family, a 100-Year Legacy of Japanese Swordsmithing

The Miyairi Family is renowned as a prestigious lineage of Japanese swordsmiths. This document introduces their 100-year history.

The Geniuses Born into the Miyairi Family

The story begins in Sakaki Town, Hanishina District, Nagano Prefecture, the hometown of the Sengoku period warlord Murakami Yoshikiyo and known as a “town of swordsmiths.” The ancestors of the Miyairi family have been blacksmiths in this area for generations.

In 1913, Akihira Miyairi (born Kenichi, later changed his swordsmith name to Yukihira), who would later become a Living National Treasure, was born as the eldest son in the Miyairi family.

In 1924, his brother Kiyohira Miyairi (born Eizo, later changed his swordsmith name to Kiyomune), who would later become the father of Norihiro Miyairi, was born.

As a young man, Akihira moved to Tokyo in his 20s to study sword forging at the Japanese Sword Training Institute. In 1940, he won the President’s Award at the New Work Japanese Sword Exhibition.
During the war, he was designated as a swordsmith for the Imperial Japanese Army, and returned to Sakaki to forge swords with his brother Kiyohira.

However, with the end of World War II in 1945, the GHQ banned the creation of swords in Japan. Consequently, the Miyairi brothers were forced to move to Tateshina Town and live as rural blacksmiths, making agricultural tools.

In 1950, upon a request from the Japanese Art Sword Preservation Association, they crafted a dedication sword for the ceremony of the Ise Jingu Shrine relocation.

This event reignited their passion for sword making. In 1953, the production of art swords was finally permitted again, and Akihira won a special prize at the 1st Art Review organized by the Japanese Art Sword Preservation Association in 1955, an honor he received for four consecutive years.

Meanwhile, his brother Kiyohira married just before turning 30 and became an independent rural blacksmith in Tateshina. In 1956, his son Norihiro Miyairi, who would later be known as a maverick genius of the Miyairi Family, was born. The following year, Akihira’s son, Kozaemon Yukihira (born Kei), was born; he too would follow the path of the sword after many twists and turns.

Akihira, who was skilled in the Sōshū-den tradition of the Kamakura period, continued to be active as a swordsmith and was designated a Living National Treasure at the age of 50 in 1963. However, he struggled with his sword making and changed his name to Yukihira in his 60s, but passed away in 1977 at the age of 64.

Kiyohira, who had learned sword forging from his brother since his teens, returned to Sakaki in 1967 to pursue sword making, winning various awards such as the Mainichi Newspapers Award and the Nagano Prefecture Award for Art and Culture. He was designated an intangible cultural asset of Sakaki Town.

In 1983, Norihiro, who had studied for five years under the Living National Treasure Masamine Sumitani, became a direct apprentice of his father Kiyohira to learn the Sōshū-den tradition from scratch. Just 12 years later, Norihiro was recognized as an uncertified swordsmith at the New Excellent Swords Exhibition.

Kiyohira changed his name to Kiyomune in his later years and continued to support the prestigious Miyairi Family until his death in 2003 at the age of 79.

Norihiro, possessing transcendent skills, won the Masamune Prize at the New Excellent Swords Exhibition in 2010 and has been active as a unique genius of the Miyairi Family, including taking on the restoration of national treasures.