Early Ana

A large Kagamishi tsuba with early style hitsuana.

8.82 cm H x 0.42 cm T, hachi motif
the reverse

A very simple design that would work equally well in either orientation. It appears to me to be cast, but a previous owner’s label attributes it to ko-kinko. In some cases it can be difficult to say whether a piece is cast or carved.

Not much to see on the rim, but for the record.

And a detail view with traces of black lacquer remaining.

A similar guard with likely later modification.

source unrecorded

And a not so similar guard from Sasano-sensei’s Kagamishi book that combines similar decorative motifs.

Tachikanagushi

Another early soft metal tsuba with botan motif, with a comparatively subdued execution in kusarakashi .

7.35 cm H x 0.95 cm T mimi, 0.22 cm T seppa dai
The other side, with inome sukashi

This tsuba is published in several places, but most are not in color.

Traces of red lacquer are visible in several spots around the guard.

In b&w photos it looks like there could be a raised edge around this opening, but in a closer look it appears to be lacquer and maybe a bit of pitch rather than part of the plate. Perhaps it was plugged at some point.

Some of the original decoration of the rim is visible here.

And here.

The similar example from the Kurokawa institute collection below appears to have the rim decoration entirely intact:

This guard formerly in the Lundgren collection shows another variation.

This one also appears to have irregular raised borders around the hitsuana. A monochrome view of the same guard here from Dr. Torigoye’s Toso Soran:

Also a different name describing the motif.

Another variation, also with what may be raised borders around the ana.

The inner wall of the rim appears to have a bit of a bevel to it, but otherwise quite similar to all of the above. One ana is filled and the other enlarged a bit into the seppa dai.

Lastly the one we started off with in black and white, also from the Kenzan Taikan.

There are many other variations on mokko gata tachi tsuba with inome sukashi, quite a few of which still have o-seppa associated with them, others have lost them but the decoration of the plate follows an outline that makes it clear that they were originally present. I don’t see any wear pattern or design of the decoration that suggests that they were ever present on the above guards.

These were all the examples of this style of construction with very thick rim and “pipe collars” around the inome sukashi style that I found in my library. It’s interesting that if they are tachi guards that were later modified for uchigatana use they all received the same style of hitsuana.

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.