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    Dorset, England
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    Mainly tsuba but some swords and other koshirai

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    John B

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  1. Hi Michael, I have a very similar tsuba, same design, different shape. As others have said it is classed as a Nanban (Southern Barbarian) tsuba. These seem to have originally been imported from China or elsewhere in Asia into Nagasaki. The imported ones tend to have distinctive seppa dai and nakago ana. the seppa dai is grooved and the nakago ana is not the usual triangular Japanese shape. They appaer to have been made in Japan, probably by Chinese immigrant artists who then moved out from Nagasaki into Hizen and made tsuba in the Japanese shape. The thing that interests me in my tsuba is the 'silver' has not turned black, so I assume that it is not silver but an alloy. Anyone know out there. Like yours mine is iron, slightly tapered towards the rim . It shows the two stylised dragons in gold and silver, plus five treasures on the reserve. I believ that they may date from the end of the 18thC. Mine is 7.0 x6.55 cm and 0.3cm thick. Best regards, John
  2. Hi Stephen, Browsing Sasano's Early Japanese sword Guards I came across this bunny (#164, Akasaka signed Tadashige) Not as badass as yours but still a tough little critter as he is pounding rice to make mochi best regards, John
  3. Hi guys, I thought that this sukashi tsuba may be of interest on account of an old(?) repair to the sukashi. This maru gata iron sukashi tsuba depicts various plants including a branch of plumb blossom, a wisteria flower and an unknown flower attached to a thin stem with a couple of four lobed leaves (Any idea what these are?). The seppa dai has copper seki gane and tegane marks on both sides, that differ in style. There are no hitsu ana, per se, but one side has a shakudo shim let into the seppa dai and the other (damaged) side has evidently lost the shim. The mimi is covered with fine granular tekkotsu; and based on this I’ll stick my neck out and assign it to Shoami rather than Kyo-sukashi workmanship. I’m not going to hazard a date as we newby collectors tend to go for early (pre-Edo) dates! I’m also not going to definitely say which is the omote and which is the ura on this tsuba. The design, tegane marks, lack of defined hitsu ana and damage could indicate that it could have been mounted on a sword reversibly. But OK, I’ll go with the plum blossom on the right when viewed from the front. At some time in its history this tsuba seems to have been subject to an impact on the left side, between the four lobed leaves and the mimi. This impact twisted this part of the sukashi and broke two of the fine links to the seppa dai. It probably also resulted in loss of the shakudo shim of the hitsu ana on the seppa dai. The link between the four lobed leaf and the seppa dai was repaired using two small pieces of metal (2mmx1mm), but the twist in the sukashi was not (fully) corrected. I don’t think that this was a result of classic battle damage by a sword, pole arm or musket ball as there appears to be no metal to metal impact marks. It is more as if the tsuba had been hit by something relatively soft, e.g. a piece of wood. After spending some time examining the tsuba, I have come up with this rather fanciful explanation of the damage (other theories welcome). It is perhaps an urban myth that some fencing masters were so good that they gave up using real swords and when accepting challenges from inferiors and used pieces of wood, or even pot lids. It may be that the owner of this tsuba fenced with one of these masters and managed to parry a blow with the tsuba. Out of respect for the master and the encounter, the tsuba was never fully repaired. Besides, it would have made a good talking point with other samurai over a few drinks. I guess that the damage would exclude this tsuba from a shinsa, but it does add a bit of interest. Height: 7.9 cm; Width: 7.7 cm: Thickness (rim): 0.5 cm: Weight: 77 g Best regards, John (Just a guy making observations, asking questions, trying to learn)
  4. Hi Bob, You could be right about your tsuba No. 83 and mine being a daisho pair. By a strange coincidence my tsuba is number 84 in my collection! best regards, John
