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Menuki Orientation..?


Barrie B
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Hi all,

 

I have these menuki that I think are stylised Bats (?) and was wondering which orientation they should be mounted.. i.e which is the right way up and which one is the Ura and which is the Omote?

 

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Any assistance appreciated. Thanks in advance..

 

Barrie.

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From a backup of the old Alexander Takeuchi articles, hope he won't mind me sharing, as he has the best articles on this I have found.

 

 

"CORRECT PLACEMENT OF MENUKI" VS "HISTORICALLY MORE ACCURATE MENUKI  PLACEMENT" IN SPECIFIC KOSHIRAE STYLE.*

 

S. Alexander Takeuchi, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology
University of North Alabama

January 27, 2003

 

I. Introduction:  Which way is "correct"?

 

Just like anything about Nihon-to that shows considerable variations, “appropriate” menuki placement on Nihon-to - culturally, historically, and functionally - does vary widely depending on the reference to which (or the context in which) the particular style of koshirae is studied. That is because the variations of Nihon-to koshirae that we know in existence today have developed largely out of the combination of the followings (Hirato, 1994[1973]; Kokubo, 1993; Ogasawara, 1994; Tsuji, 1994[1973]):

a) functional demand (e.g., Kurourushi-tachi koshirae, Kawazutsumi-tachi koshirae, Toppei-koshirae, Shingun-to koshirae),

- ritualistic demand (e.g., Hyogokusari-tachi koshirae),

c) bureaucratic requirement (e.g., Eifudachi koshirae, Tojo-zashi koshirae, Kenjo koshirae)

d) regional sub-culture (e.g., Ezo koshirae, Higo koshirae, Owari koshirae, Satsuma koshirae, Shonai koshirae, Yagyu koshirae),

e) associated school of sword art (e.g., Jigen ryu for Satsuma koshirae, Yagyu Shinkage ryu for Yagyu koshirae, Keishicho ryu for Junsa/Saber koshirae),

f) historical period and popular culture of the era (e.g., Keicho koshirae, Momoyama koshirae, Tensho koshirae),

g) artistic expression (e.g., dashizame-tsuka aikuchi koshirae),

h) political/ideological expression (e.g., Kobusho koshirae)...

[And the list goes on... Also, this is why it is critical to also select a proper set of koshirae kanagu in the same tradition/koshirae style if one is to make an artistically tasteful yet historically accurate and “culturally correct” koshirae for an antique Nihon-to. (See, Hiroi, 1994[1973]).]

 

II.  The Evolution of the Functions of Menuki and the Emergence of Morphological Patterns.

From a pure functionalist point of view, menuki was basically born out of rather pragmatic demand to serve primarily as “mekugi osae” or the cover (or lid) over mekugi pin. Examinations of old Kara-tachi and Kazari-ken koshirae made in Nara through early Heian periods, such as the ones in Shosoin Museum and Tokyo National Museum, tend to confirm this functional origin of menuki among the earliest styles koshirae. (See Ogasawara, 1994 for photos.)

However, soon its secondary function to serve as a pair of ornaments began to be emphasized equally (Suzuki, 1995). Additionally, many other “latent functions (i.e., not originally intended or obvious but still important eu-functions)” were discovered (e.g., tactile indicators to tell the correct orientation of the edge or correct “tenouchi,” palm swells, status/rank symbols, religious charm, etc.). Then over the course of the evolution of Nihon-to koshirae, those secondary and latent functions of menuki seem to have taken over its “manifest function (i.e., originally intended and well recognized purpose)" completely.  

This kind of phenomenon and the transformation of secondary or latent functions into manifest functions is commonly observed with any material culture/cultural artifact that has one thousand years of evolutionary history... However, the functional evolution of menuki and its placement in the context of specific style of koshirae it is not all random, either. Over the course of its evolution, placement of menuki has certainly developed morphological patterns that can be recognized in each style of koshirae. (See for example Takeuchi, 2003, on historically more accurate menuki placement in two different versions of so called “katate-maki.”)

