Late Muromachi Ko-kinko

A return to the more elaborate end of the early soft metal tsuba spectrum with another small shakudo nanako example made with very different technique from the recently posted early Muromachi example.

6.82 cm H x 0.55 cm T Autumn flowers and grasses with both inlaid and overlaid metals

Kikyo (bellflower) at the top left and Nadeshiko (pink) at bottom left. The zufu describes the other flowers as Kiku, but the shape of the leaves are different than usual for chrysanthemum. Aster is another possibility, but given that there are karakusa on the back with different leaves maybe the kiku blossoms aren’t meant as a literal representation of the plant.

The reverse. The kozuka ana is original, but presumably enlarged into the seppa dai.
Jakago motif mimi, seen later on Umetada tsuba

Update: Reader question about jakago. See photos by Satomi Grim below. Its use as a purely decorative motif probably has a bigger life than its literal meaning, but it started as a sort of basket weave construction used to hold rocks in place to stabilize river banks (enthusiastically replaced by concrete in modern Japan). In this tsuba it might imply that the plants are growing along a river bank or may just be there for its own sake. The same form is used in domestic baskets, packaging, etc., as well.

Jakago じゃかご - Stone Basket

(end of update…)

detail view with suaka zogan

Both sides of the seppa dai have small patches of what would at first just appear to be wear, but looking closely are metal overlay.

omote
ura

Occasionally on early kinko guards there are a few rows of nanako sown on the seppa dai that appear to be a test to get a feel for the material before starting in on the main part that will be seen. This isn’t the same, but might it be something related?

Going through Mr. Lundgren’s book recently I came across a very similar tsuba I had forgotten.

Lundgren tsuba at top

It looks very likely to me that it by the same individual. That is interesting enough, but note that on the backside seppadai there is also a “test patch” but in a color that relates to metal on that tsuba. The front side seppa dai has been modified to the point that it’s hard to say if it also has one.

Could this have been a final check of the preparation work to ensure that the adhesion of the iroe to the ground would be good before proceeding with the main work? That was a relatively new technique at this time but would soon replace uttori zogan.

It would be interesting to compare the two in person… any ideas?

2 thoughts on “Late Muromachi Ko-kinko”

  1. Hi Jim,

    One of my fields of interest is Onin tsuba. On a work I acquired a few years ago, I noticed that there was one tenzogan inlay on the seppa-dai. I wondered what the intension could have been to make such a mark. At first, I thought it could have been some kind of signature or identifier but later thought it might have been a “test” to check the hardness of the iron or steel. I assume upon concluding the makers test that the desired consistency was met, the drilled hold was filled with shinchu and the manufacture of the tsuba continued. A very interesting topic this idea of test marks, sort of like kokuin on some early iron works. I wonder if a micrometer would show a slight increase in thickness in the area of the test patch.

    Thank you,
    Robert

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  2. Thanks Robert – a very interesting observation. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, but agree with your explanation. On mine the patches are very thin, I can’t really feel an increase in thickness, but it could be possible to detect with a dial indicator or such as you say.

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