RANDOM GLOSSES Tsuba no Hanashi
   by Robert E. Haynes (1995)

This paper will be part of a continuing series of thoughts, opinions, and ideas that have been in some cases rattling around in my head for years. They are put foreword with the idea of provoking further ideas and commentary from the readers of these pages. With the hope that a discourse may begin so that we may all learn from each other.

Recently I was asked by a collector about how he should acquire good quality fittings by the masters of the Goto family school. I am afraid that this is very difficult for any collector and the years of study necessary to recognize the best work of this school can only be achieved after seeing and studying a great many examples of the fittings made by this large group of artists. There lies the first problem. Of all the fittings made throughout the history of Japan the work of the Goto masters have had the least disbursement, either within Japan or without. The famous "SETS" of fittings by the various mainline masters were so valuable during the Edo period that a certified set would constitute the dowry between parties in a Daimyo's marriage contract. These sets were so sought after that a great deal of deception was practiced when the Goto masters were asked to form one. In fact it would seem that there is only one original set, that belonging to the Maeda Daimyo, and even it is not genuine in all its parts. Today there are several "other" sets but they vary in the number of original and replacement pieces. The ultimate set was to have the subject the same, i.e. all dragons or shishi etc., in all the pieces. In 1982 I saw such a set in Japan when it was on display. Because of the crowd around it I started viewing the pieces with the parts said to have been made by Goto Hojo, the 16th master (1816-56). As I studied the pieces through the fifteen masters who preceded him, I began to question the authenticity of many of the parts as I was able to study them.

By the time I saw the pair of menuki, the kogai and a "kozuka" attributed to Goto Yujo, the first master of this family line, I felt there was something very wrong with much of what I was seeing. John Yumoto was in the room with me and I called him over to ask his opinion of this "set". I asked if he felt, as I did, that the late work, was for the most part, by the master it was attributed to but the pieces said to be by the early masters was not only not their work but seemed to be by the last master of the school, Hojo, who was by the way, famous for his forgeries and fake certificates of the work of his ancestors. John said this was a very good lesson for my studies. It also points up the first fact when studying the work of the Goto school. Little of what you see attributed to any early master is as certified. The only way to be sure is to get to know the style and feeling of a given master and then you can say, at least to yourself, this piece is by Joshin, or who ever. All the books about the Goto school and the famous "secret" marks will not tell you who made a given piece no matter how much you study them. You have to hold the piece in your hand and study by comparison to others and all you have seen before. I have held one menuki, said to be the work of Goto Yujo, in my hand. It is illustrated in TOSO SORAN by Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye, on page 171, upper photo. It is shown as a pair which it was not. It was a single solid gold menuki. In fact Dr. T. told me that the companion piece was probably of shakudo and they became separated over the years. Because of the restrictions on gold, even in the Muromachi period, it was not unusual for the menuki that faced out on the sword to be of gold and the inner menuki of shakudo. Which might explain why there are many single shakudo menuki of the Muromachi period that we see. My original point was that this menuki was the boldest, strongest, most powerful piece of work that I had ever seen. It was the one piece from the collection of Dr. T. that I wanted the most. I am sorry to say I do not own it today. I think from my studies of this single menuki that I know the work of Yujo should I ever see another.

Unfortunately there is no "PROOF" that this piece is the work of Yujo, but if he was the greatest master of his time and his work is superior to all who came later, then this menuki is the work of Yujo. As you see this correlation requires many "ifs" "ands" and "buts". Another note you should know. The small fittings have "rank". The menuki are first rank. The kogai is second rank. The kozuka is third rank. The fuchi-kashira DO NOT have rank, nor do any of the other small fittings. The reason for this is simple. Yujo made memuki and kogai (maybe kozuka, but there is no proof of this). Since his menuki are more common than his kogai and the decoration on many kogai attributed to Yujo, are in reality, menuki attached to the kogai at a latter date, you see the reason for the rank of these three objects. Fuchi-kashira were NOT made by any of the early Goto masters so they have no rank. The reason they did not make fuchi-kashira was this was the provenance of the saya and handle fitting makers. If you look at the books that illustrate the famous extant mounted swords of the Kamakura to late Muromachi period, ca. 1300 to 1500, you will see that the fuchi-kashira, for the most part, are plain undecorated pieces, and many of the kashira are horn. They do have kogai and menuki of Goto quality and the tanto and aikuchi of this period have kozuka even in the early examples. By the way. The kogai is not a mystery object. It is just what it looks like, a hair pin. It was used mostly by those of high rank who wore armor, with classical helmets. When they removed their helmets they used the kogai to reshape their coiffure to be presentable before their superiors. This is the reason that there are far fewer kogai than the other small fittings. They were mounted in the swords of the highest ranks and the mass of samurai who wore no great armor did not need them. Naturally in the Edo period when it was very rare to put on great armor and rank was by money, not by the court, some had kogai mounted on their swords even if it was above their station and they had no use for them. This was just the whim of the vainglorious nouveau riche merchants, who could even buy the privilege of wearing two swords with enough bribery.


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