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Everything posted by IanB

  1. Ciro, Nice work. Just one small point, all your blades are back to front. The hilts should be on the left so that the front of the bade is displayed. Ian Bottomley.
  2. Nick, What I see is a perfectly real old Mino blade with a dubious polish and relatively inexpensive but late mounts, but for the amount of money being asked I am sure you could do much better.
  3. IanB

    What is this?

    Dating a jingasa is never easy. However most of the ones we encounter, the rather flat lacquered ones are late Edo. They were introduced for the daimyo gyoretsu to replace the mixture of farmers' straw hats the participants wore when the weather was bad. The bajo jingasa, that look like a bowler hat, are even later, supposedly introduced in the 1850-60 period. During the Sengoku jidai the ashigaru were issued with conical jingasa, either of iron or lacquered rawhide. My dear old buddy Dr. Galeno had a gold lacquered rawhide one decorated with the kamon of Oda Nobunaga. The book of common soldiers published in the early 17th century shows these ashigaru's jingasa with a cloth curtain hanging from the sides and back. None of the very few jingasa of this type I have seen have had any form of attaching such a thing so they may have been glued in position. What you do see are bajo jingasa with pierced brass studs fitted on the underside for attaching a hood that spread over the shoulders and crossed at the front to cover the lowerpart of the face.
  4. IanB

    What is this?

