TSUBA COLLECTIVE & GAKKO
The tsuba collective shown is the result of collaboration between, The dispersal of a collection, especially when of such a comprehensive nature as the present one, is always attended by regrets at the breaking up of the ensemble brought together piece by piece and lovingly cared for during many years of collecting. Yet it has a redeeming feature in the opportunity that each piece is being offered to others, equally fervent in their love of the beautiful, to study, compare, and acquire specimens for their own collection, to be equally cared for and preserved, to pass on, in the course of years, into the hands of other devotees, or perchance to find an ultimate resting place in some museum.
and the description of each tsuba is the opinion of
Robert E. Haynes and Elliott D. Long.
To the mind of a true collector, the latter fate appears the least desirable, and doubtless the artist, the craftsman, would, if their voices could be heard from the grave, prefer the fruit of their labors to be cared for by "amateurs," handled and discussed by students, worshipped by connoisseurs ready to expatiate on the beauties of the design or the perfection of the work, rather than it be shown one side at a time, often in bad light, in the glass cases of a museum.
To those who collect from the point of view of workmanship, the period is immaterial, and the Japanese themselves attach more importance to good work than to a date. The following descriptions of tsubako, kinko and schools is not intended for the older collectors who have studied sword furniture; it has been written rather for those who have not yet gone deeply into the subject, and is purposely general in its treatment, it being our purpose here merely to give a survey of history and technique.
The dispersal of a collection, especially when of such a comprehensive nature as the present one, is always attended by regrets at the breaking up of the ensemble brought together piece by piece and lovingly cared for during many years of collecting. Yet it has a redeeming feature in the opportunity that each piece is being offered to others, equally fervent in their love of the beautiful, to study, compare, and acquire specimens for their own collection, to be equally cared for and preserved, to pass on, in the course of years, into the hands of other devotees, or perchance to find an ultimate resting place in some museum.
It is important to understand the concept of the Tsuba, as well as its development in form and function. The Tsuba is counterbalance to the Sword Blade in many levels of understanding. The Sword Blade is aggressive, destructive, offensive in purpose. It is used for attack and destruction. It is masculine and active in principle -- pure YANG.
The Tsuba, its counterpart, is defensive, protective, ornamental; its function is to guard and preserve and is feminine in concept and execution -- pure YIN.
Once you grasp this essential difference, you will find that the true beauty of fine Tsuba will have a new value and your appreciation will be greatly enhanced. Once you understand that the Yang and the Yin are essential parts of the whole, you cannot see a Sword Blade without visualizing the perfect Tsuba to compliment it -- nor can you appreciate a great Tsuba without mentally equating a fine Blade that would compliment the Tsuba.
The two become one, and that is ZEN.
That the Japanese arts should possess both utility and beauty is one of their greatest achievements. The tsuba, one of the earliest parts of the Japanese sword, was originally almost purely utilitarian, being the instrument that protected the fist from the opponent’s blade, sliding after a parry. Even at this early stage of its development, the simple craftsmanship possessed great aesthetic qualities. The tsuba was developed from its earliest stages in the dolman age as an independent branch of the sword art. The multiple aspects are quite remarkable in themselves. The tempering of the iron or other metals, the shape, the rim, the web or plate, and the carving or decoration must be studied for their artistry and skill to assess the aesthetic quality of the tsuba.
The professional tsuba makers were derived primarily from the blacksmiths, helmet makers, gunsmiths, early sword ornament makers, mirror makers and related metal artisans. They were not primarily concerned with the making of seemingly beautiful tsuba, they devoted their energies to the making of essentially utilitarian works. Despite the utilitarian aspects of these types of tsuba they have fundamental artistic value that should not be overlooked. Therefore, it is essential that we understand the basic aesthetic fundamentals, but to do this one should have knowledge of other ancient Japanese arts, especially sword blade making, helmet making, mirror making, as well as sculpture and painting.
It has been seven years since being a student of tsuba that I now have a pre-eminent authority as my mentor, through the books and guidance of Robert E. Haynes. With the continuation of study, research, and re-appraisal, the student can now advance his knowledge to a higher level. It is now possible for a greater bond to be formed, giving all students equal exchange of ideas, theories, and information. The re-evaluation of old ideas, the new research; which has proved and disproved old theories, is now common knowledge.
The analytical research needed to fully understand this subject has been applied by only the last three generations. Mr. Akiyama Kyusaku adopted an organized research method toward the end of the 19th century. Carrying forward this study was his last student, Dr. Kazutare Torigoye. Dr. Torigoye refined and re-appraised the research of his teacher in light of a lifetime of study. Finally, in 1961, Robert E. Haynes had the great privilege of being Dr. Torigoye’s student at his home in Okayama, Japan. It is possible under the guiding hand of a great teacher to learn the basic principles, which would take years of unassisted self study. In the area of judgment alone the teacher and student relationship is vital to a comprehensive knowledge of the basic fundamental value of the tsuba. I can only hope that with my continued visits with Robert E. Haynes and the information he is passing on, my knowledge of the tsuba will prosper.
The study of the tsuba, as an art form, and in historical context, is not an easy one. It is now the initial stage of this study, though as an art form it has existed for over two thousand years. There is a great deal more to be learned in the future than has been discovered in the past. It is this chance of discovery that makes this study so tremendous. But appreciation of the tsuba need not be solely on a scholastic level. As a pure art form, unsupported by intellectual props, it can very well stand alone. The spectator with only casual knowledge will find almost as much enjoyment as the student who delves into this study to the fullest extent of his ability. The apparent beauty of much of the artistic work needs little explanation. Beyond this level is a second area of appreciation – with which this endeavor attempts to achieve; giving the collector needed points of judgment that will greatly increase his awareness of the underlying beauty that it overshadows the obvious surface beauty and is in essence the primary artistic value of the tsuba.
I will close with a most sincere welcome to all students of the tsuba, and I hope they may find some small benefit to their scholastic understanding of tsuba through this chapter of my website.
The art of the tsuba was developed as an independent branch of the sword art. Considering the great interest that tsuba has engendered through my collecting since 2004, it is of interest that the most reliable literature was produced in the 20th century. The following books have been my recent textbooks for scholastic and perceptive understanding along with the periodic studies with Robert E. Haynes.
TSUBA, An Aesthetic Study by Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye and Robert E. Haynes.
ROBERT HAYNES AUCTION CATALOG's by Robert Haynes, LTD.
Hompo Soken Kinko Ryakushi (A Brief History of Japanese Sword Fittings Artisans) by Wada Tsunashiro.
The Index of Japanese Sword Fittings and Associated Artists by Robert E. Haynes.
Tsuba Kanshoki by Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye.
Japanese Sword-Mounts In the Collection of the Field Museum by Helen C. Gunsaulus.
Additional References Noted Below.
SUKASHI TSUBA ARTICLE.
from TOSO SORAN by Dr. Torigoye
GO TO TSUBA GROUP --> AKAO ~ BUSHU/CHOSHU ~ GOTO ~ HAMANO ~ HEIANJO/SHOAMI ~ HIGO ~ HOAN ~ KAGA ~ KAMAKURA ~ KANEIYE ~ KENJO ~ KINAI ~ KO-KINKO ~ MINO ~ MUCADE ~ MYOCHIN ~ NAMBAN ~ NARA ~ NOBUIYE ~ SADO ISLAND ~ SAOTOME - TEMBO ~ SENDAI ~ SHOAMI ~ SHOKOKU ~ SOTEN ~ SUKASHI ~ TACHI KANAGUSHI ~ TANKO ~ EDO TOSHO ~ UMETADA ~ YOKOYA ~ UNDERSTUDY
NARA, HEIAN, KAMAKURA - JIDAI (645 to 1336)
- Robert Haynes has proposed the term "Tanko" for these early iron tsuba. He sites Joly's manuscript translation of the 1913 publication 'Hompo Soken Kinko Ryakushi' by Wada Tsunashiro. Included there is a line "The tsuba makers are tanko". (Nelson's kanji 4895:1451) This compound basically means metalworker, and seems quite appropriate.
From the Meiji and Tensho eras (1868-1926) into the beginning of the Showa era (1926-1935) Ko-Katchu-shi tsuba were already properly evaluated by those who appreciated them; however, there were few who had much interest in Ko-Tosho tsuba. Even among early tsuba, they had come to be seen as trifling. However, recently, perhaps from an appreciation point of view, opinions have changed and the fact that the true value of Ko-Tosho seems to have been recognized is greatly heartening.
There are the Ko-Tosho,
Ko-Katchu-shi, Onin and
Kamakura type tsuba, and although from the viewpoint
of designation, there is no term for the Ko-Katchu-shi style ita-tsuba that have lively negative silhouette piercings (mon-sukashi), an
entire surface that has been worked with a punch in nanako
style and works that give an impression that is not particularly high, due to
the number of these shared features, I believe they are in the same group.
Excluding the exceptions, the standard Ko-Katchu-shi
works are large sized with a height of around three sun.
The construction is thin and the negative silhouette designs closely resemble
those of the other types. Because of the large size of these tsuba, we can deduce that they were put on uchigatana
with blade lengths of around three shaku. It is
probable that the thin construction and piercings were to keep the weight of
these tsuba down. In addition, when we
take the period into consideration, there were the warriors who
wore koshigatana or short uchigatana
fitted out as tachi. Thus, it is probable that Ko-Katchu-shi tsuba were used on
the uchigatana of those who were on foot, such as ashigaru, who were a social class that could not wear tachi. I think that when a warrior on foot challenged a
mounted warrior it would be necessary to have a sword of such a long length.
The period from which such individuals participated in warfare was after the
Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281 during the later half of the
uchigatana of this class of individuals from the Heian period (794-1185) to the middle
concerning the latest limit for these tsuba, during
the twelfth year of Tenbun (1543) guns were
Ko-Tosho tsuba, which are
from about eight hundred and fifty years ago, and Ko-Katchu-shi,
which are from about four hundred and fifty years ago, occupy a period of
history which I believe arouses great interest. Beginning with the great
simplicity of the Ko-Tosho tsuba,
the KoKatchu-shi and then the
I believe that those tsuba that are called Ko-Tosho are not entirely all made by swordsmiths.
Moreover, I think we can say the same thing about Ko-Katchu-shi
tsuba. Nonetheless, the sensation one receives from
these works and the feelings invoked by the terms Ko-Tosho
and Ko-Katchu-shi are absolutely convincing, such is
their persuasive power. As for the use
of "old" (ko ),
I believe that there are a few Ko-Tosho and Ko-Katchu-shi tsuba that have original hitsu-ana (ubu-hitsu-ana). This is linked to the kozuka and kogai that existed during this same period. However, regarding this, I will just conclude that I am convinced such ubu-hitsu-ana exist. Even with ubu-hitsu-ana, there is the balance of the negative silhouette piercings as well as cases where the filling in of the space entirely enhances the piece. I believe this has to be tolerated through an appreciative sense. There is an opinion that Ko-Tosho and Ko-Katchu-shi tsuba were mounted on nagamaki. However, even if there are exceptions, because of the arrangement of the negative silhouette piercings, they are said to have been mounted on uchigatana.
(Above translated from Sasano Asayuki's "Ko-Tosho • Ko-Katchu-shi Tsuba" in the Shoyu -kai's "Tosogu Yuhin Zufu" series)(NCJSC)
The Tosho and Katchushi tsuba are linked together in their history, though the Tosho tsuba was of slightly later development. The most important feature to distinguish the Tosho from the Katchushi tsuba is their different method of folding the plate. The Tosho smith turned and hammered his bar of iron several times to achieve his plate. The Katchushi maker followed the same procedure, but after forging the plate the Katchushi would give his plate one or two additional folds. In the single fold the plate was doubled and the weld hammered fast. In the double fold an S curve was formed, hammered flat and welded shut. In the Katchushi tsuba it is possible to see the edges where this final weld joins. It will usually be visible on the web of the plate either near the edge or toward the center of the plate. In the best work this weld is visible as a hair-line or not at all. It is also visible on the walls of any perforations in the Katchushi tsuba. They will appear as fine lines dividing the wall of the perforation into two or three sections, depending on the number of times the plate was folded.
In early Tosho tsuba the designs most commonly found are very simple, such as the sun, moon and stars, or tools. In early Katchushi tsuba the designs are more complex, the most common being animals, plants and flowers. Generally, the Katchushi tsuba is more skillful in most respects than the Tosho tsuba. Surprisingly the quality of the iron is superior in the Katchushi tsuba. Their work is not as naive nor as rough as that of the sword smith.
(from the "Tsuba Geijutso Ko" by Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye)
Read more about the Manufacture, Function and Material of Early Iron Tsuba. This article written by Boris Markhasin of Yamabushi Antiques.
MUROMACHI - JIDAI (1336 to 1568)
The Myochin was a renowned family of armorsmiths from the days of its founder Munesuke in the 12th century. Little is known of their sword guards, though they must have engaged in this branch of the art. In reality the Myochin did not begin to make tsuba until the middle of the Muromachi age when Takayoshi appeared. Guard-making became the special business of the Myochin, and the method of decoration adopted was either to impart to the outline of the guard some quaint shape, or to weld it in such a manner that the surface presented the appearance of wood graining, or to decorate it with pierced or openwork designs. The wood-grain (mokume) surface must be classed among the remarkable achievements of the Japanese armourer. It seems impossible to determine when this display of strength, skill, and ingenuity had its origin. The oldest examples of it spoken of by Japanese connoisseurs are from the hands of Miyochin Munesuke, who worked from 1154 to 1185 A.D. Munesuke is generally regarded as the founder of the great Myochin family of armourers. He was, in fact, the 20th representative, the founder having been Munemichi, who flourished in the 7th century. But Munesuke stands so far above all his predecessors that he justly deserves to be called the father of Japanese armourers. He is the 1st of the Judai, or ten great generations of Myochin experts, ending with Muneyasu in 1380. Many of his iron guards are fine examples of the 'mokume-ji', or wood-grain forging. Munesuke marked these guards 'Shinto gotetsu-ren' or "five-times-forged iron of the sacred way" and it may be added that the ideographs used in his inscriptions for guards are of the kind called 'kabuto-ji' or "helmet characters", that is to say, the grass script (sosho) with curled strokes; an ornamental style of writing always employed in marking helmets. From the time of Munesuke down to the Edo era the production of wood-grain effects has been among the remarkable achievements of Japanese workers. The Myochin master used iron only. As to guards having designs chiselled in 'sukashi-bori', it is generally believed that up to the close of the 15th century they were more or less roughly executed.
