is happening HERE.

"The descriptions and opinions presented are Robert's based on his 70+ years of experience and are honest and accurate. We take no accountability in the accuracy or implied quality representations from third-party judgement papers, which may accompany certain pieces offered on this site."

E-Mail with your questions and/or selections to elliott@shibuiswords.com



(We Welcome Serious Inquiries Only)

Robert and I are merely the temporary caretakers of the pieces we collect. Whether this ownership lasts a minute or a lifetime, our responsibility is to care, respect, appreciate and enjoy these treasures everyday so that, in turn, future collectors are afforded that same opportunity. We have bought and sold many pieces in our life and consider ourselves very lucky and truly rich to have been guardians to so many wonderful treasures.
As students of fittings, and at our respective points in life, our goal is to enhance our collections as our knowledge and expertise continues to grow. Thus one purpose of the web-site is to sell pieces we have studied. Since establishing our relationship in 2005, we are proud to have assisted many collectors in their pursuit.
What about appraisal? We are always glad to share our knowledge and help anyone learn about the fittings, etc. that they own. Looking at koshirae and related items increases our knowledge and there is no substitute for research as a learning tool. Thus we gladly help people at no charge or obligation.
Please continue to enjoy this web-site. It is intended to be an all-encompassing text on Japanese Bijutsu and related items. Hopefully, it will present enough information to provide basics and lead to more in depth discussions on specific subjects or about specific fittings, etc. We look forward to hearing from anybody and everybody about this most interesting of subjects.

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.

It has been since 2004 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.
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.
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.



from TOSO SORAN by Dr. Torigoye

If you would like to know more about any items on this website, or if you are considering a purchase, please send Elliott and Robert an E-MAIL ( elliott@shibuiswords.com ), asking us any questions you have or what pieces interest you.


- 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 Kamakura period. Taking lessons from the Mongol army, they began to use mass warfare tactics. Before that time, one would introduce himself as "I am so and so" and ride out singly against a fellow warrior and engage in individual combat. Those of the ashigaru class were assigned to various menial services and were not permitted to participate in battle.

The uchigatana of this class of individuals from the Heian period (794-1185) to the middle Kamakura period (1185-1333) were used for self-defense and were not very long. I believe that from the late Kamakura period, they became a force in battle and there was a change to a longer sword during conflicts. Among these same types of tsuba, with Ko-Tosho tsuba, they are small-sized, around two sun, five bu, and there are a few with an extremely deep and old patina. However, among KoKatchu-shi, the fact that such tsuba are not seen testifies to the previously discussed features of this period. In addition to a style of workmanship with a beaten back rim (uchikaeshi-mimi), a large number of negative silhouette piercings have been done. To make Ko-Katchu-shi more attractive, their owners have been elevated in social status from servants to combatants, reflecting our social consciousness.  Moreover, it is said that the earliest limit for Ko-Tosho is the Heian period and that for Ko-Katchu-shi is the late Kamakura period. After these, the Onin and Kamakura tsuba with additional carving and inlays are much later and I believe they date to after we enter the Muromachi period.

Furthermore, 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 Kamakura and Onin tsuba, there is a gradual building up of added techniques. However, nowadays, from an appreciation of the aesthetic pleasures approach, we can confirm the difference between high art and manufacturing, which is revealed to our sensibilities through, first of all, the negative silhouette piercings, the use of space in the surface and the deeply symbolic nature of these works. In the way that mass battle techniques were used, from among those who were servants, individuals who were combative were selected if they seemed able to participate in battle and I think there must have been those servants who were also left over. In addition, up to the time that Hideyoshi conducted his sword hunt during the sixteenth year of Tensho (1586), even commoners could wear swords. Moreover, there is the difference between war and peace; however, it is not so simple to understand the basis for who used these tsuba and who did not or to understand the general situation.

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 ), Edo period Tosho and Katchu-shi works are of a completely different type and "old" is used for the purpose of clarifying this.  With almost all of the early period ji-Sukashi tsuba, the area around the nakago-ana  (hole through which the tang passes) has been reshaped through being beaten in; however, be aware that with Ko-Tosho and Ko-Katchu-shi tsuba cases where this has been done are very rare.  Although there are Ko-Tosho tsuba dating to the middle Kamakura period that are small-sized of just around two sun and five bu, the KoTosho, KoKatchu-shi, Onin and Kamakura tsuba dating before the late Muromachi period, where such small-sized tsuba are occasionally seen, tsuba around two sun, five bu can be said to be exceptions. Since it is difficult to believe that everyone was using large-sized uchigatana, this is an area for further research.

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 earlier 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 Tosogo Ya.

   Not For Sale

"A Ko-Katchushi tsuba with Shakujo (Khakkhara) design. The top and bottom appear to be Mon. Dates to ca. 1300 or earlier." (Haynes)
   Not For Sale

"Hachiman Daibosatsu, 5-tiered pagoda motif sukashi tsuba. Maru-gata iron plate with positive sukashi and mimi-kaku. A very skillful, elaborate and extremely sophisticated work." (Haynes)
   Not For Sale

"Iron tsuba that is well hammered and formed in a deep cup shape, the repousse from inside to get higher relief design of a dragon in waves. The high relief dragon is carved from the plate and is not iron on iron inlay. Only one hitsu-ana of kogai shape.
See Haynes H 02830.0." (Haynes)
   Not For Sale

"An early Ko Katchushi tsuba with multiple kirikomi on the rim. There is meaning to having one plum, two cherry and two karabana blossoms as the motif of this piece." (Haynes)

"Large square iron plate nicely forged and hammered with excellent patina and color. Further study and description coming soon." (Haynes & Long)

"Presented here is a well forged iron plate in a gourd shape with Kotoru rounded edge. Both surfaces are expertly hammered. Eggplant sukashi at the lower quarter. This workmanship creates an indescribable atmosphere.
Further study and description coming soon
Attributed by NBTHK Tokubetsu Kicho (Green) Origami. Dated May 13, 1972." (Haynes & Long)

Write up coming soon. Ubu iron plate in excellent condition. Dates to ca. 1300 or earlier. (Long)

Write up coming soon. From the Kamakura period to early Muromachi period.
   Under Study-NFS

"The name ``Kacushi'' was given because it resembles the small watermarks applied to the gauntlets attached to armor. The name ``Kachu-shi'' can already be found in the Oshigata collection of Akiyama Hisaku, a master of tsuba appraisal in the Meiji period. In addition, Mr. Daiyuki Sasano named the earlier tsuba, 'kokushi', to distinguish it from the tsuba made by armor makers from the Edo period onwards, who worked on the rims. This tsuba is quite thin and has a mokkogata shape. It is thought to be from around the Bunroku and Keicho eras, and is considered to be the last period in which it was used by old armor makers. Three cocoons are visible on the left and right sides of the precisely tailored flat ground." (Long)

"Very large, powerful Tosho tsuba, nicely forged and hammered with excellent patina and color. The hitsu-ana is original to the tsuba which was made prior to the Edo period.
Sukashi of two interlocking rings having a Buddhist symbolism meaning Unity of Strength and Love, Mind and Body. Very important to the Samurai." (Long)

"An iron mokko gata shape tsuba with inome motif at the four indentations.
Circa: Muromachi period, Ca. 1400 or earlier. Even though it remains curiously controversial, the age of the earliest ko-tosho rests on evidence of when they were first worn on swords, either tachi or uchigatana. This tsuba is rather small, as ko-tosho were towards the end of the Kamakura period. The presence of the kodzuka-hitsu, while somewhat perplexing, was a value adding modification and a frugal use of something old at a time when kodzuka were eventually incorporated into the uchigatana koshirae." (Haynes) NBTHK Hozon origami.

"A well preserved and very rare iron tsuba. The hitsu-ana appear to be utilitarian but in fact are a design pattern. At first thought the pattern on both sides are possibly kanji or Sanskrit characters, in groups of four. The pattern is applied vertically on the front and horizontally on the back. A similar pattern was exhibited at the 2021 Special Important Sword Fittings Exhibition." (Haynes & Long)
9.30cm x 8.50cm x 0.40cm

"A well preserved and very rare iron tsuba. Dating to Muromachi period, ca. 1450-1500." (Haynes & Long)

"The bright quality of this symetrical group of snowflakes and stars is not typical of katchushi guards. Although the plate has an old look, the intelligent and skillful nature of the open work suggests that this is not among the earliest guards. In all likelihood, it belongs to the middle or late Muromachi period. The design is excellent and carefully worked out." (Long)
8.30cm x 8.30cm x 0.51cm (rim) x 0.36cm (face)

"Iron slightly oval plate with pipe rim. The web with sukashi of nata (utility knife) on right side of plate and kogai shape hitsu on the left side. The web area of the plate retains much of the original black lacquer surface, on both sides. Katchushi tsuba with dote mimi (pipe rim) are quite rare, and much sought after." (Long)
7.10cm x 7.30cm x 0.35cm (seppa) x 0.50cm (mimi)

"Masterpiece Ko Katchushi tsuba with dote mimi, iron thin plate. The rim is peculiar to armorer's tsuba. Also, if you look closely at this background, there is a thin inlay, which seems to have been added later. Perhaps, it is considered that the samurai who inherited the tsuba later carved a pattern like a family crest inlay.
The sukashi openings represent the moon and its reflection, and a star?" (Long)

"Large iron plate with a single hitsu and Sakura (Cherry Blossom). The flower may be related to an old Japanese belief that the finest of humanity was the Samurai, as the finest of flowers is the cherry. The single flower placed on one side of the guard is neither naive nor plain. It represents a kind of ultimate beauty and has a sense of the compassion of the warrior. The strong metal, the placid cherry blossom, the large nakago-ana, and the chisel marks around the nakago-ana are all characteristic indications of early Muromachi period works.
Accompanied by a Hozon certificate issued by the N.B.T.H.K." (Long)
8.85cm x 8.80cm x 0.25cm


Shodai Bizen Suruga Master
Early Edo period.
Round iron plate with characters 'Haku-Raku-Ten' pattern in positive and negative sukashi.
Sup: Hakkyoi, a great Chinese poet, lived in Middle T'ang from 8th to 9th century. He is known under the pen name 'Hakurakuten.'

Early Edo period.
Round iron plate with ten sword beans in positive sukashi.
Kaku mimi ko niku.
Thickness: 2.79mm.
Sup: Notice Kuchi-beni.

In the style of first Suruga (ca. 1625).
Note copper plugs at top and bottom of central opening, typical of this school.
Thickness at center, 3.25mm; at edge, 4.0mm.
Robert E. Haynes owned this tsuba in 1963.

From TSUBA KANSHOKI, 1965. pg. 27
(seal belongs to Robert E. Haynes)
"Round iron plate with kaku mimi ko niku, ji sukashi of two rings, and lead-filled hitsu-ana.
Signatures both sides are being studied (very faint) to confirm evidence of being made by TAKATSUGU (in early life called Haruta Chuzaemon)."(Haynes)
Accompanied with N.T.H.K. Kanteisho Certificate No. 6053 dated 2017.

Nidai Bizen Suruga Master
"Round iron plate with sukashi design of five boat paddles. This is the work, though unsigned, of the 2nd Bizen Suruga Master. He is Haruta, later Suruga, IETSUGU (H 01834.0). He worked in the Momoyama to early Edo period at Okayama city in Bizen Province for the Ikeda Daimyo, as did a number of the later generations of this family school. Besides the style and subject matter we can see the hand of this master in the copper plugs that he insert at the top and bottom of the nakago-ana, which his father had used before him, as did several of the later generations. The bottom copper plug has been removed in this example. This master often used the designs of his father, such as we see in this example, but in later life he created many designs of his own. A very fine classic example of the early work of this artist." (Long)

Sandai Bizen Suruga Master
"Round iron sukashi tsuba with design of a rudder. Symbolic meaning of steering a boat and guiding a samurai. An excellent example of the work of the 3rd Suruga Master. The surfaces have no flaws or any signs of rust or corrosion and appear as if polished (meigaku-ji). There are few iron bones (tekkotsu) present in the rim. The sekigane is in classic Suruga style and in tack. This style of sekigane is called kuchi-beni - "open mouth red lips".

The signature (mei) reads 'INSHU JU SURUGA SAKU'. He is the 3rd Bizen Suruga Master, H 09041.0. This family name was used by the later members of the original Haruta family school, after they moved to Suruga Province. The third generation signed Inshu Suruga or Inshu Suruga Saku." (Long)

"Iron plate shape of the Uzume mask (Otafuku), and with a bold carved rope rim. The hitsu-ana in the shape of the half Matsukawabishi mon. The ishime ground of the plate still retains some of the original black lacquer surface, mostly on the face. The original copper plugs at the top and bottom of the nakago-ana have added copper when this tsuba was remounted at a later date.

The face is signed: 'INSHU JU SURUGA SAKU'. Muneie was the third generation of the Bizen Suruga family school. He was born at Okayama in Bizen Province in 1625 as the son of the second Bizen Suruga master, Ietsugu (H 01834.0). He went, it is said on June 4, 1632 to Totori in Inaba Province, with Lord Ikeda when he was posted to Inaba, and thus he was to sign, as this tsuba, Inshu (Inaba) Suruga saku." (Long)

Not For Sale
"Under Study. Design sukashi of a 'paper doll'." (Haynes)
Not For Sale
"Under Study." (Haynes)
Signed: "BIZEN ju SURUGA SAKU". "This is said to be the second generation Suruga master. The plate gives you some feeling of the work of Hirata Hikozo, though I doubt there is any connection. Were this an unsigned tsuba, and without the kuchibeni (sekigane) we would not know who might have made it." (Haynes)
Serious Inquiries Only
"Under Study." (Haynes)
"Large mumei unsigned iron tsuba with palm tree or fern design sukashi petals both sides. Iron base round shape square rim with very good hammer work. The iron surface shows the deterioration of the times, but the rust is firmly established. There are no notable scratches." (Haynes)
8.22cm x 8.06cm x 0.39cm
"Presented here is a masterpiece tsuba that has been decorated with delicate and powerful craftsmanship of wild horses. Belongs in the upper class among Inshu Suruga work. The plate metal is iron of good quality and hardness. The forging is very good.
Signed: 'INSHU SURUGA TAKATSUGU'. Refer to Haynes H 09330.0. The seventh master of the Suruga family school. Became the head of the family in 1754.
Certified by the NBTHK as Hozon Tosogu." (Haynes)


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     $1000.00
"The tsuba presented here is a large mokko shape of excellent well forged iron. The rim is produced by hammering from the outside called uchikaeshi mimi. There are carved designs of omodaka and turtle shell. Early Edo period.
Accompanied by a Hozon certificate issued by the NBTHK." (Long)

"A group of the Tosa Myochin smiths went to Edo to study with the Akasaka masters Tadatoki andn Tadanori. It was the lord of Tosa, Yamanouchi, who inspired the Tosa school masters to work in Akasaka style. The best of their work is equal to the later Akasaka tsuba produced in Edo. In some of their work there is strong influence by the Higo style mixed with the Tosa Akasaka style." (Long)
8.15cm x 7.85cm x 0.60cm
MYOCHIN     Not For Sale
"This tsuba is highly regarded as 'Hana Kirigiri Tsuba' by an unknown Myochin. It is a large tsuba with a rustic design that is timeless. The iron is very good, and the base iron feels good in hand."
Published in the 'Nihon Toban Zusetsu', 1968 Edition.
Accompanied by a Tokubetsu Hozon certificate issued by the NBTHK." (Long)
KAGA MYOCHIN     $1200.00
"In this case the plate is very thick, more than the thickest Akasaka school plate. This example would seem to be the work of the Edo period Myochin school. The original Horai school was related to the Kaga Myochin group, and this example was probably made by a later master of that school. The plate has a very fine patina and the edge has some iron bones. There is fine line carving detail on both the crane and the tortoise (crane and tortoise emblematic of longevity). It would seem that this tsuba was made to emulate the original Horai examples, of the Momoyama period, some of which are signed." (Long)
7.9cm x 8.0cm x 0.7cm. thick
"Hammer mark pattern on well-tempered iron ground, maru gata, with bamboo pattern carving.
Mei: 'MYOCHIN NAGATO no KAMI FUJIWARA KUNIMICHI'. This is H 03612.0 in the Haynes Index. A tsuba craftsman working in Kanda in Edo ca. 1700-1750." (Haynes & Long)
7.65cm x 7.57cm x 0.40cm
"A rounded square iron sukashi tsuba of cherry blossom design. A wonderful example of this tsubaco's work.
Signed: TOSA ju MYOCHIN MUNESUKE'. Refer to Haynes Index H06240.0." (Haynes & Long)
'MUNEHIRA'   $800.00
"A round iron tsuba with inlays of a dragon and folage design. A wonderful example of this tsubaco's work.
Signed: 'MUNEHIRA'. Refer to Haynes Index H06063.0." (Haynes & Long)
7.90cm x 7.90cm x 0.50cm
'SHIGENOBU'   $800.00

"Iron plate with rope styled shakudo fukurin. The three openings depict clouds possibly. Both hitsu kogai shape.
Signature: 'SHIGENOBU'. This is the Myochin Shigenobu who worked in the Kozuke Province." (Long)
7.65cm x 7.70cm x 0.35cm


The term "Onin tsuba" is well known. The full definitions for the two types of Onin tsuba are: Onin shichu suemon-zogan tsuba, and Onin shinchu ten-zogan tsuba. These two names refer to the style of inlay employed in the decoration of Onin tsuba. Both types were made at Kyoto (prior to the making of Heianjo-zogan tsuba in Kyoto) from the Onin era (1467-1468) to the Tenmon era (1532-1554), though there are cast brass tsuba inlayed tsuba of the Edo age which seem to be the last vestiges of this school.
Since tradition decrees that brass was first imported from China in the Eikyo era (1429-1441), it is natural that it should be employed in the decoration of tsuba shortly thereafter. It was both new and novel, and because of its great monetary value was regarded as rich and valuable material for the enrichment of tsuba. At the height of its production, the Onin tsuba was the most sought after style. The color of the brass of the Onin tsuba is most important. It is rich and deep in color, not the shallow yellow color of the native metal used in the Edo age. The imported metal is far superior in quality to the later native brass of the Edo age.

