JSSUS Newsletter Volume 50, no.3, 2018

The articles on this page originally appeared in JSSUS newsletter Volume 50 no.3 2018.  

Connoisseur’s Notebook: Saying Goodbye To Nanban Tsuba James L. McElhinney - Page 6
The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum Springfield, Ma Mark Ceskavich - Page 7
A Story Of The Tosa - Myôchin 土佐 明珍 Mark Ceskavich - Page 9   

Copyright 2018 Japanese Sword Society of the United States


James Lancel McElhinney © 2018


The time has come to bid farewell to what once were known as Nanban tsuba. These objects have not disappeared, but as many have been shown not to be of Japanese origin, they may now be released from Japanese authority, and likewise liberated from Nihonto jargonese. Japanese scholars have been remiss in pursuing rigorous research related to these objects, perhaps because they were deemed foreign, and thus unworthy of serious attention. If today a shinsa (appraisal) team were to be presented with an unsigned sword-guard of foreign origin, it would most likely be judged as Nanban tsuba (南蛮鐔). When the same shinsa team is presented with an unsigned Japanese copy of a foreign guard, it too will be given an attribution of Nanban tsuba. The question one must ask is this. If a shinsa- team cannot tell the difference between a foreign-made sword-guard, and a Japanese tsuba made in a foreign style, then what else does the shinsa-team not know? Presumably, it does possess the capacity to make such distinctions. Why then insist on applying the same classification to both foreign and domestic products? Why use terminology tainted by twentieth-century Bushido-revivalism?

Because no historic carvers or group of craftsmen ever self-identified as Nanban (南蛮), the existence of a Nanban “school” is pure fantasy—like nativist myths promoted by right-wing imperialists, whose spectacular failure in 1945 should have discredited such narratives. Following the first Sino- Japanese war (1894-1895) the Japanese government undertook a series of desinicization measures, such as the standardization of kana (phonetic writing systems), for use in place of Chinese characters. In 1905, Chomo Hanashiro (1869-1945) changed the first character of karate (唐手) “Chinese hand”, to karate (空手) “empty hand”. Sword fittings historically known as Kanton 広東, “Guangdong”, Kwan-to 漢土, “Guangzhou”, and Kannan 漢南, meaning South China”, were reclassified as Nanban 南蛮, “Southern Barbarian”. A pejorative epithet devised by the Chinese to belittle the Vietnamese, Nanban was appropriated by the Japanese to denote Portuguese merchants, who arrived from the south along maritime trade-routes from Monsoon Asia.

In this stunning feat of leger-de-main, nationalist newspeak identified as Portuguese objects formerly known as Chinese. Embraced by scholars like Shinkichi Hara and Okabe Kakuya, European aficionados like Henri Joly quickly followed suit. Captain Francis Brinkley, a close adviser to the Meiji government, never used Nanban in writing about sword-fittings, but instead used the historic terms Kwan-to and Kannan. Henri Joly, Helen Gunsaulus and others used both Nanban and Kanton, almost interchangeably, until someone had the bright idea to make Kanton and Kannan subspecies of Nanban. In fact, all three terms are synonymous. Charles Ralph Boxer questioned the usefulness of the word Nanban in relation to sword-furniture, on grounds that most guards identified as such had been imported to Japan after the expulsion of the Portuguese, aka 南蛮人 Nanban-jin”.

In other words, Nanban is nonsense. What to do? A solution is at hand. Let all unsigned sword

guards which cannot be shown (not presumed) to be of Japanese origin be reclassified in the lingua- franca of diplomacy and business as “Asian Export Sword-Guards”. Those which can be shown (not presumed) to have been produced in Japan may be called something else. Perhaps Kokusai 国際 “international”, or Ikoku-eikyo 異国影響 “foreign influence” would be more appropriate. Terms related to “Asian Export” sword fittings would then be given in English, not Nihongo. Mimi becomes “rim”.

Seppa-dai is replaced by “washer-seat”. Histu-ana becomes “bye-knife opening” and nakago-ana becomes “tang-aperture”. In time, these terms will be replaced by their local equivalents. It will matter not if old-school Nihonto adepts cling to obsolete jargon, when the rest of the world discards it.