Some connoisseurs claim that Myochin Nobuiye, who worked during the early part of the 16th century, was the first to carry this method of decoration to a point of really high excellence. Nobuiye was third of the Myochin family, or "Three Later Masters", of the Myochin family, and it is scarcely credible that his two immediate predecessors, Yoshimichi (1530) and Takayoshi (1490), the other two of the renowned trio, can haved failed to produce fine guards in the sukashi style. All of the guards of the Myochin experts, from Munesuke to Nobuiye, are slightly rough to the touch, though they present the appearance of finely finished work. This peculiarity, called by the Japanese 'moyashi' (fermentation), is the result of the patina-producing process. It need scarcely be said that the patina was a point of the greatest importance. The most prized variety had the color of the azuki bean, or dark mahogany.
PRIOR TO ASHIKAGA: Amongst the armor makers was Munesuke (1190-1198) who originated the Myochin School and became the founder of that family which existed until the last days of the Tokugawa. The oldest tsuba in existence are made by them, but most of them are later than the 7th Myochin. There is a tsuba with a dragonfly in sukashi which is unsigned but is attributed to Muneyasu.
ASHIKAGA PERIOD: Myochin School; After the Jo Judai there were three people: Takayoshi (14th master); Yoshimichi (16th master); and Nobuiye (17th master) who were known as the "Three Masters". With tsuba, many are signed Nobuiye and almost none by Yoshimichi and of those with the Takayoshi signature only one is known. Many of Nobuiye's are different from those of the armor makers; the shape is generally mokko and they are thick, so that you can see a change in style in the work of katchushi mono.
MOMOYAMA: The katchushi in this period were the Myochin, Haruta, Horai, and Saotome Schools. In general they gave up their armor makers style; some of them imitated Nobuiye but remained inferior to him. The Horai School worked in Kaga and their oldest work is dated 1585 and is signed Horai Munenaga. The specimens are very thick ita tsuba with simple perforations.
TOKUGAWA PERIOD: Myochin School; In this school the manufacture of tsuba was increased in this period. The work of the 22nd generation, Munesuke (1688-1704), exists in larger quantities than those of the other people which, when compared with others, show large differences. They became very thick and small, roughly forged, with figures in high relief, and many of these have mokume ji in iron. The other Myochin School workers scattered throughout the provinces also changed their style.
'MYOCHIN OSUMINOKAMI' $1500.00
"Iron mokko mokume plate with inlay of a wasp in high relief of copper and silver. With kiri leaves and vines in gold and shakudo. At the bottom of the plate is an inome (heart shape) sukashi now filled with shakudo. The reverse has three kiri leaves and vines in shakudo and gold. The kogai hitsu-ana is filled with shakudo." (Haynes)
7.70cm x 7.20cm x 0.40cm
KYO-SUKASHI, HEIANJO SUKASHI
KYO-SUKASHI & HEIANJO SUKASHI Tsuba:
It is said by tradition that the sukashi tsuba was invented in the middle Muromachi age at the time of the Yoshinori Shogunate (1428-1441). This idea was suported by Akiyama, Wada Tsunashiro and others. However, the work of the Kyo-sukashi and Heianjo sukashi schools was not this early. They seem to have originated in the Eisho era (1504-1520). The work produced in this gap of time has not been found as yet. The tsuba that Akiyama used as his example of the earliest Kyo-sukashi tsuba, made in the middle Muromachi age, in reality is not as old as he had thought. It is most certainly an example of the first period of Kyo-sukashi tsuba. It must be concluded that the first period of the Kyo-sukashi tsuba is from the late Muromachi to the early Momoyama age.
The Heianjo sukashi tsuba, though made at the same time as the first period Kyo-sukashi work, is slightly different in style but the two schools might be confused in some cases. There is undoubtedly some relationship between them but what it might be is not known. The openwork of both schools is complex and by the Edo age, the two styles had merged until it is impossible to distinguish the work of one school from the other.
Naturally the Heianjo sukashi school is closely related to the Heianjo zogan school. In fact, it would seem that the same artists produced either style interchangeably. From this fact it can be seen that a separation of the work in these two styles can be made only on the basis of the tsuba alone. In the second period of these two schools it is almost impossible to say which school might have made a given piece. In many cases it would seem that artists of both schools worked on a single tsuba, each restricted to his speciality; Kyo-sukashi the plate and Heianjo the inlay decoration. For this reason the brass inlaid tsuba of this group are all called Heianjo work and the openwork pieces are all called Kyo-sukashi regardless of who might have made them.
The Goto School (Main Family) began with Yujo as shodai and ended in the Meiji era with Tenjo, the 17th generation. When the main Goto family was recognized as hereditary kinko of great importance, all other kinko became their subordinate preparers and made nothing independently. Amongst them however, about 1615-1643, two groups branched off establishing their own schools, namely Nara and Yokoya schools. Since then the Goto family work has been called IEBORI and the rest collectively called MACHIBORI. The difference between the Machibori and the Iebori is that the machibori: 1) exhibit realism, namely efu design work and 2) the takabori is carved directly on the ground metal. The main Goto family continued from Eisho (1504-1520) to Meiji (1886-1912) encompassing seventeen continuous generations. There were also numerous branch families scattered about the country, most of the branch families are in Kyoto but many went to Kaga.
'GOTO SHUNGO' $900.00
Shoami is a name you will hear and read about, and you will not give it much thought – but you should, from the point of view of there having once been a very large number of them, with a subsequently very large output. The main problem about identifying older examples of Shoami work is that it would seem that no contemporary physical records of their ‘organisation’ exists today. This is not to say that it is impossible to ascribe a School to a Shoami tsuba that you may find – far from it. Later Edo works of Shoami tsubashi are all too well known to tsuba collectors simply because there were so many workers in very many places in Japan who followed the established traditions of Shoami. This makes it possible to find Shoami tsuba everywhere you go, if you can read the signs, but it has to be admitted that, with some remarkable exceptions, late Edo works are a change of what the School began to produce in the late Muromachi period.
The first tsuba of the Ko-Shoami type appear in the late Muromachi age. From that time to the end of the Momoyama age constitutes the period in which tsuba of the Ko-Shoami type were produced. Since this term means "old Shoami it simply refers to the beginning of the Edo age. In the Edo age this school is simply called Shoami. There do not seem to be any signed examples of Ko-Shoami tsuba. In contrast to this, the majority of the Shoami tsuba made in the Edo age are signed. The reason why this school did not sign in its early stages can only be surmised.
There are diverse opinions concerning the origin of the Ko-Shoami style. Some say it was derived from the Onin school. Others say it came from the Heianjo school. Both of these ideas would seem to be invalid. The forging, edge, web, and hammering point to the origin of the Ko-Shoami in the katchushi workers of the Muromachi age. The ability of the Ko-Shoami exceeds that of either the Onin or Heianjo workers of that period. This ability in forging a good plate would not have been possible unless this school had been a group of katchushi workers who took to decorating their plate with inlay work. Near the end of the Momoyama age the Ko-Shoami school split into several groups. Each group moved to a different area. After settling in the new area they started independent schools with their own characteristics, not necessarily depending on the style of the Ko-Shoami for their basis. Naturally the decorative style will be seen in the early examples of these divergent schools, much as it was in the Ko-Shoami period. These provincial branches of the main school were to greatly influence the style of the native artist in each area. To some extent the style that developed in each branch school was to have characteristics that distinguish it from one another. During the Edo age the size and power of the many Shoami schools was to grow until by the end of that period it was the largest family group of all the tsuba workers.
The outstanding capabilities of the Ko-Shoami workers will be seen in their subtile designs, good shape, fine tempering, and strong forging. The graceful appearance of their designs shows the sophistication of the capital where they worked. There is harmonious beauty between the fine inlay and the quiet plate metal. The Ko-Shoami nunome inlay shows the finest skill in this technique of any group. They secured the nunome to very strong cross-hatching, using sheets of metal a little thicker than those of the nunome inlay of the Edo age. Even though the Ko-Shoami inlay is earlier than the majority of the nunome work, it is often in far better condition. In the Edo age the Shoami were often not as skilful in applying their nunome and it has been wholly or partially destroyed through their ineptitude. In most cases the Ko-Shoami tsuba will be in better condition than the Shoami tsuba made a hundred years later.
From the end of the Muromachi age, to the begining of the Edo age we have the decline of the tosho and Katchushi schools, the last of the Owari sukashi, and the origin of the Bushu, Higo, and Akasaka schools; but the largest and most powerful of all was the Shoami school. The majority of the Shoami workers had moved to provincial areas but a few stayed on in the capital, as the descendants of the Ko-Shoami; these artists were the Kyo-Shoami workers of the Edo age.
The early Edo age was the greatest period for the Shoami and the Kyo-Shoami surpassed all their provincial relatives. Their designs were richer,more detailed, and far more sophisticated than the other schools who worked in iron plate. They begin to sign their work in some cases, and their fame grew throughout the country for their elegant style and superior craftsmanship. This glory was to last until the Kyoho era (1716-1735), when such schools as Higo, Akasaka, and the kinko surpassed the Kyo-Shoami in the race to opulence and dominated the field. For the rest of the Edo age the Kyo-Shoami show a steady decline to the point where their work in its last stages bears hardly any resemblance to its renowned style of two hundred years previous.
From recent information and a study of the actual tsuba it is clear that there are two styles of Awa Shoami tsuba. One is inlaid decoration in gold and silver nunome on a brass plate. The designs are flowers, birds, fretwork and scroll work. These are usually in geometric patterns. Some carving of lions, flowers, and other objects will be found. The second style is iron plate usually with fan shaped or diamond shaped plates of soft metal inlaid on the surface. These inlays are decorated with gold and silver nunome or carving. The designs are flowers and landscapes. In some cases suemon zogan is used instead of carving. The inside surface of the carved lines may be covered with nunome inlay. Those Awa tsuba of iron plate are of later workmanship than those of brass plate. The first style is not as common as this second style. Those of iron plate were probably made at the time of the fifth generation and after.
This family of artists was regarded highly by Lord Ikeda of Bizen Province. For their services they were given an allowance from the castle stores. From the provincal records and those of the Ikeda family, the history of the Bizen Shoami school is very well annotated. These records are in good order and reveal a wealth of information heretofore unknown to the authors of the past. The style of the Bizen Shoami school is rich in its decorative quality. The designs are naive but very tasteful. It has a resemblance to the Kyo-Shoami tsuba of the same period but it is not as delicate nor sophisticated as the work of the capital. The subjects of the designs are more applicable to the countryside, having a strong and bold quality. The majority of the subjects of the designs are of openwork in ubuzukashi style. They are decorated with nunome and/or iroe inlay.
One hears that the Iyo-Shoami school existed from very early times. They are thought to have struggled with the Kyo-Shoami workers for leadership of the Shoami family. There does not seem to be any documentation to support the idea that the Iyo-Shoami school is older than any other branch school. It is more likely that it was formed at the same time as the other schools that were dispersed to the provinces. If any branch school may be considered anterior to the others it would have to be the Kyo-Shoami school, for they were the direct descendants of the Ko-Shoami and remained at the capital. All other Shoami schools were formed slightly later than the Kyo-Shoami in the early Edo age. The majority of work of the Iyo-Shoami school is in low relief carving, line carving, flat inlay, large areas of raised inlay, or mixed inlay. The common characteristic of most Shoami schools, i.e. nunome inlay, is rarely found in the work of this school. In essence the style is simple, naive and has a country feeling. Nevertheless, it is not without interest.
There are numerous opinions to explain the origin of the Aizu-Shoami school. The most logical of these theories was the one put forward by the late Nagaoka Tsuneki, author of the Shonai Kinko no Kenkyu. In this kenkyu, Nagaoka stated that Jirohachi was the founder of the Aizu Shoami school. There does not seem to be any tsuba by Jirohachi bearing his place of residence. In fact, we are not sure that he ever worked in Aizu. He seems to have been an independant artist without apprentices who might have carried on the style of his school in the Aizu area. Thus we cannot state for certain the origin of this school, for there do not seem to be enough facts to tell us anything of the early period of the Aizu Shoami. By the Genroku era and after, the style was a combination of Shoami and later Umetada school styles.
Aizu Shoami tsuba mostly have an iron ji, and kinko works are very rare. The shinmaru gata (true circle) shape is encountered regularly. Most round tsuba are a bit taller than they are wide. Both hitsu-ana are often shaped like kogai-hitsu as opposed to the standard kozuka kogai configuration. A motif showing a person or thematic object with a natural landscape in the background is common. Motifs such as a bird or a group of birds, an animal or animals, or insects, are also often seen. The bottom right section will contain the main design carved in takabori and/or detailed with nunome or inlay work, while the upper left section area is carved with comparatively less detail - moresoft and suggestive. This effect implies visual distance, draws our eye to the main section of the work and gives the illusion of depth to the overall design. It is common to see some details in gold nunome as with all Shoami works. Also, often small design elements such as foliage, branches, etc. are inlaid in shakudo. Aizu shakudo inlay is often of good quality with a deep luster. Sukashi work executed on the entire tsuba is rare to non-existant with the exception of the 'cloud' motif favored by Shigenobu. Some makers liked to use small sections of sukashi as a design element, but it is normally a secondary embellishment to the main theme of the work. Iron ji can be encountered in several varieties. One is a thick plate with a dark brown patina and strong variations in the surface, having a rough appearance. This type of ji is often highly tempered and will show abundant hard martensite crystals on the surface. A second type is a more polished ji with a chocolate brown patina. Another type has a deep rich purple-black patina on a thick plate having a similar luster to first tier iron sukashi works from Genroku times.
