Additional iron tsuba
 of collector interest

One characteristic of Katchushi distinguishing it from Tosho production is the departure from a flat rim in their tsuba, which in most cases is a defining singularity. As the surface of the plate often appears similar between early examples of the Tosho and Katchushi, making a judgement on that basis alone is challenging. The traditional distinction(s) documented and passed along down to the present day emphasize the rim as an indication of a different style, if not higher skill level. The tsuba imaged here have varying rim types, beginning with the beveled edge, which is evident on the first Katchushi guard pictured in this selection.

Ko-Katchushi — Plum sukashi — Muromachi era

The beveled rim gives strong indication this sword guard was produced by Katchushi smiths. However, the plate as well as the archaic sukashi rendering of a plum blossom are indicative of both schools during the early Muromachi period; thus, the rim becomes the determining factor in the classification of this piece. Large, impressive and carefully finished this tsuba expresses the simple interpretation of the Plum blossom design unique to iron tsuba of this early period.

W/H 9.3 cm — Rim 2 mm — Mid-Muromachi

Ko-Katchushi "gorintou and wachigai sukashi"

H/8-9 cm W/9.0 cm — Mid-Muromachi

Gorintou (stone burial marker) and Wachigai (interlocking or overlapping rings) comprise the design on this tsuba. The sukashi shows more styling than the traditional Ko-Tosho decorative openings, as well as being large and expansive on the plate and although forged with a flat rim, the addition of a more stylized motif, marks another telling distinction between the two schools. This example is a flawlessly executed mid-Muromachi era masterpiece classified as Ko-Katchushi. The tsuba has provenance and reflects classic samurai austerity and symbolism. The custom box has a Hako-Gaki by Kuwabara Yojiro and was published in Tsuba no Bukashi-1969.

Ko-Katchushi Ubu Muromachi

H/H 9.2 cm — Rim 3 mm — Seppa 2 mm
NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon

This Ubu plate is in pristine condition with the raised rounded rim as well as the surface carefully worked and finished. Both sides are equally well preserved, displaying even patina and very faint indication of mounting at the seppa-dai. A closely fitted copper insert (sekigane) fills out the nakago-ana.

The absence of sukashi underscores the near perfect symmetry of the plate, which is convincing without decoration, creating a strong impression of a functionally designed guard for the was produced to accompany; in this case perhaps one of substantial size.

Ko-Katchushi 'San Ko' sukashi

H/9.1 cm — W/9.2 cm — Rim 4 mm — Seppa 2 mm
NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon to Ko-Katchushi

Hand work can be seen on this sword guard, from the uneven circumference of the iron plate to the rounded edges of the noticeably flattened rim. The surface displays deep coloration revealing traces of lacquer and the sukashi, which represents '3 sources of light,' is archaic in execution. The placement of the open work completes the overall look of antiquity in this early Muromachi. Ko-Katchushi.


Ko-Katchushi 'Sun Ray' sukashi

H/9.0 cm — W/8.9 cm — Rim 8 mm — Muromachi

This high rimmed katchushi has beautiful tsuchime ground and the gorgeous rim measures 8mm.The hitsuana is original, the sukashi being sized to accept the opening in order to accommodate the accessory knife. What is more, the shape of the hitsuana conforms with the size identified as being early period; it is plugged with shakado. This piece is lovely in the hand, revealing coloration and depth of patina consummate with its age.

Ko-Katchushi Cherry Blossom sukashi Early Muromachi

H/W 8.4 cm — Rim 7 mm — Early Muromachi

Masayuki Sasano depicts and describes this piece on page 70 of his publication Japanese Sword Guards Masterpieces, Silver edition. Somehow that image does not do the tsuba justice, nor does it show the remarkable tekkotsu on the rim. I have presented a different view; one that provides more insight into the piece, which I believe it deserves. This is a very impressive sword guard, and I was excited to find it on a table at the S. F. show a few years ago. After owning and studying the tsuba in hand over the intervening period it has become an absolute favorite which I can attribute not only to the rim, but to the placement and execution of the cherry blossoms which Sasano has expounded on in his description.

Ko-Katchushi Rinpo Buddhist Wheel

Rinpo sukashi of this period are classified as 'Katchushi' rather than Tosho, in part due to the extensive openings on the plate, notwithstanding the presence of a flat rim on the tsuba. Rinpo-sukashi are designed with the wheel motif, the configuration dating back to the Heian period in one form or another. This symmetrically balanced example of the 'wheel' is carefully cut into the plate with an outer and inner ring; the outermost connecting the rim to the inner ring by 12 spokes, which may represent "twelve links of dependent origination". The inner ring in turn, is joined to the plate at the seppa-dai. A close examination of the tsuba will reveal tekkotsu on the rim as well as signs of period corrosion consummate with its age on the surface of the plate.

I have included an image of the box which reveals the imprint of the tsuba outline, as it is valued by some collectors because it relates to the length of time the box and tsuba have been together. Another purely conjectural point of interest that may suggest how the tsuba is held in esteem, is the construction of the custom box and the color purple in the box lining and the pillow; being consistent with many of the tsuba of high grade that I have come across.

H/W 9.4 cm — Rim 2.5 mm — Muromachi
NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon

Rinpo sukashi 'Wheel and Sun Rays'

H/W 8.9 x 9.0 cm — Rim 3 mm — Mid-Muromachi

An eight-spoke wheel connects the rim to the plate in this stunningly designed Katchushi. The 'spokes', which symbolize the 'eight-fold path', radiate from the plate forming eight repetitive semi-circular openings and sun ray sukashi arranged around the nakago-ana. The tsuba is ubu with no openings for hitsu-ana and is well balanced in design. The surface has perfect coloration and patina, the quality of iron is excellent and the sukashi is bold and archaic in appearance.