"A classic mid-sized ONIN style tsuba made in ca.1450. This example has all of the best qualities of the Onin type work, but it has one characteristic very rarely seen in this style of work. The surface of the inlay metal retains its original color. It has never been polished or defaced, which is very rare. The color is very important and shows what this type of work looked like when made in 1450 - NOT bright brass but a deep 'honey' color of great quality. A highly important study work." (Haynes & Long)
7.70cm x 7.36cm x 0.24cm

    Serious Inquiries Only
"A masterpiece of Heianjo style tsuba. The lion and peonies are old-fashioned and interesting. The stubby face and shape of the seppa-dai also confirms the age dating ca.1400-1450. There is a border, so you can see that the two hitsu are naive. Seems to date to the end of the Muromachi period. There is no missing inlay. Attributed with Hakogaki by Dr. Sato Kanzan, dated mid-Summer 1972. Box lid states 'Heianjo Style'." (Haynes & Long)
"Chrysanthemum flower design on excellent forged iron from the Muromachi period. The age of the Onin inlaid brass confirms the age to ca.1500." (Long)
8.34cm x 8.09cm x 0.31cm

ONIN   $1000.00
"A well forged and hammered plate in mokko shape which is rare for Onin tsuba. Dating to ca. 1500. The seppa-dai and original hitsu-ana are marked by the thin inlaid brass wire. The second hitsu-ana is a later addition. The designs are different on each side consisting of animals, plants and mon's.
This piece is both prolific and extravagant, yet is very pleasing to the eye. The majority of the designs used in its decoration are but an infinite variation of a similar theme." (Haynes & Long)
6.90cm x 7.50cm x 0.24cm

KAGA HEIANJO Tsuba   $6000.00
"NOTE: Dr. Toregoye box dated 1963. The NBTHK Hozon dated February 22, 2019." (Haynes & Long)

HEIANJO Tsuba   $1700.00
"Large slight oval iron plate with brass inlay of four Dharma wheels. This is the classic style of early Heianjo suemon zogan tsuba. Both the plate and the inlay have their original patina.
Heianjo tsuba are considered to have developed from the Onin work in the early 1500s. They are normally of the suemon type, but the inlay is cut out from sheet metal rather than cast in a mold. Any surface detail on the brass is carved in as seen here. This can be considered decorated Katchushi, although the plate tends to be of softer iron, perhaps to make the inlay process easier.
The iron is very good, the overall conception is inventive yet subdued and elegant and the brass is well inlaid and carved." (Haynes & Long)
8.60cm x 8.00cm x 0.50cm

"A Muromachi period iron plate with Heianjo brass inlay of very good workmanship. It is thought to be one of the first two generations of the family. The first generation from the late Muromachi to second generation into Momoyama period.
Signed: 'HEIANJO CHOKICHI'. This is 'Yoshiyuki' of the Suzuki family (H 12339.0). A very rare signature which leads to a masterpiece work of the first generation. Further study underway." (Haynes & Long)

"Presented here is a tsuba of Kikyo Karakusa; bellflower and vines. It is mumei but likely crafted by the Kaga tradition, the feature being iron plate with brass inlay work. Dating to ca. 1400, it is very rare to have large inlay on the plate and going over the pipe rim. This would be the earliest "Kaga" style work so far recorded. In excellent condition with minimal missing inlay." (Haynes & Long)

SENDAI (Heianjo)
"Four-way open tsuba of iron ground with mokko-shaped lobes, brass inlay with design of clouds of Heian-jo style, unsigned, both hitsu-ana filled with shakudo. I think it's the design of Heianjo inlay that was popular in the middle of the Muromachi period dating to ca.1400. The exact age is unknown, but it is quite old. It is a large size close to 9 cm. It was heavy and made light, and I think it was attached to a large sword. The color with the taste of brass inlay is a splendid gem. Since it is old, there are stains, rust, and missing inlays, but I think it is in relatively good condition." (Haynes & Long)

"Presented here is a first class Heianjo tsuba with excellant color and patina. The inlay is rich and elegant with no missing areas. The design is of an eggplant done in a stylistic manner.
This piece is representative of the quality of fittings in the Dick Dodge Collection of Japanese Art." (Haynes & Long)

NFS-Under Study
"This iron tsuba has the shape of ju-mokko (ten mountains) with both sides having large and small symmetrical sukashi open work designs. The inlay was made by the Heianjo Zogan technique. In Edo Period this technique was appreciated and sought after." (Haynes & Long)


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 open work of this design are the branches of a willow and two cranes in the lower quadrant. Other similar guards appear in the Akasaka and Higo groups, but this one is distinctively and abounding in a sense of Kyoto style. The fine quality of the metal and the charm of the design result in a bright total mood.
Attributed with a Hakogaki by Sato Kanzan." (Haynes)
8.20cm x 8.20cm x 0.50cm

KYO-SUKASHI   $2200.00
"This guard shows much of the feeling of age of Kyo-Sukashi works. The movement in the pattern and the wide seppa-dai are important characteristics. The forms of the leaves are varied, and the metal is thick and of slightly coarse quality.The depth of the feeling of the iron suggests that this work is old even among Kyo pieces. Seems to date to Middle Muromachi period.

The theme of this tsuba is Ginko leaves. Ginko trees were planted around Japan beginning in the Muromachi period. They have a long history in traditional medicine and are able to survive in many areas. Large Ginko trees became the symbol of shrines and temples. They are called Goshinboku, 'sacred trees'.
Attributed with a Hakogaki by Dr. Toregoye, dated 1967, 1st Class Pre-Edo Period." (Haynes)
7.70cm x 7.70cm x 0.30cm

"Attributed with a Hakogaki by Dr. Toregoye, Muromachi Period, First Class, Very Important. 1954" (Haynes)

"Attributed with a Hakogaki by Dr. Toregoye, Edo Period, Second Class." (Haynes)

"Attributed with a Hakogaki by Dr. Toregoye, Pre Edo, First Class." (Haynes)

"A very novel design of wave heads and large (solid) dot's of spray. This is the only example found so far with design. A rare free thinking artist of the early Muromachi period. An important study work of very fine quality.
Dates to ca.1400 to 1450."

"A delicately and ethereal sukashi representation of a table arrangement of a plant, a minature willow tree Bonzai. Seems Kyoto, but probably Kyoto Shoami work. Very rare design and very well done. The rim has a few small iron bones. Some of the willow tree branches are inlaid. A very remarkable work of the best quality. Dates ca. 1600."

   Serious Inquiries Only
"Iron slight oval tsuba with openwork design of two inome at top and bottom and two small openings both sides. The very well forged plate shows fine mokume on the surface in many areas. The forging of the iron gives the feeling that the iron was like candy. How it was formed is not sure. The very large hitsu are filled with old shakudo plate.
The maker is un-known and even the school is not clear. It seems to date ca. 1700-1750."(Haynes)

"Presented here is a round iron katchushi tsuba with a design sukashi of four 'Kaburaya', arrow with a turnip-shaped head. The condition is excellent and very well tempered. Appears to date to ca. 1500.
The Hakogaki is dated October 'on a lucky day', 1975 by Dr. Torigoye. Why his name has been removed we do not know and have never seen done before."(Haynes)

"Write-up coming soon." (Long)
8.40cm x 8.30cm x 0.50cm

"We have no idea who this artist is - or how to read his name. With the 'fuji' ending kanji, he proports to be of the Fujiwara family line.Such an early ca. 1500 or so signature is very rare. Naturally, the N.B.T.H.K. paper says 'nothing', as usual." (Haynes)

"A Sukashi tsuba with two crabs left and right of the hitsu-ana. The iron is well hammered.
Early Edo Period (Early 17th C.)." (Haynes)

SUKASHI    $200.00
An excellent study piece of a iron sukashi design. There are obvious traits of various schools: Akasaka, Owari, Shoami, and others. We may never know who actually made this highly refined and simple piece.
6.98cm x 6.52cm x 0.47cm


Kamakura tsuba of the first period date from the early Muromachi age to the end of that age. The second period was an imitation of the first period. The style became more naturalistic and complicated in design in each successive period. It was the samurai class who kept this style alive for more than two hundred years. The samurai saw in the Kamakura tsuba his own ideal of taste and reserve.



"A generally accepted characterization describes Kanayama guards in this way: they are thick; they have raised, squared rims with tekkotsu (iron bones) visible in the rims; their openwork design frequently defies interpretation; and they are often small." (Masayuki Sasano)
The late Akiyama, after intensive study, concluded that the place of production of Kanayama tsuba was in the province of Owari. He said, "Kanayama's name may be either the name of the family or the place they lived, I am not sure, but these tsuba are much admired and are very excellent and rare."
During their production the Kanayama style tsuba was very popular with the samurai. They were greatly appreciated, by all, for their simplicity, noble designs, and great strength. This school would seem to be the earliest to use ji-sukashi (positive silhouette).
The Kanayama tsuba is an excellent example of the best quality in the fundamental aesthetic principles of the tsuba. The best examples of this school stand in the first rank of the art of the tsuba.

"Iron in round shape with rounded rim. It is slightly reddish with a thick and glossy tone. The design of Matsu tree and a fishing bell.
NBTHK attribution, Hozon to Den Kanayama.
On page 106 of Sasano's Toru published in 1972, a similar Kanayama of the same design." (Haynes)
7.02cm x 6.80cm x 0.45-50cm

"This tsuba dates to about 1550, late Muromachi period. The design represents a Kanji reading SEI, IKIRU, Birth, Life, Live. A good Samurai motto to take into battle." (Haynes)
7.25cm x 7.25cm x 0.50cm

A slight oval tsuba of very dense iron, somewhat heavy for its size. Both the mimi has a variety of strong but natural tekkotsu. The seppa-dai displays a few laminations. The color of the metal is very dark, and its overall mood antique. The design of ......................... as the sole pattern is unusual, but being concise yet noble, shows how lofty the aesthetic ideals of samurai warriors were. The deep color of the iron, and the look of age of the metal surfaces indicate that this work is dated to the late Muromachi period.
6.6cm x 6.9cm x 0.5cm

KANAYAMA    $2000.00
A very imposing and powerful iron piece with a strong black patina. The composition is simple and geometric, which suggests it being made at the Kanayama Shrine in Nagoya. The image below shows a very similar piece attributed to the Kanayama group. The central motif is of a 'MANJI'. Very well done. Possibly dates to late Muromachi period.
7.45cm x 7.00cm x 0.56cm (face) x 0.60cm (edge)

KANAYAMA    $4100.00
"A small compact Kanayama tsuba of very dense quality iron showing pronounced tekkotsu or iron bones. Tekkotsu are areas of steel that are harder due to greater carbon content than the surrounding metal. The metal has a bright gleam, and the rim is somewhat thin. The deep color of the iron, the look of age of the metal surfaces indicate that this is a work from the middle Muromachi period." (Long)

KANAYAMA    $500.00
"Kanayama tsuzumi is a forged iron made in the Owari and Mino regions from the mid-Kamakura period to the Edo period. The shape is mokko round and small but very thick. The iron is blackish and hard."
7.50cm x 6.50cm x 0.50cm


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 Shoami

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.

Akita Shoami

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.

"Complete write-up impending.
Refer to Haynes Index H 01802.0. Published in Zabo Tansen, page 318." (Haynes)

BIZEN SHOAMI    $8000.00
"An excellent round sukashi iron tsuba, the style being rich in its decorative quality. The design of fishing nets under flowers and clouds is naive yet very tasteful. The subject of this tsuba is applicable to the countryside, having a strong and bold quality. They are decorated with gold nunome inlay. Early Edo period." (Long)
Comes with Hako-gaki by Dr. Torigoye in 1964 on the 7th month, 17th day. 7.95cm x 7.80cm x 0.40cm.

"A Ko Shoami tsuba with grapes design. Muromachi Period." (Long)
7.50cm x 7.30cm x 0.42cm.

"A Goami Tsuba with a swallowtail butterfly design. Early Edo period (17th Cent.)" (Long)
Comes with NBTHK Tokubetsu Kicho (Green) Paper.
8.45cm x 8.35cm x 0.42cm.

"Presented here is a very rare tsuba with Tomoe designs. It is a masterpiece with a strong iron aesthetic.
This is Kyoto work done in ca. 1700." (Long)
Comes with Hako-gaki by Dr. Torigoye First Class, Edo period.
8.05cm x 8.20cm x 0.35cm.

"Hakogaki by author. Edo Period (ca. 1700). See Haynes Index H 01452.0.
"A fine classic Kyoto style work on iron plate." (Long)
Published in ZABO TANZEN, pg. 310 no. 339.
8.50cm x 8.20cm x 0.38cm.

Two full circles, the outer making up the rim and the inner circle are the frame work for this wonderful first class piece. The two remaining circles, each as half circles, arranged symetrically add strength and spirit to the design. The rim of this expressive sword guard displays linear tekkotsu in abundance. The very high quality finish and the elegance of its age elevates this masterpiece to amoung the earliest examples of Ko-Shoami tsuba.
Dates to ca. 1400 or earlier.
7.95cm x 7.92cm x 0.48cm.

   Serious Inquiries Only

"Large rounded square iron plate nicely forged and hammered with excellent patina and color. Further study of mei and description coming soon." (Haynes & Long)

"Presented here is a early Shoami tsuba around the late Muromachi/early Momoyama period (ca. 1550). In terms of era division, the Northern and Southern Courts, Muromachi, Sengoku, and Momoyama periods were traditional for Katchushi and Tosho style tsuba.
This is a very bold, strong plate of well forged iron. The iron base has hammer marks as a whole, and the rim is square and stout.
The sukashi openings represent a sake cup and gourd." (Long)

"Presented here is a well-forged iron plate tsuba of rounded-square shape with thick lustrous brass inlay of lotus plants. The blossoms, leaves and vines are pre-cast. These pieces are then inserted into 'reservoirs' cut to shape in the plate. There are no sharp edges as might be found on carved inlay. The design of the blossoms and leaves are carved after insertion in the plate. The broad areas of inlay are called suemon-zogan. A masterpiece of this school dating to ca.1700, mid Edo period." (Haynes & Long)

"This is a classic example of Genroku (1688-1703) period work. He was not as famous as others of his time. He was a good artist in the best Shoami Classic tradition.
Haynes Index H 08427.0.
ZABO TANZEN pg.315, #344. Oite Namban Tetsu Saku Kore (I made this with Namban iron)." (Haynes & Long)

KO-SHOAMI  $2000.00
"Very fine iron with a nice natural patina. The motif appears to be a flock of geese." (Haynes & Long)
7.50cm x 7.40cm x 0.30cm.

Ko-Shoami    $3000.00
"From a square mokko-shape iron plate comes a lattice Shoji design. A very rare design that is not often found.

Certified by the N.B.T.H.K. to Hozon Tosogu. Mumei, to Ko-Shoami school. Continued study is under way." (Haynes)
7.61cm x 7.58cm x 0.35cm
"The theme of this tsuba is turnips. It is one of the seven Spring plants that is eaten. The tsuba is mumei but has all the features of this tradition. There are details, dew drops in gold and the refinement of the design along with the elegance of the workmanship leading to a date of Mid Edo period." (Haynes)
Ko-Shoami    $3200.00
"Write-up to follow." (Haynes)
"Presented here is a large iron work of beautiful Amidaba accentuated with gold inlays of karatake that extend to the sides. The state of preservation is good, even though there are areas of missing gold inlay. Though a simple design it has a powerful presence.

Signed: 'SHIGEKATSU' of the Iyo Shoami school. He was a master craftsman who is believed to have been active in Kyoto in the mid Edo period." (Haynes)
9.00cm x 0.50cm

"Presented here is a fully signed iron plate tsuba with gold highlighted red oak leaf each face. Both hitsu-ana filled with shakudo. The rim is delicately carved." (Long)
Comes with Hako-gaki by Dr. Torigoye, December 28, 1954.

8.60cm x 8.60cm x 0.45cm.

"Five sukashi openings of a 'Kozuchi', a small mallet. Three of the kozuchi are filled with shakudo. Dates to ca. 1700." (Long)
Comes with Hako-gaki by Dr. Torigoye December 4, 1954.

8.00cm x 8.20cm x 0.31cm.