Shonai is located in the remote northern part of the main island of Japan. This detachment from the rest of the country has given the work of this school a simple elegant feeling. The quiet sincerity of the work of the Shonai Shoami rarely fails to be interesting. The Sakai family controlled the extensive lands of the Shonai area and for this received one hundred and forty thousand koku of rice annually.
This school originated from the great-grandson of Jirohachi, Shoami Matahachiro, he was a retainer of the Sakai family after he came from Edo in Kambun 4 (1664). The earliest style of work from the Shonai area is that of the Ko-Shoami school. This style was used by the Yoshida family of the Shonai Shoami. Their work is later than the Ko-Shoami tsuba produced in Kyoto, but it has about the same feeling. It may be separated from the Kyoto work if one observes the iron plate which is considerably later than the Ko-Shoami. The school of Matahachiro was greatly over shadowed by that of the first Yasuchika, who was a native of Shonai. When the style of Yasuchika became popular he greatly influenced the schools of Edo and, in turn, those of Shonai. This cross current of style and influence was very strong at this time and the winds that blew the popular styles of the early Shonai Shoami toward Edo were to be reversed later and the Edo style (with Shonai influence) returned to Shonai in later years. It is interesting to note when comparing the work of Kiyonari and the first Yasuchika that Kiyonari was twenty-three years older than Yasuchika. Though he was senior in years, Yasuchika was to influence his work as his fame grew.
Another school of the Shonai area is that of Sato Chinkyu, and his father Shirozaemon. It is not known if they were members of the Shoami family, even though they worked in pure Shoami style. Little is known of Shiozaemon, but Chinkyu is famous as the teacher of the first Yasuchika and of Arinari. Their early style closely resembles that of Chinkyu and is strong in the Shonai Shoami style. This was before Yasuchika created his own style after moving to Edo.
The work of the Shonai Shoami is diverse, but with a common bond in the old Shoami style. A clue to the work of this school will depend on a feeling for the mood of the area and an understanding of the influences and trends of the age.
In the past there have been four opinions as to the origin of the Akita Shoami school. One says Dennai was the originator of this school when he camefrom Edo. Another says that he founded this school coming directly from Shonai. A third idea put forward by Nagaoka says that "Dembei was the creator of the Akita school." A fourth idea is that there was a Ko-Shoami school line working in Akita before any of these artists reached there. The fourth idea seems to be the most logical. The name Yoshinaga is to be found from an early period in the Akita area. He is said to have been the teacher of Dembei, but their full relationship is not known. Nor do we have any names of artists before that of Yoshinaga. However, from an examination of the work of these men it would seem clear that Yoshinaga introduced the Shoami style into the Akita area, and if anyone can be called the father of the Akita Shoami school it would have to be he. Dembei is the most important artist of Akita and his master works resemble fine Umetada tsuba or Ko-Shoami work. He occasionally worked in a style closely resembling that of Oda Naonori of Satsuma. His work is about equal in rank to that of Kiyonari of Shonai. By the Kansei era (1789-1800) the work of the Akita school cannot be found. From that time forward it seems the school disappeared without leaving a trace of the artists who had lived there.
Subsidiary Schools of the Shoami
There were a number of other Shoami workers in various provinces who were either independent artists or members of such small groups that their existence has been overlooked. The late Akiyama doubted that there had ever been a Shoami school in Edo, but after careful investigation he found evidence indicating its existence. This school is now called the Bushu Shoami. These workers must have been the descendants of Jirohachi who had remained in Edo. The work of this group is in the Kyo-Shoami style or that of Jirohachi. The Bushu Shoami tsuba in Kyo-Shoami style are often mistaken for the work of the Kyoto school. This may be avoided by an examination of the iron plate. The Bushu Shoami plate is not as old or rich as that done in Kyoto. The Bushu Shoami school existed at a later date than did the Kyo-Shoami school.
Another school of note is that of the Sakushu Shoami of Mimasaka Province. Their style resembles the Inshu Suruga school work. In this respect the work of the Sakushu Shoami differs from that of all other Shoami schools. With this adopted style a provincial feeling is also to be found.
By the middle of the Edo age the Shoami style had lost much of its popularity. The rise of the BUSHU (Ito family) and the CHOSHU schools as well as the power of the new kinko aided in the decline of the power and prestige of the Shoami. They were forced to copy the style of these more popular schools until the original Shoami style was lost altogether. Only the Bizen Shoami school retained its original style to the end of the Edo age.
Read about Early Inlays from 'Jaspanese Sword Mounts' by Helen C. Gunsaulus.
Round iron plate tsuba with the design of two samurai on horseback traveling through a pine tree (matsu) forest. The inlay of the horses includes the abumi and bits along with saddles. One samurai with silver face, the other with copper face. All branches of the matsu have copper branch stems along with katakiri bori carving. This is a very fine example of Kyo-Shoami work dating ca.1600.
8.4cm x 8.4cm x 0.4cm
Momoyama/Early Edo period. (ca 1600)
Both sides are carved with elaborate kiri mon and Hideyoshi mon of fine quality. The craftsmanship and design seems to be the unsigned work of Shigetsugu (reference H 08510.0)
7.65cm x 7.07cm.
"Round iron plate tsuba with the web carved with a design of butterfly among kiku blooms inlayed in gold and silver. This example is remarkable in the very fine carving and the attention to detail. This style and type of tsuba is most often attributed to the Kyoto Shoami school of the Genroku period (1688-1703). There is another group of the Shoami school who worked in this style at the same time. They were the Bizen Shoami school.
Which school this might be the work of is not so important since in all respects this is one of the finest examples of its type." (Haynes)
8.30cm x 8.20cm x 0.45cm.
"Round iron plate with five areas of iron on iron inlay and carved and worked surface design. The flat surface of the plate with gold nunome amida broken lines in the classical style of the Kyoto Shoami school. The reverse has the same workmanship features and the gold nunome amida design. This is a very strong and bold work that shows the very best of the craft of the Kyoto artists in the Genroku period, about 1700." (Haynes)
8.5cm x 8.65cm x 0.5cm.
A Shoami iron tsuba of convex thick metal. Repousse from inside to get higher relief design of a dragon in waves. Rarely seen seppa dai recessed below the surface of the plate.
8.9cm x 8.7cm x 1.6 cm deep.
AIZU SHOAMI $400.00
"This type of tsuba, with the fine gold inlay and attention to detail, is a classic example of the work of the Aizu Shoami school, ca. 1750." (Haynes)
6.9cm x 6.50cm x 0.45cm.
'AIZU JU SHOAMI' $500.00
"Rounded iron plate with hammered and worked surface and three cloud form sukashi areas. With slight gold nunome dots on both sides. Signed: 'Aizu ju Shoami'. This is the very early work of the artists who went from Kyoto, with the Matsudaira daimyo when they were sent to Aizu in the early Edo period. This type of tsuba was very much in fashion with the "country" samurai of the beginning of the Tokugawa period." (Haynes)
8.0cm x 8.20cm x 0.45cm.
SHONAI SHOAMI $2000.00
Provenance: Robert E. Haynes
"Rounded rectangular brass plate, with brass rim cover. The surface with hammered stone ground design. Inlaid with plum tree in high relief of copper, shakudo, gold, and silver. The reverse with a branch of the same tree and three blooms on the ground. This is a classical work of the Shonai Shoami school, and exhibits their best workmanship. Unfortunately we have no signed examples of this type of work so the individual artists are unknown. This example dates from about 1700." (Haynes)
6.6cm x 7.1cm x 0.4cm.
SHONAI SHOAMI $1200.00
Provenance: Elliott D. Long
Accompanied by a Hozon certificate number 452060, issued by the N.B.T.H.K., dated Heisei 19 (2007).
"Inlay reads: OMOI - thought, feelings; KIMI - familiar, sensation, master or lord; ON - kindness, favour, obligation. Late Edo period. Displays influence from Yamashiro Kyoto ju." (E. Long)
6.8cm x 6.1cm x 0.4cm.
SHONAI SHOAMI $1200.00
SHOAMI SUKASHI $1100.00
Provenance: Elliott D. Long
Accompanied by a Hozon certificate number 444656, issued by the N.B.T.H.K., dated Heisei 15 (2003).
"Early Edo period. Takarazukushi Sukashi is 'The Symbolical Figures of the Treasures of Life'." (E. Long)
7.9cm X 0.6cm thick.
SHOAMI SUKASHI $900.00
Provenance: Elliott D. Long
Accompanied by a Bunka Shiryoo certificate number 42086, issued by the N.T.B., dated Heisei 12 (2000).
"Large, powerful, nicely forged iron plate. Sukashi openings are pierced in a robust manner including the Inome (boar's eye). Decorated on both sides with Nawame (rope design) inlay of which there is a slight loss. This style of tsuba was influenced from the last period of Onin Suemon Shinchu style of the early Muromachi period, possibly from same Tsubaco." (E. Long)
7.8cm x 3.5mm thick.
'NAGOYA TSUNETOMO' $650.00
Sukashi iron tsuba with inlay of hira zogan on the web.
Edo period ca. 1800.
Size: 7.69cm x 7.54cm.
Refer: H 10918.0 Haynes Index.
CHOBEI SHOAMI $1000.00
Excellant iron tsuba of kiku (chrysanthemum) design occuring on both sides.
Mokko gata shape with sukinokoshi mimi, both hitsuana filled with copper.
7.90cm x 7.20cm.
Very fine example of a Late Northern Shoami tsuba (ca.1775).
Ginko leaves carving is delicate and picturesque.
Exceptional well forged iron with dark patina and roundness of design.
The well forged dark iron color is typical of the north
7.3cm x 6.8cm x 4.5mm
'JOSHU NISHIJIN JU
SHOAMI MASANORI SAKU' $500.00
Recorded as H 04395.0
Second generation to Ichirobei Masanori.
Mid to late Edo period.
Iron plate of oval shape with hammered surface. Sukashi of bamboo leaves, silver inlay dewdrops and gold nunome inlay of clouds.
7.25cm x 7.50cm x 0.30cm thick.
Iron plate tsuba with original patina. Sukashi in negative silhouette of snow flakes and full moon, half moon above left and half moon below right. The rim (mimi) is carved to resemble wood burl and eight bamboo joints. The condition is excellant and well preserved. (Haynes & Long)
7.1cm x 7.1cm x 0.4cm.
SENDAI SHOAMI $750.00
"Oval iron plate with well worked surface of tiny hammer marks. Carved with round depressions and worm track carvings, two of which go through the plate to be used as an udenuki-ana. The hitsu is of kogai shape, which seems original. The brass and copper inlay, with touches of shakudo, are branches of pepper pods and stems, on both sides. The subject is most unusual and speaks of the work of the Shoami school of Sendai, in the Momoyama to early Edo period. This type of tsuba shows the independent mind of the artists of the time, before the Edo period, when conformity was the norm." (Haynes)
6.9cm x 7.3cm x 0.4cm.
Handsome Hamidashi tsuba by Shoami School, ca 1800.
Mokko-gata shape with traces of gold inlay on mimi.
Kosuka hitsu ana.
Well forged of classical design ready for mounting.
3.05cm x 4.45cm x 4.0mm
SENDAI SHOAMI $250.00
SENDAI KATCHUSHI $400.00
Throughout the entire history of tsuba one name stands supreme: Kaneiye. It is most curious that the name of Kaneiye was not widely known until the Temmei era (1781-1789), which was already late in the Edo age. There is much conjecture that attempts to explain this belated recognition, but it would seem that there are only two answers. The first will be found in the taste and personal finances of the samurai of the early Edo age. Their taste ran to such austere types as the Katchushi, Tosho, Kyo-sukashi, Owari-zukashi, and the Yoshiro and Heianjo-zogan styles, followed by the Higo and Akasaka schools. The second reason was the rise of the kinko school in the middle of the Edo age. First the Nara school appeared and shortly after came Yokoya Somin, followed by the vast group of late kinko. They were to vie with the old established styles, and soon they won out. During this onslaught the nobility, high ranking samurai, and connoisseurs adhered to the style of such workers as Kaneiye and Nobuiye. Because the work of Kaneiye was so highly regarded by the upper classes it never came into the hands of the masses. With their existence virtually unknown they never were popularized by the early Edo artists.
When the upper classes took to the new kinko styles the work of Kaneiye and Nobuiye was put away and forgotten, but by the end of the late Edo age the nobility began to tire of the beautiful kinko work and they wanted something to take their place. The merchant class was very strong and had the opportunity to see the work of Kaneiye, at this time, when it was brought forth again by the nobility. They appreciated his style and wanted his style for their own tsuba. They thought the quiet good taste was most applicable to this period of peace and prosperity. They made the name of Kaneiye famous in all classes causing the late school of Tetsunin and the Saga Kaneiye into production to fulfill this great demand. By the Temmei era the fame of Kaneiye was spread far and wide.
Today we cannot give credence to any generations but the first two. All later work must be classed as the product of the Saga Kaneiye school, or later imitators. There are various stories concerning a number of
generations with this same name of Kaneiye. The Kansai region said there was one
Master Craftsman, and in Kanto, they said there were two people, the Daishodai
(Grand Master) and Meijin Shodai (First Generation Master). Three distinct Kaneiye who worked before the eighteenth century are thought to have existed, judging from the technique and decoration of specimens determined as originals. Research defines as
DAI SHODAI KANEIYE: The first Kaneiye signed his work Joshu Fushimi (no) Ju Kaneiye. By tradition he is called the 'Great First Kaneiye'. The work of the first Kaneiye was not known to the connoisseurs of tsuba until the Tempo era. At that time Akiyama saw three tsuba that were unquestionably the work of the same hand. To this day these three tsuba are the only work known to be by the first master. Since his work is so rare we may conclude that he began the making of tsuba late in life. In addition much of his work must have been lost in battle or through the many disastrous fires of later times. It is not certain when the first Kaneiye began to make tsuba. The few facts we have are these: From close observation of the three extant tsuba it is clear that he must have descended from one of the katchushi schools. We may find precedence of his style in such early work as the fine inlay of the hoju tsuba or in the brass inlay of the Onin style. It is not unreasonable to suppose that a superior worker of the katchushi school could have combined the best qualities of the schools of the past and created a superior style of his own, and this would seem to be just the case. Each facet of his work, after careful examination, will be found to be finer than anything the past had to offer. Kaneiye the first is commonly thought to have worked in the middle of the Muromachi age, but this is too early. It would be safer to say that he worked about the Eiroku (1558-69 to Tensho (1573-92) period, that being the heigth of the Momoyama age.
