Onin suemon zogan

Here’s another Onin tsuba for comparison to the one in the previous post.

9.91 cm H x 0.42 cm T mimi, 0.18 cm T seppa dai

Large, thin and unusually intact, it’s one of the nicer ones to have survived. Clearly the hitsuana are original. Without inlay, it would be a good ko-katchushi guard with ume, hanabishi and inome sukashi.

Occasionally some styles of early iron tsuba are found in versions with no inlay, with hira zogan or with nunome zogan that would be attributed to Tosho/Katchushi, Heianjo and Ko-Shoami respectively. It seems unlikely that these were actually the work of different “schools” but were various options available on the base model. I’ve wondered if all of the work was done “in house” on these, or if the inlay work was subcontracted out to an specialist.

In any event, the customer opted for maximum opulence in this case.

The plate surrounding the kiri mon and kiku shows the clearest signs of having been worked to hold the shinchu suemon inlay in place.

The kiku here, particularly on the lower left show some brass exposed outside of the design that wasn’t buried under the iron. It’s not as pronounced as in the previous example with the botan inlay. I’m not sure it’s quite the same thing. Also interesting is how the brass tendrils are fitted together – definitely not obvious without magnification.

The kiri mon on the back side shows a little more “flange” to it. Perhaps not quite as carefully done as the front.

Given how often brass inlay tsuba from the Edo period are missing pieces it’s remarkable that one this old was worked carefully enough to hold on to even the thinnest elements. In guards with some losses it’s usually possible to see the undercutting of the iron plate done around the edge of the missing inlay to hold it in place. I’ll keep an eye out for one to photograph.

An inlaid ana

Satome Kiku guard with an unusual modification

We’re used to seeing inlaid spokes on Sotome tsuba. Even more often we see kozuka ana cut into tsuba that did not originally have them. Occasionally when a new ana is cut into something like a nanban-style tsuba the rough opening will be finished off with a “inside” fukurin. In this case a craftsman not only cut the three spokes to make an opening, he created a new “ana” and dovetailed it into the seppa dai at top and bottom. The middle spoke uses the usual inlay method seen on Saotome kiku guards. The whole tsuba below:

7.37 cm H x 0.46 T

It’s an otherwise unexceptional example of the type. Since it has a “built in” kogai ana it seems likely that it originally had a similar kozuka ana. Either way someone chose to modify it rather than get a new one. Was the owner on a particularly tight budget or was there a personal attachment to the guard that meant that it could not replaced. Or, did it start off as an “off the rack” guard that didn’t quite fit what the buyer needed, but he was in a hurry and was promised that the alterations would be ready in the morning? After all, they knew how to inlay iron bits. As usual, unknown.