Focus on: Myochin Muneakira

03 April 2024

Private collection

Myōchin Muneakira is considered the best skilled armor maker of Japan during the Edo period. At the age of 12, he began his apprenticeship with Munesuke, his uncle, focusing on the complex skill of iron embossing (uchidashi), where Munesuke himself had achieved an exceptional level. Muneakira was originally selected as Munesuke's designated heir and future leader of the Myōchin school,  and was thus legally adopted by him in 1713. At the age of 72, Munesuke managed to father a biological son, which led to the cancellation of the adoption around 1714. Disappointed by this turn of events, Muneakira quickly made up his mind to establish his own workshop, as he had already gained significant fame by that time. In 1722, he was commissioned for a lucrative contract by the damyō of Hiroshima, in Aki province. He stayed there until 1726, when the shogunate, concerned about the future of the Myōchin workshop, instructed Muneakira to go back to Edo to educate Munemasa, the son of Munesuke. Muneakira complied with the order while simultaneously maintaining his employment under the daimyō of Hiroshima and serving his wealthy customers, creating exceptional pieces of art. Muneakira, in fact, produced outstanding masterpieces, making use of the uchidashi technique: by 1730, he had developed his most refined style, distinguished by meticulous craftsmanship and smooth, curved surfaces. Neither his master Munesuke nor his successors were able to replicate this level of achievement.

Metropolitan Museum, New York


Private collection


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