The style of the first may be called engraved pictorial style. In design, he followed the style of Mokkei, a Chinese painter (Sung dynasty), and Sesshu, a Japanese painter, who worked after the Chinese style during the 15th century. He used high relief in his decoration combined with inlay of various metals. His iron is of the oroshigane type. It is of the highest quality, forged to perfection and remarkable for the brown or reddish color of the iron and their wonderful finish, unsurpassed by that of any other tsubako. He commonly used the final-two-fold method of the katchushi to form his plate, but with such perfection that one cannot readily see the line of the final folds. His tempering is exceedingly fine. The iron bones are similar to those found in the later Kanayama school. The ground of the plate has an irregular hammered surface well under his control. It shows careful work with close attention to detail. The small hammer marks are in groups and patterns that give variety and change to the surface. This attention to the aesthetic beauty of the plate surface sets the time of production in the Momoyama age.
His style closely resembles the old katchushi with a mixture of Heianjo-zogan and Ko-shoami styles of inlay. The decoration is a summation of the best of the best of the Heianjo-zogan and Ko-shoami schools. From this we may deduce that he was slightly later in time than the high point of these schools in the Muromachi age. He brought to perfection the styles they had originated, thus giving us the indication of his period being the Momoyama age. It might be said that he was the climax of the true aesthetic feeling, for later artists were only rarely to touch his genius.
MEIJIN SHODAI KANEIYE: The artist referred to as the second Kaneiye worked during the Tensho to Keicho period (1573-1615). His work was known long before that of the first Kaneiye, which is the reason why he was originally called shodai. An analysis of the styles of the second based upon extant examples tells the true story. He used many designs, always of a noble nature. They are quiet, graceful, and show somewhat the contemplative feeling seen in the work of the first master. Occasionally he used openwork designs such as the tomoe shape or undetermined shapes. It has been said that the inspiration for his designs came from the work of the famous painter Sesshu. If this is so it was not a direct relationship, for Sesshu died in Eisho 3 (1506). It is more likely that he took some designs from the work of Tohaku and others of the Unkoku school, especially the second, Unkei. His designs are commonly of naturalistic landscapes in the Chinese manner, or a few religious subjects. These themes were the accepted fashion of the Muromachi and Momoyama ages. He no doubt took his early themes from the subjects used by the first Kaneiye, for a few of his pieces show the direct inspiration based on the first, such as the Bishamonten tsuba which is a close replica of the one by Dai Shodai Kaneiye. His work is not as strong or bold as that of the first nor as great in feeling, but there is no doubt he must have received his training from the first master. His relief carving is not as high as that employed by the first, and his inlay work shows a more direct connection with the contemporary Heianjo-zogan school. Even more important is the technique used in the application of his inlay. This will be found to be firmly grounded in the style of the Goto school of his period.
SAGA KANEIYE SCHOOL & TETSUNIN SCHOOL: The true story of Tetsunin is clouded with many legends. Some say he was the preparer to the first and second Kaneiye. He was thought to have forged the plates that they decorated. Others say he was a student of the second Kaneiye. All that can be said for sure is that he was to use the style of the second Kaneiye as his own and probably developed a school based on that technique. We do not know when he moved from Fushimi to Higo, or if he ever lived in Fushimi. It is more probable that he only studied there for a short time. He seems to have moved from Higo to Saga in Hizen Province, or at least his school did. The majority of the pieces turned out by this school are signed with a facsimile of the signature of the second Kaneiye. Occasionally we see the signatures of the artist who actually made the piece. The best of the Saga Kaneiye work is either unsigned or with the artist that actually made the piece. The unsigned pieces, in later work, sometimes show the best craftsmanship.
'JOSHU FUSHIMI JU KANEIYE' $2800.00
This 'MEI' belongs to the artist referred to by Dr. Torigoye as Dai-sho-dai.
Tsuba with this signature can be seen, illustrated together, in the first edition of TSUBA KANSHOKI, by Dr. Torigoye, 1964, pgs. 74 to 77. The number of artists who might have been involved in the making of these tsuba, and their time periods, is still open to conjecture.
The question is, "What is the relationship between the artist of this tsuba and the Daishodai Kaneiye?"
'YAMASHIRO no KUNI FUSHIMI JU KANEIYE' $1200.00
H 02464.0 ca.1450-1600
There are a large number of tsuba with this signature. They are of varying quality and period. They seem to have been made in the same workshop, as the technique is the same on various examples, such as iron on iron inlay, and the gold and silver inlay of quality and ability.
An excellent piece with work as equal to the work with 'Joshu Fushimi ju' signature.
'YAMASHIRO no KUNI FUSHIMI JU KANEIYE' $1200.00
Accompanied by a Appraisal certificate number 205179, issued by the N.T.K., dated Heisei 17 (2005).
"Muromachi period (ca.1450-1600). There are a large number of tsuba with this signature. They are of varying quality and period. There are enough variations in the signatures, that Akiyama Kyusaku thought there might be several generations. They are better classified as a school or group of artists, who may have had more than one person signing their work. An excellent piece with trace amounts of inlays." (E. Long)
Mumei Kaneiye $200.00
Classic Saga Kaneiye style work ca.1650.
An excellent piece showing the quality of iron on iron inlay with trace amounts of gold inlay.
Seems to have been made in the same workshop using the technique of signed pieces.
Mumei Kaneiye POR
Classic early example of the Kaneiye style.
An excellent piece with trace amounts of inlays.
Possibly made in the same Kaneiye school workshop, after moving to Saga in Hizen Province in early Edo period (ca.1600), but showing varying quality and design.
'Yamashiro Kuni Fushimi ju Kaneiye' $2400.00
"Large (katana size) slightly oval iron plate, with a well hammered surface, round sun and moon sukashi and very irregular shape large sukashi areas that are now filled, on both sides, with shakudo plates that are carved in katakiri with designs of tiger in bamboo and dragon in clouds on both sides with variations in the carving. The iron plate with two raised pine needles with gold dew drops on the face and a partial gold nunome seal(?) as well. The reverse with two pine needles and a very well hammered surface.
Signed with the full traditional Kaneiye signature of 'Yamashiro Kuni Fushimi ju Kaneiye'. This is the work of the best of the Tetsunin artists, see H 09683.0. It is not signed by them but the plate work, design and the power of the piece all point to their work." (Haynes)
8.3cm x 8.6cm x 0.4cm
"Large (katana size) round iron plate with well hammered surface, that shows some areas of mokume forging. With udenuki-ana lower right and inlay of silver pine cone in high relief, and three pine needles in gold. The reverse with a smaller silver pine cone and two gold pine needles. The hitsu-ana of kogai shape.
Signed on the face in faint kanji: 'Tetsunin', see H 09683.0 and entry under this number of Tetsunin see Yukimori H 12426. This is the work of the "later" Tetsunin and is far removed from either the Saga school or the work of the Kaneiye school." (Haynes)
8.2cm x 8.2cm x 0.4cm
Read about Kaneiye and Myochin Nobuiye from 'Japanese Sword Mounts' by Helen C. Gunsaulus OR
read Takeuchi Fumio's ONE WAY OF LOOKING AT KANEIYE
The opinions about Nobuiye soon reveal that no-one seems to agree upon any of the facts that we would consider relevant or usable in a search for examples.
Starting with the commentary of Henri Joly - and recognising that in
his time he was, like all the late 19th century collectors and students, at the
mercies of those who advised and helped him arrive at his judgements. Joly says in 1912.....
He was the same man as the Miochin Nobuiye, 1496-1564, whom we know as the Armourer.
That he did make tsuba, but not why,
and that the story of his having received the character Nobu
from Takeda Shingen (also known as Nobuharu) is possible.
He goes on to say that tsubako
of this name worked in various locations at different times in places such as Koshu, Geishu, Kyoto, Akasaka, Kaga and Echizen. Some of these locations actually do fit in
quite well with the accepted story of Nobuiye’s
progress through life. Koshu is
The next book is the Nihon To Koza circa 1935, translated by Harry Watson in the USA, who begin's by saying that the Tsubako Nobuiye was the 17th generation of the Masuda Myochin working in the last part of the Muromachi period. The story of his service to Shingen in Kai Province (Koshu) is repeated as fact and there is a decent critique of the various signatures that can be encountered, including a version that is described as being’ thin and tall’ and neatly composed with a thin tagane– this is considered to be the signature of the Shodai. Secondly there is a ‘thick’ version of the name, inscribed with a broad tagane, that is a bit scrunched up and done in a compressed form and is seemingly regarded by them as the signature of the Nidai. There is also a very scratchy and weedy form of the signature that is present on a variety of tsuba described as ‘beautiful’, but they do not say how or why. This last group is regarded by the Koza Team as having been the most desirable variety in the past (presumably because the tsuba demonstrated good quality, rather than because the mei demonstrated indisputable veracity) and because of this they spawned a lot of spurious fakes. It then (from the 1935 viewpoint) appears that the ‘thick’ mei versions became more desirable due to their being very ‘masculine’ in style – and also because of the number of fakes of the ‘thin mei’ version undermining confidence in the buying public. Geishu Ju Nobuiye (or Geishu Ju Fujiwara Nobuiye) is admitted to be probably a pupil of a later time, as is the most enigmatic of all the Nobuiye signatures; Mitsu Nobuiye. Sticking to the subject of mei, they go on to say a most surprising thing; that these major, and several other minor, variations in mei point to there having been a ‘Collective’ or perhaps even a Workshop of Tsubako ALL signing Nobuiye!! Even more surprising there seems to be no resentment of this possibility, only a placid acceptance of a situation whereby several skilled craftsmen working closely and cooperatively could actually maintain a high standard which finds approval in the eyes of the many Sensei who have judged their works ever since.
It is impossible to ignore the opinion of Masayuki Sasano. Sasano says that he has experienced seven different mei without saying what they are (I suppose he wants to make us go hunt them down for ourselves and benefit by the effort!). Armour enthusiasts won’t like this at all but he goes on to say, in a very gentle fashion, that the two men, Armourer and Tsubako, are not the same person because the works of the Armourer Nobuiye are simply not up to the quality of the Tsubako Nobuiye. Obviously the differences in the simple intention of forging a typically thick tsuba of Nobuiye at around 3-4 mm and a plate for, say, a Shikoro, are going to be vast but he seems to make no allowance for this I think he just believed instinctively (from the evidence of the Tsuba before him) that a Katchushi of this time could never have made the switch to Tsubako, or perhaps he could just not admit that possibility because to do so would be stepping beyond the bounds of convention. I have noticed something that is never mentioned in catalogues, books or articles that include Nobuiye and it may be something or nothing. Look at the pictures of Nobuiye tsuba in the Naunton Catalogue, Sasano’s own work on Sukashi, and anyone else’s publication that you feel is beyond reproach and see if in thinking it strange that every (claimed) Shodai signature is almost always partly cut away to allow entrance for the last blade it was mounted on. Does this indicate to you, as it does to me, that the blade for which the tsuba was originally made was of rather slender form, without the niku or indeed the kasane of the last blade to find a home there? If not then why cut away part of the seppa dai, and part of the mei, to accommodate that last blade? It seems like heresy to attempt to question the opinions of our predecessors but, whereas he brought a lifetime of learning to bear upon the subject, I bring only my ignorance and a certain naïve objectivity. Sometimes the simple question bears fruit that a more intense examination does not reveal. I think it entirely possible that these very fine pieces that bear the name of Nobuiye partly cut away are actually as old as Sasano would not, or could not, admit. Sasano’s final point in judging a potential Nobuiye tsuba is this; if it is a work of originality and nobility, with a ‘feeling’ of masterpiece that every Shodai of any school always displays, then it probably is a Nobuiye. If it looks like a fake, then it probably is.
When examining tsuba made by Nobuiye, there are those deemed shosaku (genuine work) whose signatures do not adhere to just one style. There are many variations. For one person’s style of mei to vary so much is the question of all questions. The experts say it is due to his longevity, variations due to the different stages in his life. Being a member of the Myochin family, Nobuiye moved from Sagami to Kozuke and finally to Kai (in obedience to an invitation of the Takada family). Though people speculate that he was a tsuba smith, he was of an honorable family of a line of armor makers. This was the period of continuing warfare and katchushi (armor maker) were kept very busy. I don’t believe that he would abandon his main occupation of creating armor to engage in making tsuba. Since Nobuiye had many pupils, he might have had them do his work on his behalf.
Among his tsuba with various types of mei, there are a small number of katchu-mei (armor maker’s signature) pieces. These signatures have the same characteristics as those on his armor and the tsuba styles are slightly different. Upon examination of the shosaku (genuine work) of Nobuiye, these should be attributed as his own and all other mei-furi (appearance, or style of signature) pieces as those of his disciples. There is a distinction among the daisaku (ghostwriting; a stand-in; double) work; mei is separated with ko-sukashi and kikka uchikomi (chrysanthemum pattern hammered in), and there are other signatures with many kikko (tortoise shell) patterns, many with monji (Japanese written characters) designs, and some with jimon (patterned surface). To copy a style, one should try to create an extremely believable work. These Nobuiye have various mei-furi (style of a signature) with no evidence of copying, they all endeavor to demonstrate their skill. Perhaps it is closer to the truth to see them as daisaku (a stand-in; double).
