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Understanding Tsuba


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#1 e_v

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 09:08 PM

I imagine this is a common question, but I could not answer myself searching through the old posts, so: how do you start studying tsuba?

I guess there is literature and online resources that can point a newbie in the right direction and give him a rough idea of periods, traditions schools, but, until now, I could not find a good "entry point".

I am more interested in blades and I don't plan to invest a huge amount of time studying tsuba, but I'm starting to feel uncomfortable when people makes technical comments about these beautiful pieces and all I can say is "look at that really cool tadpole theme. I like tadpoles" :)
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Enrico Viola

#2 Pete Klein

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 09:44 PM

https://www.youtube....h?v=Y3lQSxNdr3c

 

PS:  when I look at swords, I sometimes say, "WOW - those hataraki look just like tadpoles.  I like tadpoles"... :neutral: !


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#3 ROKUJURO

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 12:02 AM

Enrico,

my feeling is that there are no rules of how to start. Look at many good TSUBA (or pictures thereof) and ask yourself what you like about them. Looking at arts in general is not necessary related to knowledge, and you need not know schools and artists, materials, motives, and techniques to appreciate TSUBA. In the course of time you will find out what attracts you most and then you can start gathering knowledge and learning specific characteristics.  

Unless you plan to hold lectures about this subject, you can just enjoy looking at these little 'objets d'art'!  


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Regards,

Jean C.

#4 Marius

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 11:54 AM

Enrico,

 

you may want to start here: 

http://home.earthlin...lbert/tsuba.htm

 

Then, buy some books. Start with Torigoye/Haynes "Tsuba. An Aesthetic Study". The very essence of tsuba. Grey will get you a copy of this and any other book: 

http://www.japaneses...aesthetic-study

 

Your next book (very comprehensive) could be Torigoye's Tsuba Kanshoki:

http://www.japaneses...-torigoye-1975#

Better spend $400 on this excellent book than on a few crappy tsuba that you will soon regret having bought  ;)

 

I also warmly recommend Sasano's "golden book", but that is my personal bias. A review here:

 

A good list of books to choose from compiled by Jim Gilbert:
http://home.earthlin...ert/reading.htm

 

Hope that helps :)


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Best regards

Marius
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#5 e_v

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 01:18 PM

Thanks a lot: that's exacty the "quick start" guide I was hoping for.

"Better spend $400 on this excellent book than on a few crappy tsuba that you will soon regret having bought ;)"

This is why I'm not allowing myself to look at tosogu ads until I have learned enough to understand what I'm seeing :)
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#6 Marius

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 02:31 PM

Enrico,

 

Great attitude!  :thumbsup:

 

I am sure you will be very successful once you decide to collect.


Best regards

Marius
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#7 Marius

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 02:36 PM

One more great site, by Elliot Long and Bob Haynes:

 

http://www.shibuiswords.com


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Best regards

Marius
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#8 Ramble

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Posted 15 May 2016 - 06:04 AM

Glad to find this thread- thanks!
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#9 kissakai

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Posted 15 May 2016 - 11:11 AM

Enrico

Let me assume you only want to pay $250 - $500

Everyone will say save up and buy the best you can. Good advice but only you know what you can afford

I bought many tsuba some OK some not so good

I always (and still do) find books difficult to understand

Some of my tsuba have been bought from eBay (dangerous), antique fairs (some of my biggest mistakes) and this board (I've always have good value tsuba from Thierry - his images are never a good as the actual tsuba but I have never had one I didn't like). Obviously there are other great sellers.

Without doubt I've always had value for money buying from here and there have been no fakes!

It may be heresy but I'd buy a tsuba you like from here then buy a book that shows the type of tsuba you have bought so you have something to compare an actual example to the book

Before buying PM the seller and find out as much as you can and (I assume) all sellers will take it back if it is not to your liking

Once bought but an image on this board and ask for opinions but always except some hard words but hopefully it will be constructive criticism

The best advice is use this board to see if there is a collector in your area who you can meet and discuss your tsuba. My mentor has been invaluable

We all have our own views so just cherry pick from these posts

 

 

Grev UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Grev UK


#10 Stephen

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Posted 15 May 2016 - 02:00 PM

Enrico

 

It takes a looooooooooong time, make shows, and get to handle the real deal.

