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The Menuki Orphanage


Brian
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I have been meaning to do this for months now, and thought that while I had a few minutes, I would finally get it done.

What is the menuki orphanage? Well....most of us Nihonto collectors will have come across those single menuki we always seem to find in the bottom fo the drawer. Sometimes they are utilitarian, sometimes really nice. But they are always single menuki, missing the other half of the set. Even in Japan, I saw shops with boxesof single menuki (going for crazy high prices)

 

So the aim of this thread is for everyone to post pics of their single menuki, and to see if anyone out there can provide the matching half. Then you can either negotiate for one of you to buy the other one, trade something....or just put the fact to memory should you ever want to strike a deal.

 

Because menuki themes were often standard among many schools, you may have one that looks similar, but is far better or worse quality. Sometimes the materials or sizes are different. Just because your theme is similar, doesn't mean they are an exact match. But sometimes they are close enough for at least mounting purposes.

 

So for all those of you out there with single menuki..take some pics and post them here. This will be an ongoing thread. Unlike myself (who forgot) I do suggest at least adding rudimentary dimensions and info. And maybe a pic of the backs too if you like.

So here are 3 of mine that I have lying around here. The shishi shouldn't be too hard to match, although some I have seen lack some finer details.

 

Brian

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Great idea Brian! I will have to take some photos of my orphans. I have a couple that are really very nice, and deserve to be paired up, at least mounted on a sword. We might have a fuchi-kashira orphanage as well, as they get separated even more readily than menuki. Cheers, Bob

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The kabuto and armor thingy (see how well I know Japanese armour? :rotfl: ) above by Ian would also have gone well together, but I think it is the size difference that prevents a match. Let's see what others come up with.

Ian, do you have a clear close-up of that signed one...man and his dog?

 

Brian

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All, Somewhat off-thread, but relevant I think, is a tachi koshirae I bought at Christies what was supposed to be a 19th century copy of a Muromachi era ensemble. Since it was for was for display to show what a military tachi looked like, the fact that it was a copy and had no blade was irrelevant. Although it was catalogued and bought as a copy I have a feeling it just might be real. What I found interesting is that the hilt is bound with variegated braid in what is called katate maki style and has the menuki completely covered forming intriguing bumps on either side. Out of curiosity I had it X-rayed and found to my surprise one side is the common shoulderguard and riding whip motif, the other a helmet and sai hai. The X-ray also showed the gilding on both - in other words they were absolutely standard menuki. Perhaps the creator of the mount simply used a pair of menuki that was to hand, although he could have just as well used a couple of pieces of wood for all it mattered.

Ian Bottomley

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....Your fuji san menuki seems very similar to a fuchi that I have , how big is it in mm?....

Chris,

 

it is 62 mm long. I don't want to sell it, I was rather looking for completing a pair. Interestingly, I just learned from Barry that two completely different MENUKI may match as well!

 

Nevertheless, I would appreciate to see a picture of your FUCHI, if you and Massa Brian don't mind..

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The hardest part about the menuki orphanage is that everyone is going to want to complete their set, and no-one will want to sell their one :rotfl:

David...that shishi might go well with my one. What length is it, and are you willing to sell?

 

Brian

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Many, many that were thematic, but, notmirror images. Example; Goto Zenjo menuki. John

 

True Story.

 

I'm currently photographing some menuki that will show up in a future KTK catalog that are VERY different from each other (the primary is a silver/copper image of Fudo Myoo, the back side is a solid gold marker with a sanskrit symbol that stands for Fudo Myoo, and a nicely done lotus plant), though if you look at the backs you can tell from the residue that they were mounted together and I believe they were done by the same guy (though only the secondary piece is signed/dated).

 

Best,

 

rkg

(Richard George)

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The hardest part about the menuki orphanage is that everyone is going to want to complete their set, and no-one will want to sell their one :rotfl:

David...that shishi might go well with my one. What length is it, and are you willing to sell?

 

Brian

 

This topic is an awesome idea, and I don't say this too often :D Should be VERY useful to a lot of people on the long run.

 

Maybe those who are also interested in selling their "orphan" menuki should be allowed to mention this (and perhaps a price, but only if they chose to) when they post? This seems like a good place to tolerate the "make me an offer" approach :D

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Henk, to answer your question about identical menuki, I was taught that usually identical menuki are of much poorer quality. I have found that to largely be the case, and usually only focus on ones that are slightly different. I'm sure there are NMB members with examples to the contrary, but just thought I would tackle your question.

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Dear Ian C. (Nihonto-uk),

 

I believe that two of your "orphaned" menuki may actually be matched (at least thematically). Did the two menuki pictured below come together or are their backs similar? From your photos, the style and materials look similar (but difficult to tell from the photos). A man in a fundoshi with a dog (cow herder) coupled with a woman with yarn (weaver) represent Tanabata - a festival/story about Orihime and Hikoboshi (the heavenly stars Vega and Altair) - lovers who are separated by the Milky Way so they can only meet once a year. The festival is celebrated in Summer and is a standard motif in antique Japanese arts.

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