    Brian, My first thought was that this was a variety of a jingasa designed to have a top crest, kashira date, in the form of a dragon, part of which wrapped around the body of the jingasa and lined up with the embossed dragon's tail. However, looking more closely it seems the tail is in reality lacquer, applied to the iron base. That being the case, that part of the dragon , that linked the tail to what was a crest, probably of the dragon's head, is now lost. Ian Bottomley
  5. Luc, Indeed, I look back and hope that the times we spent in Firenze can be repeated. Ian Bottomley
  6. Further to the above announcement, I regret to say that illnesses, and the difficulty of driving on motorways at night, have become unsurmountable problems for some of our former members. As a result the prospect and hope of re-starting the Northern ToKen Society, as stated in the above post, has been premature. The few who have indicated a positive interest in its resumption are too few to make it a viable proposition. It is with the deepest regret that I have to report that after some 50 plus years of its existence, the Society will be forced to wind down and cease to meet. I would like to offer my sincere thanks all those members who have attended and supported the Society in the past for their friendship and the generosity with which they have shared their knowledge. Thank you all and my very best wishes for the future. Ian Bottomley
  7. Adam, I too have a wakizashi that has a wood saya and tsuka with all the fittings done in staghorn. Even the habaki and seppa are of buffalo horn, the only metal being the unsigned, hirazukuri blade. The fittings represent the 7 gods of good luck, not represented as such but by their attributes - rice bale, stag's antlers, a sack, a staff weapon etc. Perhaps made for a village headman or someone similar. Ian Bottomley
  8. As the covid pandemic is beginning to wane in severity here in the UK, the possibility of resuming more normal activities safely is now becoming a possibility. Existing members of the Northern ToKen Society UK have been contacted about the resumption of meetings; specifically of meeting in October. So far sufficient members have replied in the affirmative to make such a meeting viable. As a result there will be meeting at 7.00pm for 7.30pm at the Britannia Airport Hotel, Manchester, just off the M22 motorway on the 12th of October. Should anyone else be interested in joining us, they would be more than welcome to come along and meet the existing members. Full details of our meetings are on our website - The Northern ToKen Society. Ian Bottomley..
  9. Ed, Yes I will have session with the camera. You will have to excuse me for a couple of days as I am now inundated with son, nieces and associated bodies staying. Trying to entertain and feed the assembled mob is demanding enough. Chris, I was looking at your tsuba and trying to figure out the symbolism when it occurred to me I had seen something similar on an uchiwa. I think the filled and unfilled dots might represent auspicious and unlucky days of the month. Ian
  10. Ed, Obviously there was a vogue for these decorative enamel fittings. My first impulsive though was that they were probably popular among the merchant class, and they possibly were. What I have not mentioned so far is the quality of the kojiri on this sword, nor that of the blade. I attach an image of the kojiri that is of silver, only partially inlaid into the lacquer so that it is in relief. Applying lacquer into the spaces between the stalks and leaves and then polishing it must have been a nightmare job. Ian Bottomley
  11. With the restrictions imposed on society, it now seems an eternity that I have managed to attend an arms fair, having to make do with on-line auctions as a means of acquiring the odd item. Earlier this year I was attracted by a sword listed by an auction house here in the UK. The description and photographs were not particularly encouraging except for one photo of an oxidised silver kojiri of the leaves and seed head of rice that writhed in relief around the black lacquered scabbard. Hovering above this were sparrows in gold and coloured lacquer. Another rather out of focus image taken of the hilt and tsuba, viewed from the kashira end of the tsuka showed the latter was missing and that the tsuba was textured in some way. To cut a long story short, I bid against another and won the auction, paying rather more than I had anticipated, but in retrospect an acceptable amount. On collecting the sword from the auction house, I realised I had acquired what is probably the finest sword it has been my good fortune to own. I won't go into the details of the blade here, that turned out to be potentially one heck of a bonus, concentrating on the fuchi and tsuba. As the title of this post indicates, it turned out that the 'texture' I had seen in the initial photographs was caused by the wires and partial enamel fill of the cloisonne decoration. I have never pretended to know anything about sword fittings, but I did know that the Hirata specialised in this technique and generally did small badge-like motifs in cloisonne that were then attached to tsuba and other fittings. In this case however, the whole surface of the tsuba and fuchi have been gilded and covered with the raised wires, enamel being confined to only a few places and only becoming obvious when examined closely. I've never seen anything like these and I wonder if it was more common.
  12. Liverpool Museum in the UK have an entire collection of kogatana blades bearing signatures of famous smiths, all polished and in shirasaya. The collection is housed in a purpose made box and was assembled by a daimyo. Although I have no proof, making kogatana would be a way of using scraps of steel and iron that would otherwise be wasted, and no doubt brought in a little cash. Ian Bottomley
  13. Yesterday, 03 / 07 / 2021, an event was held in Birmingham, the real one not the US copy, where Nihonto enthusiasts from all over the UK met for the first time after so many months of virus enforced separation. Special thanks must go to Ian Chapman and Mike Hickson - Smith for all their hard work in initiating the event, sourcing a venue and finally bringing the plan to its successful fruition. Unfortunately covid restrictions imposed limits on the number of attendees that could be accommodated in the space, but nevertheless if gave those sword lovers who could attended a foretaste of happier and less restrictive times that undoubtedly lie ahead. On display were a wide selection of fine swords, blades, fittings and accessories, some of which were old friends, but so many were new to me. Sadly I was unable to remain for the continuing festivities, that revolved around an evening meal, and something I find unbelievable, more liquid nourishment, but my few hours of exposure to the items on display and perhaps more importantly the opportunity to meet up with old friends, reignited a passion that this dreadful era of isolation had blunted. One again my thanks to Mike and Ian and let us look forward to making events like this a permanent feature in the future. Ian Bottomley
  14. Peter, I have always known this type of fitting, that are more common on tanto, as a dogane. Ian Bottomley
  15. Further to the tanto mentioned by Geraint above. I first became acquainted with it when it was exhibited in a ToKen exhibition in Oxford way back. When it reappeared for sale I managed to purchase it for the Royal Armouries collection. A bit of digging has revealed the following: Both the English and Dutch 'factories' in Japan were based on the island of Hirado during the early 17th century. The two groups were to some extent rivals, and there were some altercations between them, but somehow they rubbed along. The British finally closed their base in 1623 when Tokugawa Iemitsu became Shogun, in the main because the textiles they were trying to sell were of little interest to the Japanese and the principle trader, Cox or Cocks, was in reality more interested in trading with China. They did however managed to sell quite a number of decorated guns (none of which, nor any part of one, appears to have survived). The Dutch in contrast did quite well, trading in goods the Japanese did want. Whilst Tokugawa Ieyasu and his son Hidetada were tolerant of the foreigners, Iemitsu was less so, at first confining the Catholic Portuguese to the artificial island of Dejima in Nagasaki harbour, and then finally expelling them altogether. He then transferred the Dutch to Dejima so they could be more closely controlled and limited the number of ships they were allowed each year. On leaving Hirado, the Dutch presented the Matsura daimyo with a gift that included at least two pikeman's armours (that Matsura Hoin had made into a Japanese armour that is now in Hirado Museum) and at least one sword from the blade of which the above tanto was made. It appears to have been originally a cavalry sword with a blade made in Solingen in the early 17th century. The blade is dated and inscribed with the maker's name in the fuller, but the inscription is partially removed through polishing. Matsura Hoin had it cut down, shaped into a tanto and given a yakiba. The scabbard is covered in Dutch leather and the mounts decorated with the Matsura kamon appear to be solid gold. Ian Bottomley, Curator Emeritus, Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds.
  16. IanB