Now for styles. The Shodai Nobuiye is credited with a particularly apt form of Mokkogata which everyone agrees is a shape that sits just perfectly with the sword and, in fact, does not really work well in the eye until it is fitted to a sword. I cannot believe that he stuck rigidly to this shape alone and actually there are a couple of Nadegaku (rounded square shapes) illustrated in the Koza which seem to me to sit very well indeed for the time of the Shodai and the style attributed to him. (see pages31-33 in the Kodogu part 1 volume.) He demonstrates his skill as a Smith in the way he forges his thick plates (Tsuchime finished and about 4mm in thickness) and very subtly turns up the rims, (Uchikaeshi Kaku Mimi). Also the sheer strength and quality of his iron appears to universally impress, and the way he handles it to reveal its structure in such features as the rim, the Ji etc. If you look carefully at a few examples you begin to realise that this was a craftsman who knew when to stop hitting the thing with a hammer. Decoration seems to be quite limited with Kebori engraving often done to about the same depth as the Mei, and a very restrained amount of Ko-Sukashi piercing.
At this point I don’t know quite how to put it but, returning to the Koza, I see that under Work Styles they disavow their previous certainty and state categorically that, because of the great thickness of the tsuba in question, they cannot admit that the Tsubako Nobuiye can possibly be the same man as the Katchushi Nobuiye. The stated reason for this is that Katchushi tsuba are almost always very thin (about half the thickness of a Nobuiye) and so he obviously did not come from an armourer’s tradition of forging. Far from giving up here, we should actively argue a point that they have already made; that the works of Nobuiye stand out as being totally unlike the other, more standard, Katchushi works of the time. This is what seems to have made them admirable and desirable in the eyes of the Samurai of that period, and they bought them because of it. Is it therefore unreasonable to dismiss the possibility that he could be the same man on that basis? Perhaps, but I think that single reason a bit thin and would have liked to hear something else in support of the contention.
The Kebori engraving is not just the rather quiet type of Karakusa vines we often see, it is also in vivid tortoise shell patterns like Kikko, floor tiles, peonies, clouds, dragons and Ho-O birds. Another specialty is to use Sosho inscriptions such as the Namu Myoho renge Kyo Sutra, or the more common Hachiman Daibosatsu invocation. The sukashi designs, though usually small, are also vibrant in their choice and their placement. (See the one on page 32 of the Koza with an Ono – axe- for a lesson in how to place a sukashi design in just the right place on a plate). You can find Gunpai, Water Wheels, Mitsu-Tomoe, and the enigmatic Matsukawabishi Mon used in the ‘less is more’ sense of a Master Sukashi worker. The only large scale Sukashi piece I know of is the famous Kamo Shrine tsuba in Sasano’s book where the Torii and its surrounding bushes are given a flourish that only someone very confident of his skill can accomplish. Using themes such as these I find it very understandable that the Samurai of the late Muromachi could take these to their hearts with enthusiasm. Up to that time tsuba for the average Samurai would have had to be sober to the point where only he could find something in them to like. Nobuiye gave his patrons strength, style and feelings with his bold offerings and they liked them to the point that, Sasano says, in 1800 a Nobuiye tsuba changed hands for the equivalent of 100 pounds sterling in the 1960’s.
The truth about NOBUIYE
Despite the fact that the name of Nobuiye is well known, the mis-understanding concerning this artist is huge (read above). Far more than was evident in the case of Kaneiye (see Kaneiye above). The information presently available is so vague concerning his life and history that it is difficult to make a conclusive statement about him. The majority of facts available at the present time were uncovered by writers of the past. We would hope to glean some information from this mass of material, but most of it is so erroneous that it will only hinder a proper study. It is best if at first we set the record straight.
Even today it is commonly believed that the Nobuiye who made tsuba was the same man who made armor and is called Myochin Nobuiye, the 17th master of the family. It is true that the man who made tsuba came from an armorer family. But, we cannot look for his origin in the Haruta, Saotome, or Iwai schools of armorers. We must go to the Myochin family for his origin. The genealogy of the Myochin family is far from certain, and not nearly as reliable as the authors of the past and present would have us believe. The first tsuba made by members of the main line artists of the Myochin family do not appear until the time of the Myochin Munetoshi, 21st master of the family, about 1625. This was considerably later than the working period of the tsuba Nobuiye. The main line masters of the Myochin family made tsuba as a side line. On the other hand Nobuiye was a professional maker of tsuba. We have a great many pieces bearing the signature of Nobuiye. There are too many extant examples for any one artist to have made tsuba as a side line when not engaged in the making of armor. To show the reason why the 17th Myochin is not the same man who made tsuba, it is necessary to give the background and an analysis of the characteristics of their signature. The style of signature used by the armorer Nobuiye is of two types. Though these two styles show a similarity they are vastly different from the style of signature found on the tsuba. To complicate matters, there are some who feel that all the helmets bearing the Nobuiye signature are forgeries. Even if we accept the few pieces thought to be the real signature, the signature found upon them bears no relationship to that of the tsuba Nobuiye. It seems unnatural for an artist to use such radically different styles in his signature.
It is clear from a comparison of the technique used in the tsuba, with that used in the armor, that the tsuba artist was far superior in ability. Every indication of the work and the signature points to there having been two separate artists with the same name. These two men must have lived about the same time. Two artists living in close proximity would not usually wish to have the same art name, unless theyweremembers of the same family. We may deduce from this that these two men were related in some way. Since it is clear that the tsuba Nobuiye was not the 17th Myochin, we shall have to determine his relationship to other members of the family. It is most probable that the tsuba Nobuiye was the younger brother of the armorer Nobuiye or he was the son or younger brother of Sadaiye, the eighteenth Myochin. In any event he did not inherit the title of the family leading us to believe he wasthe second son, thus the family title passed to his elder brother. The working period of Nobuiye is very close to the time of the 19th Myochin, Muneiye, which would place him in the Tensho era (1573-1591).
His style very definitely shows his Katchushi family background. He used the two-fold method in the construction of his plate. In fact, all the characteristics of his work are katchushi but far superior to the common non-professional katchushi tsuba maker. There is common thought that his style came from the Owari school group and that there is a strong relationship between his work and that of the 1st Yamakichibei and the 1st Hoan. It may besaid that the work of Nobuiye is in no way directly associated with the schools in Owari Province. It is true that his tekkotsu resemble those found in the Kanayama, and other Owari schools, and that he was as skillful in his tekkotsu as they were. This similarity may be explained through the fact that Nobuiye and the various schools of Owari have a common origin in the katchushi tsuba makers. The schools of Owari did not need Nobuiye to teach them the art of making tekkotsu, as is often stated, for it was a family art with the artists of Owari and will be seen on their tsuba long before the time of Nobuiye.
Rather than the Owari schools we may find the origin of the style of Nobuiye closer to home. Namely in the work of Myochin Takayoshi. He used a style of yakite shitate that is very similar to the style used a little later by Nobuiye. There is some speculation that he might have learned some of his technique directly from Takayoshi,but the famous tsuba by Takayoshi seems to date earlier than the time of Nobuiye.
The area where Nobuiye worked is not clear. He seems to have been a traveling tsuba maker, for he is mentioned as having lived in several places. During his time the great center of samurai culture was the area called Kiyosu (a town between Kyoto and Nagoya). Naturally Kyoto was another great center of culture and the area between there and Kiyosu was much traveled. We may be sure that Nobuiye took this course often in his wanderings. There is no evidence to tell us the length of time he might have spent in either place. We are not even sure where in this area he might have died. It is traditional to speak of Joshu or Koshu as the areas familiar to Nobuiye. These places are the ones that should be associated with the 17th Myochin, the armorer Nobuiye.
The spirit of the Sengoku Jidai (1490-1600), will be seen in the religious, moral, and inspiring words that were the mood of the day. These incantations will be found emblazoned on the works of Nobuiye. This spirit of his time we see expressed often in his work, showing that he must have been well versed in the current thoughts of the day. In addition to the philosophy of his day there is a direct connection between Nobuiye and the great men of his period, such as Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Gamo Ujisato the Christian. The Christian religion had been brought to Japan only a few years before the time of Nobuiye and the tsuba artists were greatly interested in using the designs and signs of the new religion as decorations for their work. From this it is very easy to place the time of Nobuiye at the Momoyama age.
Thus far there has been mention of only one tsuba Nobuiye. We know through the rubbings of Nobuiye tsuba (seen in Nobuiye Tsuba Shu, 1926) that there are several distinct styles of signatures to be found on the many Nobuiye tsuba. These various styles were classified at great length by Akiyama. Though it would seem that several men with the same name might have made Nobuiye tsuba it can be stated that these various signatures should be grouped into two styles, thus giving us only two tsuba Nobuiye, a first and second generation. It is not difficult to distinguish between them. The first generation may be termed Gamei (elegant signature), this being the style called 'hanare' by Akiyama. This style is gentle, slight, and tasteful. It shows the quiet nobility of the subjects used in his decorations. The second generation which Akiyama called 'futoji-mei', 'katchu-mei', 'sakei-mei', and 'sumari-mei' are all the signature of this one generation. This style of signature may be called 'Chikara-mei' (mighty signature). It shows the strong,bold style seen in the thick plate and forceful carving. It can not be stated with any certainty what the exact relationship was between these two artists. It is possible that they were father and son, son-in-law, or brothers. In any event they seem to have been closely related. From the evidence, based on the style and subjects used, we have placed the working period of the first Nobuiye in the Momoyama age, from the Kiroku era to the Keicho era (1558-1614). The working time of the second generation is about the Tensho era to the Kanei era (1573-1643).
Nobuiye tsuba possess the highest form of the true aesthetic art. They are the work of master artists who could make their media bend to their slightest command. On close inspection one will see the detail of the hammer work and the quality of the forging rarely to be seen in any other tsuba. There are several artists who worked after the middle of the Edo age who signed Nobuiye. Though in appearance they may resemble the first and second Nobuiye, their work is inferior,though the signature is legitimate. The most important of these artists are: Joshu Nobuiye (H 07072.0), Kashu (Kaga) Nobuiye (H 07066.0), Akasaka Nobuiye (H 07065.0), Owari Nobuiye (H 07058.0 & H 07070.0). Two other artists of note are Echizen Nobuiye (H 07064.0) and Shoami Nobuiye (H 07069.0).
When the work of Nobuiye became famous through the rubbings of Nakamura and others in the late Edo age, the demand for his work and style grew very quickly. The armorers and sword-smiths who made tsuba in the late Edo age attempted a revival of the style of Nobuiye. The revival pieces show only the most cursory resemblance to the spirit and quality of the real Nobuiye tsuba. The best of the late imitators is only a shadow of the aesthetic principles expressed in the tsuba of the Momoyama age. The revival style tsuba are either unsigned, signed by the artist who actually made the tsuba, or forged with the name of Nobuiye.
Read about Nobuiye Tsuba from 'Jaspanese Sword Mounts' by Helen C. Gunsaulus.
AKASAKA 'NOBUIYE' $500.00
H 07065.0 (Hosoji-mei)
Irregular carved hollows on both sides appear severe yet poetic, in harmony with the simplicity and renunciation which are integral to Zen, a Buddhist school of thought adopted with fervor by the Bushi.
This artist usually signed: Akasaka ju Nobuiye, in large kanji, covering both sides of the seppa-dai area.
HIZEN 'NOBUIYE' $2500.00
"Katana size iron mokko plate tsuba with the web carved in low relief of a male dragon in clouds. The seppa-dai is in the shape of the "Chinese" style often seen on the tsuba made in Hizen Province at the city of Nagasaki.
The face is signed 'NOBUIE', in two large kanji. This style of the Nobuie signature does not match any of those recorded so far. It would seem this is an unrecorded Nobuie who was living in the Hizen/Nagasaki area in the mid to later Edo period." (Haynes)
8.50cm x 7.50cm x 0.60cm
KAGA 'NOBUIYE' $800.00
H 07066.0 (Futoji-mei)
This artist worked in Kashu ju, Kaga Province and his work is rather rare, being slightly superior to many of the other provincial Nobuiye.
KAGA 'NOBUIYE' $500.00
'Tetsu ishime-ji mokko gata niku bori ko-sukashi'
This artist worked in Kashu ju, Kaga Province and his work is typical Renaissance Nobuiye.
MYOCHIN NOBUIYE $1200.00
This artist worked in Shiroi in Kozuke Province who made helmets and signed them with his full signature. Wakayama vol. II p. 294 has 3 examples of these signatures. They are a good comparison to the Nobuiye signature found on tsuba. Dense well-forged iron plate (kurikomi-mokko-gata) with ample tekkotsu on the mimi.
MYOCHIN NOBUIYE $1200.00
Accompanied by a Kanteisho certificate number 5238, issued by the N.T.H.K., dated Heisei 16 (2004).
The surface of the plate, the omodaka ('shogun-gusa', plant of the winniing army), gourd and water carving and the mimi are all excellent Nobuiye work.
OWARI NOBUIYE $1000.00
Un-signed iron tsuba of mokko shape.
Surface carved with fern fronds and dragon scales among clouds.
Edge and web showing many tekkotsu.
7.5cm x 6.7cm x 0.2-0.3cm at seppa.
SHOAMI 'NOBUIYE' $500.00
H 07069.0 (Hosoji-mei)
This artist was one of the last to use the Nobuiye name. He worked in Sanshu Okazaki ju, Mikawa Province using mostly the kinko style and did not make any Kiyosu Nobuiye tsuba.
SHOAMI 'NOBUIYE' $1000.00
Iron cross jujigata mokko gata plate with slightly raised rim. Both hitsu are of kogai shape, a Shoami school characteristic. The style of the signature is not in imitation of the great Nobuie masters, but is of his own style and form.
'NOBUIYE' Under Study
There are examples of the Nobuiye signature that have come to be called, the 'wide spaced signature', these tsuba are signed just Nobuiye, but the kanji are carved at the top and bottom of the seppa-dai area. Possibly the work of two different artists and their relationship to the Kiyosu Nobuiye is not known, but the quality of their work is very close to that of the Kiyosu group.