 

Been around swords for a long time (old fart) and just in the last few years partake on trying to understand the allure of something that the more learned members find in this tsuba.

13103385_10207854601182056_2629377643916

 

Some big names in the field fawn over that coaster...I'm not quite there yet...LOL

 

i prefer something more obvious 

 

coppertsuba.jpg

 

but soft metal is not everyone's cup of tea. 

 

They will swear old iron is the only good tsuba. You'll find your niche, warning! the really good ones are expensive!!

 

Good your on the right track, with books and all, good luck on your adventure.

 

 

Sign me Suaka lover.

 


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#11 Henry Wilson

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Posted 15 May 2016 - 02:20 PM

Personally I think these are bang for buck. A good start on iron tsuba.

http://www.militaria...two-higo-tsuba/
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#12 e_v

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Posted 15 May 2016 - 08:07 PM

Thanks for all the good hints: my curiosity towards tsuba accelerated, because I recently bought a wakizashi that came with a complete koshirae, so I found myself holding my first antique tsuba and realised I had no idea what I was looking at.

With your help, now I can say my blade mounts a mumei heianjo tsuba. And my book wishlist grew a little, and my wife is a little bit more anxious :)
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#13 Markus

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Posted 16 May 2016 - 07:00 AM

so: how do you start studying tsuba?

 

Just an additional tip: You have to be aware of the traditional, relative strict separation between iron (tankô) and soft meta tsuba (kinkô). Both camps namely have a very individual aesthetical approach and fan base and actually only overlap in very rare cases. This just has to be born in mind from the beginning as it makes it easier to understand why things are as they are. Think about it as if there were actually two kinds of tsuba ;)


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#14 MauroP

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Posted 16 May 2016 - 11:09 AM

Welcome, Enrico! So please let us see your tsuba.
BTW, Markus is the author (among many others wonderful books) of a lovely little book called "Handbook of Sword Fittings related Terms", which I found one of the most useful at my early steps in the world of kodōgu (and it's really inexpensive).
Bye, Mauro


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#15 e_v

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Posted 16 May 2016 - 01:20 PM

Like most of us, I'm already an avid reader of Markus' books: I think I'll get also the tosogu one.

I'll post a picture of my tsuba as soon as I spend an evening at home!
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#16 e_v

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Posted 16 May 2016 - 07:56 PM

So today was a lucky day and I had some time to play with my sword, so here's a couple pictures of the tsuba that came with it:

https://www.dropbox....G_0565.jpg?dl=0

https://www.dropbox....G_0566.jpg?dl=0

 

tsuba.png


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#17 Stephen

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Posted 16 May 2016 - 08:11 PM

Nice tsuba..... KAGA guys?

Good page to study

 

http://www.shibuiswo...iods-tsuba.html


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#18 MauroP

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Posted 17 May 2016 - 10:36 AM

Nice tsuba, but not Kaga (not plain hira-zōgan), just Heianjō-zōgan. The chevron-like decoration reminds early inlay works, but raised mimi and seppa-dai suggest me a late Edo piece. Just my not-so-educated opinion.

01309a.jpg

Bye, Mauro


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#19 e_v

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Posted 17 May 2016 - 03:31 PM

I'm patting on my rookie back: Edo Heianjo zogan was my guess too :)


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#20 Stephen

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Posted 17 May 2016 - 05:03 PM

my other pix too late now...lol


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#21 ggil

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Posted 17 May 2016 - 06:35 PM

That is a REALLY nice first Tsuba!  The patterned deep inlay is such a beautiful frame for the main subject.  While the floral inlay work is completely intact, the artist may have been going for an aged look with the iron, because the texture makes it look ancient.  if corrosion was the cause, maybe the brass alloy has some gold in it, because it has aged so well.


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#22 GeorgeIngraham

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Posted 22 June 2017 - 10:15 PM

Hello all..

