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JohnTo

Mr Suzuki's Nagoya Wokrshop

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I have written this post as an aid to tsuba newbies, like myself, who may buy Nagoya-mono tsuba while mistaking them for Mino Goto shakudo tsuba.  Examples of Nagoya-mono tsuba have been discussed many times on the NMB and I offer this post as a collation of examples from what I believe is a single workshop.  Nagoya-mono (alternatives Nagoyamono or Nagaoya mono) literally means ‘Nagoya object or thing’, i.e. something from Nagoya.  Sometimes they are called ‘shiiri-mono’; literally ‘thing off the self, or stock item’.  There are various types of Nagoya-mono and this post is a collation of the wakizashi size, mokko shaped soft metal tsuba that superficially resemble Goto workmanship that I believe were produced in the same workshop.

I must declare at the outset that I am not an expert on the subject and the notes below are based upon my observations and what little information I have been able to glean from the literature.  So please feel free to correct and comment.

I first came across these tsuba two years ago when two were offered for sale at a large London auction house and catalogued as ‘Mino Goto shakudo’.  Fortunately, a slow internet failed to register my over the top winning bid.  A couple of months later I purchased two (a lot cheaper) as part of a mixed lot and others keep popping up in online auctions both in the UK and abroad, including Japan.  This prompted an interest (though not a love) in these tsuba and a concern that they were being (possibly inadvertently) advertised as more desirable Mino Goto tsuba.  For example, there is a tsuba of this type to which has been added a ‘Soten’ signature on Ebay for over £2000!

The general features of these particular Nagoya-mono are:

1 Mokko shape and wakizashi or small katana size size (my two are 6.8 x 6.1 cm).

2. Although looking like shakudo, the metal is probably nigurome, an alloy of katashirome (tin and lead) and copper, which only becomes shakudo after gold (3-7%) has been added (Christies Compton collection description).  Whether this is true nigurome, i.e. the base alloy for shakudo, or a similar alloy better suited to casting and patination I cannot say.

3. The colour of the body (ji) of the tsuba resembles the blue black of shakudo but lacks the depth of colour and often has a brown tinge to it.  The seppa-dai is always chocolate brown in the ones that I have seen.

4. The ji is not perfectly flat, as in Goto works, but often shows shallow undulations caused by uneven casting.

5. The nanako finish is not great.  I thought that it was probably cast rather than made with a punch.  However, comparing the nanako on one of my tsuba with that of a photo (on-line) of an identical tsuba showed differences.  This may indicate the nanako was applied by hand (using a punch), or from using different moulds when casting the tsuba.

6. The mimi and hitsu ana are usually surrounded by a gold gilt finish that initially looks like regular nanako, but on closer examination looks like a lizard skin, i.e. shallow and with bigger oval spots (see pic).

7. Most have a single kodzuka hitsu ana, but some have both kogai and kodzuka hitsu ana.

8. Silver and gold gilding looks as if it has been applied by painting with a mercury amalgam and then heating to vaporise the mercury.  I have not seen any evidence of gold foil peeling off the tsuba.  I conclude that although cast, individual tsuba are finished and decorated by hand.  I have not seen seams from the mould either, unlike cast iron tsuba.

9. Lastly, these Nagoya-mono tsuba have a characteristic pattern of ten punch marks around the nakago ana, viz: three at the top, two on each side at the bottom and three along the bottom.  These differ slightly in position, so were evidently made individually and some have been altered.  I think that these were quality control marks to indicate they were deemed good enough to sell.  As soon as I see these I want to shout ‘Ah, another tsuba from Mr Suzuki’s workshop.’  Note: I don’t actually know the name of the workshop owner.

So, who originally bought these tsuba?  I don’t think it was tourists (Japanese or European) as has been suggested.  There were few in the Edo period.  Poverty and starvation were rife in the 17th and 18thC, so they may have been bought by poor samurai or by wealthier wannabe merchants, who were allowed to wear short swords.  A bit of bling to wear on Saturday nights maybe.  Many men throughout history and throughout the world have woken up after a night on the town only to find that they had ‘mislaid’ their money, valuables and sometimes their clothes.  A wise man would leave his valuables at home.