 

III.  Historical Accuracy.

Today, depending on the function(s) that the particular style of koshirae emphasizes, “historically accurate” (rather than the “correct”) placement of menuki can vary, yet still be *identifiable* to a certain extent (Hirato, 1994[1973]). Based on the shared norm amongst the makers and the users of the Nihon-to (in the particular koshirae), it is possible to identify the most “stereotypical” or “popular” placement of menuki in that particular style of koshirae.  Interestingly enough, there is even a particular style of traditional Nihon-to koshirae that does not use menuki at all.  Since the recent release of a book by Zusho (2003) entitled Satsuma koshirae, this particular style of koshirae has gained some attention of Nihon-to collectors and craftsmen.  Actually, many “duty spec”simple Satsuma koshirae that were developed to meet specific demands of Jigen ryu samurai were equipped with rather simple steel fuchi/kashira, and they were completely “menuki-less” (Kokubo, 1993; also see Zusho, 2003 for detailed information on Satsuma koshirae and it relationship with two schools of  Jigen ryu). Thus, even a "menuki-less" koshirae of this  genre, if made according to Jigenryu-Satsuma koshirae tradition, is "historically accurate"...  

 

Does this mean the most “stereotypical” or “popular” placement is the only “correct” one?  Most Nihon-to experts would agree that it is not the case. What we can say, however, is that such a placement of menuki is “more accurate historically” with some confidence.

 

IV. "Okite" or Traditional Rule on the Orientation of Properly Placed Menuki.

While I mentioned that the recognizable patter of placement menuki does vary significantly depending on the specific style of koshirae, one thing that seems to be very consistent across various styles of uchigatana koshirae is the “orientation of heads/tails of menuki” on tsuka (Hirato, 1994[1973]; Suzuki, 1995). At least among the variations of uchigatana koshirae that are worn in edge-up position, the normative orientation of menuki, according to "okite or traditional rule of koshirae making, is as follows (Suzuki, 1995):

a) in case of an animal motif, the “heads” should be oriented toward fuchi while the “tails” should be oriented toward kashira;

- in case of a plant motif, the “roots” should be oriented toward fuchi while the flowers, leaves or fruits should be oriented toward kashira.

[Note. The rule applies to menuki on both "omote (front)" side and "urau (back)" side.]

Of course, just like anything with Nihon-to, exceptions to this rule still do exist among antique koshirae. However, according to one of the most sought after koshirae-shi of the Showa period, Koichi Hirato (1994[1973]), the reversed orientations of menuki on some antique koshirae seem mostly due to the craftsman’s lack of knowledge of proper orientation...

References:

Hirato, Koichi. (1994[1973]). "Saya: Koshirae shitaji. [scabbard: Koshirae wood core.]" In Tadashi Oono (Ed.), Nihon-to shokunin shokudan. [The tales from Nihon-to craftsmen.] (1st Ed.). Pp.155-168. Tokyo, Japan: Kogei Shuppan. ISBN 4-7694-0051-9.

Hiroi, Shinichi. (1994[1973]). "Saya. [scabbard.]" In Tadashi Oono (Ed.), Nihon-to shokunin shokudan. [The tales from Nihon-to craftsmen.] (1st Ed.). Pp.141-154. Tokyo, Japan: Kogei Shuppan. ISBN 4-7694-0051-9.

Kokubo, Kenichi. (1993). Zukan toso no subete. [The complete illustrated book of the Japanese sword furnishings.] Tokyo, Japan: Kogei Shuppan. ISBN4-7694-0094-2.

Ogasawara, Nobuo. (1994). Nippon no bijutsu 1, No. 332: Nihon-to no koshirae. [The art of Japan 1, No. 332: The mountings of Japanese swords.] Tokyo, Japan: Shibun Do.

Suzuki, Takuo. (1995). "Toso o tsukuru. [To make sword furniture]." In Sakuto no dento giho. [The traditional methods of sword making.] Chapter 5. Tokyo, Japan: Rikogaku Sha. ISBN 4-8445-8563-0.

Takeuchi, S. Alexander. (2003). "Typology of katate-maki (i.e., battle wrap) and its relevance to historically accurate menuki placement." In Dr. T’s Nihon-to Random Thoughts Page. University of North Alabama, Florence Alabama, USA. (1994[1973]). "Tsuka maki. [Handle wrapping.]" In Tadashi Oono (Ed.), Nihon-to shokunin shokudan. [The tales from Nihon-to craftsmen.] (1st Ed.). Pp. 169-179. Tokyo, Japan: Kogei Shuppan. ISBN 4-7694-0051-9.

 

Zusho, Ichiro. (2003). Satsuma koshirae. Tokyo, Japan: Ribun Shuppan. ISBN4-89806-192-3.