OMODAKA SHOAMI    $2000.00
"Round marugata shape iron tsuba with toru hair carving on the leaves. Both hitsu-ana same though different size.
Preservation appraisal by NBTHK Hozon Mumei: Shoami." (Long)
8.60cm x 8.60cm x 0.60cm
Ko-Shoami    $1600.00
"Write up to follow. NBTHK 'GREEN' paper attribution." (Haynes)
8.90cm x 8.60cm x 0.40cm
Ko-Shoami    Not For Sale
"Write up to follow. NBTHK 'Green' paper. This piece dates to ca. 1500." (Haynes)
KYO-SHOAMI    $800.00
A marugata niku bori ji sukashi tsuba depicting a table used on an alter of a temple to place offerings on top of. The entire surface of both sides and rim are smooth, made first by filing and then by the use of a whetstone. Dates to ca. 1700. (Long)
7.32cm x 7.33cm x 0.56cm
KO-SHOAMI   $300.00
"Iron square mokko shape (iri-sumi kaku) of sukashi design of a kanji meaning 'for you'. This was a gift tsuba. Remnants of gold and silver inlay, gold representing the sun and silver representing the moon. A fair amount of the inlay is missing but cherry blossom flowers can be seen. Dates to Momoyama period, ca. 1700." (Long)

7.90cm x 8.15cm x 0.45cm

Accompanied by a Kanteisho (75 points) certificate number 5360, issued by the N.T.H.K., dated September, 2004.
"Round (maru gata) iron plate tsuba with uchikaeshi rim (mimi). The web carved in the design of a weaving spool or bobbin (itomaki) and broken brocade pattern done in gold and silver nunome inlay. Much of the black lacquer is present. Dated ca.1650.
Signed: 'Geishu ju Yoshihisa Saku' H 11614.0. Yoshihisa's real name was Seizaemon, 1st generation. He worked in Geishu ju, Aki Province. A very elegant and rare guard." (Long)

SHOAMI   $1000.00
Momoyama Period (ca. 1600)
"The elaborate and detailed design of cloves, the use of refined iron with abundant brass inlay, contribute to the strong impact of this masterpiece. There seems to be two different colors of brass inlay used. Fine tekkotsu on the rim. The representation seen here of cloves (one of the objects of the Takaramono, associated with the Gods of Luck), define Sweetness and Health. Only missing inlay at 8 o'clock position (see at right)." (Long)
AIZU SHOAMI    $300.00
"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 as is the case here. 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 the Chinese subject shown here, are 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." (Long)
6.90cm x 7.35cm x 0.40cm
SHOAMI   $600.00
"A round iron plate tsuba with scalloped rim edge. The brass inlay of three leaf plant with vines occurs on both sides. On the ura side, left of nakago-ana, is carved 'Ten' meaning heaven, sky, the air, Imperial, etc. It seems this was added after the tsuba was made. The hitsu-ana show Shoami style influence.
Dates to the Momoyama period, ca. 1550-1600." (Long)
7.30cm x 7.85cm x 0.45cm


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 follows:

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.

'Yamashiro no Kuni Fushimi Ju Kaneiye'
This fine iron tsuba for a Japanese sword has a maru gata circular form, with punch marks in the nakago ana, a look of great strength and a well patined surface. It is ubu, no hitsu-ana. The well patined surface is carved in a delicate manner in katakiri borion both faces. The subject depicts a peaceful landscape, with two Tsuru alighting above, and mountains rising in the distance. The design looks like a painting, it is in the tradition of Chinese Sung dynasty landscape painting, and of the ink drawings of the Japanese painter Sesshuu. The metal is good, the workmanship excellent, the design lofty, dignified, and carefully worked, and the surface with a deep dark brown patina. This tsuba exhibits many usual characteristics, is very well hammered, and the entire guard has a rustic appearance. All of these traits make this an excellant work of the Saga Kaneiye school. Dates to ca. 1700.
'Yamashiro no Kuni Fushimi Ju Kaneiye'
A large iron plate tsuba in maru-gata circular form, with punch marks and sekigane in the nakago ana. Both hitsu ana are filled with shakudo. The well patined surface is carved in a delicate manner in katakiri bori. The carving repeats on the reverse, with engraved details, and the iron of good color. The concept of the design encompasses the total surface of the tsuba. The metal is good, the workmanship excellent, the design lofty, dignified, and carefully worked, with minimal inlay of gold, and the surface with a deep chocolate patina. This Tsuba exhibits an unusual outline of the entire seppa area to include the hitsu-ana on both faces. The entire guard has a rustic appearance. Dates to ca. 1750.
'Yamashiro no Kuni Fushimi Ju Kaneiye'
This iron plate tsuba has a largely squared circular form known as Okaku Maru. It is provided with Hitsu Ana. The well patined surface is carved in a delicate manner, a carving with lines of varying thickness and depth in imitation of the strokes of a painter's brush, the carving repeats on the reverse, with engraved details. The subject depicts the usual scene of a boat on the shoreline amongst the bamboo, under a chrysanthemum growing in the hills. On the ura, the landscape below and the hills above surrounding a temple. The workmanship is not only found in the Saga school pieces but also in Mito and Shoami schools. The design is dignified, and carefully worked, the forms full bodied, and the surface with a deep brown patina. This tsuba exhibits many usual characteristics, and the entire guard has a rustic appearance. Dates to ca. 1800.
'KANEIYE SAKU'     $900.00   
"An iron tsuba in round form, with sekegane in the nakago ana. Both surfaces display a fine patina.
This tsuba is signed: 'KANEIYE SAKU'. H 02465.A. Though the work of this artist has been illustrated in several books, such as Wakayama, Kokubo, and others, he is not recorded as a known artist who was a legitimate part of the Kaneiye school." (Haynes & Long)
Refer to H 02463.0. AIZU SHOAMI-FU
"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?" (Long)
"An iron tsuba in rounded square form, with punch marks in the nakago ana. Both surfaces display a fine patina. It is provided with two kozuka ana, one being plugged with shakudo, and are original to the piece. The design is of two gourds in sukashi, the largest being among its stem with leaves in gold inlay. This same stem and leaf design appears on the reverse but across from the large gourd.
This tsuba is signed: 'YAMASHIRO KUNI FUSHIMI JU KANEIYE'. H 02464.0.
This Tsuba is accompanied with a hakogaki by Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye stating that the signature is genuine." (Long)
8.00cm x 8.80cm x 0.50cm
'KANEIYE SAKU'    $2000.00
"Iron round (maru-gata) tsuba with one very small sukashi and few punch work and carvings representing 'tide pools'. The silver and brass ten zogan and fine copper inlay represent kelp, seaweed and other vegetation found on the shoreline of Japan. Subtle tekkotsu appears on the rim.
This tsuba accompanied with origami issued in Japan in 2014, by the NTHK-NPO. The paper attributes this excellant tsuba to 'KANEIYE SAKU' and early Edo period." (Long)
8.1cm x 8.4cm x 0.5cm
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)

NOTE: The work of the first Kaneiye employed only the uttori style of inlay (the sheet of metal to be inlaid is fastened to the plate by hammering its edge into a groove cut in the plate to secure it), while the work of the second Kaneiye has both uttori and the new iroe style (silver solder is used to affix the sheets of inlaid metal). From this evidence it would be safe to say that the first Kaneiye lived before the time of Goto Kojo and that the second was contemporary or later than the time of Goto Kojo. The first Kaneiye worked about 1558 to 1592 and the second Kaneiye about 1573 to 1615.

Read about Kaneiye and Myochin Nobuiye from 'Japanese Sword Mounts' by Helen C. Gunsaulus OR


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 Kai Province , the home of the Takeda, Kaga is the home of the Maeda, branch family of the Tokugawa, and Akasaka is a site where an offshoot of the Miochin relocated after Nobuiye’s time. The standpoint on signatures is simple and logical; Only one tsuba signed Miochin Nobuiye is known to Joly and that is of a quality that invites scorn as a later reproduction by ‘someone’, though who we will never know.  The Tsubako Nobuiye signs just those two kanji and only later ‘inheritors of his tradition’ (rather than later generations) use such prefixes as ‘Geishu Ju’. So says Joly.

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.

An on-going study about the Wide - Space signature of NOBU     IYE
   H 07074.0

by Iida Kazuo, Tokyo, 1981.

"Momoyama/Early Edo Period. Mokko form with high raised mimi (the rim of this tsuba shows great cleverness and ability in its foundation, displaying every kind of tekkotsu), engraved with an overall design of scrolling foliage, probably Hagi plant, in kebori above two udenuki-ana. The ryohitsu plugged with thick gilt metal." (Long)
'NOBUIYE'     $8000.00
"A well forged iron plate in almost square configuration. Four inome appear at the corners and there is a twisted rope design for the rim. Both hitsu-ana are the same, one has been filled with shakudo. The carving is simple yet robust which makes the entire piece very appealing.

The mei is original and points this to the Owari 'NOBUIYE'. Dates to the late Muromachi period." (Long)
   Serious Inquiries Only

"Large mokko shape iron plate nicely forged, hammered and carved with excellent patina and color. Further study and description coming soon." (Haynes & Long)
'NOBUIYE'     $1200.00
"A round plate that is well hammered in true Nobuiye style with uchikaeshi rim. Kiri mon hot stamp appears at the same cross points on both sides. Almost all of the original black lacquer is intact with the exception of a few small areas.
Signed: 'NOBUIE' H 07061.0. This is a masterly example of a Shoami Nobuiye tsuba. The shapes of the hitsu-ana and the surface treatment confirm a date of ca. 1500." (Long)
'NOBUIYE'     $2500.00
H 07072.A
"Owari Nobuiye, H 07070.0 dates to 1700-1750. Sato Kanzan hakogaki 1963" (Long)
7.70cm x 7.10cm x 0.35cm
HIZEN 'NOBUIYE'     $2500.00
H 07072.A
"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 Nobuiye who was living in the Hizen/Nagasaki area in the mid to later Edo period." (Long)
8.50cm x 7.50cm x 0.60cm
MYOCHIN NOBUIYE     $1200.00
H 07075.0 (ca. 1550)
"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." (Long)
'NOBUIYE'     $1200.00
"Echizen Nobuiye, H 07064.0 dates to ca.1650-1700." (Long)
'NOBUIYE'     $1000.00
"A small iron plate with the cherry blossom and omodaka design of Nobuiye's. There are vestiges of the NOBUIYE signature, only the first kanji is visable." (Long)
'MINAMOTO no YOSHIYUKI'     $800.00
"Worked in the style and made copies of Nobuiye school tsuba. Large rounded square iron plate tsuba with raised rim, 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 both kozuka shaped, one a little larger than the other.
Mei: 'MINAMOTO no YOSHIYUKI'. See Haynes Index H 12327.0." (Long)
SHOAMI 'NOBUIYE'     $500.00
H 07069.0    (Hosoji-mei)  (ca.1750-1800)
"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." (Long)
"This artist is one of the few whose existence has been confirmed among tsuba craftsmen who call themselves Nobuiye with the name of their place of residence. Inscribed by the Sunshu family working in the Suruga Province. His style is Owari which is different from Nobuie's.
Mei: 'SUNSHU JU NOBUIYE SAKU'. This is H 07071.0 in Haynes Index. Also refer to ASHIFU, H 00157.0." (Long)
'NOBUIYE'     $2000.00
H 07074.0  (ca.1600-1650)
"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." (Long)
'NOBUIYE'     $3000.00
H 07074.0
"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." (Long)


Yamasaka Kichibei was the name of the first tsuba artist of this family. Later members of this school shortened the name to Yamakichibei, still later on we see the name Yamakichi. The working period of the first Yamasaka Kichibei is from Tensho to Keicho eras (1575-1615), about contemporary with the second Nobuiye.
Yamakichibei tsuba are among the very best iron sword guards ever made. Their mastery of certain features/processes such as tsuchime, yakite, and tekkotsu, especially in combination, reached heights never to be surpassed, and rarely equaled, resulting in tsuba with great predominance.
Study has shown that from the 1570's on up to the 1620's or so, the Yamakichibei atelier featured five or six supremely talented tsubako. There clearly were some fundamental ideas concerning aesthetics and techniques of production, but each tsubako was an individual whose work as an individual becomes clear when we take the time and trouble to study them carefully.

"In a world where the term 'unique' is among the most overused, Yamakichibei tsuba are unique. Nothing else looks like a Yamakichibei tsuba. They are distinct from all other sword guards, offering an instantly recognizable aesthetic. No other tsubako combined tsuchime, yakite-shitate, yasuri, and tekkotsu so distinctively and masterfully as did the Yamakichibei smiths. No others brought together design and motif as they did. The bold power of their expression is matched by few if any others. But even beyond their appearance, the sheer quality of workmanship in genuine Yamakichibei guards is second to none. And as metalworks embodying and emanating the values and principles informing the exquisite aesthetics of Buke Tea in Momoyama Japan, they are at the top of the mountain, superior to all others. The Yamakichibei tsubako stand with the few who produced the very finest sword fittings in Japanese history, and absolutely should be so recognized." ( Steve Waszak )

"This artist often used a hot stamp in the form of a cherry bloom, following his signature. Thus he is known as Sakura Yamakichibei. In the past he was said to be the 3rd generation Yamakichibei, but he may have been a student of the school and not directly related. Examples of his work are very rare.
Presented here is a rare iron plate tsuba in kawari mokkogata (12 sided) shape. There are file marks cut radially outward from the center to the circumference, very closely and compactly spaced, known as 'amida yasurime'. A stylish masterpiece with two cherry blossom sukashi, a work signed 'BISHU Sakura YAMAKICHIBEI' that is rare. This tsuba is very well finished and in good condition." (Haynes & Long)

'YAMAKICHIBEI'    $2500.00
"A very fine example with family mon and dragon fly motif. The design and treatment of the plate, featuring outstanding tsuchime, tekkotsu, and yakite treatment, confirms the superb ability of this smith, all in a mokko-gata shape." (Haynes)

'YAMAKICHIBEI'    $3000.00
"A mokko-gata iron tsuba with rustic sobriety and unpretentiousness as achieved by the Yamakichibei lineage is perfect in keeping with Zen aesthetic sensibilities that were popular during its time of manufacture. Furthermore, the overall quality, brown-ish color and abundance of globular and linear tekkotsu illustrates the close relationship to the origin of the school.
The tsuba features two sukashi of 'katsumushi'. Both hitsu-ana are present, one being filled with shakudo. The nakago-ana has copper inserts.

Signed: 'YAMAKICHIBEI'. Appears to have been made by the master, rather than being a daisaku/daimei piece. The workmanship expresses more feeling and power. Dates to ca. 1600." (Haynes)

'YAMAKICHIBEI'    $3000.00
"Fine granular tekkotsu in the rim gives a moist luster. The beveling in the rim is very fine and creates a distinctive mood. The shape, a variation of the mokko-gata motif, was a speciality of the Yamakichi school. This work is very powerful and reveals the strength of the first hereditary Yamakichi master. On the left side of the upper surface of the seppa-dai are the very indistinct letters of the name Yamakichibei.

Attributed with NTHK Kanteisho. With six Appraisers seals." (Haynes)
7.00cm x 7.60cm x 0.45cm


Two of the finest artists living in the early Edo age were the second Yamakichibei and the first Sadahiro. Since they were contemporaneous it is thought that the first Sadahiro must have been a student of the first Yamakichibei. This seems doubtful, for his early work, which he signs 'SADAHIRO', resembles the style of the katchushi more than it does that of Yamakichibei. In his later work his style resembles that of the second Yamakichibei, especially the iron quality and forging. The first Sadahiro used decorative carving and inlay that is a combination of the style of the Umetada and Shoami schools.

    Under Study - NFS

"Sadahiro's signature iron tsuba published on page 359 of ZABO TANZEN Selection/Written by Kenichi Kokubo and Kenzo Otsubo''. The dark period rust is beautiful and the iron taste is very good. A Sanskrit character or a flame-like pattern is repeatedly carved or engraved along the inside part of the rim. The ears have streaky or granular steel bones." (Long & Haynes)

    Under Study - NFS

"This tsuba has an irregular octagonal shape with a slightly thinner structure from the face to the ears, allowing the base paper attached to the fan to be seen through. The style of deformed plate tsuba with watermarks is common to Yamayoshi's first generation. Although it is a simple shape, the flat ground has subtle variations with hammered marks and is grilled, giving it a mysterious atmosphere when combined with the soft shape. When you look at it, it creates a profound atmosphere that makes you feel as if you are having a Zen discussion with the author. Sadahiro is a forgotten figure, and his current reputation is not very high, but since a relatively large number of his works remain, at the time he was considered to be on a par with Nobuiye, Yamayoshi, and Hoyasu. It seems that he was a popular smith." (Long & Haynes)

    Under Study - NFS

"Sadahiro's signature iron tsuba published on page 359 of ZABO TANZEN Selection/Written by Kenichi Kokubo and Kenzo Otsubo''. The dark period rust is beautiful and the iron taste is very good. A cloud-like pattern in sukashi along the bottom of the plate. A paulownia above on the right. The ears have streaky or granular steel bones." (Long & Haynes)

    Under Study - NFS

"Sadahiro's signature iron tsuba published on page 143 of NIHON TOBAN ZUSETSU. The dark period rust is beautiful and the iron taste is very good, with high engraving of eggplants with gold inlay. The rim has granular steel bones." (Long & Haynes)

    Under Study - NFS

"Attribution by Dr. Torigoye, 4th Sadahiro
First Class Pre Edo, 1961." (Long & Haynes)


(Sadayuki Bio)

    Under Study - NFS

"A large tsuba with an image of a toad in the shape of an iron plate, inscribed, made by Sadayuki (H 07929.0), with kogai hitsu-ana, sukibori carving, and uchikaeshi rim. This is a unique iron tsuba that is original and has an impact. Since it is the work of a swordsmith, it is well-trained and has a nice tone." (Long & Haynes)

    Under Study - NFS

"Presented here is an exquisite iron tsuba with design of a rain dragon with golden eye. Known for his unique work of tsuba with frogs, this dragon complements his very notable world view.
Made by Sadayuki (H 07929.0)." (Long & Haynes)


The OWARI school should be divided into three periods. The first period comprises those pieces made in the Muromachi age. The earliest tsuba of the first period are a little younger than the earliest Kanayama tsuba. The second period is the work of the Momoyama age. The third period is from the early Edo age to the Genroku era (1688-1703). A few facts may be stated based on examination of the work of this school. They are always of positive silhouette design. The subjects of the designs vary greatly but they always have in common a strong masculine feeling. They are a noble tsuba whose influence may be seen in many contemporary schools.
Yamasaka Kichibei was the name of the first tsuba artist of this family. Later members of this school shortened the name to Yamakichibei, still later onwe see the name Yamakichi. The working period of the first Yamasaka Kichibei is from Tensho to Keicho eras (1575-1615), about contemporary with the second Nobuiye. The first generations lived in the Kiyosu area, but the later generations lived at Nagoya in Owari Province.

