An early ko-kinko tsuba with kikusui and choji motif.
More openwork than is usual for ko-kinko. The detail in the carving holds up even under a microscope, which is seldom the case. Sophisticated work in design and execution. In this case the ana is a safe bet to be original, if slightly altered. I’m left wondering what the rest of the mounting looked like.
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:
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.