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JohnTo

Christmas Quiz

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One of the aspects that I enjoy about collecting tsuba is discovering what the maker is depicting in the design.  I expect that many Japanese living in the Edo period would have no trouble in identifying the themes, but to us westerners, lacking in a deep knowledge of Japanese history and mythology it takes some research.  I have tsuba that took me years before I stumbled across something that enabled me to identify the subject material.  So I thought that I would post this particular tsuba in the form of a Christmas Quiz (my answer, not necessarily correct, in the New Year).  Nothing too taxing over Christmas.

The tsuba is a ‘Mino Goto shakudo nanako’ type for a wakizashi (6.6 x 6.2 x.25 cm, weight 80 g) and depicts a samurai on a horse about to let loose an arrow towards a boat and bird in the opposite corner.  The reverse shows two birds flying above pine branches. The samurai is depicted in gilded takazogan (a little worn in places) as are the boat, birds and pines and enhanced with some engraving.  The nanako is also quite fine.  Maybe not the highest quality, but not a cast Nagoyamono either.

So here is my Holiday Quiz to exercise your minds during lockdown.

1.       What is the archer shooting at?

2.       What is the name of the archer?

3.       What year did the incident occur?

I also have a couple of features that are puzzling me.

1.       These type of tsuba are usually offered for sale as Mino Goto, however I have recently read that the Goto family in the Edo period did not produce many tsuba, concentrating on fuchi/kashira, kodzuka, kogai and menuki.  I’m thinking that this might be an up market piece from the Nagoya workshops (rather than mass produced cast examples) as the symmetrically placed round punch marks around the nakago ana (cosmetic rather than practical) seems to be one of their features (but some Goto workers also used decorative punch marks).  Mino/Nagoya? More research needed!

2.       The seppa-dai on this tsuba is a dark chocolate brown, rather than the blue black of shakudo.  However the nanako ji is the usual shakudo colour.  I have seen this two tone effect on some of my other tsuba and in photos of tsuba for sale, for example Compton II, lots 131-136 (a mixture of Goto and Nagoya).  The Compton examples are described as both shakudo and nigurome (shakudo with little or no gold).  Poor quality nigurome examples that I have seen seem to lack a good blue black shakudo colour in the ji and the seppa-dai is a lighter brown.  It must have added another level of complexity to achieve a sharp change in patination between the ji and seppa-dai.  Why bother when the seppa-dai is hidden?

Comments please.

Regards, John

(just a guy making observations, asking questions, trying to learn)

Archer 1.JPG

Archer 2.JPG

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The arrowhead is known as a Karimata ("Rope Cutter" / Two Pointed)

They were used not only for battle but for hunting large game. They are sometimes referred to as 'rope cutters' but were most likely not used to cut ropes, as it is impossible to hit the rope at the correct angle every time it is launched. You would need a  + shaped or Y shape arrowhead, as seen head on, to be sure of a cut.

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Found the story in Joly's "Legend in Japanese Art".  Will give others a chance to investigate/answer before I give answers I found on theme. 

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Mauro

 

Nasu no Yoichi was my first thought too. But the lack of waves stayed my hand.

According to the Heike Monogatari:

 

Quote

A very beautiful lady in a Heike boat, placed a fan atop a pole, and dared the Minamoto to knock it off. In one of the most famous archery feats in all of Japanese history, Nasu no Yoichi, (c. 1169 - c. 1232) a samurai who fought alongside the Minamoto clan, rode out into the sea on horseback. Sitting atop his mount in the waves, his target atop the ship rocking as well, Nasu nevertheless shot it down with only one
shot. The Minamoto were victorious, but the majority of the Taira fleet escaped to Dan-no-ura, where they were defeated one month later in the famous Battle of Dan-no-ura.

 

Without the waves I was a bit lost.

 

Regards

Luca

 

P.S. Merry Christmas to everybody.

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Good morning Gentlemen,

 

Excellent idea for Chrimbo morning John, though, I suspect as the day progresses, with the time zones of the NMB Krew, chiming in, the combined effects of:

 

Umqombothi & Witblits Surprise

Campari with distilled  Pontefract Cake essence

Sake & Shochu Challenge (The challenge being to speak or perform anything related to hand eye coordination, after two glasses)

Bollinger, Premier Grand Cru & Stolychnaya  (Stolly / Bolly)

Tokai

Chateau D'Yquem 1847 (In Pint Glasses Of course)

Albanian Rocket Fuel

Absinthe (Which alledgedly makes the Heart grow Fonder)

Poteen, White Lightning, Lighter Fluid & Metal Polish Frappe

etc

 

May make the comments somewhat "Idiosyncratic".

 

If anyone wants a crib sheet, here's  the complete "Legend in Japanese Art"  by Joly, courtesy of  those good ol' Boys at the Internet Archive:

 

https://archive.org/details/legendinjapanese00joly_1

 

So, Let's Start loading Images:

 

Let the Games Begin......

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A day spent first with one set of in-laws, and then later a visit at my mother followed by 2 hours at the dog park so the Shiba can have a good Xmas too....I'm running on empty.
Barely have the energy to type. But avoid that Witblits if you can....translates to "White Lightning" and is just as fatal :-?
Most countries have their own version...a'la Firewater or Moonshine or.....

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Malcolm T. It is interesting to see the Shoki chasing an Oni guard, Christies sold almost the  same guard back on the 9th November 2005 for half that amount!  https://www.christies.com/en/lot/lot-4612068 

Sorry but the resolution is poor and out of my hands. Same design a little more gold - not to my taste.

Who ever said "No two are alike" was asleep at the wheel!