    Not For Sale

"A Owari-Sukashi tsuba with lightning flash in the sky over waves.
Momoyama period, ca. 1550." (Long & Haynes)

    Not For Sale

"Owari master craftsman, Hikozaemon Toda 's inscription, it is the actual product in the Zabo tsuba collection. Page 361, No. 404. Haynes Index H09700.0.
Iron plate cherry blossom watermarks. Edo period." (Long & Haynes)
8.14cm x 8.17cm x 0.45cm

    Serious Inquiries Only

"This guard clearly has an Owari design, and the iron quality is excellent, a deep dark grey color approaching black. The rim is slightly rounded and is beautifully finished. Overall, this work is an expression of boldness and strength. A 1st Class Owari tsuba dating to ca. 1500-1550." (Long & Haynes)

OWARI  School.  $2500.00
"An iron nade-kaku-gata (square with rounded corners) shape tsuba with four plant stems with dew drops, a design that is symetrical and connects the rim to the seppa-dai. Each hitsu-ana has a brass pillow and the nakago-ana is completely lined with brass. This guard clearly has an Owari design, and the iron quality is excellent, a deep dark brown color approaching black. The rim is slightly rounded and is beautifully finished. Overall, this work is an expression of boldness and strength. Dating to the early Edo period, ca. 1600." (Long & Haynes)

OWARI    $2000.00
"An iron plate with tomoe motif. Dates to ca.1500, Muromachi period." (Long)
7.30cm x 7.00cm x 0.50cm

OWARI    $600.00
"An iron nade-kaku-gata (square with rounded corners) shape tsuba with four flower petal design carved symetrical and straight. Each flower petal is linked with two chidori. There is no evidence of tekkotsu. Overall, this work is an expression of boldness and strength. Many Owari features can be seen demonstrating the highly creative ability of the artist and is among the best of ji-sukashi sword guards. Dating to the Mid Muromachi period." (Long)
7.40cm x 6.70cm x 0.50cm

OWARI    $1500.00
"The guard depicted here, is a refined, solid-looking example. Its design is well balanced and the Ji-sukashi execution is sharp and crisp. The well forged iron has a dark, rich patina with a slight purplish hue. It is indicative of the quality of iron used for early Owari guards. The seppa-dai is somewhat elongated. The rim shows strong linear tekkotsu and its squared shape compliments the decorative forms." (Long)
6.60cm x 6.50cm x 0.55cm

OWARI    $900.00
"A hard, refined iron tsuba with dark brownish patina. The rim and body of the guard together have pleasing movement which enhances the floral motif of the iris. As a design, the iris motif followed the familiar course of first appearing as a purely decorative device on clothing and carriages of the court nobility and then later being adopted as a family crest in both court and warrior circles." (Long)
6.55cm x 6.70cm x 0.65cm


There is another name by which Hazama tsuba are known, Kameyama school tsuba. In the period from Hoei to Kyoho (1704-1736) at Kameyama, in the province of Ise, the Kunitomo family made this style of tsuba. The original members of this family were from Kunitomo village in the province of Omi, just east of Lake Biwa. In the Momoyama age they had been gunsmiths. The later descendants moved to Ise Province. The sahari style of inlay had been used by this family for generations in the decoration of gun barrels. The Kunitomo family adapted the technique from the decoration of guns to that of tsuba. The two artists who are best known for the sahari style of inlaid tsuba are Sadahide and Masahide.

"The Hazama tsuba is one of the most sought after styles. The reason for this is the use of sahari inlay for the decoration of the bamboo. Sahari is an alloy of several metals that is very hard. The inlay is made from a combination of copper, tin, zinc, and lead. The mixture is then made into the shape of a stick. The stick is ground to powder and the powder is placed in the crevices on the plate that have been engraved to form the design. Then the powder is melted by fire. After the alloy has melted, and filled the areas of the design, the excess is filed from the plate and the surface is polished smooth to the face of the plate. Because the alloy fills the area of the design unevenly, and air pockets are left in the metal from the melting process, the resulting inlay has a corroded appearance. This is natural to the alloy and its method in melting. If it does not have this appearance it is not true sahari inlay." (Long)
7.90cm x 7.40cm x 0.20cm

"Sahari is an alloy of several metals that is very hard. The inlay is made from a combination of copper, tin, zinc, and lead. The mixture is then made into the shape of a stick. The stick is ground to powder and the powder is placed in the crevices on the plate that have been engraved to form the design. Then the powder is melted by fire. After the alloy has melted, and filled the areas of the design, the excess is filed from the plate and the surface is polished smooth to the face of the plate. Because the alloy fills the area of the design unevenly, and air pockets are left in the metal from the melting process, the resulting inlay has a corroded appearance. This is natural to the alloy and its method in melting. If it does not have this appearance it is not true sahari inlay." (Long)

"The technique is based on sand inlays on guns. This is created using a special inlay technique using lead called Sahari Zogan. The sand-bari inlay, which may seem plain at first glance, but when you look closely, it emits a unique iris, and even though it is plain, it has depth and is very wonderful.

The NBTHK Hozon certification designates 'Mumei' to HAZAMA." (Long)



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 of all Kinai tsuba. In considering the work of the Kinai school it is also necessary to mention the Akao school, for the fortunes of both are integrally entwined.
The tsuba of the Akao 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. The number of pieces made by this school was few, for they worked exclusively for daimyo families. The general public very rarely had a chance to see the work of these artists.

'ECHIZEN JU KINAI SAKU'     $1500.00

"Kinai tsuba for wakizashi, maru gata, dote mimi, kozuka and kogai ana are filled. Katachi bori sukashi design of a single aoi leaf shaped to be rounded, convex on ura and concave on omote. Ura mei “Echizen no Ju” “Kinai Saku”, probably Yondai Takahashi, late 1700’s."(Long)
7.65cm x 7.64cm x 0.54cm (seppa)

"Design is a temple bell, very large hanging several feet high.
Signed: 'ECHIZEN ju AKAO'. This is a very early signature of a classic design of the school, about ca.1600.
Dr. Torigoye illustrates this tsuba in the First Tsuba Kanshoki, page 249, top photo #479. This tsuba belonged to Robert Haynes about 1955 and he has not seen it for 50+ years. He just got it from a European auction a few months ago. Dr. Torigoye thought this piece to be the work of the 1st. generation Akao master. See Haynes Index H12225.0, 1st Akao Yoshitsugu. A piece is dated 1677 but not signed - (the 1st Kinai of Echizen was contemporary with the 1st Akao)." (Haynes)

"A katana size Akao school tsuba with design of informal Kiri mon. Katana size Akao examples are rare. Were this not signed we would have no idea who made it. This artist is said to be the founder of the Akao family school and worked about 1650. His work is very rare.

Signed: 'ECHIZEN ju AKAO JINZAEMON no JO SAKU'. Refer Haynes H02059.0. See bottom of entry for full signature in kanji." (Haynes)

"Dai (7.15cm x 7.40cm x 0.45cm) Sho (6.90cm x 7.20cm x 0.45cm) Kinai tsuba in the design of two aoi leaves with long stalk, showing front and back, nademaru gata, kaku mimi. Kozuka and Kogai ana filled with shakudo on Dai tsuba. Omote mei on both "Echizen no Ju" "Kinai Saku", both by same artist. A common decchi Kinai design of Rokudai period." (Haynes & Long)



"A shakudo plate with the finest and most delicate nanako surface. This decoration appears on both faces and the rim. The size of the dots and the regularity of the work is marvelous as the dots must be placed entirely by touch. On the omote we find peonies and butterflies along with other foliage inlaid with gold and shakudo. On the ura are more butterflies and chrysanthemums inlaid with gold and shakudo.
The mei reads: GOTO RINJO with Kao. (H 07553.0) This is the only known and rare example of his signature. He is considered the founder of the Goto Hanzaemon family line and the third son of Goto Kyujo (H 03741.0)."(Long)
7.15cm x 7.70cm x 0.40cm plate
GOTO Den     $4000.00

"It is the Hinode Tsuru figure tsuba that was identified as Goto Den, though it was unnamed. The workmanship is classified as mokko shape shakudo with fine nanako ground and takabori with iroe ornamentations resembling that of Goto Jujo. The carvings as the iroe are very delicate and result in a finely detailed and elegant style."(Long)
6.25cm x 5.55cm x 0.70cm (seppa)


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.

Serious Inquiries Only
"This is a masterpiece made by 'NAGATSUGU', H 06536.0 in the Haynes Index. A fine shakudo plate with the finest of gold inlay.
See the 'Tsuba Kanshoki' II on pg. 66 for an iron example of his work." (Haynes & Long)
7.70cm x 8.30cm x 0.50cm
"An excellant example of a unsigned Bizen Yoshiro tsuba. The inlay is excellant and even extends over the edge of the eight-petal chrysanthemum area. The design between the mon are bamboo stems. Dates to the Muromachi period, ca. 1400." (Haynes & Long)
7.90cm x 7.90cm x 0.40cm

KAGA Province   Serious Inquiries Only
"Presented here is an excellent example of Yoshiro work from the Kaga Province. Iron plate in mokko shape with four inome, with shakudo fukurin and brass flat inlay. Also line inlay needle stone. It has a simple pattern of chestnut, rat, and clouds on a moist and smooth surface with good iron taste and the shakudo fukurin is carefully and skillfully attached. There are no omissions in the brass inlay and it appears like a golden painting depending on the lighting.
Consider that in the sixteenth century, brass was still a metal imported from China and considered extremely valuable.
Dates to ca. 1500-1550." (Haynes & Long)

"Presented here is a fine example of a 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. The term Yoshiro is but part of the name of Koike Yoshiro Naomasa. Naomasa worked about the Keicho era (1596-1614).
The plate metal is iron of good quality and hardness like Heianjo-zogan work. The forging is very good. As seen here, the iron quality is good with the most admirable quality being the fine brass inlay making the contrast very elegant. An exemplary example of a YOSHIRO tsuba." (Haynes & Long)
"A well forged iron plate with eight roundels - circular emblems of family crests (mon) made of cast brass, pierced and chiseled in kebori, with Kiri mon at the top. Also with flat brass inlay (hira-zogan) of bamboo stems between each pair of mon. There are eight different kamon in sukashi, which are obviously visible on both sides. These sukashi sections that are inlaid into the plate are refered to as ranma-bori because they have the appearance of the ranma (transom panels with openwork carving) that are seen in Japanese temples and other important buildings above walls and doorways.
Dates to ca. 1500-1550.
Attestation by Dr. Torigoye hakogaki signed 'SOTO' dated 1954, First Class, Muromachi period."(Long)

"A well forged iron plate with eight roundels - circular emblems of family crests (mon) made of cast brass, pierced and chiseled in kebori, and with flat brass inlay (hira-zogan) of bamboo stems between each pair of mon. There are eight different kamon in sukashi, which are obviously visible on both sides. These sukashi sections that are inlaid into the plate are refered to as ranma-bori because they have the appearance of the ranma (transom panels with openwork carving) that are seen in Japanese temples and other important buildings above walls and doorways.
Dates to ca. 1450." (Haynes & Long)
7.95cm x 8.01cm x 0.30cm

"A maru-gata and maru mimi tsuba of well forged iron plate with eight roundels - circular emblems of flowers and/or family crests (mon) made of cast brass, pierced and chiseled in kebori, and with flat brass inlay (hira-zogan) of floral stems. This inlay style is Kaga Yoshiro zogan where the brass is inlaid into channels and then filed back to be flush with the surface of the iron plate. All inlay is present. The hitsu-ana are original and outlined in brass.
There are eight different kamon in all on both sides. All kamon are in sukashi, which are obviously visible on both sides, are of various daimyo families. These sukashi sections that are inlaid into the plate are refered to as ranma-bori because they have the appearance of the ranma (transom panels with openwork carving) that are seen in Japanese temples and other important buildings above walls and doorways.
Traditionally the Yoshiro school (Kaga-Yoshiro) produced tsuba decorated in silver, brass, and shakudo hira-zogan. This very fine example dates to ca. 1500." (Long)

"A well forged iron plate with five roundels - circular emblems of flowers and/or family crests (mon) made of cast brass, pierced and chiseled in kebori, and with flat brass inlay (hira-zogan) of stems. This inlay style is Kaga Yoshiro zogan where the brass is inlaid into channels and then filed back to be flush with the surface of the iron plate. The hitsu-ana are outlined in brass.
There are five different kamon in all on both sides. All kamon are in sukashi, which are obviously visible on both sides, are of various daimyo families. These sukashi sections that are inlaid into the plate are refered to as ranma-bori because they have the appearance of the ranma (transom panels with openwork carving) that are seen in Japanese temples and other important buildings above walls and doorways.
Dates to the end of the Muromachi period, ca. 1500.
Accompanied with a Hakogaki by Sato Kanzan" (Long)
8.15cm x 7.85cm x 0.35cm

"A maru-gata and maru mimi tsuba of well forged iron plate with six roundels - circular emblems of flowers and/or family crests (mon) made of cast brass, pierced and chiseled in kebori, and with flat brass inlay (hira-zogan) of vines with flower buds. This inlay style is Yoshiro zogan where the brass is inlaid into channels and then filed back to be flush with the surface of the iron plate. All inlay is present with the exception of four very small pieces. The rectangular hitsu-ana is original as is the kozuka-ana that is outlined in brass. Note the thickness of the sekegane in nakago-ana.
There are six different kamon in all on both sides. All kamon are in sukashi, which are obviously visible on both sides, are of various daimyo families. These sukashi sections that are inlaid into the plate are refered to as ranma-bori because they have the appearance of the ranma (transom panels with openwork carving) that are seen in Japanese temples and other important buildings above walls and doorways.
Appears to be Mumei but if close study under good light there are vestiges of a mei belonging to SABURO DAIYU.
Dates to ca. 1500-1550. This is 100 years earlier than Naomasa." (Long)
8.10cm x 8.30cm x 0.30cm

"This is the flush brass inlay artist often with designs of brass sukashi family mon with vines and tendrils with flower buds on the iron plate. Dates to Momoyama period, ca. 1500-1550.

A very fine 1st class example of 'SABURODAIYU' of the Koike family. Worked in Okayama in Bizen Province. Refer to H 07660.0 in Haynes Index. Close relationship with Koike Yoshiro (H 06677.0) group.

"A well forged iron plate with six roundels - circular emblems of family crests (mon) made of cast brass, pierced and chiseled in kebori, and with flat brass inlay (hira-zogan) of tied bundles of plants separating each mon. There are six different kamon in sukashi, which are obviously visible on both sides. These sukashi sections that are inlaid into the plate are refered to as ranma-bori because they have the appearance of the ranma (transom panels with openwork carving) that are seen in Japanese temples and other important buildings above walls and doorways. It should be noted that these MON represent familys living in the Northern area of Japan.
Dates Momoyama period, ca. 1600-1650." (Haynes & Long)

"A large rounded square iron plate with gold inlay defined as 'Hokori Yoshiro.' Dr. Torigoye labeled this type of inlay as 'gomoku zogan' or trash inlay. There appears on both omote and ura three or four family mon, one being the Hosokawa Mon.
A 1st Class example of this very rare style of zogan inlay and design.
Dates to ca, 1600.
A great deal more study is needed."(Haynes & Long)
8.00cm x 7.50cm x 0.45cm
"The plate metal is well forged iron of good quality and hardness, normally used in Heianjo-zogan work. The most admirable quality is the fine brass inlay making the contrast very elegant. An exemplary example of a YOSHIRO tsuba."(Long)
7.90cm x 7.90cm x 0.45cm
Not For Sale
"Early Edo period Kaga iron work with shakudo fukurin. There is a residue of black lacquer. There is the presence of very fine amida yasurime which one could speculate whether this finish was originally intended to have a particular religious meaning."(Long)
8.48cm x 8.50cm x 0.40cm
"The school and style is of the Fushimi Yoshiro group. They were living at Fushimi at the same time Kaneiye was there. They did brass inlay but not of the Kyoto style and worked in a style all their own. Landscape and human figures were used in their designs.

A well forged iron plate with a design of rain falling amongst the landscape. The plate in mokkogata shape with kozuka-ana. Dates to ca. 1550."(Long)
7.00cm x 7.50cm x 0.40cm
"A well forged iron plate with six roundels - circular emblems of flowers and/or family crests (mon) made of cast brass, pierced and chiseled in kebori, and with flat brass inlay (hira-zogan) of stems. This inlay style is Kaga Yoshiro zogan where the brass is inlaid into channels and then filed back to be flush with the surface of the iron plate. The channels are visible in places where the brass is no longer present. The hitsu-ana are outlined in brass. The bamboo motif separates the mon.
There are six different kamon in all on both sides. All kamon are in sukashi, which are obviously visible on both sides, are of various daimyo families. These sukashi sections that are inlaid into the plate are refered to as ranma-bori because they have the appearance of the ranma (transom panels with openwork carving) that are seen in Japanese temples and other important buildings above walls and doorways.
The un-refined design and style confirm the date of ca. 1450-1500."(Long)
8.00cm x 8.10cm x 0.30cm


The name for this school comes from the district of Akasaka in Edo where the artists of this school resided. It is thought that the school came into being when Kariganeya Hikobe moved from Kyoto to Edo along with the first Tadamasa and his brother, the second Tadamasa. It would appear that this group commenced the production of Akasaka tsuba. At the time of the formation of the Akasaka school the two powerful openwork schools of Kyo-sukashi and Owari were exerting great influence upon each other. It could be said that from this clash, in the form of Kariganeya, these two schools were merged. The rare examples of the tsuba made by Kariganeya Hikobei show his clever blending of the Kyo- and Owari styles. From these designs, and the shape of the tsuba, they suggested the style of the original Akasaka tsuba. The reason for the spread of the name of this school throughout the country was its fresh approach and attractive openwork patterns that were far beyond the conventional tsuba of the day.

