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About JohnTo

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    Jo Saku

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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. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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)
  6. 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
  7. Bob, I have a tsuba signed 'Echizen no Daijo Nagatsune [horu i ko?] Sadanaka kore o horu ' . Which I translate as 'Daijo Nagatsune carved again with' and 'Sadanaka carved this'. In other words this is a joint work by both artists who have worked together before. Note I am not saying the signatures are genuine. Best regards, John
  8. Hi Mark, I've had a look at the photos on the Aoi page and the item looks like a genuine piece. There appears to be no rust scabs on the iron and I think that your worry about the loss of gold nunome may be a bit unjustified. It looks like the gold has been applied in kakihagi, shadow inlay, which creates a more subtle effect. Gold nunome around the rim of tsuba does tend to wear off in use, but this inlay is in the main body. It is probably a competently made late Edo piece using a standard design (IMHO). I am not recommending the vendor to you, but I have bought a tsuba from him and the purchase went smoothly and the item was in good condition, as described. The only fault that I have with Aoi is that they are non-committal as to the possible artist schools. I'm sure their knowledge is far greater than mine, but everything seems to be 'mumei,Edo period' unless it has a NBTHK certificate (covering themselves I guess). Hope this helps with your decision. Best regards, John
  9. Hi Roger, I also have a tsuba which I think may have Christian symbolism. It is an iron round sukashi tsuba depicting horse riding equipment (saddle, bit and whip) and a bird (karigane) linking the whip to the rim. The tsuba is signed Hidemitsu (possibly Shumitsu), but the artist is not referenced in any of the common books. However, Hidemitsu (same kanji) is listed as the craftsman name of Tomomichi (civilian name Wakayama Hanzo) while he worked under Omori Terumasa. He eventually studied under Someya Tomonobu, from whom he received the kanji for ‘Tomo’ and so would probably have been working in the Busei era (1818-1830). ). [Japanese Toso-kinko Schools, M Sesko, p226] However, it should be noted that the Someya School were primarily kinko artists and so the Hidemitsu who made this tsuba may be another craftsman, although many artists worked in a variety of metals. The style and subject matter seems to be similar to tsuba produced by the Bushu School, or possibly the Echizen Kinai, or Choshu schools around 1800. A smaller (6.6 cm dia) tsuba of similar design is to be found in the Collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Accession number: 13.2167), and a picture of this is included. The Boston example shows the complete horse bit (both rings to attach reins and the linking bit for the horse’s mouth), whereas my tsuba only shows the link at the top of the tsuba and just one of the rings at the bottom with the seppa-dai separating the two parts. I think that this was probably deliberate so that the ring acts as both a depiction of the Shimadzu kamon and a Christian cross (I gather that the Shimadzu clan had a large number of Christians). Height: 7.4 cm; Width: 7.0 cm; Thickness: 0.5 cm; Weight: 66 g Best regards, John (Just a guy making observations, asking questions, trying to learn)
  10. Hi Grev, I find this following link useful; https://kanji.sljfaq.org/. It allows you to draw in kanji freehand then gives you the 20 best estimates. You can then copy these into Word, make up your sentence, the pop it into Google Translate for a rough translation. Quite useful for signatures. I don't bother trying to authenticate mei. my knowledge is not that good, fakers have better references than me to genuine mei. At the end of the day if you consider the object to be a good well crafted piece does it matter if it was made by the master, a student, or a talented faker? I guess it does if you are paying a high price for a work by the master but find out its only by a student. Best regards, John
  11. Hi Bob, I’m enjoying looking through your collection and thought I would post a couple of bits. Firstly, your Owari tsuba with ‘bones’ #14. I gather you think bones are the result of sloppy workmanship and I have read that some artists shaved them down. But I love them. They give character to the iron and show it has been forged from a heterogeneous mixture of iron. I find the smooth finish and uniformly fine texture on many Edo period sukashi tsuba a bit boring, even though the sukashi work is more refined. But each to their own. Let me guess, you did not graduate into tsuba from sword blades as I did. Gazing at all the features on a blade caused by folding and phase changes in the iron is fascinating, e.g. Nie, nioi, sunagashi, inazuma. Anyway, moving on to your Tsuba #15. I have a tsuba with a similar basic construction to this, but lacking the inlay and sukashi. I bought mine at Bonhams in 2010 and it was described as a Shoami tsuba, signed Masayoshi. The signature is in gold nunome and partially lost. I’m OK with the kanji for ‘yoshi’, but have never been able to reconcile the partially lost kanji for ‘masa’ or read it as anything else. I have never found any reference to a ‘Masayoshi’ with a similar pair of kanji either. In view of the similar basic construction I wonder if the two tsuba came from the same school, but yours was the deluxe model, or maybe the sukashi and inlay was added at a later date elsewhere. My Tsuba: Height: 7.5 cm. Width:7.5 cm. Thickness (Seppa Dai):0.45 cm. Thickness (Rim):0.5 cm. Weight: 132 g Best regards, John PS. Its good to see your posts being numbered it may get a bit difficult commenting on specific ones as the list grows.
