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Another really rare armor, the kusari dou.


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Eric & Uwe,

 

I was just looking at one of my books, A Japanese armour book. One looks very much like Kaga . I have been always interested in Kaga armour. Many artisans went there to work.

 

I now have my first armour and I was told it was Kaga made.The boars eye is a common trait, located in the corners with Kaga armour on most lacquered plates.

 

Ian's book has a couple there and in my ref : books as well. Not sure about the early Kaga armour having this boars eye fitted as decoration. Maybe you guys might know.

 

Eric & Uwe, have you ever seen a type of lacquer applied on armour that imitates tree bark ( Brown ) Please let me know thanks.

 

 

Cheer's

 

Mark.

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Uwe, I too thought it might be Kaga work. The lavish use of sawari on the plates and the inome at the corners of the embossed plates are both typical of the kind of thing they did. In Orikasa's publication 'Studies on Arms and Armour' he shows that the Myochin family's move into Kaga was quite late and had nothing to do with the Unkai who were Haruta. The first was a Myochin Muneyoshi who established himself in Kanazawa during the Kansei period (1789 - 1801). His pupil, Munetoshi, became official armourer in 1805, dying in 1837. The post was then taken by Muneyoshi in 1838. During this time there were also a Muneharu and a Munehisa working there. Other Myochin families also worked in the area. Another pupil of Muneyoshi was Munehide who died in 1851 followed by Munetaka, Munenobu, Munenaga and Munemitsu. A Munenao, a nephew of Munehide was appointed to the Bugu Dozo ashigaru unit becoming the inspector in 1851.

Orikasa also lists the stipends of some of these showing they were on the Han's payroll. Muneyoshi, being an official armourer, recieved rice to support 7 people, others such as Munehisa only sufficient for 2 people. It is also interesting that there was a separate unit making armour for the ashigaru, one assumes because the 'official armourers' were making armour for the Maeda and more senior members of the Han. Unfortunately no stipend for these ashigaru workers is given. My latest armour is definitely Kaga work and I'm sure is Bakamatsu period. It needs some minor sorting out after which I will post some pictures. Unfortunately, since it is a Christmas present (from me to me and by far the best kind - who the heck needs socks?) I cannot start work on it until after the festivities. :badgrin: :badgrin:

Mark, Whilst writing this you posted. Your query about 'tree bark' lacquer could not be more appropriate. My present for Crimble has a strange textured lacquer that appears black but when I rubbed a section with a wet finger in strong light I saw the raised trails of lacquer on the basic dull black background were a brownish red. Whether this colour will show when cleaned I do not know - I will be able to tell when I try various cleaning methods.

Eric, That is one heck of an armour. I particularly like the 'undershirt' with the kote attached. I suspect the mail flaps should really go under the yurugi ito rather than on top.

Ian Bottomley

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Ian,

 

Thank you for a most interesting read. I to bought myself a present of armour this silly season. And I really need the socks :lol:

 

Bought a load of books from around the world. Hope they all arrive soon. All on Katchu. The reason I asked about Tree bark lacquer is my armour is lacquered this way.Even has the tree knots in it. Just add the leaves and you have total camouflage. :lol: or a tree trunk !

 

Cheer's,

 

Mark.

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The reason I asked about Tree bark lacquer is my armour is lacquered this way.Even has the tree knots in it. Just add the leaves and you have total camouflage. :lol: or a tree trunk !

 

Cheer's,

 

Mark.

 

Would love to see pics of this, Mark!

 

John

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Ian, I had to admit though, that the Unkai where Haruta based. The embossing however, reminds me by some means of a later Myochin work. Hence, I stumbled over "Myochin Mitsuhisa" and "Myochin Mitsusada" both mentioned as members of the Myochin Unkai group (the first in the late 17th century; ref. Chappelear S.45-52) :?: :?: :?:

That would even be syncing with the use of sawari :!:

Cheers

Uwe

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Here is a description of this armor from a leading auction house, notice what information is missing, they never mention kikko, Myochin, or kaga, and when they use Japanese terms there is no English equivalent added for people who do not understand the Japanese term, I think they need to hire Ian to write their descriptions...and check out that sales price.

