Early Muromachi Ko-Kinko

Continuing the micro-theme of early and opulent, this time in shakudo nanako with uttori zogan. This guard is rather small, but extremely thick and obviously was mounted on a robust blade.

6.46 cm H x 1.07 cm T
The reverse
Again- over 1 cm thick with an undecorated rim. No sign it has been cut down or mounted with a fukurin.

Detail views of some of the plant motifs. Usually flowers are shown realistically but leaves, stems, seeds, etc. are often omitted or substituted by generalized karakusa type motifs. Here each plant is represented fully and accurately.

Omodaka (arrowhead) at right and Hishi (Eurasian water caltrop) in center – water plants in the water.
Yamabuki on the left (Japanese Keria var. picta)
Asago (morning glory) at left and Tachibana (citrus) at right
Once again, that botan (peony) motif in a different technique

It would be interesting to know what this was mounted on. Was it this thick for weight alone, for aesthetics and/or conspicuous consumption (it’s solid shakudo)? A published description speculates that it may have been a tachi guard converted for koshigatana or uchigatana use, but if so in its original state all of the floral motifs would be growing upside down and the water would be in the sky.

The small size, thickness and shape do recall some early tachi guards, and while I don’t think it was one, there may have been some allusion there. Was it mounted on a koshigatana that was worn paired with a tachi?

In any event, a good opportunity to study some of the better early Muromachi period nanako and uttori work on a guard that has it all turned up to 11.

Update: A reader mentioned that it may be that the guard was mounted on a tachi or kodachi in the present orientation. Given the large sekigane and heavy work on the seppa dai it is possible that the original nakago ana pointed the other way and that its original outline was lost in later remounting on a much thicker blade. If it originally had no hitsuana, it is very fortunate that none of the original decoration was cut in half when they were added.

3 thoughts on “Early Muromachi Ko-Kinko”

  1. Hi Jim…

    Gosh I do not know where to start with this. So old, so powerful. so here I am, probably always worn… very much a consumption piece of ostentatious wealth… you think it may have had a rim? your sleuthing regarding tachi makes sense as NOT being for a tachi.. ….

    I sure flipped when I first saw this… it is vigorous.. the famed peony.. they loved this flower… and of course I recall it had Juyo papers too boot!

    Thank you so much for posting.

    Stuart Watching Ed Sullivan… Janet Joplin, Chet Atkins,, Liza Minnelli… soon to be followed by The Honeymooners!!!!



  2. Superb piece, Jim. Thanks for posting this one. Any chance you might bring this along to San Francisco?
    I don’t know if you know of the book Spectacular Accumulation, by Morgan Pitelka, but it offers some really interesting thoughts on the acquisitive habits of major Daimyo in Momoyama Japan. I know this tsuba is from an earlier period, but its over-the-topness made me think of the Pitelka book.


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