  12. The second lot of Inagawa School shakudo tsuba are a daisho pair in maru gata form and each is engraved (kebori and katakiribori) with a ho-o bird (a mythical Japanese/Chinese phoenix) in a paulownia tree with clouds in the background. The ho-o and the paulownia leaves are finely engraved (kebori), but the clouds and branches are cut with a wide chisel (katakiribori). The engraving is without embellishment; except for a tiny (sub mm) spot of gold to pick out the eye of the ho-o. It appears that the bird depicted on the dai is a cock and the one the sho is a hen. The shakudo plate of the tsuba is flat, migaki-gi (polished) and both have a kogai hitsu ana that have been filled with a gold covered plug decorated with fine vertical file marks. The sho also has a kodzuka hitsu. Dai: Height: 7.6 cm, Width: 7.3 cm, Thickness (rim): 0.4 cm, Weight: 200 g Sho: Height: 7.3 cm, Width: 7.0 cm, Thickness (rim): 0.4 cm, Weight: 171 g Like my other Inagawa tsuba (Yoshitoshi, above) these tsuba came in a kiri box together with a slip of paper in Japanese providing information about the artist which read: 良光 青柳氏. 栄五郎と. 良英と兄弟. はじめ掘江興成に学び, 光成と名乗る. のちに良克の門人となる. 青柳良光(花押)と銘して. 獅子,竹菊,克図の縁頭ゃ小 柄がぁる 克 (Don’t think this is the right kanji) 江戸神田,数寄屋河岸住. (号)一楊堂 Once again, using my poor Japanese and Google, I translated this as (corrections welcome): Yoshimitsu. Family name: Aoyanagi. Called Eigoro. His brother was Yoshihide. First studied under Horie Okinari, called Mitsunari. (Note from Markus Sesko: who in turn was a student of Omori Teruhide, 1730-1798) Later, became a student of Yoshikatsu. Signed Aoya(na)gi Yoshimitsu (kao) Lions (shishi), bamboo and chrysanthemum, designs of fuchi-kashira are small ? He lived in Edo, Kanda district, by the river. His Go (art name) was Ichiyodo. (note: Markus Sesko says Ichimudo) According to Markus Sesko (The Japanese toso-kinko Schools) Yoshimitsu was a member of the Inagawa School in the Kanda district of Edo, founded by Naoshige (died 1739). He first studied under Horie Okinari, 1st generation master of the Horie School in Edo, born 1749. Yoshimitsu studied under the third generation master, Yoshikatsu (1725-1779) and was a member of the Aoyanagi family (Note: The samurai manor house of the Aoyagi/Aoyanagi family in Kakunodate, Akita is now a museum). It may be that Yoshimitsu was permitted to sign his work as he was a member of an important samurai family and so added his family name to the signature. The dates of Yoshimitsu or his contemporaries is not given in Sesko’s genealogy charts, but he was probably active around 1760-1820. Both tsuba are signed Aoyagi Yoshimitsu with a kao (Markus Sesko reads the signature as Aoyanagi Yoshimitsu). According to Japanese mythology the ho-o is a symbol of good luck and resides in paulownia trees. However, it said to only appear in times of peace, prosperity and, as it was a symbol of the Imperial house, some believed that it only appeared at the start of a new era. The leaves of the paulownia form the basis of the paulownia kamon (family crest) used by the Toyotomi clan and later by the Japanese Imperial family. I think that it is therefore possible that this daisho pair of tsuba was commissioned to coincide with the inauguration of a new Emperor and start of a new era. 1772 saw the start of the An’ei era (Emperor Hidehito), 1781 the start of the Tenmei era (Morohito) and 1818 the start of the the Bunsei era (Ayahito). There were also changes of the era in 1789 (Kansei), 1801 (Kyowa) and 1804 (Bunka) without a change in Emperor. Although there is no corroborative evidence, it seems probable that these tsuba were made to celebrate the assent of Emperor Morohito and the start of the Tenmei era in 1781, this being the date most likely to coincide with Yoshimitsu’s career. Best regards John (Just a guy making observations, asking questions, trying to learn)