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Uwe, The claim that the Unkai were an off-shoot of the Myochin was of course a claim made by the Myochin themselves, being perpetuated by later writers. Much of what they wrote is to say the least inventive. Their apparent predominance in the writings of early European authors being attributable perhaps to the fact that they were prolific with their signatures and their genealogy a convenient reference . I have for years believed that their incursion into armour making proper didn't really begin until the early Edo period, although they may have made the components for armour earlier. I once listed all the Myochin smiths, supposedly working prior to 1600, mentioned in Katchushi Meikan and apart from the obvious Nobuie and Yoshimichi (who never signed Myochin and almost certainly was nothing to do with them), found only one of these smith's work illustrated - and that was a helmet that looked late Edo to me. No, it was the Haruta who were invited to Kanazawa by the Maeda and it was they who recruited Unkai Mitsunao. I have a note somewhere that he was the grandson of a Korean armourer brought over by Hideyoshi and that it was he who was the innovator of the Unkai style. On his death the group continued to produce armours with Unkai features, but you do see a gradual shift towards the more orthodox as time progressed.

Eric, I agree with you about the description. Are the cataloguers showing how erudite they are?

Ian Bottomley

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Ian, I was afraid that it turns out this way :? I`ve read they were horse-bit makers in earlier times.........Those Myochin were excellent "tradesman" :badgrin: I had to be more careful about such early publications. Thanks a lot!

Eric, I think this kind of description is with intent and quite common for auction houses. Incidentally, the asking price is "formidable" :roll:

Uwe

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The reason I asked about Tree bark lacquer is my armour is lacquered this way.Even has the tree knots in it. Just add the leaves and you have total camouflage. :lol: or a tree trunk !

 

Cheer's,

 

Mark.

 

Would love to see pics of this, Mark!

 

John

 

John, a couple pics showing the lacquer technique on my sode.

 

Cheer's,

 

Mark.

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Dave,

 

would you know the correct Japanese terminology for this technique please. So I can study it. I guess to some katchu collectors its grotesque ! not the norm. I might just add at the back of the sode between the lacing there seems to be a twisted metal bar which goes across the plate its self. ????

 

Cheer's,

 

Mark.

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Mark, That is the oddest lacquer job on an armour I think I have seen. I will post a picture of the finish on mine in due course.

Ian Bottomley

 

Ian, I'm guessing you not liking this one much. Its very thick lacquer and the problem is its fragile with age. I have pics of late Momo, 16th century armour with this application.

 

 

Mark.

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Don't know the name for this sorry. Its not tataki-nuri, which is used rather incorrectly by Toraba in his books, more a shobu-waza.

 

The thick layer is brushed then dabbed to produce an uneven surface, then a irregular comb is dragged through to create the bark effects. It's a very nice technique used by Kaga School among others and reflects the skill of urushi-shi to make a plate look fab.

 

It's not common and looks wicked! Don't care what others think this is a great finish.

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Mark, No, I do like it but feel that it would have looked even better if it had been matted rather more. At the moment it is rather too shiny to look convincing. In Liverpool Museum is a daisho with the scabbards lacquered to look like pine bark. They are so convincing you feel they must have used a layer of real bark glued to the saya. They have even managed to simulate the way pine bark lifts off in patches leaving a scar of a slightly lighter shade. The guy who did it must have spent hours studying a pine and matching the colours and textures.

Ian B

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Hello Dave,

 

Thank you for your comments. Will have a look to see if I can find out any more info on shabou-waza and application as I am very interested. I won't clutter up Eric's, thread here with my asks & pics ! so I will conclude.

 

Cheer's,

 

Mark.

I just made up the term Shobu-Waza! My sensei referred to the technique as "Shibo" Urushi, I don't think you will find very much as this is become part of a black art these days other than making urushi pens.