(to be continued)


Springfield, MA By Mark Ceskavich

I guess that most of the readership would enjoy a visit to a Japanese Arms and Armor Gallery, so I thought I’d introduce a rather unique gem of a destination to all. Tucked in along the Connecticut River Valley in Springfield, Massachusetts lies the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. The GWVS museum is just 90 minutes west of Boston along I-90 and is part of the sprawling Springfield Museums campus.

To gain an appreciation for the art and history at the Springfield museums just visit their website: https://springfieldmuseums.org, but here are some of details.

The vast holdings of the museum include excellent examples of Japanese lacquer, arms and armor, ceramics and bronzes; one of the largest collections of Chinese cloisonné outside of Asia; Chinese jade and ceramics; and a superb collection of 19th-century Middle Eastern carpets. The entire arms and armor collection has been on exhibit since its installation around 1900 and has been viewed by such experts as Mr. Morihiro Ogawa. Its inventory includes:

There is a great upside to the arms collection as it is large and every piece is on display. There is a well mounted signed and dated Bizen Tadamitsu daisho, Gassan school works, Kanemoto, several exquisitely mounted tachi…, but also some “souvenir items” inscribed Sadamune, Muramasa swords, gaudy Meiji koshirae.

The lighting and display of some of the swords could use improvement, and unfortunately those blades with koshirae remain in their saya (probably worsening over those 100+ years). Blades in shirasaya are displayed many times with their tsuka on.

Overall though, walking among the armor and up the magnificent staircase to the cloisonné and lacquer above gives one the special feel of antiquity and an afternoon highly rewarding. I should mention that the Springfield Museums are just up the street from the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, home to the world's largest historic US military small arms collection, a day well worth planning.


A Story of the Tosa - Myôchin 土佐 明珍

By Mark Ceskavich

Part I

Among the more recognizable names in Japanese katchu (armor) and tsuba (handguard) manufacture we find the Myôchin (明珍) and Akasaka (赤坂,) of Edo. Each school is said to have moved its workshop from Kyoto to the new capital city sometime between Kan'ei (寛永) and Keian (慶安) 1624 -1652, and scholars have studied the characteristics of their works and the history of their families.

Their strong connection to less celebrated schools of metalworkers though, is not always apparent and so less understood. While this article is not meant as a definitive study, it can simply be enjoyed as a story of Tosa - it’s history and development of metal working for the warrior class – their bushi.

I would like to now introduce a lesser known group of tsuba shi who worked a great distance from Edo on the island of Shikoku. They were called the Tosa - Myôchin ( 土佐 明珍 ) who imbued their name and style from those two important schools of Edo. Their story chimes with Tosa’s provincial journey during the turbulent Sengoku jidai (戦国時代 - Age of Warring States, 1467-1603) and through the revolutionary changes of Edo times.

Tosa no Kuni (土佐国 ) was the ancient fan shaped Province located on the southern coast of Japan’s island of Shikoku (lit. Four Provinces), facing the Pacific Ocean . It was bordered to the north and east by the mountainous Provinces of Iyo and Awa and rested along the Nankaidō (南海道 - Southern

Sea Circuit) connecting it with the other provincial capitals of the region. The province was sometimes called Doshū (土州).

During the Muromachi Period Tosa was a rather poor, mountainous forested land that had no strong castle town, but instead claimed several smaller regional castles that served as homes to the various warring clans of the times.

In 1562 the Daimyo, Chōsokabe Motochika (1539 – 1599), lord of Okō castle, clashed with Motoyama Shigetoki at the battle of Tonomoto to begin his conquest of Shikoku. By 1585 Motochika had unified the whole of Shikoku, triumphing over the Aki and Ichijô clans of Tosa, the Kôno of Iyo, the Sogo of Awa and finally, vanquishing the Miyoshi of Sanuki. Chōsokabe Motochika was of the 21st generation of his clan living in Tosa.

Tosa Province, being blessed with an abundance of forests and good quality wood, had produced hammer-forged blades, axes, and saws needed for foresting and field work since olden times. During the late Kamakura period, a group of artisans practicing the sword-making skills of Gorozaemon Yoshimitsu moved to Tosa from Yamato Province and flourished among the small regional castles during the later Muromachi period (1467-1573) when they supplied many swords to the warring clans. Over time, the newly introduced sword-making techniques spread to those artisans in the province already making forged blades for agriculture and forestry.

