top of page

(鍔ギャラリー⑧) Tsuba Gallery #8

Myōchin Tsuba (明珍鐔)

Japanese Title:  杢目鐔 (mokume tsuba)     

Material:  Iron (tetsu 鉄)     

Age:  Late Edo Period (江戸時代後期)

Size:  7.6 cm X 8.0 cm, 5.6 mm at rim

Signature:  mumei (無銘)

Shape:  Maru gata (丸形)      

Surface Finish:  Mokume-ji (杢目地)          

Attachment:  None

This is sword hand guard (tsuba 鐔) is made of well forged iron (tetsu 鉄). This tsuba lack any design (mu-mon 無紋) and is humble but very functional in appearance. The texture of the forged iron (mokume-ji 杢目地) is visible on the entire surface tsuba including the thick rounded rim (maru-mimi 丸耳). This visible texture of the iron is caused by using two different types of iron with different carbon levels during the forging process to make the plate. The layered texture of the iron is further enhanced by using a mild acid to etch the plate before the application of the dark patina. The color of the patina of the iron is a deep rich black (kuro-sabi 黒寂) with brownish-red tones mixed in.

This tsuba is the work of the Myōchin (明珍) School of armor smiths who would often applying such surface treatment to their forged armor pieces. While a more specific date is not possible for this tsuba because it lacks an artist's signature (mu-mei 無銘) it's likely dates to about the late Edo Period (ca. 1770-1868 CE). The Myōchin School had branches all over Japan by the Edo Period a specific location of manufacture also cannot be determined for this tsuba.

Provenance:  Charlie Foos Collection

Kōdai Higo Sukashi Tsuba (後代肥後透鐔)

Japanese Title:  九紋透かし鐔 (kuyō-mon sukashi tsuba)   
Material:  Iron (tetsu 鉄) 
Age:  Late Edo Period (江戸時代後期)
Size:  7.2 cm X 7.7 cm, 4.0 mm at the rim     
Signature:  Mumei (無銘) 
Shape: Aoi-gata (葵形)
Surface Finish: Migaki-ji (磨地)  
Attachment:  None

This is a handguard (tsuba 鐔) made of forged iron (tetsu 鉄). For use on long sword (katana 刀). The abstract designs of the tsuba are in done in finely cut openwork (sukashi-bori 透彫). The most prominent openwork design on the tsuba is the (kuyō-mon 九紋) used by the ruling Hosokawa (細川)family of Higo Province (肥後國). The tsuba has a smooth surface (migaki-ji 磨地) that was highly polished. The overall shape (keijō 形状) of the tsuba is referred to as having a hollyhock shape (aoi-gata 葵形). The color of the iron patina is referred to as (yōkan 羊羹) a common jellied dessert made of red bean paste, agar, and sugar first developed and employed by the Hayashi (林) School. Later the surface treatment technique was transmitted to the Kamiyoshi (神吉) School another school in Higo Province.

Provenance: Grey Doffin Collection

Kamiyoshi Tsuba (神吉鍔)

Japanese Title: 笹竹図透図鍔 (shioridake sukashi no zu tsuba)      

Material: Iron (tetsu 鉄)      

Age:  Late Edo Period (江戸時代後期)          

Size:  7.7 X 8.2 cm, 5.0 mm at seppa-dai, 4.0 mm at rim

Signature:  mumei (無銘)   

Shape:  Nagamaru-gata (長丸形)                         

Surface Finish:  Migaki Ji (磨地)     

Attachment: NTHK-NPO Kantei-sho (鑑定書)

This is iron with a smooth texture (tetsu migaki-ji 鉄磨地) sword handguard (tsuba 鐔) from Higo Province (肥後國). It is the work of the Kamiyoshi (神吉) School. I have seen this openwork design referenced in three different ways in Japanese.  The first is wind bamboo openwork (fuchiku-sukashi 風竹透).  The second reference is bent bamboo openwork (shioridake-sukashi 枝折竹透).  The third way is just as bamboo openwork (take-sukashi竹透).
Bamboo has long been admired by the Japanese culture for its strength, flexibility, and resilience to the almost constant punishment of the wind and snow during the cold Winter.  This original motif representative of the Hayashi School was developed by the 1st generation Hayashi School master Matashichi (又七) during the beginning of the Edo Period. He was the first generation of the Hayashi School to make tsuba on a full-time basis and codified many of the school's designs to be passed down from generation to generation in private design books.  The design information was later passed to the first-generation master of the Kamiyoshi School by the third master of the Hayashi School upon direct order from lord Hosakawa in the seventh year of the An’ei (安永) Era, 1778.
This tsuba was mounted for a long sword (katana 刀) and finished with two openings for accessories (ryohitsu 両櫃).  There is very specific pattern of small rectangular shaped punch marks around the (nakago hitsu-ana 中心櫃孔穴) consisting of four elements on the top and seven on the bottom characteristic of different members of Kamiyoshi School as many tsuba made by this school were not signed with a signature (mei 銘) by their maker.  This tsuba while unsigned might be the work of the 1st generation Kamiyoshi, Masatada (正忠) who lived from 1766-1820 CE based upon the overall workmanship and pattern of the punch marks.
The positive openwork (ji-sukashi 地透) design is done using a method of carved rounded openwork that incorporates the rim into the openwork design in a three-dimensional manor (marubori-sukashi 丸彫透).  The veins of the bamboo leaves are nicely defined with line carving (kebori 毛彫).  Both the design itself and the techniques used execute the design were often employed by the Kamiyoshi School.  The color of the iron patina is referred to as (yōkan 羊羹) a common jellied dessert made of red bean paste, agar, and sugar first developed and employed by the Hayashi (林) School and later transmitted to the Kamiyoshi School.
The tsuba was submitted to NTHK-NPO examination (shinsa 審査) on February 27, 2016.  It passed the shinsa with a point score of 74 with an attributed to the Kamiyoshi School and was issued a written appraisal (kanteisho 鑑定書), which is equivalent to the (Hozon Tōsōgu Kanteisho 保存刀装具鑑定書) papered issued by the NBTHK at the Japanese Sword Museum in Tokyo.  The school was based in the castle town of Kumamoto (熊本) capital of Higo Province and the artists were direct retainers of the Hosakawa family the feudal lord of the province.  The NTHK-NPO refers to the openwork design as small bamboo (sasa-dake zu 笹竹図) on the written appraisal paper.        

Provenance:  Charles Foos Collection    

bottom of page