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(鍔ギャラリー⑭) Tsuba Gallery #14

Ko-Kinkō Tsuba (古金工鐔)

Japanese Title:  九曜透かし図鐔 (kuyō sukashi no zu tsuba)

Material: Brass (Sentoku-dō 宣徳銅)

Age: Azuchi-Momoyama Period (安土桃山時代)

Size: 7.8 cm X 8.1 cm, 3.0 mm at rim and 4.0 mm at seppa-dai.

Signature: Mumei (無銘)

Shape: Yatsu-mokkō-gata (八つ木瓜形)

Surface Finish: Random Texture (Jimon 地紋)

Attachment: None

This a handguard (tsuba 鐔) for a long sword (katana 刀). The base metal of the tsuba is brass with a golden hue (sentoku-dō 宣徳銅). The surface texture is random (jimon 地紋) and covered in a fair amount of black lacquer (kuro-urushi 黒漆). The rim of the tsuba is round (maru-mimi 丸耳). The application and distribution of the plate metal (niku-oki 肉置き) is thinnest at the rim and gradually and evenly thickens towards the center (seppa-dai 切羽台) of the tsuba.           
The eight lobbed shape (yatsu-mokkō-gata 八つ木瓜形) of the tsuba is incorporated into openwork design done in negative silhouette (kage-sukashi 影透). The design is that of the of the Nine Luminaries (kuyō hiryaku 九曜秘暦), (Sanskrit: Navagraha) symbolized as eight circular disks arranged into a specific pattern around a ninth centrally located circular disk. This ninth luminary is shown hidden or is perhaps represented by the central opening for sword tang (nakago-hitsuana 中心櫃穴). The Nine Luminaries have their origin in the star rituals of Esoteric Buddhist (Mikkyō 密教). These teachings and rituals began in India and traveled from India to Japan via China. Along the way it was synthesized with elements of Taoism (Onmyō-dō 陰陽道) while in China and later elements of Japanese indigenous folk beliefs (Shinto 神道).
This tsuba I think is the work of an early goldsmiths Ko-Kinkō (古金工) during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (安土桃山時代). Works of this group heavily influenced the later works of Hirata Hikozō (平田彦三) and his various students in Higo Province. This specific stylized openwork design and variations of it were done by Hirata Hikozō and his student Hirata Shōzaburō (平田少三郎) during the beginning of Edo Period. The design was also used to create different family crests and emblems (kuyō-mon 九曜紋) used by the Hosokawa (細川) and other prominent families.


1.    Works of H
irata and Shimizu by Ito Mitsuru, translated by Markus Sesko, ©2007. 
2.    Tosogu Classroom: Volume 1 by Fukushi Shigeo, translated by Markus Sesko, ©2016 JSS/US, NBTHK-AB, NBTHK-EB.
3.    Tantric Buddhism in East Asia “Shugendō, the Traditions of En no Gyōja and Mikkyō”, by H. Byron Earhart, ©2006 Wisdom Publications pages 191-205.   
4.    Kokusai Tosogu Kai 4th International Convention & Exhibition, ©2008, 4-J2 page 33.
5.    The Samurai Collection Kokusai Tosogu Kai 11th International Convention & Exhibition, ©2015, 11-KJ-02 page 15, 11-KM-02 page 17.
6.    Hosokawa clan Wikipedia Article (



Provenance: Charlie Foos Collection

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