In 1585 Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Shikoku with an overwhelming army of 100,000 and exacted Motochika’s grudging surrender from Ichinomya castle in Awa. Motochika forfeited Awa, Sanuki, and Iyo Provinces, but Hideyoshi permitted the Chōsokabe to retain Tosa upon its pledge of allegiance. Motochika died in 1599 and with his death his son, Morichika, was destined to lead the Chōsokabe forces in support of Ishida Mitsunari and the Toyotomi family at the Battle of Sekigahara one year later.

The Chōsokabe backing of the Western Army had fateful consequences. Ishida Mitsunari and his army were defeated on the battlefield by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616). Soon after, the influence of the Toyotomi clan was greatly reduced, Morichika was executed after the fall of Osaka castle in 1615, and the Chōsokabe lands in Tosa were conferred to the Yamauchi family by Ieyasu.

The Yamauchi fortunes began with Yamauchi Kazutoyo (1546-1605) who was richly rewarded with the fief of Tosa for switching his loyalty to Tokugawa Ieyasu, whom he aided during Sekigahara by simply keeping his army neutral. (He was positioned far in the rear, resting behind the Arima clan along the Nakasendō (中山道) during the battle). Katzutoyo’s contribution to Sekigahara was not inspiring, but he was among the first of the Toyotomi Daimyo to come fully over to Ieyasu, and his example brought many strong allies over to the Tokugawa.

Kazutoyo was bound by his honor and duty to Ieyasu and enthusiastically welcomed his help in seizing Tosa from the Chōsokabewho strongly resisted the takeover by “foreigners” – “invaders from the mainland”. In the end Katzutoyo established his claim over the domain and ruthlessly crushed any resistance to his rule. Upon the transfer of Tosa, Katzutoyo sent two boat loads containing 273 heads to Tokugawa headquarters, demonstrating Yamauchi commitment and resolve.

Kazutoyo later banished any loyal Chōsokabe retainers he could find from Tosa. Although they were Samurai, they were not his Samurai, and relations between the Yamauchi and the Tosa warriors remained especially tense for years. Kazutoyo wisely rebuilt his personal retainer corps from Samurai of Satsuma and Osaka.

The long rule of the Yamauchi was to be characterized by a strong bond with the Tokugawa household at Edo. During a visit to Edo in 1604, Katzutoyo vowed that neither he nor his descendants would ever forget Ieyasu’s generosity, a very typical gesture for a warrior whose success depended upon his able performance as his lord’s vassal, and for 16 generations the Yamauchi maintained a very special allegiance to the bakufu. The Yamauchi began to make rapid changes in Tosa.

A new jōka-machi (castle town) was established by the headwaters of Urado Bay at Kōchi in 1611. A few years later, in 1616, as a result of the Shogunate's "One Country one Castle” policy, many of the former regional castles were torn down in favor of the capital castle town, Kōchi, but in some parts of

the domain older fortified Samurai residences were allowed to remain. Kōchi would grow to accommodate 20,000 people by 1650 attracting Samurai, merchants, and artisans.

During those early years of the bakufu the Yamauchi toiled in service to the Shogunate by rebuilding, the cities and castles at Edo, Shinoyama, Shimi, Sumpa, and in 1619, even the outer walls of Hideyoshi’s old castle at Osaka that they had helped crumble just four years earlier.

Most importantly though, Kazutoyo was bound to provide military service should the Shogun ever call upon him and he set about developing Tosa into a military stronghold for the bakufu, a role similar to the Tokugawa house in Owari. Tosa had demonstrated it could field an army of 25,000 made up of many gôshi (– countryside/village warriors). The unique rank of gôshi was instituted in 1613 when it was granted to a small number of retainers of the defeated Chōsokabeclan who were left in undisputed possession of the lands they were given by their former masters. Gôshi weren’t the country bumpkins that their name conjures up, but were Samurai privately schooled in military arts and Chu Hsi Neo Confucianism. The class grew as more lands were claimed for farming, and the gôshi lived with and had great influence over the peasants in the countryside while higher ranking Samurai, over time, withdrew into the castle town of Kōchi.