Although dismissed by many on the NMB, I see no reason why a collector should not specialise in Nagoya-mono, especially if they are not wealthy enough to buy genuine Goto works and have no interest in ‘bits of old iron’.  However, some of the ones I have seen for sale have gone for over £300/$400, which I think is way too much!  There are plenty to study in addition to those from Mr Suzuki’s workshop.  So here is my collection of 16 designs (there are others) that I have come across in the last few months, all apparently from ‘Mr Suzuki’s workshop’.  Two of them are mine (they were just included in job lots, honest!).  I have also included a picture of the ‘lizard skin’ nanako on the mimi of one of mine for reference.

1.       Takarabune (treasure ship) with the character Hoo (treasure) on the sail.  This tsuba is mine

2.       Chrysanthemum, birds and fence.  This tsuba is also mine

3.       Flowers in basket on wheelbarrow

4.       Tadamori catching the oil thief

5.       Man chasing snake

6.       Pagoda and water wheel

7.       Shishi

8.       Ho-o bird on branch

9.       Chrysanthemums

10.   Meadow flowers

11.   Five Chinese sages

12.   Thatched hut scene

13.   Two deer and flowers

14.   Dragon

15.   Lady Murasaki Shikibu writing

16.   Peacock

 

Regards, John

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

Takarabune.jpg

Mums birds and fence.jpg

Barrow and flowers.jpg

Tadamori.jpg

Man and snake.jpg

pagoda and wheel.jpg

Shishi.jpg

Hoo bird.jpg

Mums.jpg

Meadow flowers.jpg

5 sages.jpg

thatched cottage.jpg

deer.jpg

dragon.jpg

Murasaki.jpg

peacock.jpg

lizard skin mimi.JPG

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I am adding these two examples of Nagoya-mono style tsuba to my post separately as I don’t want them mixed up with examples from Mr Suzuki’s workshop.  They are also from my collection.

The first is a really awful example of a cast tsuba that appears to be identical to my example #9 in my original post.  The casting is bad and the black patina looks like paint.  In addition the punch marks are missing from the nakago ana, so maybe its one of Mr Suzuki’s rejects that someone else finished!

The second example is similar to example number #3, flowers in a basket on a wheelbarrow, but there are significant differences in the design that show it not to be cast from the same mould.  This represents one of the superior examples of Nagoya-mono.  Unlike the typical examples from ‘Mr Suzuki’s workshop’, the punch marks around the nakago ana are different.  In addition the patina of the metal looks a bit more like shakudo, so perhaps there is some gold in the mix.  There were good examples Nagoya-mono tsuba in the Compton Collection.  So, if they are good enough for him to have collected…..

I hope that this shows that not all Nagoya-mono tsuba were cheap Goto knock offs, some were quite good but others were awful.

Regards, John

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

Cheapo Nagoya.JPG

Good Nagoya.JPG

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A genuine genre worthy of attention.  Nice write up John.

 

BaZZa.

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Where was this post two days ago when I had to explain them to a newbie - sorry Jesse - Great work John :clap:

One here https://www.jauce.com/auction/l628127283 but then again they seem to be nearly everywhere!

Have you ever noticed that a majority have very similar Tagane-ato the little apprentice who put them in must have worn out his punch by now!

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Thank you very much John for your post!! I will search more about Suzuki San Nagoya shop. I saw some of the tsuba you described in museums and Spanish collections and I listed as poor quality tsuba or shiiremono but I though it was from Yokohama docks and no idea about the shiiremono workshop in Nagoya. Later I will search and post the examples I saw. Again, thanks for the post.

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Hello John,

 

Thanks for sharing these observations and for this article

 

I would like to share severals assumptions with you:

- I think these tsuba are latter production (bakumatsu) and not so older (17/18th Century) as you suggest.

- The quality is very different from ones to another. I may suggest there was several workshops, all in the same area, all reproducing the same model, but not with the same talent/quality.

