At the age of 25, Matsunaga sensei approached a local swordsmith, Kawamura Kiyoshi, with a request to become his apprentice. Initially, the smith was reluctant to accept any students but agreed to let the young man watch him whilst he worked. Matsunaga sensei seized this opportunity and was soon waiting, complete with packed lunch, for the forge to open every morning and wouldn’t leave until it closed in the evening each day. Impressed by Matsunaga sensei’s perseverance, the smith eventually invited him to carry out some menial tasks in his workshop. Before long, Matsunaga sensei’s duties in the forge grew and his five-year apprenticeship began.
From the conclusion of his apprenticeship, Matsunaga sensei, under the smith name of Kiyotsugu, has been producing blades which have regularly been awarded prizes at the annual national competitions. It has been suggested that he would achieve even greater success if he were to produce art swords by following the vogue for highly prominent hamon (temper lines) and other aesthetic ideals. However, Matsunaga sensei believes that each of his swords should be capable of cutting well and last for at least 1,000 years. Hence, succumbing to the fad for visually pleasing blades and winning competitions is not his main concern.
The quality of Matsunaga sensei’s swords and his high level of skill have brought him many awards and honours. His latest, and perhaps most prominent, achievement was when he received the Kumamoto Prefecture Cultural Award (Kumamoto Kenmin Bunka Sho). At the age of 61, Matsunaga sensei was considered to be younger than is usual for such an honour.
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