 

New member here. Want to thank the OP for this topic. As it was among the first I stumbled onto after registering here, and best describes exactly where I am at as well..

 

Thanks also to the other posters who shared beginning collector advice, Tsuba links, and book references.

 

All are exactly what I was hoping to find within this great looking forum ..

 

As a niche collector of Chinese antiques there is already never enough money to build a collection. So studying and collecting Tsuba will likely result in the same need for investing in a good library of reference material.  

 

I like very much and can relate to Enrico's comments about "not being any rules regarding how to start, and asking ourselves as new collectors what I like about them. Looking at arts in general is not necessary related to knowledge, and you need not know schools and artists, materials, motives, and techniques to appreciate TSUBA. In the course of time you will find out what attracts you most and then you can start gathering knowledge and learning specific characteristics."



#23 Jean

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Posted 22 June 2017 - 11:41 PM

It is not so diffcult to find a method to learn Nihonto. You have great books which explain it from the start. Provinces, schools, smiths with kantei points for each school/smiths. Then after it is a question of study in hand

The Connoisseur's book of Japanese swords

Or this website

http://www.sho-shin.com

I have been unable to find the equivalent for tsuba.

Ihabe several books on tsuba. None are satisfying. So I look at tsuba, that's all.

Where can I find a book starting from scratch, telling the province/the schools/the tsubako and its kantei point.

How can I say, it's a shoami rather than an higo one if they have the same design, what are the kantei ponts?

Why is it an Owar for suba when same motive can be found in other schools.

I have a few tsuba, a score, all good or fair (to my eyes) :)
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#24 vajo

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Posted 23 June 2017 - 10:33 AM

Hi Jean

i collect for myself the relevant informations and write it in a sheet. Things like weight, height, color, rim e.g. And i try to work out the secrets between the similar looking schools. For me, i think thats a lifetime job :)
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Chris S. 

 

 


#25 Jussi Ekholm

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Posted 23 June 2017 - 10:38 AM

The Tosogu classroom series by Fukushi Shigeo will be my go to book on tosogu from here on. Just the 1st volume is published yet but it is amazing and can't wait to get the whole series. It has kantei points for many schools & makers and thanks to NBTHK branches, JSSUS and Markus Sesko it is in English. :)


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#26 GeorgeIngraham

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 10:02 AM

One of the many things I am attracted to about collecting Tsubas are the motifs/scenes.  I imagine there are known Japanese hidden meanings to them.

 

Can someone recommend a good book or two related to Japanese hidden meanings ?



#27 rkg

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 06:14 PM

The short answer is that there aren't any really good ones - I have a couple that are a good start - Joly's Legend in Japanese art and Edmunds' Pointers and clues to subjects of chinese and Japanese art (which if I recall correctly is kind of a more readable version of Joly's stuff):

 

https://www.amazon.c... clues Japanese

 

https://www.amazon.c...in Japanese are

 

Oh, and a copy of Papinot's book is helpful too...

 

The trouble is that often you have to go do an internet search to find a reasonable explanation of a great number of themes.  Even if you can get the subjects' name, their meaning is wrapped up in the culture so you are still stuck w/o understanding that - I always likened it to this star trek episode where the universal translators could translate the aliens' words perfectly but because the language was based entirely on their own culture you still had no clue what they were talking about:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darmok

 

Good Luck,

rkg

(Richard George)

 

 

One of the many things I am attracted to about collecting Tsubas are the motifs/scenes.  I imagine there are known Japanese hidden meanings to them.

 

Can someone recommend a good book or two related to Japanese hidden meanings ?


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#28 Pete Klein

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 06:34 PM

This is a good book on themes and their meaning:  http://www.japaneses...ittings-fukushi


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#29 GeorgeIngraham

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 08:09 PM

Thank you both Richard and Pete..  



#30 rkg

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 08:14 PM

Pete,

 

I forgot about that one - excellent suggestion - it might even still be in print....

 

http://www.sanmei.co.../en-us/d24.html

 

rkg

This is a good book on themes and their meaning:  http://www.japaneses...ittings-fukushi


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