Kunitomo Gun Museum

Kunitomo Gun Museum

Ōmi was home to a revolution in military affairs based in Kunitomo

place Area: Nagahama access_time Published: 2020.12.03

Name in Japanese: 国友鉄砲ミュージアム
Pronunciation: kunitomo teppō myūjiamu

Kunitomo in Nagahama is a town long known for its blacksmithing. In 1543, a Portuguese arrived at Tanegashima in Nagasaki on a Chinese ship with a matchlock gun. It was taken to the Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiharu for inspection. Yoshiharu ordered the blacksmiths of Kunitomo to start manufacturing similar guns.

Oda Nobunaga was the first commander to use muskets systematically, from the Battle of Anegawa onwards. The victor of Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered Kunitomo to produce medium and large guns for his assault on Ōsaka Castle, where his enemy from Ōmi, Yodo-dono was resisting his authority. During the Edo period, there were around seventy blacksmiths employing two-hundred and fifty musket makers in Kunitomo working for the Shogunate.

The production of matchlock muskets involved a division of labour between craftsmen who worked separately on the barrels, the screws that closed the barrel at one end, the trigger mechanisms, and the wooden stocks.

One of the celebrated people of this area was Kunitomo Ikkansai, a scientist and inventor who lived from 1778 to 1840. The ninth generation of a family of gunmakers, he was ordered to create a manual of gun manufacture to enable the Shogunate to standardise gun making in response to internal and foreign threats. In addition to completing this task, Ikkansai also made radical improvements to foreign designs for an airgun and telescope. With the telescope, he made several pioneering astronomical observations. His house still stands not far from the museum, in the pretty main street of Kunitomo.

The museum has many examples of different sizes and types of guns. Exhibits including videos and dioramas explain how the guns were made. Ikkansai’s scientific initiatives are also covered, and some of his inventions are on display.

You can buy various souvenirs featuring the logo of a samurai firing a Kunitomo gun.

Exploring the Odani Castle site, combined with visits to the Azai Folklore Museum, the Odani Castle Sengoku Historical Museum, and the Kunitomo Gun Museum makes a rewarding day out.