    My armor so far

    Greg, Further to Piers' tip, a black permanent marker pen is ideal for touching out scratches. Ian Bottomley.
  17. IanB

    Kabuto and Menpo

    Gary, An interesting little puzzle. The zaboshi are very much an indication that it is a helmet made in the province of Kaga. Orikasa Sensei spent a considerable length of time researching the archives in Kanezawa library and produced a list of all the armourers who worked for the Maeda family whose fief it was. He found that the Maeda, who were granted the province by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583, only employed Haruta armourers until 1800 when the first Myochin was taken on. Sasama, in his Shin Katchushi Meikan lists 4 armourers who signed Iehisa, One of whom was a member of the Saotome group, two who were of the Haruta, the remaining one being a Myochin. The latter is listed as working in Yukinoshita in Sagami province around the Tenbun era, not Kaga, but Sasama adds that there is no extant piece bearing the name and doubts his existance. One final point is that the kanji Ie- is not at all usual among Myochin smiths, by far the majority using Mune- . Having said that, I have a helmet by a Myochin Ietsugu who was a Soshu smith. I haven't the list of Kaga armour makers to hand at the moment, they are on another computer. I will try and remember to look tomorrow. Ian Bottomley
  18. Not that this helmet is anything like the same age, but I have a helmet with a re-used Nambokucho bowl that has two rows of prominent hoshi around the koshimaki. Being that age, the koshimaki is joined at the back. Just above the join in the koshimaki, through the back-plate, are two small holes side by side that no longer seem to have a purpose but must have had originally. Ian Bottomley
  19. IanB

