Shitahara?

Shitahara tōkō, Terushige-ke shoyō, O-tsuba

The box lid reads “Tsuba worn by the family of the Shitahara swordsmith Terushige.”

8.42 cm H x 0.49 cm T, kuwaba and yuki motif

An interesting guard with a motif of mulberry leaf and snow flakes. It has a tokubetsu kicho paper to Owari sukashi. There are no tekkotsu visible and the iron has a bit of an unusual texture to it. It is accompanied by a long hakogaki:

Hakogaki by Murakami Kōsuke

Thank you to Markus Sesko for the translation below.

“Provenance
This tsuba with an openwork design of mulberry leaf and snowflakes was once a heirloom of the family of the Musashi-based swordsmith Yamamoto Terushige. It was also worn for generations, namely on a daishō with a niji-mei signed dai by the first generation Terushige and a goji-mei signed shō by the first generation Yasushige. When the pair was remounted later, this tsuba was given to me as a
gift by Mr. Yamamoto Tajima. At first glance, it looks similar to an Owari-tsuba, but lacks that quality and has a more rustic flair. However, it is truly of classical elegance and may thus be the work of an unknown Musashi-based Shitahara smith who had specialized in the production of tsuba.

First third of May, Meiji 40 (1907) – Kensō [pen name of Murakami Kōsuke] + kao”

A couple of tsuba from the literature with similar but not identical motif:

Kyo sukashi, dry leaf and snow motif, early Edo

The tsuba doesn’t seem quite right for either Kyo or Owari although the date seems about the same as those above. Certainly a variety of signed Edo period tosho tsuba have survived, some of which are very basic and others quite sophisticated in design and execution. This example is well done, but the finishing, particularly on the rim, is a little rougher than usual for the period.

An Adobe Acrobat search of the Haynes Index turns up no names. Has anyone found a tsuba with a Shitahara signature?

Tsuba site, RIP

Last updated 2005 – seems like yesterday… no it doesn’t.

Recently I’ve heard a time or twenty that my old tsuba site is offline. Back in the mid ’90’s there was a thing called a “personal home page” that came for “free” with your dial-up account. For better or worse, that’s where the ancient technology behind Tsuba has been creaking on for all these years. If there was too much traffic the site would be shut down until the meter ticked over again at the start of the month and it would be restored. It turns out that a month ago the meter was turned off for good. I got no warning at all that the legacy sites were going to be shut down. Others got a few days notice to save anything before it was gone forever. I think there were probably about five of us left.

So, it’s gone and it is not coming back. It’s a coincidence that I started this blog at around the same time, but a good one. I have all of the files from the original site and may reprise some text if it still seems relevant. Some of it definitely isn’t, maybe most of it. The photos are pretty much useless other than for nostalgia since the bandwidth upon which the infrastructure was built was such that users complained bitterly about any inline image bigger than a thumbnail.

Update: I have the site running locally on my desktop now so if anyone needs an extract I can get it easily.

What were you doing in the sword and fittings world back in 1996?

Can you name them all?

This was taken by Yoshikawa Eichi out in Yamanashi prefecture. Starting on the left, Michiko and Mamaru Hagihara, Jim Kurasch, Min Shintaku, Yoshikawa Kentaro sensei, Gordon Robson, Mrs. Yoshikawa, Mr. Omino, Jim and Laurine Gilbert and Sam Oyama.

So who was Robert H. Rucker?

The Met’s Mito Tokugawa Goto collection mentioned in the earlier unboxing post lists its provenance as “Ex. coll.: Robert H. Rucker, New York.”  So who was he?  A quick check of my library and online searches turned up the following. 

George Cameron Stone mentions him in his acknowledgements in A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor: in All Countries and in All Times saying  “Mr. Robert H. Rucker who has placed his unequaled knowledge of things Japanese at my disposal and who has given me valuable suggestions and most helpful criticism.” 

In his introduction to the 1999 Dover edition of Stone, the Met’s Donald LaRocca mentions “Robert H. Rucker (d. 1944), a noted collector of Japanese arms.”

While not mentioned often today, Rucker’s 1924 catalog of the Goda Collection shown above takes a deep dive for the time into terminology, materials, methods and a survey of schools. In his introduction to that book Bashford Dean calls Rucker “a learned and judicious amateur in this field.”

The Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum says  “There is now in press a catalogue of our Japanese sword furniture (Goda Collection, 1917), the manuscript of which was prepared by Robert Hamilton Rucker and embodies his researches of the past decade.”

An even less well known book with contributions by Rucker is the exhibition catalog shown above. Each guard is illustrated and described, and while the paper has not held up well, the images are actual photographic prints that are tipped in and are in perfect condition with excellent resolution. I will probably post some later (update – one added below).

According to Financier, New York, Vol 108 , (Sept 9, 1916) and The Commercial and Financial Chronicle, vol 103 “Mr. Rucker is a certified public accountant at 27 Pine Street, New York City.”

Club Women of New York, Vol 6, Parts 1910 – 1911 Lists Robert Hamilton Rucker, 119 East 19th St. as treasurer of the National Arts Club, Gramercy Park, Manhattan.

Asia and the Americans, Volume 21, part 1 reports that “Robert Hamilton Rucker has traveled extensively in the Orient for the purpose of studying eastern art and religions.”

Dean’s “learned and judicious amateur” assessment seems spot on and intended in the most positive sense of the term.

What I have not found yet is anything that suggests when and where Rucker might have acquired his collection of Goto fittings. The accession date to the museum is 1945, and LaRocca records his date of death as 1944. Given the published dates of his professional activities early in the century he would presumably not have been a young man during the second world war. Daimyo families were sometimes inclined by necessity to part with family treasures in the early decades of the last century and that may be the case here. I will update as any additional information comes to light.

Update – a request for the closeup view of the giant Shingen tsuba toward the middle of the display board:

Half of a page from the NY Armor and Arms club exhibition catalog

Update – Thanks to Pete K. for mentioning that Rucker worked with Alexander Mosle on his collection catalogs. Pete once had a copy of the 1909 Berlin catalog with extensive handwritten annotations by Rucker.

Two by Mitsuyoshi

two iron tsuba by Kofu Mitsuyoshi
6.5 cm H x 0.4 cm T, eggplants / 6.6 cm H x 0.5 cm T, Shinto straw rope

I found the nasu motif tsuba first and was attracted to the modern feel in the sukashi depiction of the eggplants and the texture of the carving. Showing two rather than the typical three nasu is unusual as is the small size.

Later I ran across the shimenawa motif guard and before seeing the signature noticed that it used the same design approach as the nasu guard. Single straw ropes like these are used with household shrines, or they are combined in massive temple ropes like this.

I don’t recall coming across that motif on a tsuba before. Mitsuyoshi was an interesting designer.

More on shimenawa here:

Incomparable dignity and the craftman’s skill, the largest Shimenawa (Shinto straw rope) in Japan

Update: Looking through the Baur collection catalog I came across another Mitsuyoshi:

A variation on the one above, a bit fancier and with added gohei.