In 1613, Tosa’s kokudaka was estimated at 202,626 koku. Of the Daimyo houses it was smallest of nineteen while the number four Tokugawa house at Owari (徳川) boasted an income of 619,500 koku. Rapid growth in population and the extra resources expended towards the Shogunate soon manifested into severe economic hardship, and so the Yamauchi embarked on the development of new rice fields and the practical use of its forest resources for lumber and paper export to Osaka. The lumber trade with Osaka and improved rice yields were both great successes, and by 1628 the Yamauchi cleared all of Tosa’s merchant debts and averted financial crisis. The Yamauchi would rule Tosa as Daimyo until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and continue their governance into the twentieth century.

This revival of the local economy created increasing demand for forged blades for agriculture and forestry leading to dramatic improvements in the volume and quality of sword blades produced. The patient trial and error of local blade smiths of that time gave birth to the Tosa Uchihamono ("Uchi" means "beat" or "strike" and "hamono" means "edged tool"). With a centralized, commercial environment encouraging Tosa Uchihamono, full-scale development began in 1628. This tradition continued from the Edo period, and has been passed down through the generations until the present day.

It is natural that sword guards, too, would be needed and produced in Tosa. In just a few decades metal working would really advance in Tosa under the guiding hand of the Yamauchi Lords and with the help of two familiar family names from Edo – the Myôchin and Akasaka.

The Tosa-Myôchin school made tsuba in three types - katchushi, Nobuie utsushi and Akasaka (Higo), with the katchushi being made for many years before Kawasaki Munetoshi, and his Tosa-Myôchin school came onto the scene.

The Katchushi (甲冑師 armor smith) style of tsuba is said to have come into production with the advent of the uchigatana beginning in the late Kamakura 鎌倉時代 period, at the start of the 14th century.

Katchushi describes tsuba that are first and foremost ita 板鐔 (plate) style, and sometimes can have a variety of raised rims formed by the techniques used by armorers in making helmets. But the most important feature to distinguish the Katchushi tsuba is the method used in folding the plate. The earlier, Tosho ( 刀匠 - sword smith) made tsuba with higher carbon steel; they turned and hammered his bar several times to achieve his plate.

The Katchushi followed the same procedure but instead, used iron with lower amounts of carbon. It was the natural choice since the armorer worked with malleable iron to hammer out thin cross sections, curved ita (plates) to make kabuto (helmets), mempo (face armor), and other armor parts. After forging the plate, the Katchushi would give one or two additional folds. In the single fold, the plate was doubled and the weld hammered fast. In the double fold an S curve was formed, hammered flat and welded shut. In the Katchushi tsuba it is possible to see the edges where this final weld joins. It will usually be visible on the web of the plate either near the edge or toward the center of the plate

The result of all this work is a very dense and refined iron plate (softer, and of a brownish color when compared to the tosho’s black steel), simple and thin, as thin as 0.15 cm as on earlier examples, with the rims being added or built up to provide torsional stiffness. Sometimes there would be simple sukashi (openwork) decoration added, usually of Buddhist themes. Excellent hammer work is evident on the plate itself and then the rim. Prior to 17th century manufacture, they are called Ko-katchushi (古甲冑師 – old armor smith) tsuba.

The working armor families of pre Edo times never signed their tsuba, so identification is usually left to the generic Ko-katchushi designation and classification is made by physical characteristics of the plate (rough or fine), rim construction, thickness, decoration, size of the nakago ana … but we know the names of a few schools that were working then, and the Myôchin of Kyoto was considered the finest.

The Sengoku jidai of the 15th and 16th centuries brought a tremendous demand for protective armor and tsuba for use on the battlefield. The reach of this conflict and size of the fielded armies were unprecedented in Japanese history, and so sword and armor makers redoubled efforts by expanding their workshops (in swords we have as examples, the Sue Seki of Mino and in Bizen the Sukesada kei), or sponsored new schools. The major armor schools of the period and the following Azuchi Momoyama Period were the Myôchin, Saotome, Haruta, Horai, Iwai, Neo, Sakonji, Kishu, and others.

Some Tosa armorers had originated as makers of abumi (stirrups) and kutsuwa (bits) for horses, weapons jitte (truncheons), yahazu (arrow nocks), and also implements for ordinary everyday use such as ono (axes), fireside tools and tongs. During the Sengoku jidai those schools that held reputation for armor (principal being the Myôchin) expanded armor production while others began by learning to make auxiliary armor like kote (armored sleeves), koshi kusari (waist chain), jingasa (war hats), kogake (armored tabi) and, for the sword, tsuba. There are many extant examples of Ko-katchushi works from the turbulent Muromachi and unifying Azuchi-Momoyama Periods (1336-1615).