    An unusual tanto

    As an alternative to the usual pairs of socks or sweater, I like to ensure at least one Christmas present is exciting to receive even though I have to buy it myself. Last Christmas my gift from me to me (how selfish can you get?) was this rather unusual tanto. As you can see, the blade is in the form of a leaf-shaped spear head. Although it has a typical yari habaki, in shakudo, I suspect it may have always been intended for a tanto as the signature 'Kanesaki saku' 兼先作 is just below the habaki, rather than further down what would normally be a yari tang. This appears to be the work of Mino Kanesaki, real name Heki Isuke, who worked around the end of the Muromachi period and later moved to Bizen. It is mounted with a hilt covered with rather distressed Dutch leather, and a saya decorated with dull, black lacquer swirls over polished black lacquer sprinkled with fine green abalone specks. There is a ko-kogatana with a brass blade, the hilt measuring only 8.5cm x 0.9cm in shibuichi decorated with a closed fan in silver. This is signed in soshu ?? and a kao.
  20. The double looped thing on the front of the tsuba is a swivel that I think was used for the rope held by the groom who led the horse. The four sausage-shaped items are metal tubes that were tied to the legs of the saddle as attachment points for breast-strap and crupper-strap that stopped the saddle moving forward or backword. I have a complete Edo period harness which has a girth of hemp strings sewn side by side and an iron ring at one end and a long single string at the other. Apparently earlier girths were of folded cloth that were passed under a horizontal strap sewn to the lower saddle flap, then passed between the two saddle-flaps to emerge through a hole at the top of the upper flap when it tied around the front of the saddle tree. It was this arrangement that is being referred two in the tale of the two generals crossing the river to reach the enemy during the Gempei wars. The rear L shaped thing looks like a metal / lacquered wood strip attached to the lower edge of the lowest saddle flap to take the rubbing of the girth. The long wavy strip may be an old style girth, but my set includes two thick hemp ropes, about 5 or 6m long with tassels on each end and they maybe be these. For a long time these ropes were a complete mystery, being far too heavy to be for leading the horse. I asked several yabusame riders about them and drew blank looks. However, I finally found their use - they were used to pass under the horse's belly in the stables and were tied to a beam above the stall to stop the horses lying down. Ian Bottomley
  21. I think we can get very fixated about sword definitions and lengths. As mentioned in Marcus's article, the Tokugawa were obviously uptight about commoners carrying swords that were just below 2 shaku, probably in overlong saya, and decreed the maximum lengths. Having said that, the samurai class were obviously not so rigid in their attitude, wearing swords commensurate to their stature. I have a daisho in which the daito is only 22.4" (57cm) long and the shoto 18.1" (46cm) which I worried about for a while before being told it was for a small person. Ian Bottomley
  22. By far the greatest danger to lacquer is light, and in particular sunlight. Whilst I am no expert on the chemistry of urushi, I understand the lacquer particles are surrounded by adsorbed water that is lost by light absorption (if I remember by chemistry from the very distant past the term 'micelles' comes to mind). The resulting damage leaves to the loss of the glossy surface leaving it dull and absorbent. This process is irreversible and the only 'cure' is either to apply a material to the damaged surface that seals it, or to remove the damaged layer. The car re-finishing materials mentioned by Piers either cut away the damaged top coats to reveal fresh lacquer underneath or are wax-like substances that cover the damaged layer and put a polished coating over it. There is a material sold called 'Armour' used to polish violins and similar that seems to be a wax containing a mild abrasive that seems to do both processes at once. Ian Bottomley
  23. Copies of this and other famous Kamakura period o-yoroi were made my a Mr. Miura (apparently no relation to the present armour restorer of that name) for the coronation of Emperor Hirohito. One of these copies is now in the Royal Armouries collection in Leeds, UK. The copies are all made exactly, and I mean exactly, as the originals and have had special braid, stencilled leathers and kanamono made. Sadly the Royal Armouries one had come via Argentina where it lost one sode, a few kanamono and as a finishing touch someone had done some re-colouring of the lacing which had faded badly on one side. Even more sadly, the 'restorer' had decided the ideal way to restore the colour was to use bright red oil paint to recolour the silk lacing - nice. Ian Bottomley
  24. As I understand it, following the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, some non-samurai took to carrying swords that were strictly legal, but only marginally under 2 shaku. Sometimes they were worn in longer saya to give the impression the wearer was of samurai class. As a result the Shogunate issued an edict limiting non-samurai from carrying swords longer than 18 inches (45.7cm). (memory may be playing tricks but I think this edict was around 1630). In 1680, or thereabouts, this limit was reduced even further to 15 inches (38 cm). This probably explains a Tadoyoshi III blade I once owned that had been shortened by about 2cm - presumably to bring it into line with the new regulation. In view of these edicts, the length of the above blade does seems rather short. - however, I have a daisho in which the daito has a nagasa of only 56cm, presumably made for someone of small stature. I think we can get rather hung up on lengths and forget that swords were personal and often made to suit the wearer's needs. Ian Bottomley
  25. I have this tsuba (picture taken of the rear) which shows considerable wear to the arcs at the ends of the slots, especially the one at 11.00 o'clock- probably because of rubbing against the clothing. Ian Bottomley
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