**********

* Edited and reprinted from the author's original posts on Bugei Sword Forums.
Copyright © 2004.  S. Alexander Takeuchi, Ph.D.

 

 

TYPOLOGY OF TRADITIONAL "KATATE-MAKI" AND ITS RELEVANCE TO HISTORICALLY ACCURATE  MENUKI  PLACEMENT*

S. Alexander Takeuchi, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology
University of North Alabama

November 8, 2003

I. Two Versions of "Katate-Maki" and Their Respective Koshirae Styles.

Not many people in Japanese Swords Arts seem to be aware that historically there are actually two distinct versions of what is loosely referred to as "katate-maki" (i.e., "one hand wrap") in traditional Nihon-to koshirae. More specifically, in one version of "katate-maki" a single lay of  ito is wrapped over the entire tsuka in a "hira-maki" (i.e., "flat wrap") fashion (as to simulate a "coil spring") without forming normal "diamond shape" windows but only forming one "half-diamond" or triangle window for the very first lay at the fuchi-end and for the very last lay at the kashira-end.  In the other version of "katate-maki," the wrap starts as a normal double lay "hineri-maki" (i.e., "twist wrap") or "hira-maki" to form several "diamond shape" windows from the fuchi-end, then it transforms into a condensed single lay "hira-maki" in the mid section, and finally transfers back into a normal double lay "hineri-maki" or "hira-maki" to form several "diamond shape" windows again towards the kashira-end (Tsuji, 1994). While I know of any specific English translation for the former version of "katate-maki," it shall be referred to as a "coil wrap" herein for convenience. Because the latter version of "katate-maki" is often called a "battle wrap" amongst Nihon-to enthusiasts in the English speaking world, it shall be referred to as "battle-wrap" hereafter.

Historically, those two respective "katate-maki" styles were generally prevalent on two different styles of koshirae, each of which had been popular in one of two distant periods:  Namely they are "Tensho/Akechi" koshirae, which was once popular in Muromachi period (see photos in Ogasawara, 1994b p. 41 and p. 50; Kokubo, 1993 p. 104) and "Toppei" koshirae, which was popular for a short while at the end of Edo period (see photos in Ide, 2000 pp. 44-45 and Kokubo, 1993 p. 124, p. 127).  A prime example of the former "coil-wrap" version is the "Tensho/Akechi koshirae" on early uchigatana (Muromachi period) in the Tokyo National Art Museum (Ogasawara, 1994a). Good graphic examples of the latter "battle-wrap" version of "katate-maki" can be seen on the existing "Toppei-koshirae" in late Edo period (Ide, 2000). 

A very few exceptions to this general trends exist. One is the "coil-wrap" version of katate-maki used on some late Edo period Satsuma style koshirae (see the photos in Kokubo, 1993 Pp. 120-21). Another exception is the latter "battle-wrap" version of katate-maki used on some Edo period uchigatana-koshirae that was highly "fashionably modified" from the "tojo-zashi" (i.e., formal "castle duty") style koshirae (see the photo in Ide, 2000 Pp. 58-59).

II. Two Versions of "Katate-Maki" and Their Respective Menuki Placement.

With respect to menuki placement in each of those respective versions of katate-maki, there are also highly noticeable regularities among traditional koshirae. In fact, even casual examination of existing antique koshirae in Japan (Ide, 2000; Kokubo, 1993; Ogasawara, 1994b) do suggest that in the former "coil-wrap" version of katate-maki, in which almost entire length of tsuka is wrapped with a single lay of ito in "hira-maki" style (as to simulate a "coil spring"), the menuki is usually placed over the same-gawa but under the ito on each side. Obviously such a placement of menuki is only possible because in the "coil-wrap" version of katate-maki as the entire wrap is done very much "see through" style. (Refer to the photos in above references.) 

