Additional iron tsuba
 of collector interest

The solid plate iron tsuba emerged in the Kamakura period while the tachi was still the principal sword worn by the Samurai. As these sword guards were not designed nor intended for Tachi use, their introduction is attributed to the immergence of the uchi-katana and the development of strategies of battle that clashed with the traditional Samurai style of warfare.

Historical records and writings of the period (and later) support the case for the first tsuba of this type being classified as Tosho and forged to a size and shape defined by the practical requirements of both sword balance and protection of the user. They were designed and produced to be functional, the earliest having no openings on the plate except for the nakago-ana.

(Evidence or opinion expressed more recently (Sasano) indicate that hitsu-ana may also have been opened during production of the earliest pieces, making them original to the piece in question. However, this does not appear to have been common practice in the earlier period of their production and use and cannot be generally applied to all Tosho of the period.)

Uchi-Katana Ko-Tosho — Ubu

Depicted is a Nambokucho era ubu Tosho with an opening for the nakago as well as a small hole opened in the plate (udenuki-ana) designed to accommodate a cord to secure the sword in the saya during transport.

This piece is massive in size and likely produced for an Odachi, or great sword, perhaps one carried over the shoulder while in the field to offset its great length and is a rare find. Tsuba of this period were made from locally forged iron, resulting in a metal customarily produced in the tradition of a particular region. Thin black lacquer is visible on both sides of this fine piece, probably original to the period, and is an indication of field use. The accompanying pinned box is recent, and custom fitted to the tsuba.

Nambokucho ODACHI Hozon paper to ko tosho
H/W 10.1 cm — Seppa 3 mm — Rim 2.5 mm

Ubu Ko-Tosho Muramachi Period

This ko-tosho guard dates later than the previous piece and exhibits the purely functional aspects of this type of tsuba in its ubu plate. Likely produced in the mid to late murimachi era, it shows deep color and patina, a well-preserved surface and lacquer on the surface of both sides. The absence of sukashi may indicate it was designed for use by foot-soldiers or perhaps intended for a pole arm and the seppa dai shows indication of mounting as well as the presence of sekigane (copper filler) at the base of the nakago-ana. This is a fine example of a beautifully preserved period piece that has not been altered in any way. The accompanying box is custom made, fit closely to the tsuba and shows a nice patina indicating its age.

Muramachi era Ko-Tosho — NBTHK Hozon
H/8.8 cm — W/8.7 cm — Rim 2.5 mm

Mon sukashi. Ko Tosho — Scroll design

An opening chiseled in negative silhouette represents a simple, archaic image of a scroll which is placed in the upper right quadrant of this early iron tsuba. Unlike the previous two examples of Ko-Tosho displayed which are ubu, this piece exhibits a well-placed decoration on the plate intended to enhance the visual appeal of the tsuba when viewed mounted on the sword. This is an excellent example of early period Tosho work, well preserved and exhibiting good coloration and patina.

Muramachi era Ko Tosho — NBTHK Hozon
H/W 9 cm — Seppa 3 mm — Rim 2 mm

Ko-Tosho - Snowflake sukashi Nambokucho

Dating from the Nambokucho period, this large Tosho guard presents an impressive image and the nakago-ana size suggests it was once complemented a large sword consistent with those used in the period. The sukashi is interesting. Ko-Tosho (as well as Katchushi) were produced with mon-sukashi, or in negative silhouette.

Masayuki Sasano, in his silver edition of Japanese Sword Guard Masterpieces made the following note in the Ko-Tosho introduction (pg 24): "Ko-Tosho have pierced designs in negative silhouette which are limited and simple; mon-sukashi; there are so far no known Ko-Tosho with the positive silhouette of the ji-sukashi."

Clearly then, this is a rare piece, with the ji-sukashi, or positive silhouette of a snowflake in period unaltered condition. In short, it is a convincing example that has survived in excellent condition; its age reflected in its dimensions.

Nambokucho Ko-Tosho — Snowflake Sukashi
H/W 9.8 cm — Seppa 3.5 mm — Rim 3 mm

Fan Sukashi Ko-Tosho Muromachi

"The coloration and depth of patina is in keeping with very early Tosho work for a tachi." Above is a paraphrase of an opinion shared from an experienced and knowledgeable collector and dealer whose hands this tsuba passed through prior to it being in my collection. This image depicts the tsuba in the configuration it would be in should it be mounted in this manner. The basis for the discussion, tachi rather than uchi katana has been made on the strength of the location of the fans; the assumption being the superior two fans would be positioned on the front and the upper right when mounted, as it would then be visible to the observer, whereas the single fan would be obscured from view. Additional emphasis has been placed on the traditional manner Orientals hold the fan when fanning themselves and represents a convincing if not conclusive argument. There is no arguing with respect to the power of the sukashi, the quality of the iron and the overall look of antiquity.

H/W 9.0 cm — Rim 2 mm — Seppa 3 mm