  13. I have examples of tsuba from the Inagawa School in Edo which I hope will be of interest to MNB readers. The first is signed Yoshitoshi and the second, a daisho pair, are signed Yoshimitsu. The tsuba were purchased in two separate lots, a year apart, from the same auction house and the boxes contained similar descriptions in Japanese, so I assume that they were being sold by the same Japanese dealer/collector. Having no previous knowledge of the artists or the school, I make no claims as to the authenticity of the signatures (appraisals welcome), but as neither was a master of the Inagawa school I guess they are more likely to be genuine. The first tsuba I’m posting from the Inagawa School in Edo is signed Yoshitoshi (良寿, though Bonhams read this as the alternative Nagatoshi, which sent me on a long fruitless search for the artist). It is a marugata (7.2 cm x 6.8 cm, thickness [rim]: 0.4 cm. Weight: 142g) shakudo nanako tsuba with a copper/silver rope fukurin. The front of the tsuba depicts a Chinese sage beneath a thatched roof trying to read by moonlight and the back shows a few plants, rocks and five geese. The design is a mixture of carving and iroe takazogan. The only criticism I have of the workmanship is that the leaves of the bamboo just seem to be scattered around the stems rather than growing from them. The tsuba came in a kiri box with a Japanese inscription on a strip of paper, as follows; 良寿. 木村氏. 木邑とも銘を切る. 稲川良克の門人で, のちに寿良に学ぶ. 木邑良寿(花押),江城東紅菓川辺木村良寿年十五歳而作之と銘する. 獅子や人物図の高彫と片切彫の作がある. 江戸住. 江戸時代後期 My poor Japanese and Google translates this as: ‘Yoshitoshi. Kimura family (This misled me for months as I thought it read Mr Kimura, and was the addressee of the note!). Also signed Kimura with the kanji (木邑). A student of Inagawa Yoshikatsu, who later learnt from Toshiyoshi (can also be read as Juryo or Toshinaga). The Kimura Yoshitoshi (signature) was used for 15 years to mark his stay in Edo Higashi Kanagawa Ichigi village (?). There are works in high relief (katabori) and also those cut out in the round (katakiribori) such as lions. He was an Edo resident. He lived in the late Edo period.’ Corrections to my translation welcome. According to Markus Sesko (Genealogy Charts p 45) Yoshitoshi, a member of the Kimura family, worked in the Inagawa School in Edo and studied under Yoshikatsu, the third generation master and first member of the Kimura family to join the School. Yoshikatsu (1725-1779) was adopted by the second generation master, Naokatsu (1720-1763, who appears to have been only 5 years older than Yoshikatsu!). Seven other students of Yoshikatsu are listed, including the possible maker of my other Inagawa School tsuba: Yoshimitsu, posted separately below. No dates are given for any of the students but I deduce that they must have lived approximately 1750-1825. I have two possible candidates for the identity of the Chinese philosopher depicted on this tsuba, namely Che Yin (Sha’in) or Sun Kung, both from the Jin dynasty (265-420 CE). Che Yin used a bag of fireflies to provide light to study by, but as no fireflies are shown in this tsuba it’s probably not him. Sun Kung studied using moonlight reflected in the snow to provide light to read by. This tsuba shows only a thin new moon and no snow. Perhaps this is why the sage is looking despondent and is looking forward to the full moon in about 10 days’ time and perhaps some snow as well. I usually get the attributions to the mythology wrong, so I appreciate corrections from NMB scholars. Best regards (Just a guy making observations, asking questions, trying to learn)
  14. First you can't trust signatures on tsuba and now you can't trust green papers. What is the world coming to? Thanks for the warning, John
  15. Thanks for story behind this Kanei style Chinese landscape. As you say many tsuba have this theme and I have a rusty one on my desk that I use as an experimental piece to test cleaning regimens (see attached). I can now add the story to my inventory description. Best regards, John
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