  5. Hi Bob, the titles on my pics for your tsuba #83 do not seems to have copied over. They are: 1. My tsuba 2. My signature. 3. Boston, 4 Boston signature. 5. Church Collection. 6. Bonhams . Regards, John
  6. Hi Bob, Reference Tsuba #83, Goto Tsujo I also have a ‘Goto Tsujo’ shippo tsuba(see pics) that I have posted previously. Mine came from the Albert Newall collection, a dealer whose collection had been in store for 30 years after his death. I have also found several other examples on the internet, so a popular design. The Ashmolean museum has one (Church Collection EAX.10899, shibuichi, misidentified as ‘Mitsunaga (probably not Tsujo)’. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has another (11.5433,shibuichi) and one was up for sale at Bonhams, NY recently (24 Sep 2020, lot 966, brown patina but described as shakudo). Points of interest are: The colour of your pics appears to be shakudo (as you stated), but the other examples have a brown colouration (mostly based on photos) and appear to be shibuichi. The kanji and kao on the examples appear to differ in detail, so are some fakes, student works or just variations with time? I’m not expert enough to judge. I just take the view that any tsuba that I acquire with a famous signature is likely to be gimei and concentrate on the quality of the workmanship. Most people seem to read Goto Tsujo’s personal name as Mitsutoshi however references I have seen stated that Fukushi reads him as Mitsunobu and the Toso Kodogu Koza says that the kanji are commonly read as Mitsutoshi, but Goto documents list him as Mitsunobu with furigana reading aides by his name. One example I have seen listed has the signature as Goto Mitsutoshi (後藤光壽) and another as Goto Mitsunobu ((後藤光寿). As the little square at the bottom of the left side of ‘toshi’ appears on one tsuba, but not on the others, perhaps the artist used both names, changing the kanji. I believe that both forms of the kanji can be read as both ‘toshi’ and ‘nobu’. Japanese artisans were great at using different names; Tsujo was also known as Shirobei, Gennojo and Mitsuo according to Sesko. Stats of my tsuba: Height: 7.05 cm. Width: 6.65 cm. Thickness (rim): 0.35 cm. Weight: 152 g Best regards, John Hi Bob, the titles on my pics for your tsuba #83 do not seems to have copied over. They are: 1. My tsuba 2. My signature. 3. Boston, 4 Boston signature. 5. Church Collection. 6. Bonhams .
  7. Hi Mark, Lovely tsuba, I have never seen the design before. I wonder if it is a stylise peony, looking directly down into the bloom: 'the king of flowers and in Japan symbolises bravery, honour and good fortune.' Often found on tsuba etc: example 1 from Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the other from the V&A. Best regards, John
  8. The mon may be three oak leaves (kashi0 used by the Makino, Horimoto and Kasai families, and others. To check if it is solid silver you could weigh it while suspended by a fine wire (fishing line) the submerge it in water and reweigh. The density is the original weight/reduction in weight in water. Silver is 10.5, copper 8.4 and brass 9.0. I've done this with a brass tsuba and kitchen scales. The top photo seems to have a fine inscription of the right side by the mimi (rim) and Inome (boar's eye) indentation.. Can you read it. best regards, John
  9. Bruno, I can't comment on the signature as I'm not expert enough. But I tend to think that if a tsuba has a unique design, which this one has, then its likely to have be genuine. Forgers tend to make copies. It really is a lovely design. I've never seen one like it. The owl on the front seems to be in the wild and free as it sits on a branch of a tree. However, the owl on the back is sitting on a man made perch. I suppose it is an owl rather than a hawk, which would be more likely to be kept as a pet or for hunting? Regards, John
  10. I remember attending the RB Caldwell masterpieces exhibition. I still have the book and invitation (see attached). As I remember it was held at a swanky London house and was filled with lovely ladies, there for the free champagne. As my wife was with me I was able to focus my attention on the collection, one of the few that did. I could not afford any of them, but got a group of three tsuba and the Sotheby's auction of other items from his collection.