'NOBUIYE' Under Study
"Large oval mokko iron plate tsuba with raised rim, the edge and the plate carved with the classic tortoise shell pattern found on many Nobuiye tsuba. The plate surface well worked and showing the forging patterns that are famous in Nobuiye tsuba. The hitsu-ana are in the form of the Matsukawabishi mon, half forming each side. All these elements are repeated on the reverse side.
The face is signed: 'NOBUIYE', see H 07074.0. This is a new, unrecorded example of what I have called the "wide spaced" Nobuiye signature." (Haynes)
The artists of the Kaga school followed the designs of the Kano painters and the style of the Goto school of metal carvers. The earliest artists, Yoshishige, who was also a painter, and his brother Kuninaga, were connected with the house of the Daimyo of Kaga province about the middle of the 17th century. Yoshinori, Yoshikuni, and Yoshitsugu were noted pupils of this school. Morisada, a distinguished inlay worker of Toyama, a town in the same daimyate, is also classed with them. Ujiiye,a pupil of Goto-Kenjo of the Goto school, came to Kaga from Fushimi about 1650 and joined the ranks of the Kaga artists. As a school they are famed for their great skill in inlay work (hira-zogan, also known as 'true zogan').
In former times at Edo, Shinchu-zogan tsuba were called Yoshiro tsuba. In Edo this name applied to all brass inlaid tsuba with floral designs. Yoshiro tsuba originate from the Heianjo-zogan school and are not of independent origin. They represent one derivative style of the later Heianjo-zogan tsuba. The term 'Yoshiro' is part of the name of Koike Yoshiro Naomasa. The Kaga inlay style, native to the province, was far different from that used by Koike Yoshiro, and it would seem that after his period his style was no longer practiced in Kaga. The native Kaga inlay style was in parallel production to that of Yoshiro. Although the iron quality is good in the Yoshiro work the most admirable quality is the fine brass inlay. The contrast of the color of the iron with that of the brass is very fine in the Kaga Yoshiro work. This is not to be found in other brass inlay.
KAGA School $400.00
Late Muromachi period (ca.1550).
Katchushi iron plate with Kaga style inlay of brass which is repeated on the reverse.
Ko-sukashi of leaf.
The missing inlay is in relation to where the samurai's thumb would be.
Large rounded Ryu Hitsu associated with Shoami Schools.
Excellant iron with fine bones and hammer work.
2 3/8" x 2 1/4" x 1/8".
KAGA School $350.00
Classic KAGA School $1000.00
Early Edo period (ca. 1600)
Plate and Inlay are typical of the school and period.
Brass (Shinchu) Fukurin.
8.1cm X 8.2cm X .5cm thick.
SAOTOME - TEMBO HA
The Saotome were a well known school of armor makers (katchushi). The first master of the Saotome school was Nobuyasu of Shimotsuke. Nobuyasu moved to Odawara in Sagami were the Saotome school itself was founded. Some of the early Saotome makers were Nobuyasu, Iyenori, Iyetsugu, Iyetada and Iyesada although there is some disagreement on the lineage of the school. There were many other generations working well into the late Edo period. Many of the Saotome tsuba are of the kiku and kiku sukashi styles. They also did sukashi tsuba with various designs including mushrooms, clouds and those with somewhat abstract sukashi. Their plates are well forged, mostly folded plates in katchushi style commonly with sukinokoshi or uchikaeshi mimi (raised and/or folded rims). Ten zogan (brass or silver dot inlays) are also seen as are acid relief designs of fans, dragons and Buddhist symbols similar to the technique used by the Hoan School. In the later work of the Saotome school there is a combination of rough hammered surface and kokuin (hot stamped design). On occasion the Nara school or other Kinko used the Saotome plate as a base for their decoration. The Saotome kiku sukashi plate was used as the starting point for weaving brass and copper wire to form the Shingen style tsuba. The Saotome School gave rise to the Tembo school of tsubako.
The Tembo school (also spelled Tempo, Tenpo or Tenbo) originated in the late Muromachi Period and worked well into the late Edo Period. They are most noted for the use of kokuin (hot stamps) on their plates, although not all Tembo School tsuba are of the hot stamped style. In the later work of the Tembo school we find such signatures as Tempo, Yamashiro Ju Tempo, Sanada Tempo and Sanoda Tempo (see 'Sanoda'). Those Tembo tsuba having signatures are usually of better workmanship than the unsigned.
In summation, there are three periods of kokuin tsuba. First, the original Saotome work and the slightly later Tembo, plus a few of undetermined origin. Second, the work of the Hoan-Heianjo and the first period imitations of the Saotome-Tembo style. Third, are the common late Edo period imitations which are, in turn, copies of the imitations of the second period.
Early Edo period (ca.1650)
Worked in Odawara in Sagami Province
An alternate name used by various artists during most of the Edo period.
A fine example of the better work of this school.
SAOTOME TEMBO $700.00
Accompanied by a Kanteisho certificate number 5723, issued by the N.T.H.K., dated Heisei 22 (2010).
Mid Edo period (ca.1700)
The Tembo style of using 'hot stamps' (Kokuin) was a Saotome original style used by Hoan, Heianjo, and Shoami schools.
6.93cm x 6.57cm x 4.3mm
The quality of this school has appealed to all tsuba connoisseurs for hundreds of years. The finest Higo tsuba are faultless in every area of their craftsmanship, aesthetic taste, and fundamental art. Their wide variety of styles and techniques embrace nearly every aspect of the art of the tsuba.
The four great Higo masters were under the patronage and protection of Lord Hosokawa Tadaoki, Daimyo of Higo Province. Hirata Hikozo, Hayashi Matashichi, Shimizu Jingo, and Nishigaki Kanshiro were four of the greatest artists in the entire history of the tsuba and of the early Edo age.
A few generalities may be made about Higo tsuba that are applicable to all master works produced by this group. The quality of their iron plate is excellant. The temper is fine and the surface shows rich variation proving their superior ability in hammering. The color of the iron is usually dark with a fine luster and rich color of great depth. The designs of the tsuba, made by these artists, are unequaled in originality and conception in any other school. These designs greatly influenced many of the schools working in the Edo age.
The inlay work of this group has a very pleasing color contrast with the iron plate. The style of the sukashi is always menwo toru, meaning the edges of the perforation have been slightly rounded. The chiseling is powerful but not rough. The shape of the hitsu ana are tasteful but not well designed. In general, the feeling of the Higo tsuba is comfortable, round, smooth, very rich and appealing in appearance, never weak or decadent. The Higo tsuba is a perfect blend of the first aesthetic beauty with the utilitarian aspects that all true tsuba must have.
MOMOYAMA - JIDAI (1568 to 1615)
The Umetada school first appears in the Tensho era (1573). Nothing is known of the Umetada as a group or as individuals before the time
of Myoju, first known and greatest master of the school. This artist showed the genius of the Momoyama age. Not only was he a great tsuba maker but he was a great
swordsmith and a renowned judge of swords as well. It is unfortunate that the foundation and origin of the talent of Myoju is one of the great mysteries in the history
of tsuba. The following genealogy is taken from the Shinto Bengi, Shinto Mei Shuroku, and from the actual work of the artists by Dr. Torigoye and Robert E. Haynes.
KYO-UMETADA school (Kyoto main branch): 1st. Myoju, 2nd. Myoshin, 3rd. Shigenaga, 4th. Muneyuki, 5th. Muneshige, 6th. Shigeyuki, 7th. Shigehide, 8th. Yoshihisa, 9th. Gichin(Yoshiharu), 10th. Muneaki(Shichizaemon), 11th. Munetoki.
EDO branch school: In Edo, a branch school of the Umetada developed that was both prolific and popular. These artists were the ones who often signed their work with the plum rebus instead of the kanji ume (plum).
BANSHU (Harima) branch school: Working here are Muneyoshi, Shigeyoshi, Yoshihisa, Yoshitsugu, and Yoshitada. Some are related to the Kyoto artists of the same name.
CHOSHU OKADA school: A pupil of Myoju emigrated to Choshu and started this branch.
HIZEN UMETADA: This school worked in a style which combined Higo, Hizen, Umetada, and Shoami with many variations. Workers were Munetake, Akinaga, Yoshinaga, and others.
HITACHI Province: Umetada worker Tomotsune was a known artist. In UNSHU and TSUGARU Provinces, Umetada Munetake was a most capable artist.
These later branch workers, at first, had a style that mixed the Umetada and Shoami techniques. To this mixture they added the native style of the provinces where they had settled. So each branch school will have at least three styles combined in its work. In later periods the work of the branch schools tends to have more of the provincial style and less of the Umetada and Shoami styles. Unfortunately, the great talent of Myoju became so dissipated by the later generations that not a vestage of his talent and ability descended to them.
The early Umetada workers almost always used iron plate and nearly all forms of edge style were used. Nobility is the key word to describe the designs used byMyoju and his school. The designs are aesthetically satisfying in every detail. The quality of the carving shows a precision and power lacking in the later kinko. The designs are wide and varied, but the ones seen more than once are karakusa, raimon, rinza (arabesque, yamanashi (wild pear), grapes and swallow tails. Inlays used were gold, silver, shakudo, shibuichi, and copper.
'JOSHU JU MITSUSHIGE' $400.00
"Oval brass plate tsuba with gold plated surface. The whole carved in the form of a plum tree with the branches and blooms in openwork forming the web of the plate. The surface and detail carving shows the hand of a master carver. The slightly oval shape hitsu-ana are in the style of the Umetada school, and since the subject of the tsuba is the plum (ume, of Umetada), it is only natural to see the connection to that family school. This example would seem to date from the late Edo period when gold could be used more freely." (Haynes)
6.7cm x 7.2cm x 0.37cm
The Hoan family school is the second great school living in Owari in the Momoyama age, the other being the Yamakichibei school. The first Hoan master was known in early life by the name Kawaguchi Saburoemon Noriyasu (the alternate reading of the kanji for Noriyasu is Hoan, which became the family name). The family genealogy records that "Lord Asano while living at Kai Province, north of Mount Fuji, invited the first and second Hoan to be his retainers. When Lord Asano moved to Kishu they followed him.
There are two styles to be found in the work of the Hoan school. The first style is that of the katchushi, which would seem to be the earlier style. The second type is pure tsuba-smith style and would seem to be a later development in the school work.
KO-KINKO, (Ko-Mino, Ko-Goto), and KINKO Tsuba
Ko-Kinko means old gold worker, and is usually applied to relatively ornate, early non-Goto, non-Mino shakudo and yamagane fittings. These guards are considered the work of specialist kodogu makers, although their names are not recorded. Some believe these tsuba are a type of tachi-kanaguchi tsuba (tsuba done by makers of tachi fittings). The prefix Ko denotes fittings made before the Edo period, Edo period is denoted by Kyo or Edo Kinko. While there is doubtless a wide variety in the quality of sanmai tsuba, these have received origami from the NBTHK attributing them to ko-kinko and dating Momoyama to early Edo period. The Ko-kinko workers should be subdivided into three groups: the Mino-Goto, the Ko-Goto (sometimes referred to as the Jidai-Goto), and the independant Ko-Kinko. The Ko-kinko worked in kawarigane (soft metal) of shakudo or yamagane in most cases. NOTE: The authorities of the past have given little heed to the irogane ko-tsuba (multi-colored metal tsuba made in Muromachi and Momoyama ages) workers. Their importance as artists within the historical context of the development of the soft metal tsuba makers cannot be neglected. The work of the ko-kinko was to last until the end of the Momoyama age. At that time they were eclipsed through the rise of the kinko age. Tradition says that the Ko-Goto were the descendants of the Mino-Goto workers. There is little proof for this theory but it would seem to be true. There is some evidence that the inter-relationship of the ko-kinko workers was so strong that a clear distinction between the various subdivisions is almost impossible. By the end of the Edo age some of the ko-kinko seemed to have become tachi-kanagushi. More research is needed to clearly understand the ko-kinko.
Interesting paper about Ko-kinko tsuba and casting method by Yamabushiantiques.
SAN DIEGO Style Tsuba:
SAN DIEGO Style $600.00
The Kagamishi were mirror makers in the period before the Edo age who also made tsuba. A study of the mirrors of the Kamakura and Muromachi ages may throw some light on these workers. The Kagamishi tsuba are of a cast metal usually the same as would be used in the making of a mirror. The plate metal in most cases is bronze. Sometimes a tempered plate is found, with such fine hammer work that the connecting layers of the plate are undetectable. The designs in most cases are very similiar to those used on the old mirrors. The subjects are bold in feeling and strong in arrangement. Some pieces have stamped designs or surface carving. There are two distinct styles of Kagamishi tsuba. One are designs common to old mirrors, the other has representational designs of landscapes with flowers, birds, animals, and human figures. These designs have a classical feeling that is both naive and noble in concept. In the best kagamishi tsuba the shape, ground, thickness, and quality of metal are very good and show remarkable skill. The base plate in many cases is of superior quality despite its being made of cast metal. The combination of the base metal and the design is very pleasing, showing the same qualities found in the Kamakura tsuba as applied to work in soft metal.
The word tachi-kanagushi means a maker of tachi fittings. These workers were also called sokenshi, which has the same meaning. The tachi-kanagushi tsuba is made through the collaboration of two tachi fittings makers. The preparatory worker, called the tachi-shi, collects the material for the base plate, forms the rough shape and does the basic hammer work. The tachi-kanagushi does the finishing of the surface and the decoration. The work of the tachi fittings maker dates from very ancient times. In this broad meaning the shitogi, aoi, nerikawa, and other early soft metal tsuba might be called tachi-kanagushi tsuba. However, it is best to apply the term to those pieces made in the Muromachi and Momoyama ages.
Sanmai tsuba are constructed of three sandwiched plates; a top and bottom plate of shakudo, shibuichi, or nigurome with a center core normally of yamagane(copper). They are bound by a fukurin (rim) which holds the three plates together. This construction can be seen on the interior of the nakago and/or hitsu-ana. The plate decoration is done by a repousse technique, working the design from the back of the plate, sometimes hammered into a pattern mold. Some sanmai tsuba will have the exact same design on both sides; others will have different designs on each side of the tsuba. The plates are normally of floral, scenic, dragons or mon design. Some Sanmai tsuba have Goto style designs. Commonly the plates will have some type of gold wash/inlay on areas of the design. Each tsuba must be judged individually based on the quality of the plate, core and workmanship. Care must be taken with sanmai tsuba as the plates are relatively soft and the designs easily crushed.