Similarly, examination of the same do also suggest that the latter "battle-wrap" version of katate-maki, in which only the mid section of the tsuka is wrapped in a condensed single lay of ito in "hira-maki" style, the menuki is almost always placed over the ito in more or less on the center on both sides. (Also refer to the photos from historical examples in abovementioned references.) Again the only exception to this rule among documented antique koshirae that I am aware of is the aforementioned Satsuma style koshirae in Kobuko's (1993) book, which originally does not have a menuki on either side of the tsuka

On the side note of menuki placement indicative of historical accuracy, there is also a convention as to how menuki was placed based on the side of tsuka (of uchigatana) from the wear's perspective. That is, in the former "coil-wrap" version of katate-maki or any other traditional styles of tsuka-maki on Nihon-to koshirae, the traditional okite (i.e, rule) is to place a menuki slightly offset toward the fuchi-end on the "omote" (i.e, front) side but toward the kashira-end on the "ura" (i.e., back) side (Suzuki, 1995). Again exceptions exist, of course, among some "koryu" (i.e., old school) kenjutsu schools such as Yagyu Sinkage Ryu that often preferred reversed placement of menuki called "gyaku-menuki" in a ordinary "hineri-maki" or "tsumami-maki" (i.e, "pinched wrap") styles for practical reasons, but not usually on the latter "battle-wrap" version of katate-maki


III. "Katate-Maki"and Menuki Placement and Their Supposed Utilitarian Functions in Historical Perspective.

With regard to "utilitarian purposes" of so-called "battle-wrap" version of katate-maki, academic studies of Nihon-to koshirae tend to suggest that a highly publicized common notion in the Western world such as "prevention of blood from getting into same" may simply be a "post hoc" explanation or even possibly be a misconception perpetuated amongst Nihon-to enthusiasts in the Western world. The English term "battle wrap" to refer to the second type of katate-maki amongst JSA practitioners and enthusiasts in America tends to substantiate this suspicion. Of course, there may indeed be such an utilitarian function to this type of handle wrap:  However, it is more plausible to understand it as a "latent functions" in Mertonian sense (i.e., a beneficial byproduct that was not specifically intended initially) rather than a "manifest function" (i.e., originally intended main purpose). Particularly, examinations of early "coil-wrap" version of katate-maki as adopted more commonly on older "Tensho/Akechi" koshirae clearly reveal that the ito wrapped much like a loose "coil spring" does not protect the same-gawa nor tsuka core any more than other conventional styles of wrap do.

As far as the historical records and literature on the academic study of Nihon-to are concerned, it seems that the early "coil-wrap" version of katate-maki was developed more as an economical style of tsuka wrap during the transitional stage of Nihon-to from tachi to uchigatana. In that sense, the older "coil-wrap" version of katate-maki was simply an "utilitarian" warp more "economical" than other decorative tsuka-maki on tachi and handachi. On the other hand, the same historical records and literature on the academic study of Nihon-to suggest that the later "battle-wrap" version of katate-maki mainly emerged as another form of artistic/decorative handle wrap.

IV. "Katate-Maki" and "Gyaku-Menuki."

Now the issue of "gyaku-menuki" (i.e., "reversed menuki") is historically more complex because it also relates to the evolutional history of Nihon-to, particularly from the time when the tachi was worn in "edge-down" position to the time when uchigatana became the ordinary everyday sword of the samurai. During this transitional stage in Nihon-to's evolution from tachi to uchigatana, samurai wore handachi and early uchigatana in both "edge down" and "edge up" positions for a while until the norm of "edge up" position for uchigatana had eventually set in. That time, the norm of proper placement of menuki (as explained earlier) had also became the norm. Therefore, historical examples of those early uchigatana that still had "gyaku-menuki" also exist because those earliest uchigatana swords were also worn "edge down" much like tachi was worn. 

On the other hand, it is rather rare to see, in existing historical examples, later models of uchigatana that has "gyaku-menuki" except for some "odd balls" where kenjutsu practitioners in specific styles preferred such menuki placement for very utilitarian purpose. Again, revival of "gyaku-menuki" to emphasize its utilitarian purpose (i.e., fits well in your palms) and its popularization among JSA practitioners also seem to be more of a phenomenon in the Western world, corresponding the growth of JSA practitioners outside of Japan. The bottom line is that it has clearly existed in Japan, though perhaps not as commonly as seen in America today. 

As far as the traditional norm is concerned amongst highly regarded koshirae-shi (i.e., koshirae craftsmen) and mainstream Nihon-to collectors in Japan, craftsmen's artistic expressions are more positively evaluated if they execute their creativity and artistic talent within the general pre-requisites of traditional norm and historical accuracy (Ide, 2000; Ogasawara, 1994a). Therefore, further deviation from the traditional ideal-type tends to be perceived rather negatively as an indication of one's possible lack of (or unwillingness for) understanding or appreciation of the nature of this cultural artifact (Hirato, 1993; Hiroi, 1993).... 