  11. JohnTo

    Dodgy mei

    Hi Grev, Without having the tsuba in my hands one cannot be sure from photos but the following warning signs light up in my head. 1. The mei looks like it was applied with a broad chisel. Fine if it was Nobuie, but.. 2. The seppa dai has a granular finish. I would expect smooth or hammered from a forged piece. 3. The hitsu ana and other features look 'soft', not sharply cut. 4. The photo of the seppa dai shows a flake missing from the top of the sukashi. Mill scaling? 5. The top right hand corner of the seppa dai inside sukashi and left inside mimi show red lines. This might be rust at the weld of folded iron, or it might be the seam of a mould. Individually none of the points above show it was cast, but £430. You can buy papered tsuba from Japan for that. best regards, John
  12. Re: tsuba #46, I have a very similar nanban tsuba (pics attached) and just have a couple of questions. 1. Both tsuba, like other iron nanban tsuba I have, have no trace of rust. Do you think that these were cast? The texture of the iron and softness of the carving makes me feel that they are cast, but the finish seems better (no mill scale) than Japanese made cast tsuba I have seen (our tsuba may have been made in Nagasaki, Japan, but presumably by Chinese craftsmen or Japanese craftsmen using Chinese casting techniques) 2. The tsuba have the usual dragons and the tama jewel at the top. In addition both have a stick shaped gilded character at the bottom of the tsuba that looks like a stylised man. It resembles the kanji 出 (Shutsu, sui, da, de) meaning to put out, or leave but the ‘legs’ at the bottom point downwards, whereas the ‘legs’ on the kanji point upwards. Does anyone know what they represent? Any thoughts on my observations? Enjoying the glimpses of your collections, but I have to remember to reference which one when replying as the list is getting long. My tsuba: Height: 7.6 cm. Width: 7.1 cm. Thickness (rim): 0.45 cm. Weight: 102 g Best regards, John
  13. Thanks Piers and Mauro, You are correct they are nets. I assumed that they were rice stoops from similar features on other tsuba and pictures, i.e conical shapes bound at the top. However mine shows criss cross cuts and not lines in just one direction, so they must be nets, especially in the context of this tsuba. And thank you Mauro, but as I cant copy and paste the text into Google translate, I'll give it a miss as my Japanese in not very good. Arigato. best regards, John
  14. One of the aspects that appeals to me about collecting pictorial tsuba is discovering what the design represents. Often the story behind the design eludes me for several years, as is the case of this example, which I hope is of interest. This small iron tsuba was evidently made for a wakizashi and depicts a samurai in full armour, holding a spear and gazing into the distance, while a peasant kneels at his feet. The samurai is standing below a pine tree and looking over an expanse of water, possible a sea. On the far side are two silver gilt triangles, the sails of two distant boats that the samurai looking at. On the reverse are two stoops of rice tipped with gold. The details on the tsuba are highlighted with gold, silver and copper inlay. The samurai, peasant and pine tree are all raised above the surface of the tsuba and appear to have been formed by hammering the body of the tsuba, as shown by the undulating surface, leaving proud areas which were then carved. The nakago ana has some long tegane at the top and bottom and a single kodzuka hitsu ana. Overall, the tsuba is in good condition, showing some wear to the gilding. It is mumei and I think it probably dates from the 19thC, possibly from the Shoami or Kaneie Myochin School. Other attributions welcome. A shakudo nanako tsuba with a similar design was offered for sale by AoiArt (F21022, https://www.aoijapan.com/tsubamumei-battle-of-fujito/) and was described as showing a scene from the battle of Fujito. According to Internet sources, the battle of Fujito, Kojima, Bizen Province took place on 7th December 1184 during the Gempei wars and is described in the Heike Monogatari. Taira forces (500 men) were holed up in a castle on Kojima under the command of Taira no Yukimori, effectively out of reach of the Minamoto forces. Sasaki Moritsuna asked a fisherman to show him a path through the shallows so that his men could cross to the island and attack the Taira. One version of the story says that Moritsuna was rewarded by being given large parts of the area around Kojima. The fisherman was not so lucky; Moritsuna killed him immediately after learning of the path to prevent the fisherman informing anyone of the plan of attack. I’ve also attached two prints; The first by Mizuno Toshikata shows Moritsuna asking the fisherman for directions. The second by Kuniyoshi shows Moritsuna’s horsemen crossing the sea, up to their necks in seawater. Another version of the crossing shows Moritsuna’s troops crossing on virtually dry land. In view of the fate of the poor fisherman I hope that the Kuniyoshi print is a more accurate depiction of the crossing and that Moritsuna had to fight in waterlogged armour and that his sword rusted from the seawater! I would guess that this tsuba was made for one of the ‘hoi polloi’, rather than a samurai, as the design hardly exemplifies the ‘samurai warrior ideal’, such as found on Soten tsuba; murdering a poor unarmed fisherman after he had been so helpful. Tsuba data: Height: 6.6 cm: Width: 6.0 cm: Thickness (rim): 0.3 cm: Weight: 62 g Best regards, John (Just a guy making observations, asking questions and trying to learn)
  15. Hi Mark, I have used credit card with my purchases from with Japanese dealers. Only additional cost for me has been UK import duty, 5% on antiques and 20% on non-antiques. I don't know what it is for the USA, but ask Japanese senders to write on the customs form 'Antique, over 100 years old', just in case you have similar charges. I must admit that I quite like the tsuba, they look like clean examples of generic designs, better than most on Ebay. I might have been tempted myself, but I have to clear the debt for my last purchases. Regards, John
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