The dating and attribution of this type of tsuba has been a subject of some debate among collectors. Some believe these tsuba are a type of tachi-kanaguchi tsuba. Others feel they are Ko-Kinko (early soft metal) tsuba (see Ko-Kinko above). They have also been attributed as Ko-Mino (early Mino School) tsuba. Sanmai tsuba have had attributed dates from the Momoyama period to late Edo period. Sanmai tsuba have received origami from the NBTHK, NTHK, and NTB generally attributing them to Ko-Kinko (see above) or Ko-Mino and dating Momoyama to early Edo periods. However, this should not be taken to mean that all sanmai tsuba are of this age; some are most certainly late Edo shiiremono. Each tsuba must be judged individually based on the quality of the plate, core and workmanship. Care must be taken with sanmai tsuba as the plates are relatively soft and the designs easily crushed.
It is common to note the age of many fittings by the wear to their surfaces imparted during use and handling. These tsuba show the foil worn away exposing the foundation in the very place the samurai would have rested his left hand on the sword while wearing it. Therefore, these tsuba were proudly worn for many years and the compromise of the foil on the rim is historic, and not due to abuse or neglect.
SANDO AWASE $500.00
DAISHO SANMAI $500.00
'GOOD FORTUNE' SANMAI $310.00
'Do-ji Nadakaku-gata Katakiribori' $200.00
'Shuchuken Masaaki' $500.00
EDO - JIDAI (1615 to 1868)
One of the most noted pupils of Toshinaga I was Shozui or Masayuki (1695-1769), who founded the Hamano school, whose members created some of the finest objects of metal-work, primarily in fittings for the sword. Like those of his master, most of Masayuki's designs are taken from the history and folk-lore of the country, although he and his followers show great originality, as well in the portrayal of nature subjects.
'HAMANO HARUTOSHI' $5000.00
Provenance: Robert E. Haynes
"Oval mokko shakudo nanako (covering the rim and edge as well) plate. The lower area of the face of the plate with a shibuichi mino-game (a sea tortoise, symbol of longevity and old age), in relief with gold seaweed. The reverse with shibuichi and silver rocks and gold bamboo.
The plate is signed on the reverse: 'Hamano Harutoshi' and kao, H 00900.0.
The work of this artist is rather rare compared to that of his contemporaries. This example shows his skill to the fullest and that he was equal to the finest kinko artists of his time." (Haynes)
5.0cm x 5.7cm x (seppa) 0.4cm.
EDO TOSHO works
Provenance: Elliott D. Long
Accompanied by a Kanteisho certificate number 5749, issued by the N.T.H.K., dated Heisei 22 (2010).
MEI (Haynes): 'Sukeyoshi Tsukuru'
Very large, powerful tsuba with nicely forged iron plate. The shape is kaku-gata form with leaves in shishiabori. Amida yasuri pattern on the plate with very nice patina. A tsuba that is sober in appearance with great detail. Late Edo period (ca. 1800)
8.59cm x 8.03cm x (seppa) 3.0cm x (rim) 5.6mm.
"Oval iron plate in the form of a shitogi tsuba, with the side bars carved as waves on one side and clouds on the other. Signed: 'Kuniyoshi saku', H 03700.0. He was a swordsmith who worked about 1800 and made flat plate tsuba for the most part and signed the same on his blades and his tsuba. There are more than twenty smiths recorded who worked about 1800 and which one this might be is very hard to tell." (Haynes)
5.6cm x 6.0cm x 0.4cm
Collectively NAMBAN Tsuba comprise Three Styles:
NAMBAN (Nanban), KAGONAMI (or Kannan), and KANTON (or Kanto).
Originally the term Namban referred to any extraneous material or style which found its way by trade to Japan from China or by the East-Indian route. Later, the meaning of this word was to include all goods that came to Japan from any source. Hence, the true Namban tsuba included the original Kanton tsuba, and the oldest examples of designs representing European motifs.
The Namban group is a recognised group of tsuba, the name
being derived from a Japanese word, translated as 'Southern Barbarian'. This early
definition of the group was unsatisfactory since it included a large number of
the tsuba in any collection, many of which were already classified under other
In 1987 Ogawa redefined the group, introducing a radical simplification and several defining characteristics. The presence of 'Namban tetsu' is irrelevant. It may or may not be a costituent of some of the tsuba in this group, but there is no reliable way of identifying its presence. The definition of the group is based upon the presence of some of these characteristics;
- undercut scrollwork, which may incorporate dragons with the tama jewel or other creatures;
- they are almost always of iron;
- gold nunome or overlay is a frequent feature;
- hitsu-ana are a later modification;
- many have decorative seppa-dai, although these may appear on tsuba as an example of namban influence;
- decorative mimi are common;
- tsuba of this group are very rarely inscribed.
The NAMBAN style: At an early period a few tsuba were made
at Kanton (China) and shipped to Japan for sale (ca 1500). These should be considered as Namban tsuba. The term Kanton means those
tsuba in the style of the original Kanton tsuba but made in Japan. Thus the true Namban tsuba included the original
Kanton tsuba, and the oldest examples of designs representing European motifs. The original Namban style was combined with the Nagasaki style tsuba and, later, with the style of other schools. Though originally these tsuba were made at Nagasaki and Hirado, they were also made at Kyoto and Aizu through much of the Edo age.
The KANTON style: The term Kanton means those tsuba in the style of the original Kanton tsuba but made in Japan. They are distinguished from the Namban style through the following features: they have a square or dote mimi, usually with engraved designs. The subjects are dragons, fish, human and animal figures entwined in elaborate scroll work that is usually undercut in symmetrical patterns. The plate is nearly always iron, but brass and shakudo are found in the later work. The introduction of the dragon and a conventional flower into the "tendril design" characterizes the popular Kanton work made at Nagasaki, Kyoto, and Yedo from the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Yamada-Ichirohei is one of the many guard makers of this style who lived in Nagasaki and worked during the second half of the eighteenth century. Tanaka-Sobei ll, a guard maker of this style in Yedo, worked during the early nineteenth century. Mitsuhiro l and Mitsuhiro ll, two artists of Hizen province, became well known as clever workers in the "Kanton" style during the early nineteenth century. They are famous for the individuality of their methods. The so-called one thousand horse and monkey designs were their favorite subjects.
The KAGONAMI (KANNAN) style: This style has a dote mimi in most cases but a few will have a square edge. The designs are very complex in detail and asymetrical in design. The dragons in the Kanton and Kagonami tsuba are of foreign design, derived from the Chinese style of dragon.
The vast majority of the tsuba in these last two styles are of little merit. They show the work of the mass production type tsuba, so commonly seen, that were made during the Edo age. In rare cases styles or types will be found that show age indicating early production. These are often superior pieces. Afew bear signatures, often those of brass plate; in most cases these are of superior workmanship.
The casting of Namban tsuba was the preferred method for mass-produced shiiremono. The convoluted undercutting and scrollwork that characterise this group are easily reproducible by the 'lost form' method of casting. To produce such work by a hand-carving process could be considered technically difficult and economically impractical. It is possible by examination of tsuba of this group, any indications of the use of casting methods in their production. Such indications will include one or more of the following features when the tsuba is examined under a bright light using magnification. Obviously, the more extensive the hand finishing used, the more difficult it will be to find evidence of prior casting.
1) The surface of a cast tsuba will give the impression of granularity and porosity, and sand bubbles may be present. Such granularity is most easily seen on plain, undecorated surfaces, but facets of the chiselwork, where cast, will have a similar porous surface.
2) Where chiselling has occured, the edges are sharp and clean, and are sometimes seen to be burred. The casting of such features results in a loss of this 'crispness'. This loss of crispness may also be seen when the cross-hatching of the base is prepared for inlay.
3) The chiselling of a relatively hard surface such as iron will show 'stepping'. This is caused by the resistance of the metal against the force used to work it.
4) Any featureless surfaces of a cast tsuba will show a smooth irregularity, with an absence of any hammer marks.
5) 'Feathering' may be seen on the opposing surfaces of any openwork; its presence is an absolute indication of casting.
6) The examination of the deeper fissures may reveal the presence of granules of the mold used for casting. This granular material is extremely difficult to remove.
7) Where a tsuba has been worked, the facets of any hitsu will be flat and at right angles to its surface. This is due to the flattening effect of the files used to smooth them, and the use of these files also produces a vertical texturing of their surface. When cast, these facets tend to present a rounded surface and often have horizontal, rather than vertical, texturing.
Namban tsuba have received considerably more attention in the last few years due to the excellant book written by Dr. John Lissenden titled 'The Namban Group of Japanese Sword Guards: A Reappraisal' (2006). This is a most welcome English text. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in Namban Tsuba.
Enjoy this excellant article about NAMBAN Trade.
An excellant paper about The Iron and The Style of NAMBAN written by Henri L. Joly
Read about Foreign Influence from 'Jaspanese Sword Mounts' by Helen C. Gunsaulus.
Picture gallery of Excellant Namban Tsuba for study and appreciation.
HIZEN NAMBAN $1000.00
KO-NARA / NARA School
Toshiteru, founder of the Nara School, was affiliated with the Goto School but parted company, and continued for nine consecutive generations. The Nara Sansaku were three pupils of great skill; Toshinaga, Yasuchika and Joi. The style of Toshiteru and the second and third generations is called Old Nara and with a transition of style commencing with Toshinaga and thereafter New Nara, which differ greatly. In the work of the Old Nara one can see the Goto influence with simple and classic designs. While the style of the New Nara is more graceful, but not as strong and realistic as work by Somin and others.
The Yokoya School originally worked for the Goto School as preparers. Soyo was the founder of the Yokoya school and moved from Kyoto to Edo. His work style was still Goto style with no pictoral style to be seen. The third generation, Somin, gave up the Goto family engraving style, and embraced the pictoral style known as efu. He originated designs using katakiri-bori that were full of vigor; his chiseling is very strong yet not rough with designs of originality and refinement. The Omori School was a branch of the Yokoya School established by Shigemitsu, son of Shirobei.
BUSHU ITO TSUBA
The term Bushu tsuba means the Ito school. The Ito school was native to Edo, where other schools were branch schools that came to settle. They were the most powerful and largest school in Edo, with influence over all the others who worked around them. The Ito school became so popular that schools as far away as Choshu felt compelled to adopt its style. The Ito school, along with the Shoami and Choshu schools, constituted the three largest and most dominate of the Edo age.
There are a number of problems concerning the origin and the organization of the Ito school. In reality there are two Ito schools: Edo Ito and Odawara Ito. The signatures and style of the tsuba on the Odawara Ito school and those on the Edo Ito school are entirely different. From this fact alone we may see that there was a separation of the school into at least two branches. Others contend that the artists of the two branches are really the same workers and that they merely changed their place of residence, from Edo to Odawara, and did not change their style in the process. The city of Odawara was a metropolitan center when Edo was just a village. During the Muromachi age Odawara was a very important center of power for the government.
It would seem that there is some truth to both of these contentions. In the early development of the school they were probably a single group with a common style, but later members of the school changed their residence and at the same time changed their style. The Edo Ito school was very prosperous and received orders from the Shogunate. The Odawara Ito school was not favored by the Shogun and had to be content with orders from minor provincial officials who lived near Odawara. What was the relationship of the Edo Ito school and the schools of the Choshu Province? The period of greatest influence of the Bushu on the Choshu style does not appear until after the middle of the Edo age. By the end of the Edo age the influence of the Edo Ito school is dominant.
On the whole these schools show good control of their material. The designs, though conventional, are well carved and the details are well handled. The style is gentle and quiet, expressing the peaceful age, and the luxury of the Shogunal court. The Edo Ito tsuba was beloved by the nobility as well as the commoner of Edo. Their best work was produced in the period from 1688 to about 1736.
The term Choshu tsuba means those pieces made at the city of Hagi in the province of Choshu, and includes the tsuba produced in Yamaguchi, Tokuyama, and Iwakuni (areas facing the inland sea). Hagi is cut off from the east, west and south by mountains which isolate it from the rest of the main island. For over two hundred years this area produced tsuba of Hagi style with little variation. The style pleased the samurai of the area, as well as those who occasionally saw this style of tsuba outside of the province. The Choshu tsuba originated at the beginning of the Edo age. The three earliest schools, of the eleven schools of Choshu, were the Kawaji, Nakai, and the Okamoto. They seem to have originated in the period from Kanei to Empo (1624-80). Though they were individual schools they show some Shoami influence and, in some cases, Umetada influence as well at this early stage of development.
There are two distinct styles to Choshu tsuba. One is openwork tsuba with the designs being the same, or virtually the same, on either side. The second style is solid plate with a different design on each side. Though the Umetada came to Choshu in the form of the Okada school, and the Bushu were to influence the designs of this school, the above two styles remained the same to almost the very end of the Edo age. The characteristics of the eleven schools are so similar that there is no need to describe each school in detail. There were separate family motifs and subjects, but they were all treated in either of the above two Choshu styles. For study purposes Choshu tsuba may be divided into two periods. The first is from the early Edo age to near the end of that period; the second period continues to the Meiji era. There were more than two hundred workers in the Choshu area in the Edo age. The tsuba of this large school of Choshu can not be judged as a group, a single family, or any one master. Each tsuba must be judged on its own merits. The inconsistency, and wide latitude in quality, make this essential for an understanding of Choshu tsuba.
Accompanied by a Tokubetsu Kicho (green paper) certificate number 23, issued by the N.B.T.H.K., dated Showa 54 (1979).
Middle Edo period.
Octagon shaped Tsuba with flowers finely engraved.
7.31cm x 7.21cm.
