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(鍔ギャラリー④) Tsuba Gallery #4

Kanayama Tsuba (金山鐔)

Japanese Title: ??

Material: Iron (tetsu 鉄)

Age: Late Muromachi to Momoyama Period (室町時代後期~桃山時代)

Size: 7.7 cm X 7.7 cm, 5.4 mm at rim.

Signature:  Mumei (無銘)   

Shape:  Maru-gata (丸形)

Surface Finish: Yakite shitate (焼手仕立)

Attachment: None

This is a handguard (tsuba 鐔) made of forged iron (tetsu 鉄). It was made to be mounted on a long sword (katana 刀). The positive openwork (ji-sukashi 地透) design is that of stacked sweet rice cakes (suhama州浜) in a stylized profile as seen on displays associated with the New Year's celebration. Another term for this is (kagami mochi 鏡餅), or mirror rice cake. On either side of the large rice cakes stacks are individual rice cakes making for a very well-balanced overall design.

The tsuba rim is rounded-square (kaku-mimi koniku 角耳小肉) a common shape characteristic of many iron tsuba from Owari Province. Many large iron bones (tekkotsu 鉄骨) are present along the rim as well as the surface of the tsuba indicating its great age. The interesting surface features I think are the result of additional heat treatment applied to the plate (yakite shitate 焼手仕立).

Comparing the quality and characteristics of the iron of this tsuba with others I have seen I think this is an early Kanayama (金山) tsuba made in Owari Province (尾張國) around the time of the late Muromachi Period to Momoyama Period circa 1550-1600 CE.



  1. Kagami mochi - Wikipedia.

  2. Tosogu Classroom: Volume 1 by Fukushi Shigeo, translated by Markus Sesko, ©2016 JSS/US, NBTHK-AB, NBTHK-EB, pages 184-194.


Provenance: Charlie Foos Collection

Yagyū Utsushi Tsuba (柳生写し鐔)

Japanese Title: 波車の図透かし鐔 (nami-guruma no zu sukashi tsuba)

Material: Iron (Tetsu 鉄) 

Age: Middle Edo Period (江戸時代中期)

Size:  7.4 cm X 8.1 cm, 4.9 mm at rim.

Signature: Mumei (無銘)  

Shape: Mokkō-gata (木瓜形)      

Surface Finish: Tsuchime-ji (槌目地)

Attachment: Custom Wood Storage Box

This a handguard (tsuba 鐔) and is made of forged iron (tetsu 鉄). The overall shape of the tsuba is a fine (mokko-gata 木瓜形). The positive openwork design carved in three dimensions (nikubori-ji-sukashi 肉彫地透) consists of ocean waves surrounding a wheel (nami-guruma 波車). The same design done is the same style continues to the reverse of the tsuba. The thicker rim shows nicely the layers of forged iron used to construct the plate of the tsuba. The shape of the rim rounded square in shape (kaku-mimi-koniku 角耳小肉). The layers of forged iron are also visible along the inside surface of the openwork as well as the rim all features of classic Yagyū tsuba (柳生鐔).

Ocean waves surrounding a single twelve spoke wheel appear in the original set of 110 core designs recorded in a historical reference book of Yagyū tsuba by Inaba Tsuryu at the end of the 18th Century. This design is recorded twice in this book as design number #53 and #54. (1,2)

This openwork design is part of the original core set of 110 designs used during the first period of Yagyū tsuba production during the mid-Edo Period. (3) All Yagyu tsuba either historical to modern were made as commissioned works of functional art. The historical Yagyū tsuba were commissioned works made upon request by the headmaster of the Yagyū Shinkage Ryū a school of Japanese swordsmanship based in Owari Province and filled by different sword fitting artists. (4) Modern Yagyū tsuba were commissioned works made upon request by induvial martial artist training in the Yagyū Shinkage Ryū using a set of traditional design specifications.

I submitted this tsuba to NBTHK (tōsōgu shinsa 刀装具審査) in February 2022. It was determined to be a modern work of art in the style of a historical Yagyū tsuba that dates from the middle Edo Period. Being a modern work of decorative art, it is therefore ineligible to receive a formal written appraisal from the NBTHK.


  1. Yagyū Tsuba by Jim Gilbert, © 2006 NBTHK – American Branch.

  2. The Haynes Yagyū Design Book © 2014 NBTHK – American Branch.

  3. Personal Communication with Robert E. Haynes. September 22, 2021.

  4. Yagyū-tsuba by Markus Sesko, © 2013 Blog Website (Markus Sesko | Japanese Arms and Armor).  


Provenance: Purchased from a US based Japanese Antiques Dealer

Kōdai Hōan Tsuba (後代法安鐔)


Japanese Title: 藤紋図鍔 (Fuji mon no zu tsuba)

Material: Iron (tetsu 鉄)

Age: Middle to Late Edo Period (江戸時代中期~後期)

Size: 7.5 cm X 7.3 cm, 4.0 mm at rim

Signature: mumei (無銘)

Shape: Maru-gata (丸形)

Surface Finish: Migaki-ji (磨地)

Attachment: NBTHK Hozon Paper

This sword guard (tsuba 鐔) is the work of later generation of the (Hōan 法安) School during the middle Edo Period.  The tsuba is likely the work of the 5th or the 6th generation Hōan who officially worked from 1731 until around 1799 as a tsuba maker for the Asano Family (淺野氏) that ruled Hiroshima Domain (Hiroshima-han 広島藩) in Aki Province (安芸國). The bold and noble design on the front and back of the tsuba is a family crest (kamon 家紋) consisting of stylized hanging wisteria flowers and leaves (fuji-mon 藤紋).

This tsuba would have been mounted and used by a retainer serving a lord that used this family crest. This specific family crest design was in use by the court nobles (kuge 公家) of the Fujiwara (藤原) family as well as the Itō (伊藤) family who were mid-level feudal lords (daimyō 大名) during the Edo Period and were an early branch of the Fujiwara family descended from Fujiwara no Korekimi (藤原是公). A later 12th century southern branch of the Fujiwara family also used the name Itō that descended from the court noble Fujiwara no Sukechika.

The design is raised above the surface of the plate using a heat and acid based etching method called (yakite-kusarakashi 焼手腐し) this method of carving was often used by the early generations Hōan School and was successfully transmitted to and utilized by later generations. The design is also then highlighted nicely among the dark blackish patina of the iron using a silver fabric inlay technique (gin nunome zō 銀布目象). Starting with the third generation Hōan master the use of these type of inlays of gold and silver became more and more common on their tsuba made of iron.   The edge of the tsuba displays a roundish square rim (kaku mimi ko-niku 角耳小肉) a characteristic of tsuba made by this School who has its origin in Owari Province (尾張國).

The appraisal paper (hozon tōsōgu kanteisho 保存刀装具鑑定書) by the (Nihon Bijutsu Hozon Kyokai 日本美術刀剣保存協會) (NBTHK), Society of the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword, designating it to be of good quality, authentic, and worthy of historical preservation. The paper was issued on January 16, 2015. The attribution as discussed above is to a nonspecific later generation (kōdai 後代) of the Hōan School.

Provenience: Curran Campbell Collection

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