The style of the first Tadamasa: thickness is 6 to 7 millimeters except the early work was about 4.5 millimeters, the seppa dai tapers slightly at the top giving a pointed appearance. The plate metal temper is quite good, usually three folded, the folds being plainly visible. The surface is polished. The plate of the early work shows hammered surface. The style of the second Tadamasa and later generations resembles the later work of the first. The shape of the seppa dai is not as pointed, the quality of the iron plate is not as good. However, when kawagane was applied to the surface the plate has a very pleasing appearance. There is a tendency for the folds of the plate to show the laminations quite clearly at the mimi. The work of the second Tadamasa is transitory in its approach to the style of the first generation, for in the later style we see the full development of the school as it was to be carried on by the later generations.

In the later work of this school examples which seem to be Higo style work may be verified as Akasaka tsuba after an examination of the walls of the openwork. The sides of the walls of Akasaka tsuba are straight and stiff, the term for this characteristic is kittate, meaning to be cut as sharp as a cliff. The walls of the Higo tsuba on the other hand will be either slightly concave or convex. After the fourth generation the quality of the tsuba of this school declined caused by the rise in popularity of the Higo school style.

Among the students of the Akasaka school the work of Tadashige should be noted. He was one of the later workers of the school but was superior in ability to all the other students. In fact, his work compares favorably with that of the first three generations. He was an innovator and reformer who hoped to raise the standards of the Akasaka school to its former prominence. Though he was the student of the first Tadatoki (4th Akasaka) he easily surpassed his teacher in ability. His work may be easily identified because of its superior quality and in cases where it might be confused with the work of the first three generations it will be younger in appearance than the work of the early masters. Also he was the first of this school to use kuchibeni (type of sekigane) at the top and bottom of the nakago ana, very much in the same style as those used by the Suruga school. There are three other members of the Akasaka school who are noteworthy. The first Tadanori and Tadayoshi show ability above the average of the school. The eighth Tadatoki was forced to work in the kinko style of Edo.

Proto Akasaka   $6000.00
"Round (maru gata) iron tsuba with sukashi of bamboo and leaves. The bold, symetrical design and well forged iron with conspicuous tekkotsu and multiple layers of metal visable, seems to date this to ca. 1500." (Haynes & Long)
7.5cm x 7.5cm x 0.70cm

KO-AKASAKA   $4000.00
"First generation Akasaka. Iron sukashi tsuba with design of water containers. Mumei. Accompanied with Hakogaki by Sato Kanzan." (Long)
7.40cm x 7.20cm x 0.50cm

PROTO-AKASAKA   $1200.00
"Iron sukashi tsuba with design of chrysanthemum and kiri (paulownia). The horizontal lines represent water, perhaps with back to back waves. Mumei. Accompanied with NBTHK Hozon paper to Akasaka school." (Long)
7.40cm x 7.20cm x 0.50cm

AKASAKA   $2000.00
"The theme of this tsuba is Sugawara: Pine tree, Plum tree, and Cherry tree. The concept is based on 'Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy' that is a Japanese play that has been performed in bunraku and kabuki. The main characters of the play are Umemaru (plum tree), Sakuramaru (cherry tree), and Matsuomaru (pine tree), in order to save the son of Sugawaru. Matsuomaru used his own son as a decoy who was killed. It is a famous design crafted by the Akasaka Tradition. It is mumei but has been attributed to the Akasaka Tradition with Hozon Tosogu on November 1st, 2012." (Long)

Akasaka     $1000.00

A well cut iron Akasaka style tsuba of a motif of grass. Dates to ca. 1750 or later.(Long)

Akasaka Tadashige     $2000.00

"Iron tsuba with plants in sukashi. This work by Akasaka Tadashige, H 09150.0. Said to be the 3rd Akasaka."(Long)

AKASAKA     $2000.00

"Presented here is a round iron Akasaka tsuba of a Mantis and Wheel. This is a representation of the mantis that confronts a wheel in a reckless and innocent manner. In the Samurai world it is praised. The condition is relatively good though it displays a sword wound.
On page 205 of SUKASHI TSUBA, the work of the 3rd Akasaka Masatora (H 04577.0) is listed. The design is almost exactly the same down to the smallest details. It matches wonderfully."(Haynes & Long)

Akasaka     $1800.00

"Iron plate in the form of a crane over pine trees and clouds. A classic later Akasaka school design that is seen in many variations. Very fine thin line surface carving on both sides of the crane. A well done later Akasaka work in classical style." (Haynes)
Origami of the NTBK, Nihon Tosogu Bi Kan group, dated February 26, 2001. States: 'Well done Akasaka work dating to ca. 1750 or later.'
7.60cm x 8.20cm x 0.45cm

"A classic late Akasaka piece with excellant iron and a familiar design that we see often. The box cover say's 'TADATOKI' but which one is unsure. (Haynes)
Accompanied with NBTHK Hozon dated 2014. Mumei to AKASAKA.
'TADATOKI'   $5000.00

"This is the work of the First TADATOKI (4th Akasaka)."(Haynes)
Accompanied with NBTHK Hozon attributed to 'TADATOKI'.
Akasaka     $1800.00
"A large late Edo period (ca.1800) Akasaka tsuba with excellent black patina and fine tekkotsu. Highly forged iron is used; the hitsu-ana and seppa-dai are very well formed. The shape of the hitsu-ana can be classified as the work of the seventh master and the fourth Tadatoki (H 09168.0). The excavation of the seppa-dai was used by the samurai to conceal something of value, a prayer or gold.
The imaginative concept and surprising design are testimony to the great genius of this Akasaka master portraying the energy of the school. A roof made of bamboo and the rectangle shape representing a framed plaque containing an inscription normally hung over a doorway, are two examples of Akasaka motif." (Long)

8.23cm x 8.39cm x 0.52cm


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.

An iron plate tsuba that was mounted on a large katana, pierced in negative sukashi of 48 petals. The spokes join in the center of the plate to the seppa-dai. Some of the spokes appear to be inlaid, some are not but it is very hard to tell based on the age and quality of the work. The iron appears well forged and finished to represent great strength. (Long)
9.80cm x 0.47cm

"An iron plate tsuba that was mounted on a large katana, pierced in negative sukashi of a 64 petal kiku (chrysanthemum) flower. The spokes join in the center of the plate to the seppa-dai and single hitsu. The hitsu-ana has a pillow. Upon close and magnified study, all of the spokes are inlaid. This was done with precision and aggrandizes the quality of this piece. The age and quality of the work dates to ca. 1550-1600. The iron appears well forged and finished to represent great strength.
Accompanied with a NBTHK Hozon certificate." (Long)
8.30cm x 8.20cm x 0.60cm

"Saotome work of a design of Kiku bloom and leaves. A very original version of this classical Saotome and Umetada design.
Signed: 'SAOTOME IETOSHI', H01819.0. Seems to have worked at Hitachi about 1700. Since Wakayama does not list this name we do not know his relationship to other Saotome of his period. We do know that this style of design was used by other Saotome of his period and he was as fine of artist as other members of the Saotome school. A very rare Saotome example and very important for the signature." (Haynes)
SAOTOME KO SAKU   $3300.00
"An excellant, strongly forged iron ground Saotome tsuba with sukashi of two family mon design. Probably the prized tsuba of a very skilled samurai.

The Saotome school originates from the Myochin school, and were very skilled at producing superior iron and iron tsuba." (Haynes)
7.85cm x 7.52cm x 0.28cm
SANADA TEMBO   $1000.00
"Scattered tsuba with iron mallet joint round inlay, unsigned, one hitsu filled. It is a blunt and artistic fukiyose brass inlaid tsuba. I think it's Sanada Tembo because it's made in a different place and has letters stamped on it. There is an explanation on page 15 of "The Beauty of Japanese Tsuba" by Arthur H. Church. Although there are stains, and rust over time, it is a gem with an old-fashioned taste." (Haynes)
8.39cm x 8.24cm x 0.45cm
"Iron mokko form plate with well hammered surface. Fine iron bones appear on the rim edge. This Saotome school work shows the very best of this important school with the quality of the iron plate, the very fine hammer work, plus the excellant design. More of this write-up to follow. This example was made about ca 1450-1500." (Long)
8.60cm x 9.50cm

"Iron plate of a deep purple black color of great richness. The oval plate formed as 42 petals of a chrysanthemum bloom, with a leaf of the plant folded over the left and right sides. The right leaf showing the face and the left leaf showing the backside. Of katana size (see below). It is interesting to note that this tsuba is very "heavy" and dense when compared to others of its size and form. It may contain meteoric iron.

It is signed on the face: 'JOSHU JU' (Hitachi Province) on the right side of the seppa-dai, and 'SAOTOME IESADA' on the left side.

The kozuka ana is filled with a shakudo plug." (Long)
8.20cm x 8.20cm x 0.40cm


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.
In soft metal tsuba and those of ita plate the ability of the first Hirata Hikozo stands supreme. In sukashi tsuba Hayashi Matashichi is incomparable. For shinchu zogan no one can equal the power and beauty of the first Shimizu Jingo. The beauty of the sukashi plate of Matashichi and the powerful treatment of the soft metal plate of Hikozo are combined in the work of the first Nishigaki Kanshiro.
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.


The history of this school begins with Sasaki shi who resided in the province of Omi. His family was destroyed in the war, and his relative Matsumoto Inaba no Kami was forced to flee. He found sanctuary as the retainer of Lord Hosokawa in Tango Province. His son was Hikozo. They followed their lord to Higo Province when he was made Daimyo of that area. When Hikozo was grown he chose Hirata as his family name.
The most splendid point of the Hikozo tsuba is the control and treatment of the plate metal and the aesthetic combinations used to achieve harmony of the plate and fukurin. The combinations of plate and fukurin blend metal color, textures and values, to derive the most from their aesthetic beauty.
It must be remembered that Hikozo chose kawarigane plate for aesthetic as well as utilitarian beauty and his tsuba served both areas admirably. Even though the origins of his designs and techniques will be found in the tachikanagu-shi tsuba of the Muromachi age, he carried these techniques to a perfection never again to be equaled in the kawarigane tsuba.

HIRATA HIKOZO     $75,000.00

"This is a masterpiece with a beautiful sea mouse transparent finish made of copper that has a taste of the times. The rim is 'Odawara cover ring', which is one of the characteristics of Hikozo's works. The Odawara cover ring has a mechanism in which the ring itself moves around and around, and in this work it also moves a few millimeters from side to side. There seems to be a theory that something that was fixed became movable over time, and a theory that it was designed to move from the beginning, but even now nothing is certain. There are various theories about the origin of the name, such as that it is associated with Odawara lanterns, or that the bumpy shape of the cover ring resembles the bellows of Odawara lanterns, but nothing is clear about this." (Haynes & Long)

HIRATA HIKOZO     $60,000.00

"A classic work teeming with elegance of the 1st generation Hikozo. The hammered finish executed on the yamagane plate is illustrious with carved design of "old man's beard" often used by Hikozo. This design with the color tone of the piece, creates a perfected atmosphere. A sukashi of a single Tomoe shape and a carved area of unknown figure on each side add to the ambiance. The hitsu-ana is also a venerable shape of Hikoso. Adorned with solid gold rim cover and very rare solid gold sekigane in top and bottom of nakago-ana creates a contrast that is truly sensational.
Overall, the rustic simplicity and finish of this masterpiece splendidly establishes the charm of Hikozo's characteristic works." (Haynes & Long)


The Hayashi family school is sometimes called the Kasuga school from the name of their residence. The first master of this school was Matashichi: in early life he was called Shigeharu, and later Shigeyoshi. He was born in Owari Province in Keicho 18 (1613). The family may be traced back to Shigenobu, grandfather of Matashichi. He was a gunsmith in early life but turned to making tsuba in later years. Matashichi studied to be both a gunsmith and tsuba smith with his father. This early training stood him in good stead, for his ability was consumate in forging iron as well as inlay.

Hayashi Matashichi   Serious Inquiries Only

"Matashichi Hayashi (fifth generation of the Hayashi family), made by Kusado Shiki, iron base, oblong shape, three-covered pine, inlaid with silver dead wood. One of the famous families of Higo, a work by Matahira Hayashi, fifth generation of the Hayashi family, with a popular composition of three-covered pine (three-story tree) This piece has many interesting features, such as the silver inlay of dead wood (Japanese pine) on the rim, detailed carvings of leaves, and the dynamic curve of the trunk in the upper right corner of the piece." (Haynes)

Hayashi Tohei   Serious Inquiries Only

"Tohei Hayashi (Shigemitsu), iron base, round shape, Tomoe paulownia, ground transparent. A beautiful piece with paulownia leaves arranged symmetrically." (Haynes)


'MATASHICHI'     $3000.00

"Iron sukashi Higo tsuba, with a classic Tsuru or crane motif, carved 'in the round', with outspread wings enclosing over its head. Details of the head, feathers and cross-hatching on the seppadai, are finely carved into the plate. Two large udenuki-ana holes detail the bottom of the tsuba. Currently under study but believed to be Higo work of the Hayashi family." (Long)


The first generation of this family was Nibei, he was the nephew of the first Hirata Hikozo. The second Shimizu was called Jingoro. It is from a shortening of this name to Jingo that the name Jingo school is derived. Even though the first Shimizu was a student of the first Hikozo we do not find the Hikozo style in the Shimizu tsuba. A number of samurai of Lord Hosokawa tried their hand at making tsuba. One of note is Chisokutei Jingo of Oshima. He lived in the late Edo age. He had no particular style but followed that of his contemporary workers.

'SAN DAI MEI'  'AGE 72'  (Yatsushiro)   $5000.00

"Presented here is a fine example of the work of the 3rd YATSUSHIRO of the Shimizu Jingo family. His work shows the style and quality of his period and not that of the first or second Jingo. He was a retainer of the Hosokawa Daimyo from the age of 15, and it is said, became head of the family in 1710, at the age of 20." (Haynes)


"Presented here is a fine example of the work of a later generation of the Shimizu Jingo family. The inlay of the dragon is complete and very well done. On the reverse is a Buddhist Vagra.

Dr. Torigoye Hakogake dated 1956, designates this tsuba as 2nd Class." (Haynes)

CHISOKUTEI   JINGO     $1500.00

"An oval form tsuba, bearing a ground of stamped kokuin of flowerheads and engraved with a hawk and captured monkey. This design is of the JINGO family of the Shimizu school. It dates ca. 1700.
This appears to be the work of CHISOKUTEI    H 00315.0. He is of the Shimizu family and worked in Yatsushiro in Higo Province. He worked in the style of classic early Shimizu Jingo school. His relationship to the other members of the school is not known for sure. His work is equal to his contemporaries." (Haynes)
See Wakayama Takeshi; Toso Kinko Jiten, pg. 500 & Toso Kodogu Meiji Taikei, vol. III pg. 313.

6.5cm x 6.95cm x 0.5cm


"Write-up to follow" (Long & Haynes)

SHIMIZU JINGO    $1200.00

"Worked in Yatsushiro in Higo Province." (Long)
Under study at this time." (Long & Haynes)

6.50cm x 7.20cm x 0.40cm.

JINGO Style, HIGO   Tsuba  POA

"A large iron plate tsuba in aoi-jujigata mokko shape. The single hitsu-ana is rectangular in shape. Extending outward from the hitsu-ana are leaves, inlayed of brass. On the opposite side is a 'Thunderfish' inlayed of copper.

Under study at this time." (Long & Haynes)

8.50cm x 7.80cm x 0.30cm

JINGO     $4500.00

"A very noble iron plate tsuba belonging to the JINGO school. The iron is radiant, appearing wet in hand. The hitsu-ana are designs of gourds, being different shape and size. Because of the highly refined simplicity of the design and high quality of the iron surface, this is a 'classic' Jingo tsuba. Seems to date to the early Edo period." (Long)

7.55cm x 7.12cm x 0.45cm


The first Nishigaki, whose imina (a posthumous or canonical name) was Yoshihiro, is known as Kanshiro, as are all the later generations of this family. He is said to have been a shrine priest in the province of Tamba. Later he became a retainer of the Hosokawa in Higo. He became a student of Hirata Hikozo, learning the methods of kawarigane tsuba. He lived at Yatsushiro. In general it may be said that the style of this school is a combination of the two great schools of Hayashi and Hirata. To this was added a feeling of Kyo-sukashi and Kyo-Shoami.


