A large Ko-Katchushi tsuba in very good condition and without hitsu-ana.

Snow flake and fan paper motif. 9.46 cm H x 0.65 cm mimi, 0.28 cm seppa dai

The rim is fairly high and is a separate piece from the plate. It is slightly rounded. The plate was spared heavy rust and shows almost all of the original surface. Note the seppa zuri showing wear when the guard was mounted. Published in Tagane no Bi where it is dated to mid Muromachi.

Detail view
Choji. 8.74 cm H x 0.77 cm mimi, 0.30 cm seppa dai

This is a very high rim. Between lacquer and corrosion I can’t make out whether the rim is attached or raised from the plate. Some original surface remains to the plate and fortunately the rust was never deep. Note that many ko-tosho and ko-katchushi tsuba today have no original surface remaining. Often the resulting rust pits are described as “bold hammer work.” Published in Sasano and dated there to the early Muromachi period. The kozuka ana has been filled.

Snowflakes. 8.86 cm H x 0.65 cm mimi, 0.38 cm seppa dai

This is a fairly common motif, but not usually seen with such an unusually wide mimi. Here the rim is clearly a separate piece and the lap joint can be seen at the 1:00 position.

Weld in the rim

The other side shows the same where the two ends were beveled and then overlapped. This is a younger guard than the ones above. The kozuka ana is clearly original given its inclusion in the layout of the sukashi design.

Note the irregular shapes of the holes.
Oars and birds. 8.21 cm H x 0.57 cm mimi, 0.36 cm mimi

A ji-sukashi design rather than the usual mon-sukashi. This is probably early Edo period and has an airy, casual feel to the design. The rim is a separate piece.


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.