SUNAGAWA School $500.00
'KOFU JU MASATOSHI' $300.00
"Oval smooth iron plate that tapers slightly to the edge. With sukashi design of three chidori at the bottom and right of the plate and two 'ito' cut lines of clouds at the top of the plate.
He was of the Edo Ito family school and one of its last members. This is not the Kitani artist of a generation before this man." (Haynes)
7.31cm x 6.80cm x 0.4cm @ seppa.
'CHOSHU HAGI JU
SAKUNOSHIN TOMOHISA' $500.00
See Baur Collection, page 439 #567,
D156 text page 39.
He worked late Edo ca. 1825.
Circular iron plate tsuba, pierced and chiselled in the round. Two bunches of rice within a plain border, with touches of gold overlay.
6.70cm x 6.90cm x 0.40cm thick.
'CHOSHU JU TOMOMITSU SAKU' $500.00
"Iron oval tanto size plate carved overall with massed plum blooms, over the edge and on both sides, each with fine detail.
Tomomitsu was of the Nakai family of Choshu and worked mostly in solid plate style about ca. 1700.
We do not know his relationship to other members of the Nakai family school.
Were this tsuba unsigned we would have no way of knowing that it is Choshu school work." (Haynes)
5.70cm x 5.0cm x 0.30cm
'BUSHU JU MASAKUNI' $700.00
MINO MONO $1000.00
The "MUCADE" design originated from a representation of a mucade or 'centipede' (an insect sacred to Bishamon, the god of war), and refers to the many legs of the insect. The artist has used various types of wire inlay near the rim to represent this feature. There does not seem to be a signed example recorded, and if there were it would probably be for the plate alone. Some writers give the date of its origin as the 16th century, but all we can be certain of is that it did not come into fashion until the early part of the 18th century.
MUCADE Style $600.00
The tsuba of this school for the most part, whether made in Echizen of iron plate, or in Edo of kawarigane plate, are better than the late work of the Shoami school and the kinko. The early work of this school shows the superior ability above that of the majority of the contemporary workers of their period. This schools founder, Yoshitsugu, was a contemporary of the first Kinai, and worked in the same style. But it is on account of his son, also called Yoshitsugu, that the family chiefly deswerves to be remembered; for this artist (1670) was the first to employ chiselling of openwork and piercing in the decoration of shakudo guards. Such work had hitherto been confined to iron, but from Yoshitsugu's time it came to be applied to produce effects to all metals, shakudo, shibuichi, silver, gold and brass. This new departure may almost be said to mark an epoch, for by skillful employment of the sukashi process the artist was able to produce effects of atmosphere and space which immensely enhanced the beauty of a design. Yoshitsugu subsequently settled in Edo, and was succeeded by experts of the Akao family through several generations, but none of them attained special skill.
The general public very rarely had a chance to see the work of artists who were patronized by daimyo families. For this reason the style of the Akao school never had a chance to catch the fancy of the public and imitated.
Echizen Akao Tsuba $500.00
'ECHIZEN JU AKAO' $700.00
'ECHIZEN KUNI AKAO JINSUKE SAKU' $1400.00
When one hears the name Kinai the first style of tsuba that comes to mind are the dragon and aoi plant subjects so common to tsuba of this school. Though these motifs were very popular by no means do they measure the merit of this school. When one has a chance to see the superior examples of the tsuba of the Kinai school the true value of their work will be apparent. In addition to making tsuba the Kinai carvers are famous for their dragon horimono carved on sword blades. The Kinai style originally came from the Shoami school, in all probability, but it also was to borrow from the Choshu style as well. This combination of the Shoami-Choshu styles is the basic feeling for all Kinai tsuba.
The Kinai school of Echizen produced iron sukashi tsuba all through the Edo period. Most of the tsuba are round or oval in shape, and are nikubori sukashi or katachi nikubori design. Earlier Kinai tsuba appear related to Kyoto Shoami in style and are iron nikubori ji sukashi bold simple designs. Much of the late Kinai work is more intricate and possibly influenced by the Choshu, Umetada, and Akao schools. The tsuba surface often has an appreciable amount of relief and very robust designs. Many Kinai tsuba have a Fukurin around the edge and the design within. Most tsuba have two hitsu ana, with the Kogai of the Suhama shape. The work from this Ha represents the evolution of style and taste over a 300 year period.
Remarkable as were the achievements of this family, its record is somewhat obscure. The best authorities agree, however, that the first Kinai master worked about the year 1680, and that he was succeeded by five generations of the family. They all used the mark 'Kinai' prefixing the ideograph 'Echizen' or 'Echizen no Kuni' and their productions are indistinguishable. But the second Kinai (1660) was incomparably the greatest master of the family. It will scarcely be too much to say that he stands at the head of all Japanese sukashi chisellers. He carved openwork or pierced designs in iron with as much delicacy and elaboration as though the material were paper. The Kinai masters are especially spoken of for supplementing pierced decoration with surface modeling. After the fame of the family had been established, all the sukashi-bori work produced in Echizen, whether from the Kinai ateliers or not, was generally classed as 'Kinai-bori'.
The initial history of this school claimed six
generations of Tsubako:
Shodai Ishikawa (died 1681), Originally of the Ishikawa family and later of the Takahashi family.
Nidai Takahashi (Tajuro)(died 1696), Dragon design in ubuzukashi his creation.
Sandai Takahashi (died 1760),
Yondai Takahashi (died 1809),
Godai Takahashi (died 1821),
Rokudai Takahashi (died Meiji era),
Nanadai Takahashi (unknown).
The shodai moved to Echizen from Omi. His family name was Ishikawa and he later changed it to Takahashi. More recent research has provided new insight into this Ha. The shodai Ishikawa line was based in Echizen and all generations worked in or near Echizen.
The six masters of this family signed Echizen (no) Ju Kinai Saku. With this as the only signature it is difficult to know which generation signed any given piece. Despite the difficulty in analyzing the signatures a few comments may be made about the style of the signatures. The early signatures have broad strokes in the kanji generally. That is, the chisel marks are thicker, wider, and stronger, than those used by the later generations which are thinner and sharper.
The TAKAHASHI signatures
Shodai (1st) Takahashi $1800.00
"Round iron plate with old brass rim cover. The web carved with the depiction of the legend of Choryo and Koseki (read the legend HERE).
Examples of his work are very rare and this example shows his origins in Kyoto at the time he moved to Echizen Province." (Haynes)
8.0cm x 8.0cm x 0.4cm.
Sandai (3rd) Takahashi $1200.00
"Round iron plate with the web carved with design of a water wheel and waves. Kozuka and Kogai hitsu ana." (E. Long)
7.5cm X 7.35cm X 0.5cm.
Godai (5th) Takahashi $1000.00
Nikubori sukashi tsuba of maru gata-slight nademaru gata shape. Kaku mimi with silver fukurin. Kozuka and Kogai hitsu ana.
7.6cm X 7.3cm.
Rokudai (6th) Takahashi $900.00
Iron oval plate with carved and sukashi design within the rim of two aoi leaves, which is reversed on the back of the plate. There are kin (gold) nunome tendrils on the stems and the leaves, on both sides. This is a very classical design for the Kinai school of Echizen.
7.2cm X 6.9cm.
Smiths working on Sado Island during the middle of the Edo age produced tsuba that have an antique feeling, but do not seem to be of any certain origin, style, or school. They are usually the work of Sado Sanzaemon. His name is first mentioned in the Shimpin Zukan (this is not the Toban Shinpin Zukan). He worked in a mixture of Owari, Akasaka, and Kyo-Sukashi openwork styles. The walls of the openwork tsuba are wider than those made by the schools mentioned above. This gives a slightly heavier feeling to the Sado tsuba. Sanzaemon was a sword ornament maker who worked in the Shotoku to Kyoho period (1711-1735). He was arrested for an unknown indiscretion and sent to Sado Island, a favorite place for exiles, for several years. While there he made tsuba for the magistrate of the Sado gold mine. The name of this man, who became the patron of Sanzaemon, was Fukushima Kunitaka, who was the son-in-law of Ujiyuki. Kunitaka went to Sado Island with Matsumiya Kanzan, author of the Toban Fu (similar to the Toban Shinpin Zukan). They became students of Sanzaemon. Kunitaka enjoyed drawing designs of tsuba that Sanzaemon would make. Many were in the shape of the kanji "kuni". These three artists are justly famous for their work. In later years Sanzaemon was able to return to Edo to finish his days a free man. In the 19th century two descendants of Sanzaemon were working on Sado Island. They were the first Toshisada and his son, the second Toshisada. They made fine openwork, ubuzukashi and a few flat plate tsuba. They had one student, Yoshifuru.
The plate metal of Sanzaemon tsuba is of soft iron, rich and of good temper. The best quality of his plate resembles old Higo tsuba. They have a simple antique feeling, though they are not very old.
'SASHU JU TOSHIUJI' $1800.00
Kitagawa Soten, a man of Omi no Kuni Hikone
Nakayaba, skillfully formed a Ha which made items popular for the times, and
there were a great number of members in his Mon. The first Soten had many students who helped him produce Soten style tsuba. In fact, during his lifetime, the demand for his style of tsuba became so great that he and his school could not keep up with the orders. In Kyoto, the Hiragiya school and the Shoami school made Soten style tsuba to help fill the orders for the many requests received from all parts of the country. The previous name of the shodai
Soten is said to have been SHUTEN, and works of his style were a development of
the marubori work in Kyoto.
The second generation used only the name Soten. In addition to these two artists there are at least twenty-five well known students who signed their work with their own names, and innumerable students who signed with the name Soten, or did not sign their work at all. A student of note is Soshu, an above average worker, but the most famous student is Nomura Kanenori: his best work is about equal to that of the second Soten.
There are slight differences between the signatures of the first and second Soten. There are other differences in their work, such as designs of the second being more picturesque and detailed. The surface of his plate is very busy and brilliant; the design covering the major portion of the web area. The first also used small figures in the designs but he did not cover as much of the web area with his decoration. He did not use as much inlay of gold and silver. From the style of carving used mainly by the second Soten this school has become to be called the Hikonebori school (The term Hikonebori means the original style of carving of the Soten school. It is a combination of low relief, line carving, some shishiai, detailed iroye inlay and elaborate openwork. In reality it is but one type of ubuzukashi, and is found rarely in the early work of the first and second Soten.)
The first and second Soten were splendid at their chosen style. The iron is of good quality but the tempering is quite common. The nikubori is inferior. An attempt to cover this fault in the iron quality was by making a good edge and using fine decoration. Although their work is usually on iron plate, the plate is subordinate to the decoration. Their work should be judged on the quality of the carving, inlay and designs. The scenes included people such as Gen-Pei Busha (Warriors of the Minamoto and Taira), and sennin (wizards, or hermits capable of performing miracles). They are exceedingly complicated engravings, and they are gaudy.
The majority of the work in the later Soten tsuba school is but a poor imitation made by shiiremono makers in the late Edo age at the docks of Yokohama. These imitations account for more than 95% of all Soten tsuba extant. The work of this school was so corrupted that a true idea of the real Soten tsuba is almost impossible to obtain. Had the work of this school been less popular, the true work of the first and second Soten might be regarded with more respect than it now receives.
Read about Soten of Hikone from 'Jaspanese Sword Mounts' by Helen C. Gunsaulus.
This article was written by Robert Haynes.
This article was written by Dr. John Lissenden for the Northern Token Society (UK).
Soten School Tsuba $500.00
Soten School Tsuba $500.00
The old name for Kyoto was Kyo. This area is abundantly rich in famous schools and individual artists such as Onin, Heianjo zogan, Kaneiye, Nobuiye, Ko-shoami, Kyo-shoami, Umetada, and many others. In addition to these famous schools a type of tsuba called KENJO tsuba (meaning presentation or gift tsuba) was made in Kyoto. In the period from Shoho to Meireki (1644-1657) a merchant by the name of Juichiya Kichibei made it his business to sell tsuba to the retainers of the lords of the western part of Japan, and other travellers, who came to the capital. These tsuba were bought as gifts for daimyo and other important personages. The style of tsuba made for this purpose usually had designs of fans, ceremonial figures, sambaso dancers, or others. These designs were in gold and silver nunome for the most parts. In a broader sense the term kenjo tsuba may mean any tsuba that was given to the shogun, a daimyo, or even to a rich merchant.
KENJO Tsuba $1200.00
This term was used by Dr. Torigoye and his explanation follows.
A direct translation would mean: tsuba of several provinces. Under this title the artists who do not belong directly to one of the foregoing schools have been placed in this single group. The majority of these artists were independant workers who may have existed in proximity to a major school but maintained a style very much their own. The group is composed of both tsuba makers and kinko. The artists included in this section are not necessarily inferior workers to those that have already been discussed. Some, in fact, are fine artists of considerable merit. The work of those independant artists that show creativity and above average ability are very important for study and future research.
'CHIKUZEN FUKUOKA JU FUJINAKA' $2200.00
'KAGA Jo FUJIWARA TOSHISADA' $900.00
ARIKAWA School $700.00
'KUNITOMO SHOKO Saku' $3000.00
|Provenance: Robert E. Haynes||NFS (Under Study)|
'Bujo Akasaka Inshu Raku Joi Nagaharu tsukuru'
|Provenance: Robert E. Haynes||NFS (Under Study)|
COURT NOBILITY TSUBA
Brass plate in four-lobe mokko shape with large brass rim attached. Design includes carved clover bush with mountians in shakudo. There are seven deer on the face in copper, silver, gold, and shakudo and six deer on the rear in the same metals. The total of thirteen deer is unusual. The kozuka and kogai are original, the kogai hitsu was altered at a later time.
At this time, the school and maker are unknown. "What do you think?" Please EMAIL your thoughts.
8.5cm x 7.7cm
How to Purchase Tsuba
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UPDATED Tsuba Glossary for your use while viewing the above tsuba. The source for this glossary comes from many different sources, the main source being 'TSUBA, An Aesthetic Study' by Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye & Robert E. Haynes.
NIHONTO and TOSOUGU ORIGAMI
Schools of Tsuba Artists HERE
Tsuba Identification Guide HERE