Nishigaki Kanshiro     $3000.00

"A classic design by 2nd. generation Nishigaki Kanshiro. See Haynes Index H 02673.0.
Accompanied with a Dr. Torigoye Hakogaki dated 1957." (Long)

Nishigaki Kanshiro     Serious Inquiries Only

"Higo's excellent product Kanshiro Nishigaki cherry blossom openwork tsuba.
Kanshiro Nishigaki, Birth year: Keicho 18 ( 1613)
Sword fittings metalsmith in the early Edo period. He is said to have been born in Nakatsu, Buzen Province (Oita Prefecture) as the son (or younger brother, according to one theory) of a Shinto priest of the Tamba domestic and foreign palaces, and is commonly known as Yoshinori. He studied under Hikozo Hirata, a tsuba craftsman in Higo, and was handed down the permission for the silver work of the same school. He later became a servant worker of the Hosokawa family and was paid a stipend." (Long)

Nishigaki Kanshiro     Not For Sale

"The first Kanshiro is said to have been a shrine priest in the province of Tamba. Later he became a retainer of the Hosokawa in Higo. He became a student of Hirata Hikozo, learning the methods of kawarigane tsuba. He lived at Yatsushiro and received a stipend from the Hosokawa.
Presented here is a mokko shape copper work with kebori carving of kiri plant on both faces. Note the small chiseled indentations used by the Nishigaki school and more in number than those used by Hikozo. It should also be noted that the first Kanshiro did not sign his work." (Long)

Nishigaki Kanshiro II     Serious Inquiries Only

"Presented here is a excellent sukashi tsuba displaying the highest quality iron with clear, fine horizontal laminations on the plate and on the reverse side in the uppermost pine. The surface area has been finely burnished and the edges pleasingly rounded and sloped. All in all a deep purpleish black patina that is luscious. This is the same high quality iron that was also used on contemporaneous armors.
The motif is a three storied pine tree by the 2nd generation (nidai) Nishigaki master, Kanshiro. The motif is executed in positive silhouette or yo-sukashi. The branches and veining of the leaves are delicately carved in kebori, and as typical of nidai works, some of the carving encrouches into the seppadai, and the hitsuana are asymmetric. In concert with the sukashi motif, the outer rim evokes the old gnarled character of a mature, large branch of the pine tree." (Long)


"The theme of this tsuba is Hachinoki; Pine Tree, Plum Tree, Cherry Blossom. These three trees in combination refer to a Noh Play. Though unsigned, this tsuba has been attributed to the Higo Tradition. The craftsmanship shows a likeness to the Nishigaki school.
NBTHK Certification dated October 10, 2023. Hozon Tosogu." (Long)

KUMAGAI     $4000.00

"The theme of this tsuba is Dragon and Clouds. An iron plate in mokko shape with details in gold. Dates to Mid Edo period.
The Kumagai tradition was founded by Kumagai Yoshiyuki and worked as the official craftsmen for the Higo Clan in Edo. This tradition became popular and flourished based on the Higo Tradition and the use of their own techniques." (Long)

8.70cm x 7.90cm x 0.40cm

HIGO (Jingo III)     NFS-Under Study

"It is a design of a scenic butterfly that is often seen in Jingo Sandai." (Haynes)


KUMAGAI FUJIEDA     $1500.00

"Write up to follow." (Haynes)


MASATOSHI     $2000.00

"Presented here is a perfect example of the work created by MASATOSHI, the younger brother of KAMIYOSHI RAKUJU. It is a beautiful iron masterpiece with very finely carved fronds creating the shape of the tsuba. He worked mostly in the style of RAKUJU but never signed his work." (Haynes)

HIGO Tsuba     $2000.00

"Iron sukashi Higo tsuba, with a classic Tsuru or crane motif, carved 'in the round', with outspread wings enclosing over its head. Details of the head, feathers and cross-hatching on the seppadai, are finely carved into the plate, and prominent eyes are inlaid with brass. Two large udenuki-ana holes detail the bottom of the tsuba." (Long)
7.72cm x 7.39cm x 0.50cm

'TSUGUYOSHI SAKU'     $2000.00

"An iron plate in aorigata shape with dote mimi. The theme of the entire piece is 'Dragons in the Clouds'. It was believed that the Dragon was the bringer of rain and good opportunity. It usually lives in the water, but when the time has come, it makes the sky cloudy, causing it to rain as it rises high into the sky. This motif made the Dragon a symbol of a successful leap and it was sometime used as the symbol of an Emperor.
The entire piece covered in gold nunome inlay. The dote mimi at one time completely covered.
Signed: 'TSUGUYOSHI SAKU'.   Haynes Index H 10770.0.
A member of the Tani family school of Higo." (Long)

7.10cm x 7.70cm x 0.40cm

HIGO HIRATA     $800.00

"Iron plate tsuba in mokko shape with tsuchime ji, a rough surface resembling the natural surface of stone. This creates an air of dignity, and refinement. The entire edge of the guard covered with a shakudo fukurin for artistic value or to hold missing plates on both sides. It is very rare to find a tsuba with a ryo hitsu-ana small enough that it must have been for an Umibari. There is a copper pillow in the larger hitsu-ana.
Dates to Muromachi period, ca. 1500." (Long)

70.1mm x 64.7mm x 3.3mm (seppa)


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.


"Under study.....Could be H 06409.0 Haynes Index." (Haynes & Long)
   Serious Inquiries Only

"Large rounded square iron plate nicely forged and carved with excellent patina and color. Further study and description coming soon." (Haynes & Long)
Not For Sale
"Presented here is a round shape iron ground tsuba of tortoise shell design.
Intricate gold inlay of foliage in a scattered pattern.
Signed: 'JOSHU NISHIJIN JU YOSHINAGA' a master craftsman of the Umetada family ca.1700.
Illustrated in ZABO TANZEN, pg. 269, no. 319.
Haynes Index H 11916.0." (Long)
"Iron tsuba with brass fukurin, design motif of clouds and mist inlaid with brass." (Long)
NBTHK Hozon origami.
Not For Sale
"A very old fashioned work by Shigeyoshi, a master craftsman who plays a part in the famous family represented by Umetada Nishigen. A rare Yagen design with vertical thread watermarks on top and bottom." (Long)
"Large squared circular (okaku maru) iron plate with design of peony flower and bud.
Signed: 'Umetada Shichizaemon Tachibana Shigeyoshi'. Ref. Haynes H 08573.0. Took the Umetada school from Kyoto to Edo." (Long)
"Description forthcoming." (Long)

KO - UMETADA    Not For Sale

"Iron ji-sukashi tsuba with a design of a bridge for Koto. 'Nobility' is the keyword to describe this design. It is aesthetically satisfying in every detail. The surface of the plate is splendid and appears to be a little wet. The luster of the patina is in tune with the softly structured surface. Wonderful tekkotsu is to been seen in the rim.
Dates ca. 1500-1550." (Long)


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.


"A typical middle size Kagemishi tsuba. It is a cast work and has the usual design elements of its style and period, ca.1400. The hitsu-ana, probably added later, have now been filled and are hard to see, much in the works favor. See KoKubo book for a very similar example.

Certified by NBTHK Hozon, dated Heisei 27, 2016. Mumei, Kagemishi work." (Long)
7.32cm x 7.17cm x 0.27cm


"A yamagane (unrefined copper) plate with 'Three Island' and 3-hammers design sukashi. Dates to the Muromachi period, ca.1450.
Shown is the certification from the NBTHK, Koshu Tokubetsu Kicho, dated July 18, 1976." (Long)
8.10cm x 8.00cm x 0.40cm


"A Kagami-shi tsuba dating about ca. 1400. The motif is very interesting comprising of various flora (aoi, omodaka, sakura), sake container, inro, and kettle being far from typical. This representational design of landscape with flowers and objects has a classical presence that is both naive and noble in concept. The ryohitsu shitate (hitsu ana) are of early design and original to the casting." (Long)
7.70cm x 0.30cm (seppa-dai) x 0.20cm (mimi)


KAGAMI-SHI     $5000.00

""Mountain copper mokko shape carved of white radish leaves, one of the seven herbs of spring. Much of the black lacquer still remains. At first glance, it looks like the work of an old metalworker, but it is thought that it expresses the aesthetic sense of the third of the seven philosophers of Rikyu. Having gone through numerous battles, the state of 'wabisabi' has deepend more and more." (Haynes & Long)

KAGAMI-SHI    $2000.00
"Yamagane forged plate dating late Kamakura/early Nambokucho period, ca 1400 or earlier. The hitsu-ana reflect the shape of the kozuka and kogai used in early times therefore aiding in the dating of this tsuba." (Long)
7.50cm x 0.35cm

KAGAMI-SHI    $2000.00
"The yamagane is a nice dark reddish brown color which suggests a relative amount of copper in the alloy. There are areas of green verdigris remaining in the majority of small indentations which highlights the overall design very well. The oblong oval shape, known as hangetsu, of the large kozuka ana is original to the tsuba.
Attributed to Kagami-shi dating to ca. 1400 or earlier.

The design is of bamboo and both diamond and rounded shapes in a scattered placement with circular 'old mans beard' (see below) occuring on both sides." (Long)
6.10cm x 0.20cm (seppa-dai) x 0.50cm (mimi)

KAGAMI-SHI    $3000.00
"A maru-gata, yamagane tsuba with a large rounded mimi. The rim and surface has a worm-eaten effect called mushikui. On the inner plate both sides, appear sixteen mon of the chrysanthemum (kiku) within a hexagon shape forming a circular design. The deep black color of the yamagane in combination with the reflective sheen of the surface is very stunning. Dates to early Muromachi ca. 1450.
This tsuba is especially powerful in meaning. One feature catching our attention would be the worm eaten surface. Its purpose might just be a reminder of the impermanence of all things, which is a standard theme in Buddhism." (Long)
7.60cm x 7.90cm x 0.40cm (mimi)


KANAGU-SHI    $2000.00
"Traces of lacquer over the years remain in the round forge of the mountain copper ground. A very rare example dating late nanbokucho to early Muromachi period. It is from the era when the sword is prized as a work of the Nanboku dynasty era and was used on the battle field with its basic appearance. If you look closely, you will notice the richness of its expression, such as the slightly hammered rim, the unfortunate chisel marks and the rubbed areas of the lacquer." (Haynes)


MIZUSHINKO MASAHIDE (seal)    $500.00
"This iron plate shape is known as 'Tachi Mokko' which belongs to the mokko class, even though its shape was derived from the Aoi tsuba. Some call it Aoigata. The iron is of high quality and displays a fine patina. Seems to date to the Edo period." (Haynes)
9.00cm x 8.45cm x 0.45cm

Tachi Kanagu-shi    $700.00
"Unknown metalworker in the early Muromachi period. The fukurin is brass and very thick. The hitsu-ana is very early. Reminants of black lacquer are present." (Haynes)
7.70cm x 7.51cm x 0.60cm


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.

'MASANAGA'   Not For Sale
"Bushu Ito family. Tsuba Kanshoki, pg. 229. Haynes Index H 04247.0" (Haynes & Long)
8.02cm x 7.68cm x 0.43cm
"Iron ground circular plowed hair carving, small openwork slight gold inlay. The shape of both hitsu are also unique and interesting, matching the grain of the cedar." (Haynes & Long)
7.51cm x 7.22cm x 0.55cm
   Serious Inquiries Only
"Inscription iron tsuba "Cross watermark on layered rice cake" Zenbei Nobumasa (next?) Choshu Hagisumi Hachido Nagato Middle Edo period. Iron ground Round square ear small meat Shadow watermark / Shadow watermark It is a shadow watermark with a unique pattern. The iron ground forging, iron taste, and production are all good, and the bright natural rust color is also beautiful. The last two letters of the inscription are worn, making it difficult to read.
Further study on Mei is on going" (Long)
7.40cm x 7.35cm x 0.49cm
BUSHU JU MASAMITSU  and Kao  $800.00
"A very elegant iron plate tsuba in aoi gata shape. Various plants are finely carved in both positive and negative sukashi. At the four cardinal points are stems with inlay of gold. Both hitsu-ana are outlined in gold also.
Mei reads 'BUSHU JU MASAMITSU'. There were a number of Masamitsu artists that worked in Bushu, which one made this is unknown. The Kao is unrecorded." (Long)
6.15cm x 6.80cm x 0.40cm
"A very elegant iron plate DaiSho set in marugata shape. Various cherry blossoms, both in negative and positive sukashi, are finely carved.
Mei reads "CHOSHU HAGI JU" "KAWAJI SAKU". Refer to Haynes H 02969.0. Done by a family member in ca. 1800. Which family member is unknown." (Long)
Dai: 7.50cm x 7.60cm x 0.50cm. Sho: 7.00cm x 7.30cm x 0.50cm.
CHOSHU TOUSEN Tsuba    $700.00
"Iron mokko shape tsuba. The subject is a pair of "Morukoshi-fune", or "Tousen", or Chinese ships. The term was liberally applied to all foreign ships. Under Sakoku edicts most of Japan was cut off of foreign trade. Some Nagasaki carvers, like Onitake Toshiyoshi, were also known to have worked in Hagi, Choshu. They would have seen Chinese ships tied up at the docks, and Dutch vessels riding at anchor in the harbor. Seems likely the image was copied from a print." (Long)
7.70cm x 8.20cm x 0.32cm

MITO School

Mito is famous for the kinko artists who lived there from the mid Edo age until the Meiji era. Slightly before the Kambun era (1661-72) Akashi Yodayu worked at Mito. In the Hoei era (1704-11), about thirty years later, Gunji Koami Yogoro was working at Mito in the same style as Yodayu. They used iron, copper, or brass plate and worked in the Shoami style of ubu-sukashi and relief inlay work, as well as in line carving. The general tone of their work is quiet and subdued. The most famous student of Yogoro was Yatabe Tsuju (often called Mito Tsuju). He worked in the Kyoho era (1716-36). He made many tsuba of iron in round or oval shape with dragon design in ubu-sukashi with very fine detail and silver hira-zogan geometrical patterns inlaid on the edge. He also made tsuba with high relief inlay in the kinko technique, but these are very rare.

"Iron plate of rounded oblong shape with a slight raised rim and hammered mimi. The face with Mt. Fuji and two gold butterflies, and a carved poem. The back with a silver cresent moon and gold cherry flowers.
The face is signed: 'Shishido ju' (probably in Mito Prov.) and on the left: 'Shigyo Saku', which would seem to mean "I made this work as a gift."
On the back is: 'Oshoku Tadayuki ko' which means, made to the taste of Mr. Oshoku. On the left of the back is: 'Mito ju KATSUNOBU'. An unrecorded artist that now has the number H 02848.B.
All of this inscription is very unusual and it would seem that this was a very special order work and probably between friends." (Haynes)
6.80cm x 7.45cm x 0.45cm (rim)


"This piece illustrates the powerful influence of contemporary Chinese Nanga Literati painting. The use of soft metal (copper, gold, silver, shakudo) inlays to portray foliage, mountains, architecture, and human figures is consistant with the best workmanship of the Jakushi masters, Koreyuki and Koremitsu. The entire piece displays a high level of artistic refinement and sophistication.
Exemplary Jakushi school tsuba, signed with two characters. One of the many examples of the sosho signature of the Jakushi family school. They lived and worked in Nagasaki of Hizen Province.
Accompanied with NTHK origami." (Long)
6.85cm x 7.10cm x 0.55cm
"This piece exemplifies the powerful influence of contemporary Chinese Nanga Literati painting. The use of soft metal (copper, gold, silver, shakudo) inlays to portray mountains, architecture, and human figures is consistant with the best workmanship of the Jakushi masters, Koreyuki and Koremitsu. The entire piece displays a high level of artistic refinement and sophistication.
Accompanied with NBTHK origami."(Long)
6.95cm x 7.25cm x 0.41cm
One of the many examples of the sosho signature of the Jakushi family school. They lived and worked in Nagasaki of Hizen Province.
Accompanied with NBTHK 'Green' origami.
7.00cm x 7.20cm x 0.50cm
A presentation tsuba of mokko shaped iron plate covered with fine karakusa carving on both faces and the rim. There is an internal border just inside the rim of the same mokko shape, both sides. Also appearing are seven mon on the omote and three mon on the ura.
7.10cm x 7.73cm x 0.49cm
A very nice example of Hizen work dating about ca. 1500. The design is of 'Chinese Good Luck Objects' which is seen often from this area. The Katchushi-style plate is of this same period, ca. 1500. The rectangular hitsu are typical of Hizen work.
7.51cm x 7.38cm x 0.55cm at seppa-dai.
"This fine iron tsuba for a Japanese sword has a maru gata circular form, with sekigane in the nakago ana, a look of great strength and a well patined surface. It has a filled kotzuka-ana. The well patined surface is carved in a delicate manner in katakiri bori on both faces.
The subject depicts a peaceful landscape, with two Tsuru alighting above, and mountains rising in the distance. The design looks like a painting, it is in the tradition of Chinese Sung dynasty landscape painting, and of the ink drawings of the Japanese painter Sesshuu.
7.45cm x 7.65cm x 0.49cm (rim)
Edo era iron plate with carved wave design on both seppa-dai. A very large uchikaeshi rim. The plate is well-hammered to an almost polished finish. The finished plate was then placed inside the large rim. The piece is crafted very well.
6.63cm x 6.45cm x 0.40cm at seppa-dai, 1.40cm rim width.

MINO School

"Iron maru-gata shape tsuba with maru-kaku mimi. A very rare Mino swordsmith tsuba by Kanehisa who was the son of Nao Shizu Kanetoshi during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts.
Certificate of Authenticity from NBTHK. Hozon Tosogu." (Long)
8.60cm x 8.50cm x 0.40cm
"Early Mino work often depicts gardens and insects, in deep relief, bringing to mind that the world is beautiful, yet risk is ever present.
A rare Mino Bori tsuba with design of cricket and chrysanthemums on both omote and ura. An iron plate of rounded square shape with gold gilded copper overlays. The fire gilding attaches very well to copper but not iron. The marks on the right side of seppa-dai have unknown meaning.
6.40cm x 6.80cm x 0.5cm
Dates to the Momoyama period." (Long)


According to the statements of Inaba Tsuryo, and the late Kuwabara Yojiro, Toshinaga was thought to have been a student of the fourth Nara. It is logical to make the division of old, from new, Nara work at the period of Toshinaga. He was the father of the new style of the Nara school and those artists previous to his time worked in a style that better represents the meaning of the term Ko-Nara.