 

The tree bark effect is just a variation on a process that can be sculpted to create a number of finishes. It is not intended for camouflage, or to resemble real bark, hence the rather bright bengara finish. It's my belief that these effects were created in order to save money and production time as they are applied quickly and produce a alternative robust finish. Creating smooth finishes is time consuming.

 

These techniques would also allow the matching of composite items to be matched together to create a gusoku. The effect is very easy to apply over the top of armour that already has a solid ground base. Recycled armour, there's is nothing new about that.

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Ian,

 

Thank you for input regards my lacquer question. I had an email yesterday, regarding this style of lacquer which was most helpful. The name used today is Totai bark tree lacquer incorporating the 2 which is ( Cloisonne ). In 1840-1850 it was revived in vases and other art work in Japan through the late Edo - Meiji period up to the 1930's. In the very early Edo period there were 4 different styles that had been created and by the late 18th century it had become registered.

 

Ian, just to add that the the pictures that I have posted here with my camera were extremely close up Macro with the flash on which doesnt help.

 

On my armour, I have the two different styles which has been applied, one which is much deeper brown and smoother bark texture. Ian, can you maybe show your textured lacquer so we may see for a comparison.

 

Cheer's,

Mark.

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Mark, I have tried to obtain a representative image, but the colour of the upper layer still appears as black as the background colour. It is only when you wet it in a strong light it looks reddish in colour. I fear I am going to have problems cleaning this armour and will have to be content with its present appearance.

Ian

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Uwe, You most certainly can, but since it is a Christmas present I must wait to play with it, make a proper stand that fits it and do a few minor repairs like replacing internal ties. So, like me, you will have to be patient - but think of the excitement of Christmas morning :glee: :glee:

Ian

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Ian,

 

Thank you for posting , no problems with your camera here :clap: .Yes, like all lacquers today they are all little fragile and dry these days and to some extent lusterless from pollution etc.

 

This type of lacquer I have seen on Kabuto, its Shikoro and a smaller texture on Menpo. Plus covers for Yari spear with a more aggressive texture. It is one of the tougher applications of its time. I like this application very much.

 

My armour also needs a clean and TLC , Plus I will build a glass cabinet for it in the New year. Its only an Edo period ceremonial armour but worth keeping it protected.

 

Cheer's,

 

Mark.

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Mark, We did a few X-ray photographs of armour at the Royal Armouries and like this image they were informative. One on a sode from the Muromachi period, showed that all the kozane were leather except in the top row that had iron scales at each end where the kanmuri ita was fastened to the scales. Obviously it was felt necessary to re-inforce the top row of scales at these points. This image is equally interesting and informative. It is presumably an Edo period armour, or at least one that has been used in the Edo period, since it has both gattari and a ring for an agemaki. It learly shows the upper solid plate has been reused. Note the ring of holes provided in the top plate around the large holes for the takahimo. These were intended for fastening leather watagami but they are now unused. The present metal watagami are simply riveted to it in a straight line at the top. You can also see that an extra strip has been added to the bottom edge of this plate to allow it to be laced to the kozane. It therefore must have come off a dou made of plates since it was originally riveted to the previous dou. The two black lines running down on either side of the centre-line show that there are leather scales at these places in each row that are not absorbing the X-rays. Why they put leather scales at these points isn't clear to me unless it was to give some flexibility - but why would you need flexibility there? Yet again this shows how pieces of earlier armours were recycled and how valuable iron was in the past.

Ian Bottomley

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Ian, is it possible to X-ray Nihonto the same way. :?: I know there is Aircraft stress crack scoping which I think is a type of X-ray. I would wonder if it would pick up kizu or flaws inside waiting to get out of the blade :doubt:.

 

I also noted the 2 black lines. I could not work it out what they were. So they are leather. Maybe a strengthening support for the flag pole support area in the center of the back :?: :?: :?: :dunno:

 

Cheer's,

 

Mark.

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