Of course, these issues apply mostly to rather conservative area of art in Japan such as traditional koshirae making. As the interests into Nihon-to and Japanese style swords grow worldwide, these "cultural traditions" and "historical accuracy" may well be replaced by individual craftsmen's "expressions of liberal artistic tastes" eventually...

References:

Hirato, Kohichi. (1994[1973]). "Saya: Koshirae shitaji. [scabbard:  Koshirae wood core.]" In Tadashi Oono (Ed.), Nihon-to shokunin shokudan. [The tales from Nihon-to craftsmen.] (1st Ed.). Pp.155-168. Tokyo, Japan: Kogei Shuppan. ISBN 4-7694-0051-9.

Hiroi, Shinichi. (1994[1973]). "Saya.[scabbard]"  In Tadashi Oono (Ed.), Nihon-to shokunin shokudan. [The tales from Nihon-to craftsmen.] (1st Ed.). Pp.141-154. Tokyo, Japan: Kogei Shuppan. ISBN 4-7694-0051-9.

Ide, Masanobu. (2000). Edo no Token Koshirae Collection. [The Collection of Japanese Sword Koshirae in Edo]. Tokyo, Japan: Ribun Shuppan. ISBN 4-89806-125-7.

Kokubo, Kenichi. (1993). Zukan Toso no Subete. [The Complete Book of the Japanese Sword Furnishings, Illustrated.] Tokyo, Japan: Kogei Shuppan. ISBN4-7694-0094-2.

Ogasawara, Nobuo. (1994a). Nihon-to no Kansho Kiso Chishiki. [The Fundamental Knowledge of Japanese Sword Appreciation.] Tokyo, Japan: Shibun Do. ISBN4-7694-0053-5.

Ogasawara, Nobuo. (1994b). Nippon no Bijutsu 1, No. 332: Nihon-to no Koshirae. [The Art of Japan 1, No. 332: The Mountings of Japanese Swords.] Tokyo, Japan: Shibun Do. 

Suzuki, Takuo. (1995). "Toso o tsukuru. [To make sword furniture]." In Sakuto no dento giho. [The traditional methods of sword making.] Chapter 5. Tokyo, Japan: Rikogaku Sha. ISBN 4-8445-8563-0.

Tsuji, Kyojiro. (1994[1973]). "Tsuka maki. [Handle wrapping.]" In Tadashi Oono (Ed.), Nihon-to shokunin shokudan. [The tales from Nihon-to craftsmen.] (1st Ed.). Pp. 169-179. Tokyo, Japan: Kogei Shuppan. ISBN 4-7694-0051-9.

**********
* Edited and reprinted from the author's original posts on old Bugei Sword Forums.

Copyright © 2003, 2004.  S. Alexander Takeuchi, Ph.D
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Gents,

 

Thanks for replying Thomas and Brian. Great articles about Menuki placement that we have all brushed over previously or read here and there, but great to read it again, so thanks for posting Brian. I was trying to get an opinion on what the motif was so I could place them the right way 'up' etc.. 

 

Thanks.

 

Barrie.

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Dear Barrie,

 

I'm just guessing, but I'm fairly certain that these are not stylized bats.  I've seen bats depicted in many different forms of Japanese art and have never seen them stylized in this fashion.  Instead, I think each menuki has two overlapping "frames" or "cartouches" with two objects on top.  I have some boating themed tosogu that show an oar, rudder and poles.  They look somewhat like the objects on your menuki - do you think that is a possibility?

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Hi George,

 

Yes could be that.. Thank you. I do not know what they were, which is why I posted them here on the NMB (with its many members and large knowledge base), 

 

Highly plausible that the items could be Oar, Rudder and Poles (the Poles being used for ..?) As for the (Batman) frames or "cartouches", I have no idea what they are or represent..  Any idea about which way they would be orientated?

 

Thanks..

 

Barrie.

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Dear Barrie,

 

I'm just guessing, but I'm fairly certain that these are not stylized bats.  I've seen bats depicted in many different forms of Japanese art and have never seen them stylized in this fashion.  Instead, I think each menuki has two overlapping "frames" or "cartouches" with two objects on top.  I have some boating themed tosogu that show an oar, rudder and poles.  They look somewhat like the objects on your menuki - do you think that is a possibility?

 

 

Follow up on George, photos show both menuki with the same orientation, i.e. both frames right over left, how does it look if you rotate one and have right over left. left over right. Does it scan?.

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