 

image.png.a9b9cff8feffb6dacbd5ea9bc715a860.png

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As expected it did not take you guys to solve the quiz, but we can’t have anything that taxes the mind too much at this time of year.  A special thanks to those who knew the answer, but restrained themselves to give others a chance, and to those posting more pictures relating to the subject.  When I have this tsuba on display and we have visitors I often offer them £10 if they can guess what the target was.  I still have the £10.

I believe that the tsuba depicts a scene from the Gempei War (1180-1185) at the battle of Yashima on 22 March 1185.  On-line accounts differ, but the gist seems to be that the Taira (alternative name Heike) army, having been effectively defeated by the Minamoto (alternative name Genji) fled to the safety of their ships.  According to the Heike Monogatari a very beautiful lady in one of the Taira ships placed an open fan (with a red sun’s disc design) atop of a pole and challenged the Minamoto to knock it off.  The gesture may have been a bit of chivalrous rivalry between the two clans, or more likely a ploy to taunt the Minamoto samurai into wasting their precious arrows.  A young (18 year old) Minamoto samurai, Nasu no Yoichi (Nasu Munetaka), accepted the challenge. He rode his horse into the sea and shot the fan cleanly through.  Nasu won much fame and his descendants took a fan with sun’s disc as family mon.  I believe that his descendants could walk into any bar in Japan, declare their lineage and expect that someone would buy them a drink.  One account says that Nasu Munetaka used just one arrow to hit the arrow and that the arrow was fitted with a humming-bulb, and not the Y-shaped rope cutter shown on the tsuba.

The Minamoto went on to destroy the Taira in the famous sea battle of Dan-no-Ura a month later (25th April).  Broken fans became associated with the defeat of the Taira and are often depicted on tsuba.  My wife bought me an iron sukashi one (see attached) which shows a broken fan in waves together with two arrows.  As there are two arrows, I assume that the design relates to the battle of Dan-no Ura rather than Yashima.  I have attributed this tsuba to the Kyo-Shoami School about 1700.  My attribution is based upon the open nature and relatively thin mimi (Kyoto work), plus the 3-D, rather than 2-D (flat sukashi) carving of the design (Shoami) using Yagyu like waves.  The tsuba also has just one tiny spot of gold nunome on each side for the rivet of the fan.  The iron is very homogeneous, so I have put it as a mid-Edo piece.  Comments and critiques on my attribution always welcome. That’s how I learn.

With regard to the Shoki and Oni tsuba, it seems that tsuba workshops in the Edo period turned out lots of copies of popular tsuba.  It don’t make them fakes, but losing their ‘uniqueness’ would undermine their value IMHO.

All the best for the New Year

John

arrow fan 1.JPG

Arrow fan 2.JPG

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Now that the quiz has been out a while...the citation from LEGEND IN Japanese ART. Page 126


319. HOMMA MAGOSHIRO SHIGEUJI

Archer in the army of Nitta Yoshisada. While the army was awaiting the attack of Takauji’s fleet at Wada no Misaki (Minatogawa) he espied a sea-fowl with a fish in his claws. He then cried to Takauji : “You must be wearied doing nothing for so long, I will give you some fish,’’ and with an arrow he shot the bird so that the fish fell on deck and the bird in the sea.

There are several variants of this story. Sometimes the bird carries a letter, as it is also said that Magoshiro shot the bird with an arrow through the head, fastened to it a strip of paper bearing his name, and sent it on another arrow right into the boat of Ashikaga Takauji.

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John

 

I have a fuchi kashira showing the deed of Nasu no Yoihchi just after he let loose the arrow

 

fitting-0041-watermarked.thumb.jpg.1772cae4876291c2212a9756e8a4eb3c.jpgfitting-0041-34-watermarked.thumb.jpg.13dc34d4834a507f4056ec4a442f4fb0.jpg

 

And a tsuba probably depicting the battle of Dan No Ura...

 

fitting-0052-watermarked.thumb.jpg.19445abab7386aa746382b5143f30172.jpg

 

These are among my preferred pieces in my collection.

 

Best Regards

Luca

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Mark,

You are right and I have been mistaken.  What a quizmaster I would make.  Its HOMMA MAGOSHIRO SHIGEUJI, a story I was totally unaware of, but the bird does have something it its claws (as does a couple of the other pics sent in).  But thats what NMB is all about, learning and admitting when you are wrong.  Hopefully the mistake does not merit seppuku.

 

thanks again everyone for your input and information, I'll try to do better in 2021.  John

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Dear Gwyn.

 

I think your tsuba has a much more pastoral theme, the crane and minogame symbolising longevity.  

John, fans not withstanding I like your tsuba.

 

As for the example that Malcolm posted, well two people with a lot of money must have liked it but I wouldn't want it in the house.  Pictorially ok but.....

 

All the best.

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Malcolm,

Thanks for the link to Joly's book  (Looks good and its free!).  I've downloaded it and transferred it onto my Kindle.  My mother bought me Joly's Sword and Same back in 1973.  He must have been a great Japanese scholar.  Pity he was before my time.

best regards, John

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I don't know where I should post this link and image - it is in relation to Malcolm T's comment and mine under it [above] looks like we have another 'replica' doing the rounds. 

https://www.jauce.com/auction/g500246208  The colours are way off but the detailing is darn good, The mei is a waste of effort and the V shape bottom of the nakago-ana are giveaways. 

image.thumb.png.64c0bc8ef0df83f3fd3f2fff159acff2.png

I will also post it on Merry friends of "Y!Auction" Where all the fakes go to die!

 

 

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