Additional iron tsuba
 of collector interest

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OwariShioridake, ‘Bamboo Stems’ design

H/W 8.5 cm x 8.3 cm   Rim 6 mm   Seppa-dai 6mm

The design on this Owari tsubaconsists of a Bamboo stem bent into circular shape which forms the tsuba’s rim, accentuated by carved ‘rings’ that represent sections of the stalk of the plant. The stem is supported by leaves and buds that connect the rim to the seppa-dai: the elements forming the hitsu-ana. The motif is described as Shioridake, a design that also appeared on tsuba produced by Matashichi, Kanshiro, and later by Kamiyoshi, with representative images of this motif depicted in works produced by two of these artists that can be found in the publication on iron tsuba from the exhibition “Kurogane no hana.” The imaged Owari is the product of early Edo production, which could extend or overlap the timeframe of the above smiths, leaving unanswered the question where or when the design may have originated.

The bamboo plant stylized and incorporated into this tsuba was symbolic of strength and resilience; traits valued and held in esteem by the warrior Samurai of the era.

This ‘Shioridake’ Owari tsuba is a ‘published’ piece, an image and supporting information appearing in the subject article, where the piece is described as a *‘Tsuba of great proportions and design,’ that ‘In famous tsuba class it’s famous;’ and ‘it has not been submitted for Juyo but is of Juyo level and a candidate for Juyo.’  ‘It has changed hands throughout its history and has been owned by important families.’

*Translation notes from a Japanese collector and tsuba scholar.

The accompanying custom box bears a Hakogaki by Kanzan Sato whose signature is written on the cover, while the calligraphy that appears inside the lid attests to the unique quality and rarity of the piece.

The tsuba itself has an extraordinary appearance and is in an excellent state of preservation, exhibiting uniform coloration and patina reflective of its age. The design elements are equally large and nicely integrated within the massive rim, its circumference slightly elongated, or ‘nagamaru-gata’ in shape, adding to the perception ‘of great proportions and design.’

Edo period – Tokubetsu Hozon NBTHK

‘Watake Setsurin Tsunagi sukashi’

H/W 8.2cm – Rim 3 mm – Seppa-dai 4 mm

The design described as ‘Bamboo bridging a snow ring’ is defined by bamboo shoots at top and bottom, connecting a circular inner ring (snow) to the rim. Conceptually convincing, in looking deeper at the design we can relate to another motif formed by the inner circle itself; that is, of a sea cucumber.

Commonly associated with the Early Edo period tsuba produced by famous sword duelist Miyamoto Mushashi, the sea cucumber (namako) motif nonetheless was used by Ko-Shoami smiths at least a century before and references in Sasano’s writings depict images and text describing similar pieces in his “Gold volume” Early Japanese Sword Guards. The examples illustrate tsuba with ‘Sea cucumber’ sukashi, enhanced with another motif, combining to form a design within a design, as this one appears to be.

The influence from Kyo-Sukashi production, which preceded KO-SHOMAI, as well as reflected by Owari smiths that followed, are present in this example, featuring a delicately formed central motif, framed by a strong rim and supported with a characteristically large oval Seppa-Dai.

The elements of this ‘Bamboo and snow ring’ sukashi are completed with the ‘ring’ joined to the seppa-dai and the rim by ‘snowflake’ shaped openings in negative silhouette. The design is compelling, almost delicate, with the balance Ko-Shoami tsuba are noted for and shows a lustrous finish and deep, dark patina. The hitsuana are ‘plugged’ with ‘Shakudo, an alloy that has a history of use with sword fittings.

Muromachi period - NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon to Ko-Shoami
H/W 8.2cm – Rim 3mm – Seppa-dai 4mm