- I don't know if Japanese use the mercury gold technic. Gold gilding could be gold lacquer ?

- regarding the punch mark on the nakago ana, I am not convinced by the quality control mark assumption. I think these punch marks could support the tourist theory, and were done to make tsuba more real and older, as if it had been mounted on a sword.  However it is quite common to see these tsuba mounted on some koshirae. So could be also to fit to a blade in remote cases.

 

Regards

 

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John,
I think you have the makings of an article there. Fancy formatting it into a pdf and we can keep it for future readers in the downloads section?

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I have two examples to contribute: Both I'm pretty sure are Nagoya. Neither have the goldish nanako rims, so I assume later (tourist) production.

Rich

NAGOYA.JPG

NAGOYA2.JPG

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3 hours ago, Gunome said:

 

- I don't know if Japanese use the mercury gold technic. Gold gilding could be gold lacquer ?

 

Yes, since Nara jidai, it's called keshikomi zōgan, imported from China that was even centuries older. 

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Japanese collectors (maybe just self satisfaction?) think of the difference between mino and kozenji as an image. If it wasn't made in Shakudo, it wouldn't be considered non-mino. A kiwame called kyo-kanagushi, which suddenly appeared in NBTHK's treatise, confused or resented collectors. But it is accepted with giving up. The left side is kozenji (Nagoya), and the right side is mino in the late Edo period.

 

https://twitter.com/yakozen777/status/1230979387144560640

光善寺&美濃秋草鍔.jpg

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1 hour ago, hobnails said:

Hi Dale the fuchi is signed

But i don't know what it says.Screenshot_20210118-155352_Gallery.thumb.jpg.90c1c15c41a312a4101a3a04904956e9.jpg

 

 

I cant read it either, but from memory there is some typical Soten Kanji in it

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When I looked closely, I noticed that the chicken scratch says "互十". If the number is 50, write "五十".
"互十" is a Buddhist term for "十界互具", that is, the Mutual possession of the Ten Worlds.

 

 

Screenshot_20210118-155352_Gallery.jpg.a8e377234baa8ee8a041dcc51b875343.jpg

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Hi Steven,

The signature on your fuchi says Soheishi (Mogarishi) nyudo Soten sei.  But I would not take much notice of it.  Here is a tsuba with his 'signature', currently for sale at over £2000.  But it looks like Mr Suzuki's 'signature' has been obliterated!

 

Thanks for the additional example of Mr Suzuki's work.

 

Best regards, John

Mogarishi.JPG

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Ooops, Sorry Chris,

Getting names mixed up while rushing around.

This is the first time that I have seen one of these tsuba actually mounted on a sword or tanto.  It would be very interesting to see a picture of the tanto koshirae  and blade.

 

Best regards, John 

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Dale

 

Glad to know my tsuba isn't totally worthless :laughing:  That's more than I paid for mine.

Rich

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my takeaway on this is getting to be that any that have those little tick marks that are smooth (obviously not made by a chisel) around the nakago-ana its a cast fake.  they are too round and machine made.  Is that a gross overstatement?

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51 minutes ago, Infinite_Wisdumb said:

my takeaway on this is getting to be that any that have those little tick marks that are smooth (obviously not made by a chisel) around the nakago-ana its a cast fake.  they are too round and machine made.  Is that a gross overstatement?

example of a legit chiseling

i-img1200x1178-1610288482s9lx4o2661356.jpg

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Hi John will dig it out when i get home from work and take a photo i suspect its been  thrown together

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John -  yet another one of the designs you have posted has turned up

 https://www.jauce.com/auction/l662923659  

and another from the same seller https://www.jauce.com/auction/w449062528 without the raised mimi 

image.png.cf917c63e3d571cdec565400fa787f84.pngimage.png.b5be390ca6d347a248acb699450651f7.png

Chris that is a very ornate and pretty mounting - a bit flashy - but that was the point after all. 

I like the stepped habaki as well, very nice. :clap:

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