Not For Sale
"The inscription proudly engraved on the kiri-waki: 'NARA KAJI IEKUNI'. H 01778.0. This is early Edo period work from the Yamato Province. Iekuni is the most outstanding craftsman among the Nara kaji school. It is very rare to have soft metal inlay by this artist.
This tsuba was in the collection of Kenichi Kokubo. It is illustrated in his book: ZABO TANSEN (1974), page 404." (Long)
Not For Sale
"Iron ground corner cut square shape. The work of TOSHIKUNI (H 10404.0) of the later generation of the Nara school. It is very heavy and powerful." (Long)
Not For Sale
"A Ko-Nara iron tsuba of slight oval shape. The design of blossoms inlaid with gold, silver, and copper. The composition is artistic and in keeping with the size and shape of the plate.
After the time of Toshiteru the other members of the family, and the school felt that they should differentiate their style from that of the Goto. To accomplish this they chose to apply it to iron plate rather than soft metal. In this way they could still display their decorative skill and achieve popularity.
This Ko-Nara tsuba is graceful and precise in feeling. Dr. Torigoye (using his full family name) awarded a 1st class Hakogake." (Long)
7.50cm x 7.00cm x 0.40cm
Not For Sale
"A masterpiece of preeminent skill that uses a variety of colored metals such as gold, silver, red copper and copper on the soft grayish background that emits a dull shine, and performs very delicate inlays and overglaze representations.
Signed: 'NARA TOSHIHARA SAKU' (H 10316.0). A master craftsman who succeeded the Nara family as the second generation, and is highly regarded for his achievements." (Long)
"Iron plate round shape (maru-gata) with Amida yasurime. The plum and bamboo design done in kebori. In addition to the fine chiseling of the plums and bamboo leaves, the Amidaba file marks, which are elegant like a halo, creates a profound beauty. A very orthodox beautiful iron tsuba of the NARA school.
Signed: 'NARA SOYU'. This is TOSHIHARU, son of Toshimune (H 10591), student and preparer to Nara Toshiteru (H 10591) and Toshimune (H 10463). See Haynes Index H 10316.0." (Long)
7.93cm x 7.59cm x 0.45cm
"A small iron (tetsu-ji) tsuba of an angler ("Tsuri Jinbutsu") with a fishing rod. Possibly along the Uji-gawa river and close to the Ogura-ike lake. This area was known as the best place to enjoy the landscape overlooking the scenic river and lake.
There is delicate inlay of the chrysanthemums, foliage, and the fishing pole, all in gold. The intire scene is very serene." (Long)
5.95cm x 6.60cm x 0.35cm


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.

Serious Inquiries Only
"Known as 'tsukurikomi' the well defined carving on a nicely forged iron displays a lot of energy. The petals are carved one by one with deep shadows. The design of the chrysanthemum flower is different in that the petals fold back from the back side and the most prominent part is the front. The petals in full bloom are arranged in the lower front side and upper back side.
Signed by 'SASHU (Sado Island) Ju TOSHISADA', the second generation, ca. 1750-1775. Nakabara Ke. See H 10549.0." (Long)
7.22cm x 7.04cm x 0.50cm
Serious Inquiries Only
"Write up to follow.
Signed by 'SASHU (Sado Island) Ju TOSHIUJI'.
H 10631.0" (Long)
"Five rice bales with very well carved details and good quality iron plate. A classic Sado Island work of the best caliber. Dates to ca. 1800.
Signed: 'SASHU ju TOSHIHIDE'. See Haynes Index H10341.0." (Haynes)
"An iron sukashi bori tsuba of two Aoi (hollyhock) leaf design done in a pleasing layout of precise carving. This example exhibits "muji" (featureless) steel with a dense ring to it. The copper sekigane are intact. Sado tsuba are considered unorthodox, but very well made.
Signed by 'SASHU (Sado Island) Ju TOSHISADA', the second generation, ca. 1750-1775. Nakabara Ke. See H 10550.0." (Long)
7.22cm x 7.04cm x 0.50cm


KAZUTSUNE (H 03052.0)

There is considerable confusion as to how many artists these names belong to. It seems that only one is involved, but because he used so many variations of his various 'art names' on very different styles of work it seems that more than one artist might have been the case. There are a large number of his pieces in the West. Several examples of his work have various types of shippo inlay, often on a mokume plate.
Read the complete write-up on each individual web page. (Click on the image)
Refer to Haynes Index H 03052.0






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).

"The pictoral designs favored by Soten are almost the same as those of his father Shuten. They are pictures of Taoist and Buddhist monks at leisure, or pictures of warriors in combat. This type of Soten tsuba is of very fine iron with two ryohitsu ana. The rich dark plate is deeply pierced and delicately carved in Hikone Bori with accurate details." (Haynes)
N.T.B. attribution and Hakogaki.
"An oval shape tetsu-ji (iron) tsuba depicting a scene from the Gempei War. As shown here a piece with refined technique and drawing on a legendary episode in Japanese history. The inlay is gold and shakudo nunome zogan. Both sides exhibit high relief and and finely detailed inlays.
Mei: 'SOHEISHI NYUDO SOTEN TSUKURU'. This is Haynes Index H 08942.0. This is confirmed due to the lack of openwork sukashi.
Dates to ca. 1750." (Haynes)
'SOTEN'    $14,000.00
Early Important 'SOTEN' tsuba. Write-up to follow. (Haynes)



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.


"Oval shape iron plate tsuba with intricately carved clouds, and the constellation of the 'Big Dipper' with a Ken at the end of the handle. On the omote, appears a bat that has gold inlay on the tips of wings and is also very well carved. There are hitsu-ana, the kogai-ana being filled with lead.
Signed: 'EFU ju TSUNEYUKI'. This is H 10950.0 in Haynes Index.
7.05cm x 7.35cm x 0.35cm
"A masterpiece by YOSHIHISA. Art names: BUNSUKE, TASHICHI, YOSHINORI. See Haynes Index H11643.0.
Unknown writer of Hakogaki. Published in ZABO TANSEN, pg. 212.
An iron plate with two dancers inlaid with gold, shakudo, and copper. The lively expression brings out the movement of the dance." (Long/Haynes)
7.40cm x 7.20cm x 0.40cm
"Kenkyusha's NEW JAPANESE-ENGLISH DICTIONARY (Copyright, 1954) defines 'kutsuwa-gata', a Greek cross in a circle." (Long/Haynes)
7.61cm x 7.60cm x 0.61cm.
"It is a rare tsuba that shows a special tempered skin which may be called 'crepe' forged skin. The first person who trained in this work was the son of the famous swordsmith Ikeda Kazuhide (2nd Gen.) of the Shonai clan, and according to the inscription, he was also a gunsmith. Perhaps this unique and unusual tempered skin is the result of the application of gun manufacturing techniques and iron.
The large mokko shape is hammered back with uchikaeshi rim, and the face is placed thickly so that it surrounds to form a circular phase. This is a design associated with the spirit of Zen and is considered to symbolize truth and enlightenment. It is also said to manifest a state of continuous flow without beginning or end, that is, a liberated mind." (Long)
Serious Inquiries Only
"Under Study." (Haynes)
9.20cm x 9.20cm x 0.60cm.
'TSUNEKATSU KIKUCHI'  Haynes Index H10811.0
"Was a swordsmith from the mid to late Edo period. He was a disciple of Naokatsu Inagawa and the founder of the Kikuchi school. In his later years, he became a priest and called himself 'SOJU'."
He was good at takabori-iroe, hair carving, and katagiri carving. He formed a powerful family in the Yokoya school and produced many disciples.
This work depicts a golden wild carp rising up a torrent on Shibuichi maji. From a Chinese anecdote, it is known as an auspicious crest that wishes for success in life, about a carp that climbed the Yellow River and turned into a golden dragon.
The dynamism and speed of the torrent is depicted lightly with an extremely advanced technique, and gold is used abundantly for the golden wild carp jumping on the waves. The contrast is emphasized, and it is a very calculated and stylish work. The thick gold painting on the edge shows the high quality." (Haynes)
6.90cm x 5.45cm x 0.40cm.
"The signature is under study." (Haynes)
7.60cm x 7.20cm x 0.45cm.
Serious Inquiries Only
"Under Study. Ref. Haynes Index H 06114.0." (Haynes)
7.61cm x 7.60cm x 0.61cm.
"Presented here is a set consisting of a tsuba and fuchi/kashira of iron. All pieces have a chiseled decor of plants. The style and quality of this set displays the high artistic ability of NAOFUSA.
The signature on both the tsuba and fuchi read 'SEIRYUKEN EIJU SAKU'. He often signed his masterly pieces in beautiful cursive sosho (grass script) followed with a gold inlaid seal. This was the art name of NAOFUSA (H 06602.0). He was a student of Okamoto Harukuni (H 00810) and the adopted son of Okamoto Naoshige (H 06772)."
Attributed here with a Hakogake by Dr. Torigoye." (Long)
"Jiyu-gata (free-shaped) iron plate tsuba with the web carved with a design of a plum blossom branch. This example is remarkable in the very fine kebori carving and attention to detail. The center of each plum blossom is iron-on-iron inlay, four on the omote and five on the ura. It is possible that the thickest part of the branch on both sides has iron-on-iron inlay. In all respects, this is one of the finest examples of this school.
Dates to ca. 1700-1750." (Long)
8.40cm x 8.60cm x 0.38cm (seppa).
HORAI  Design 
"Round (maru gata) iron plate tsuba with kebori carving of 'Horai Tsurukame', the symbolic design of the Horai family. The rim shape from a crane with spread wings and a minokame (mythical turtle) with bearded tail. Dates to 1800.
All in all a very fine work by a very adept artist." (Haynes & Long)
8.05cm x 8.07cm x 0.50cm (seppa)
"This is the first example of a Mucade tsuba with a signature. The mei reads 'SADATSUGU'. This is an extremely rare example of this type of tsuba that includes three small sukashi openings representing clouds or pools of water.
This 'Mucade' (centipede) style tsuba has two partial semi-circles on each face consisting of a central iron wire and alternating, short iron and brass wires, resembling the legs of the centipede. There are no missing or crushed wires.
Both hitsu-ana are plugged and appear to be of the kogai shape.
The centipede is sacred to Bishamon (God of War) and is specially favorable for a warrior.
Further study is needed to determine the age." (Haynes & Long)
8.00cm x 7.78cm x 0.48cm

"Iron ground Yagi quince stone-grained ground, delicate hair carving, single hitsu-ana. Although it is difficult to decide if Higo or Hizen, it has an indescribable charm.

Certified by the N.B.T.H.K. to Hizen. Tokubetsu Hozon Tosogu." (Haynes)
7.72cm x 7.71cm x 0.43cm


Two Crab Sukashi
"A Sukashi tsuba with two crabs left and right of the hitsu-ana. The iron is well hammered.
Early Edo Period (Early 17th C.)" (Haynes)


"Iron ground octagonal tsuba, dates to ca.1850 or later." (Haynes)
8.20cm x 7.40cm x 0.50cm

"Presented here is an 'ita' tsuba with both surfaces covered in a landscape design including a boar and plover. Possibly copied from a painting. The shape of the plate is known as 'Nade Mokko', smooth (sloping shoulders) mokko. Both hitsu are filled with shakudo. There appears trace amounts of gold inlay." (Haynes)
8.45cm x 7.85cm x 0.48cm

"An iron Ginkyo motif design tsuba of four leafs with brass dew drops inlaid." (Haynes)
8.30cm x 7.70cm x 0.35cm

European Tea Kettle Design
"Sukashi design of a European Tea Kettle. Seems to date to ca.1600. Not sure of school but a very rare design." (Haynes)
7.20cm x 7.30cm x 0.40cm

"Write-up to follow. See Haynes H 00438.0." (Long)
7.75cm x 7.80cm x 0.40cm

'YASUTSUGU'    $600.00
"A tsuba in 'kasanemochi' shape (heaped rice-cake) or otafuku mokko reminding some of the fat-cheeked girl. There is sukashi of open fan appearing on both sides of seppa-dai and a closed umbrella on the ura.
After an intensive study of the signature, we conclude it could be 'YASUTSUGU' of the Shimosaka family, but a much later genration. This would be for the plate only. The inlay of silver and gold was either by a Tanaka or by a goldsmith.
Appears to date ca. 1800 or later." (Long)
7.85cm x 6.92cm x 0.39cm

'MUNEMASA' with Kao   
"Irregular oval iron plate with smooth surface, and slightly raised rim. Hot stamped with the design of the symbols for the five mountain ranges of China. With original copper plugs at top and bottom of the nakago-ana, both with small chrysanthemum stamps on both sides. Udenuki appear in lower right quadrant.
Signed: 'Munemasa' with kao, H 06130.0.This is the artist who lived in Hisai in Ise Province. Born 1817, died June 25, 1863." (Haynes & Long)
A large and heavy iron mokko-gata shape tsuba for a very large Katana. The forging is extremely well done showing multiple folds in the steel. The hammer work is advanced, especially in the shaping of the rim.
The sukashi in the lower quadrant is of landscape terrain and water. And two cranes above deciding where to land. This is very reminiscence of Kaneiye work.
The signature that appears in the lower, right area, is of 'TSUNETOSHI' of the Miyaguchi family (H 10920.0). He was a swordsmith that made his own tsuba. (Haynes & Long)

and His School

Here are my thoughts on the Harusada tsuba:
During the entire time that Harusada was creating, he has a final goal in mind. This goal is his vision of what he ultimately wanted to achieve, and it provides both energy and the direction for the creative process. There is nothing accidental about this creation.
My contemplation of the Harusada tsuba serves to clarify what is meant by the cognitive functioning of the emotions in tsuba art. It is these feelings that bring me back to this tsuba again and again. These emotions caused me to try to understand the work, to try to unravel its mystery. The more I come to understand this tsuba, the greater the pleasure I feel.


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.



"A most interesting and highly important tsuba with ongoing study. This tsuba was in the collection of Kenichi Kokubo. It is illustrated in his books: ZABO TANSEN (1974), page 318 and SHINSEN KINKO MEIKAN (1993) page 13 (right entry).
The signature reads: KAWATSU (family name), CHOSA (short for Chosaemon), TAIRA (clan name), IESADA (no saku?).
Date of Kanei Juninen Kit I Go Gatsu. The 12th year of Kanei is 1635, year of the hog. 5th month, May. Thus the date is: May 1635. In the year 1635 was the first of the SANKIN-KOTAI, a policy of the Tokugawa shogunate during most of the Edo period of Japanese history. The purpose was to strengthen central control over the daimyos (major feudal lords). It required feudal lords, daimyo, to alternate living for a year in their domain and in Edo, the capital. It was made compulsory for the tozama daimyos in 1635.
It would seem that this tsuba was made for this trip. Opposite the date is inscribed: Shogun Den. The Sho kanji is also read Katsu and is not the proper kanji for the title of Shogun which is: hata, masa ni, with the same kanji gun. This seems to refer to the First Trip to Edo." (Haynes)


Toshiteru, founder of the Nara School, was affiliated with the Goto School but parted company, and continued for nine consecutive generations. The three best known masters of the Nara School in early Edo period were Toshinaga, Yasuchika and Joi, known as the Nara Sansaku. 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. It is well known that among the works made by the Nara Sansaku there are 31 pieces which are titled with Juyo Bunkazai or Juyo Bijutsuhin; six for Toshinaga, twenty for Yasuchika, and five for Joi. This would seem to indicate that there is not much to be questioned or discussed. Even so, there are still many difficult questions to be discussed and conclusions that are unanswered. Since all of the works of the Nara Sansaku are signed, there is the only truth, genuine or gimei. In order to get it, it is necessary to study with great care both the detailed characteristics of the signature and the characteristic style of workmanship.



"This tsuba is of shakudo plate that is 8 cm. high and 7.9 cm. wide. It is signed: 'BUSHU EDO JU YASUCHIKA' and KAO. The round shape plate has an inlaid shakudo rim that does not go over the edges. This style of rim cover is to be seen in other shakudo plate tsuba of this time, and sometimes they are of gold. The design is of a hare in kage sukashi (silhouette sukashi), turned three quarters away so we see mostly the back of the animal. To its left are three sukashi sasa dwarf bamboo leaves, a dot of dew and a hart shape opening. Next to the bamboo leaves on the face are sasa bamboo leaves inlaid in two tones of shakudo, with gold flowers and other plants. A flower stock with nine shakudo leaves and a single silver bloom with a silver bud at the top, exits the bamboo leaves. This bloom is of the Rindo flower, or gentian (gentiana) often called the bell flower. The blooms of the Rindo are part of the family mon (crest) of the Matsudaira family." (Haynes)

'JOI'    'Sensei'


Serious Inquiries Only
"A large round copper plate of katana size with the face showing Hotei riding on a horse, that looks much like a mule, or perhaps a Mongolian pony. His staff and fan are carved and inlaid on the reverse side. The plate surface is ishime of very fine grain. The horse, robe and staff are in pure shishiai style. The head, body and arm of Hotei are above surface inlay, as is the fan on the reverse side. The clouds are carved well below the plate surface and have gold inlay touches and a silver moon on the back side. The amount of detail carving is hard to see in some cases, as it is so fine. The quality of this tsuba is far superior to that of many others with this same subject, and shows the true ability of the work of Joi.
Read complete descriptive article by Robert Haynes titled 'The M. Arthur Kay Sugiura Joi Tsuba HERE.

'JOEI'    'Student'

'JOEI'    $4000.00
"A brass plate in rounded corner square shape 'nadekaku' with a slight hammered (uchikaeshi) mimi. The carving of the design is very fine with inlays of gold, shakudo and silver. A first class tsuba.
Mei: 'JOEI', (H 02112.0). Of the Iwaoka family and a student of Sugiura Joi (H 02135.0)." (Long)

6.35cm x 6.85cm x 0.45cm


The first Kamiyoshi was Juhei, also called Masatada. He was a student of Tohachi, the third Hayashi. In design, treatment, and carving he followed his teacher closely. In addition to the chrysanthemum shaped stamps along the side of the nakago ana, this school is noted for the kakushi tagane, which are pocket shaped indentations around the nakago ana.
The second Kamiyoshi Juhei is also called Fukanobu. His work may be distinguished by the dark blackish color of the iron plate. He also used a number of kakushi tagane around the nakago ana of his tsuba.
The third Kamiyoshi Juhei, called Jinzaemon or Masayasu, is best known by his pseudonym, Rakuju. He was the finest artist of his family and the greatest artist of all the late Higo workers. His greatest talent was his ability at inlaying and the beautiful satin finish he produced on his tsuba. The majority of his work is not signed. He used a very distinctive kakushi tagane, which marked his work rather than a signature. On observing the nakago ana on the face of the tsuba the marks will be in the form of three squarish indentations at the bottom and two at the top.


