WABI-SABI is an aesthetic philosophy so intangible and so shrouded in centuries of mystery that even the most ambitious Japanese scholars would give it a wide berth and uphold the Japanese tradition of talking about it only in the most poetic terms. The Japanese have an admirable tendency to leave the unexplainable unexplained, as is the case with Zen, whose most profound teachings cannot be communicated by verbal explanations. Zen believes words are the fundamental obstacle to clear understanding. The characteristics of the Wabi & Sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of objects and processes. WABI connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirts and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. SABI is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear.

A good example of this embodiment may be seen in the 'DENSHASUI HARUSADA' tsuba's below. The top tsuba is of large thick iron plate with overlaid and inlaid brass, gold and silver in a heavy mixture of the metals as an abstract motif of rare quality. The bottom tsuba is of slightly oval thick iron plate with very well hammered and worked surface. Overlaid and inlaid with shibuichi and brass in a heavy mixture of the metals giving a very abstract design that might be a moon in a landscape. The remarkable work in both tsuba's is unique in both style and workmanship.

It is up to the knowledge and observational ability of the admirer to notice and discern the hidden signs of a truly excellent design. This may be interpreted as a kind of wabi-sabi aesthetic, further confirmed by the way the color of the brazed metal flows as if molten.


It is evident that Harusada treated his tools and the materials he used with an intense reverence. His function was to bring out the irons inner beauty in a harmonious way. When his work was done he would not be seeking praise or gratitude, for he had a personal sense of satisfaction that he had done his best and can do no more. This sense of modesty is the life blood of Wabi & Sabi and saves the work of artists from being tainted by the pretensions or ambitions. Wabi & Sabi art must have this essential element of humility if it is to retain the purity of its spirit. The Harusada tsuba is a perfect reflection of the state of mind of the artist at the time it was made. The whole process is meditative, from the firing of the furnace, through the hammering of the plate, to the intense concentration of the brazing process. The Harusada is imbued with the magic of the moment of creation and is to be accorded the greatest respect. The value of the tsuba as an art object lies in its ephemeral nature and the fact that the same moment will never come again.

Robert E. Haynes came into possession of the 1st (lower) Harusada tsuba in 1986. After years of study, it was sold to a collector in Europe. In 2001, Robert found a second example (top) of a Harusada tsuba, purchased it and continued his study of this unique style of tsuba. I first viewed the Harusada tsuba on my initial visit with Robert in September, 2008. It wasn't until 2013 that I was able to purchase this rare piece for my own collection.

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