Katchushi To Tosho by any other name.....
   by Robert E. Haynes (02/19/1998)

The other day I was rereading my manuscript copy of the translation Joly wrote of the HOMPO SOKEN KINKO RYAKUSHI, by Wada Tsunashiro (1913). With the idea of annotating it as I am doing with the Akiyama articles. The answer is no, for almost all the material has been derived from the Akiyama's other works. I noticed a sentence that had not struck me before. On page 11 of the manuscript, the last line reads thus, "THE TSUBA MAKERS ARE TANKO." (4895-1451: metal worker). The numbers refer to the appropriate kanji in JAPANESE-ENGLISH CHARACTER DICTIONARY, by Andrew N. Nelson. These two kanji are 4895 and 1451. Since I had not looked them up before, and had assumed that the TAN kanji was the one that is also read TSUBA, --(not in Nelson), I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was the kanji which is often read kaji or kitae. It is necessary now to give the entries as they are in both Nelson, and the dictionary by Spahn/Hadamitzky, JAPANESE CHARACTER DICTIONARY (1989).

In the Nelson dictionary, see page 915, right side, number 4895.
4895 Tan. kita(eru) forge, temper; drill, train,
F1959 discipline, practice.
TANKO metal worker
TAN-YA forging. KAJI blacksmith
KAJIKO metalworker, blacksmith
KAJIYA blacksmith (shop)

Also in Nelson, see page 352, bottom left, number 1451.
1451 KU. Ko artisan mechanic; manufacture: work. TAKUMI
F602 artisan, mechanic, carpenter. TAKU(MU) plan; scheme.
KOJIN workman, craftsman
KOSHO mechanic, artisan, craftsman

The entries in Spahn/Hadamitzky, under 8a9.5 (4895) and 0a3.5 (1451) are essentially the same, except they give many more variations.

Now you may well ask. What does all this have to do with Katchushi and Tosho tsuba? Over my many years of study, I have never been happy with the term Katchushi to describe the type of flat iron plate tsuba, with or without, design perforations. It seems to have been assumed, since early times, and perpetuated by Akiyama, that this type of tsuba was made by the same artists who made suits of armor. Just why would anyone think that? Even with the evidence that the method and style of forging used to make the thin iron plates used in armor has nothing to do with the tsuba that bear that name. There does not seem to be any historical or written evidence to support such an idea. It seems to have come about because the early "experts" could not accept the fact that there might have been PROFESSIONAL tsuba artists before the 16th century. Nothing could be farther from the truth! If we agree that there were professional artists who made tsuba as a vocation, and not as an avocation, as an armorer would, then there is no reason to call them Katchushi tsuba. No doubt, on rare occasions, when an armorer would not be making armor. Which, by the way, was a full time occupation. He might, as a hobby piece, make a tsuba, but that would be vary rare indeed. So here we have a very large group of tsuba that have been given the appellation of a group of artists who would neither have had the time or ability to make the tsuba that have been given their name. Even with such evidence no one is willing to think of a better name for these type tsuba that will express the idea of the true artists that made them. I shall put forward the following terms, and you be the judge if they are not superior for both the artists and his product, rather than the misnomer, Katchushi tsuba. So let us return to the kanji mentioned in the first part of this paper, as well as alternative names, that might define in more exact terms this type tsuba made from the Kofun-jidai to the Meiji period.

First let us define the type of tsuba we are designating. They are iron plate, mostly flat surface, often round shape, and sometimes with perforations. With or without one or more hitsu. Though the books illustrate many variations, it would be best to use the pieces as illustrated by Sasano under his use of the term Katchushi.

Since these are for the most part simple work by design, but often well forged, of good iron, and with excellent hammer work, the name TANKO, as mentioned above, would seem a good term, since it simply means metalworker, and the sound TAN is already known as an alternate reading for the tsuba kanji, it would fit very well. A variation might be KAJI or KAJIKO tsuba, for those styles and types that have more of a blacksmith, or primitive feeling.

There is also an alternate kanji that means tsuba, and can also be read GAKU, but even though it only means swordguard, it is not used as often as tsuba, TAN, TON, SHIN. In the early books these two kanji seem to have been used indiscriminately. They should be kept as the pure generic term for all tsuba and not used to define only one type or style of tsuba.

TOSHO as a term for tsuba made by swordsmiths does apply, for the most part, for those tsuba made by sword makers in the late Muromachi to the end of the Edo Period, and would be best applied to examples that are signed by any swordsmith. Those tsuba that have been given this name, and are unsigned, and date mainly from the early to middle of the Muromachi period, would best have the same terms used for them as we will use for the armor makers tsuba.

I hope these ideas will not destroy too many myths and illusions about the study of tsuba, but a little common sense needs to be injected into the study of tsuba which now has innumerable misnomers, mistakes, and misusage. We do not need any more.


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