"Circular iron plate with two negative-silhouette sukashi design of two sweeping aoi (hollyhock) leaf's. The open work is elegant and exquisite. Both facets appear polished. Though unsigned, has the noted punch marks of two at the top and three at the bottom of the nakago-ana, belonging to RAKUJU.

Certified by the NTHK (05/09/1993) as the work of Kamiyoshi Rakuju.
Jinsaemon Rakuju (1817-1884), eldest son of Fukanobu, was the third master of the Kamiyoshi family school of Kumamoto city in Higo Province. The school worked in the classic Higo style of fine sukashi with modeling and engraving." (Long)

8.10cm x 8.20cm x 0.30cm

'MITSUNAGA' (Nidai)   $5000.00
See Haynes Index H 05298.0. This work is a fairly large tsuba, and on a high-quality shakudo polished ground that has been polished like a mirror, various autumn flowers are beautifully carved with a single-cut carving that is good at the second generation Mitsunaga, and it can be said to be his transcendental skill. The feat of is unfortunately demonstrated. Tsuba production is extremely rare among Mitsunaga's works, and the number of works is limited, so it seems that this product in very good condition is a very rare work.
Japan Art Swords Preservation Association Preserved Sword Appraisal Report With a copy of the special valuable sword fittings appraisal. (Long)
8.60cm x 8.20cm x 0.50cm.



"Copper polished ground of a crane that Higo specialized in. Dates Momoyama to Early Edo period.
Hakogaki by Kanzan dated Showa 37." (Haynes)

"He was the second son of Ishiyama Motooki a lower third rank court noble. As a metal worker he specializes in katagiri carving and incorporates the style of painting of the Kano school into sword fittings with the graceful touch of a court noble. See Haynes Index H 05940.0.
"Hotei River Crossing" has been drawn by many artists since ancient times. It depicts the anecdote that when Hotei, who had accumulated his merits, tried to cross the river, he was reflected on the surface of the river as Maitreya.
Although it is easy to overlook at first glance, this anecdote can be read firmly in the figure of Karako pointing at the surface of the river in this work as well. It is a elegant work that makes you feel the artist's high talent in the warm atmosphere and the expressions that are very aristocratic."(Long)
7.76cm x 7.58cm x 0.38cm.

Provenance:  Robert E. Haynes
"A very fine shakudo ground with gorgeous gold inlay work and a gold fukurin. The delicately carved horses, autumn grasses and mushi are realistic and show a high degree of ability and expressiveness."
6.90cm x 7.25cm x 0.35cm.

'NAGATSUNE' & Kao       $3000.00
"A very stylish 'shibuichi' plate in squared circular (Okaku Maru) shape. The carved and inlaid motif is about a traveler and his vassal in route to a sanctuary. Nagatsune studied painting under Ishida Yutei. The inlay is of gold, shakudo, copper and silver.

Mei: 'NAGATSUNE' H 06539.0. This mei is done in Sosho style which is rare for Nagatsune." (Haynes & Long)

"A slight oval shakudo plate with precise nanako. Both hitsu-ana are present and shows signs of being mounted more than once. A gold fukurin adorns the piece.
The design is of Bamboo ("Take") and Tigers ("Tora"). Since its introduction to Japan, the Tiger in the Bamboo had been a preferred picture for paintings and for metal carving and inlays. The design was both carved and made separate then attached.
MEI:'ECHIZEN no DAIJO MINAMOTO NAGATSUNE' & Kao. H 06539.0. Summarizing, he studied painting under Ishida Yutei, was a student of Yasui Takanaga, and received the title of Echizennodaijo in 1770." (Haynes & Long)
"A very fine shakudo plate with a delicate carving of a leopard frolicing in nature. There are various types of foliage and landscape on both faces. It is a very advanced work showing the delicateness of the carving of the leaves, flower buds and the leopards spots along with the rest of the design.
Signed: 'NAOKATSU'. This is the son of Naoshige (H 06773) and a student of Yanagawa Naomasa (H 06690). He signed with both the Inagawa and Yanagawa family names and would use the same Kao with each, in some cases." (Long)
7.45cm x 7.65cm x 0.45cm
A study of OX themed tsuba done by three different schools and their interpretation.

'SOHO' & Kao
"Presented here is a rare gem of the YOKOTANI School. The tiger diagram on the omote and the bamboo forest on the ura are expressed in one-sided carving which is the family art of the Yokotani school. The base material is made day and night with shakudo and copper ground. The edges of the hitsu-ana and the rim are decorated with gorgeous gold rings.
The mei reads: SOHO & Kao. This is H 08891.0."(Long)
6.50cm x 6.70cm x 0.40cm
Oval copper plate with original patina in perfect condition. The design is of 'Mura-chidori', a flock of plovers. There are seven on omote and four on the ura. The flock is flying over a stream. The plovers are in gold, shakudo, and copper.
See Haynes Index H 02661.0. Accompanied with NBTHK Hozon #2002120.(Long)
6.20cm x 6.60cm x 0.35cm
   Serious Inquiries Only

"Large round copper plate nicely forged and hammered with excellent patina and color. Further study and description coming soon." (Haynes & Long)
KO-KINKO   $3000.00
"Dates to mid Muromachi period. Write-up to follow." (Haynes)
7.25cm x 8.15cm x 0.25cm
'GENZAEMON   KATSUHISA' & Kao   $1400.00
"A copper base plate with the design of paulownia using the Katakiri-Bori technique. The rim is of shakudo.
Mei: 'GENZAEMON KATSUHISA'. This craftsman, Kuwamura Genzaemon Katsuhisa, was born in 1694 and had the reputation of 'Joko'. He was the son of Kuwamura Morikatsu, who was a disciple of Goto Kakujo. See Haynes Index H 02774.0."
NBTHK Certification. Hozon Tosogu. March 16, 2017. (Long)
6.60cm x 6.40cm x 0.50cm
"A slight oval shape shakudo kikka and fan motif, three fans depicted in positive silhouette sukashi set amid the petals of a partial 32-petal chrysanthemum on the ura. The petal surfaces are carved out sukidashi takabori and decorated with radiating lines of nanako. The omote is a surface design displaying more foilage including chrysanthemums, sakura, fern fronds and other plants on a background of nanako. The fans have iroe of 'worn' gold, kebori and nanako.
The arrangement of fans and kiku is refined and very pleasing to enjoy." (Haynes)
"A tsuba from the era of actual warfare, boldly decorated with a shapeless large openwork. The thin layers of the tsuba, which would have been attached to a lightweight sword suitable for one-handed fighting, are also pursued for operability. The astringent copper ground (Yamagane) is beaten and the ears are made high, leaving traces of hammering on the ground. Traces of black lacquer remain. Dates to ca.1300.
It is a work that shows the importance of deeply exploring the meaning of the design through Zen knowledge, which is common in tsuba that has evolved over time." (Long)
7.90cm x 7.80cm x 0.17cm (face)
"Made of a copper metal that has been mined with a refining technology that displays some impurities. This work is typical of the Muromachi period with flower petals as a design. For a work that is over 600 years old, it is very attractive." (Long)
7.04cm x 7.06cm x 0.30cm (face)
"This type of tsuba is often referred to as Tachi Kanagu-shi work. There is no foundation for this name. It is a typical mid-Muromachi period work of yamagane plate with a 'star' punch surface and floral and family mon carved on the surface. The reverse is about the same. It has an applied rim cover of the same metal as the plate. The hitsu is original and has been slightly enlarged at the bottom end. It is wakisashi size and intended for a middle rank owner, lesser Daimyo, or ranking offical. It is typical for its period and has more careful work than most made of this period, ca.1450. It has a NBTHK Hozon paper, Reiwa 2nd year, that says 'Ko Kinko' and nothing more." (Long)
7.34cm x 7.16cm x 0.36cm
"This is Nara Toshichika working in Edo ca. 1700. Copper plate with ishime surface and hitsu-ana filled with shakudo. The motif is of bales and birds in shakudo, gold, and silver.

Refer to Haynes Index, H 10295.0." (Long)
7.30cm x 7.00cm x 0.51cm
"A work that expresses the autumn of fertility with a simple texture reminiscent of old metalwork. Among the metalworkers of the Shoami school, which flourished in Dewa Province, Denbei and others created works with a unique texture. This tsuba is also old-fashioned, reminiscent of Denbei, but it is highly carved with precision, and the composition stands out clearly on the surface finished in the style of rough ground.
The plate is a mountain copper ground with an astringent color. The branches, vines and leaves are glossy with shakudo and bare copper. The branches that stretch out cheerfully are full of life, and the soft golden fruit is vivid. The fact that the arabesque is carved in the rim is also a highlight that is typical of Denbei." (Long)
7.80cm x 7.77cm x 0.43cm
"This remarkable work shows the best of its type from mid to late Muromachi period ca.1450-1500. It is a shakudo plate with raised rim folded over in panels on itself. The plate is divided into nine panels with floral designs in each. The gold decorative cover to the hitsu ana is a later addition. This must have been owned by a high ranking Daimyo, for it was very expensive when first made. It also shows the independant imagination of the artists of the Muromachi period, it is not the cookie-cutter work of the Edo period.

Certified by NBTHK Hozon dated 1991. Mumei Ko-Kinko. Nothing else." (Long)
6.94cm x 6.51cm x 0.40cm
"Accompanied by a Hozon certificate, issued by the N.B.T.H.K. 1994.

"An excellent early (Ko-Kinko) tsuba of deep black shakudo with a nanako ground. On both faces are takabori relief of autumnal vegetation. Two hitsu-ana are present, one appearing to be a later addition." (Long)
6.60cm x 6.00cm x 0.35cm
KO - KINKO $1500.00
"Accompanied by a Hozon certificate number 433796, issued by the N.B.T.H.K.

"Mumei and attributed to Ko-Kinko. Momoyama period, ca.1450-1500. A Mokko-gata tsuba with thin shakudo plates covering both surfaces. Autumn flowering plants are represented with ten-zogan and iroe. The rim is covered with Shakudo-yakitsuke fukurin." (Long)
6.46cm x 5.94cm
KO KINKO    $600.00
"The tsuba presented here is a wonderful soft metal example with delicate Amida yasurime. This term - Amida - is the name of ancient Buddhism and it is interesting to speculate whether this finish was originally intended to have a particular religious meaning, such as to signify its owner's faith.
There are two identical hitsu and extensive punch marks around the nakago-ana." (Long)
8.00cm x 7.70cm x 0.30cm
KINKO    $300.00
"A suaka (solid copper) tsuba with shakudo fukurin." (Long)
5.20cm x 4.50cm x 0.40cm

"Though unsigned, this is the pristine work of Kusakari Kiyosada (H 03321.0) working in Sendai from 1781-1789. He was the son of Hachirobei (H 00720.0).
A slight oval shape shakudo of dark black patina with the finest gold wire inlay. The design represents the 'Kotsutsumi', drums that are used in a Noh play. Mrs. Torigoye taught students how to play these drums." (Long)
6.55cm x 7.00cm x 0.40cm

"A brass diamond shape (otafuka) tanto-sized tsuba with a well carved symetrical design of two dragons chasing a jewel. This suggests a theme of Qing Sino-Tibetan design. Dating to late Edo period.
History tells us this design originated in ancient Mesopotamia, and repeated on 6th century Silk Road textiles from Central Asia. Now described as KANTON tsuba, which designates goods imported to Japan by Cantonese merchants in Nagasaki." (Long)
5.60cm x 6.15cm x 0.35cm (seppa) x 0.75cm (rim)
'HOKURITEI   RYOSAI'   $1200.00
"Oval shakudo plate with design of a court official greeting traveling merchants. The rather high relief inlay is in gold, silver, copper, shibuichi, and shakudo. One should note the style of the eccentric trees and clouds which are either by this artist or from a wood block print. The remainder of the subject is seen on the reverse and all is under a rain covered sky.
The face is signed: (in tiny kanji) 'Hokuritei' and 'Ryosai' with kao, (H 07603.0)." (Haynes)
6.15cm x 6.70cm x 0.30cm

SANDO AWASE    $800.00
Provenance:  Elliott D. Long
Accompanied by a Kicho (white paper) certificate number 610, issued by the N.B.T.H.K., dated Meiji 41 (1908).
'Shakudo Nanako-ji Marugata Iroe Kin Zogan Fukurin'. "Early Edo period. Design of battle at sea. Warships, Samurai, sea and plants in kin (gold) zogan." (E. Long)
7.7cm x 7.6cm x 0.5cm thick.

SANMAI DAISHO    $800.00
"Dai (7.50cm x 7.50cm x 0.30cm) Sho (7.10cm x 7.10cm x 0.27cm) Sanmai tsuba in the design of foilage, phoenix, temples and other scenic themes, showing on front and back, maru gata, both with fukurin of shakudo. Kozuka ana on each piece. Both Tsuba are made of Shakudo (alloy of copper and gold). All surfaces are Nanako-Ji. Only the Sho has zogan of gold. A very elaborate and tasteful Daisho" (Haynes & Long)

SAN DIEGO Style   $600.00
The 'San Diego' was a Portuguese ship that sank off the Philippines in 1601," which amongst its cargo were found numerous soft metal tsuba dating to the late Momoyama period. This is a very significant wreck as it illustrates the type tsuba, as well as likely a 'typical' export cargo in the late 1500's.
"Carved Chinese dragon in clouds. Late Momoyama period ca. 1575." (Long)
7.0cm x 6.4cm x 0.3cm


POA, Please Inquire.
"A rounded square brass plate delicately carved named 'Maizuru Lakeside Ashizu'. The face is signed on the right side of the seppa-dai: 'Sekibun', H 08118.0.
There were three generations of the name Sekibun and the last two worked in Shonai. Born in 1789 with the surname Katsura, he was the leading figure in Shonai Kinko. At the age of 36, he became a member of the Sakai clan of the Edo Shonai domain and moved to Tsuruoka 1845." (Long)

'SHIGENORI'     $2000.00

"A shakudo plate in oval shape with inlays of gold, shakudo and silver. This is a classic representation of 'Dai-koku-ten'. Dai (Great) Koku (Darkness) Ten (Dharmapala) in Vajrayana Buddhism was the Defender Deity of the Law of Buddhism. In Japan, this deity is considered to be the Deity of Agriculture, Commerce and of Wealth.
Mei: 'SHIGENORI' & Seal. This is H 08428.0. His teacher was Yanagawa Naomitsu." (Haynes & Long)

6.70cm x 7.00cm x 0.25cm

"Large rounded brass plate tsuba with a fine layered shakudo fukuren. The subject is Daikokuten, of the Seven Lucky Gods, who gives good fortune and treasure, looks at the pine tree with a gentle and warm expression.
The back is signed: 'SHIGETSUNE', see H 10905.0. This artist is often referred to as "Nara Tsuneshige". He was a prolific artist of the later Edo period (ca. 1750), and a number of his tsuba are to be found in the West.
Accompanied with NBTHK Hozon attribution." (Haynes)
6.50cm x 7.15cm x 0.58cm

"A brass sukashi tsuba with inner cross design depicting the SATSUMA mon. At a later date, the hitsu-ana was added. Fine hammer work with well carved waves on the edge. All covered with gold plating at one time. Made for a Daimyo or Priest sword.
Dates to Momoyama period, ca. 1550-1600." (Haynes)
7.61cm x 7.57cm x 0.60cm

SHONAI SHOAMI   Serious Inquiries Only
"Dates to ca. 1700." (Haynes)
7.00cm x 7.40cm x 0.49cm
"Brass plate with ishime surface and inlaid in shakudo, copper, gold, and silver with a design of a heron in reeds by a stream. The reverse with just reeds in the same metals. This is a classic example of the work of the Shonai Shoami school circa 1700. This type of tsuba was very popular at the time with the local samurai. It is very rare in the West to find this type of brass plate with the original patina intact. The plate has been fitted with a very fine shakudo rope design rim cover, which is probably original to the origin of this tsuba. As of now we do not have any signed examples of this type of work." (Haynes)
6.05cm x 6.30cm x 0.46cm

SHONAI     $950.00

"Red copper plate with hot stamps of cherry flowers on both sides. Shakudo rim cover. A classic mid-Muromachi (ca. 1450) Tachikanagu-shi example. Appears to have been mounted several times." (Haynes)

6.35cm x 6.65cm x 0.45cm Rim
SHONAI-KINKO   $2000.00
"A delicate soft metal plate of copper with shakudo fukurin and linings of both hitsu-ana. The areas of very fine nanako with branches of bamboo inlaid with dark shakudo, highlited with gold and with a few gold leaves. On the front face perched on a branch is a finely carved plover of gold whose eyes are inlaid with shakudo. The artist used a style of richness and splendor to create a masterpiece." (Haynes)
7.40cm x 7.65cm x 0.45cm
"Slight oval, tatemaru gata, copper plate with shakudo fukurin.
Finish of the plate, both sides are of chirimen ishime ji, or "silk crepe" finish. Appears as a very smart finish of exquisite taste, which was believed to have been originated by Murakami Jochiku and his school.
Dates 1800 to 1850." (Long)
6.60cm x 6.10cm x 0.50cm

'SOCHI'     $1500.00

"An oval shaped copper plate with very fine carving of 'Bukan' sleeping with his tiger next to a waterfall in the landscape. Bukan was a Zen monk and a poet who lived in the Tang Dynasty, and was known as a man of eccentricity who amazed people by riding around on his tiger.
Mei: 'SOCHI'. This could be H 08860.0, of the Goto family ca. 1800. But further study is needed." (Haynes & Long)

6.50cm x 7.05cm x 0.40cm

If you would like to know more about any items on this website, or if you are considering a purchase, please send Elliott and Robert an E-MAIL ( elliott@shibuiswords.com ), asking us any questions you have or what pieces interest you.


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.


Schools of Tsuba Artists HERE

Tsuba Identification Guide HERE

E-MAIL - elliott@shibuiswords.com