In 1603, the Tokugawa emerged as masters of a unified Japan, ending more than a century of continuous civil war. The following period of peace would last for 250 years, but in the 17th century, no one could even imagine such an unheard of situation, and a large standing force was retained for future use.

Armor and tsuba continued to be made as usual for the next 100 years as the Tokugawa bakufu worked towards keeping the peace and encouraging the idea of a lasting peace to settle in the minds of the warrior class.

The difference of Katchushi tsuba in Edo times is that they tended to become smaller and thicker and many were signed by their makers. Different schools began to exhibit individual characteristics, and the Tosa-Myochin tsuba shi (handguard craftsmen) had their origins in the Katchushi of Edo.

The Myôchin school, was a lineage of renowned armorers dating back to the 12th century. The successive heads of the Myôchin line remained prominent and famed from the Heian Period through

the Edo period, and retain a succession and a sizable collection of extant armor today. The lineage traces its origins to an armorer named Munesuke () who lived on Kujô-dôri in 12th century Kyoto.

Munesuke was granted the honorific art-name (gô) "Myôchin," by Emperor Konoe (r. 1141-1155) which he then passed on to his descendants. By some accounts he was, in fact, the 20th school representative, the founder having been Munemichi, who flourished in the 7th century.

For all that is known about the Myôchin, their works, names, and honorific titles, their genealogy remains veiled in mystery and question. This is said to have happened when, in the 17th century, Myôchin history was “re” written by the Myôchins themselves in an effort to build up the family’s reputation and position itself as the “elite armorers” at a time when the Tokugawa bakufu had just brought peace and prosperity over the land. Their concern was an important consequence of peace: the diminishing demand for armor. Competition among armorers for a share of the shrinking market became fierce, and it is said that the Myôchin invented a genealogy going back as far as the 7th century, attributing to their ancestors the authorship of all the famous (and unsigned) historical suits from the medieval period and claimed title of the ancient clan name of Kii which had fallen out of use since the 8th century.

This history was recorded in the 1680 Myôchin rekidai zokufu by Myôchin Munesuke soon after the school had moved to Edo, and in its 1746 sequel, Meikô zukan zokushû. The genealogy from the 7th century can be found in the exhaustive study by Frank Brinkley 1841-1902 - Japan Its History Arts and Literature, publication date 1901. Modern researchers attribute this 18th century “rewrite” as the reason why there is no clear and reasonable story of the lineage, as opposed to, let’s say, the 1000 year Osafune ha at Bizen. Even in his Nihon to Koza Kodogu Kantei Ogura Souemon casually mentions “There is a Myôchin genealogy chart … that has been widely circulated since the old feudal period…, but there are many points that are difficult to believe.”

Whatever the truth of their early years, the Myôchin are the best-known of the great armor-making clans and were armorers of the court since the 12th century. Those fiefs who were able to afford it made sure

that their best armorers received training from the Myōchin masters in Edo and as the main line gave master students permission to bear the Myōchin name, the school branched out significantly over time, the Tosa-Myōchin group forming one of these branches. They are also said to have had a prominent role in tsuba production since the earliest Ko-katchushi.

As has been suggested by some in earlier studies, it was a Myôchin armorer who first forged a Ko- katchushi tsuba for use during the coming turbulence and upheaval of the Nanboku-chō jidai (南北朝時代

- Northern and Southern Courts Period). Some early scholars would even attribute that honor to Myôchin Sakon no Tayu Munetsuna, the 7th mainline master from Kyoto. But it is the wood grain mokume-ji surface that is well known as among the hallmarks of armorers. The effect is produced from hammering dissimilar iron plates together that have varying carbon content. Hammering then folding and finally the last folds mix the two irons into a swirling pattern and a heavy, dense plate. The application of an acid wash brings out further the dissimilarities in the iron and adds a deep patina.

Like the Myôchin, the Akasaka worked exclusively in iron - tetsu (), and they were also known to adopt this technique from its third through eighth generations, probably learned from the Myôchin. The Edo Myôchin were known to make iron plate for the Akasaka, and so when looking at a 3rd generation Akasaka Tadatora with outstanding mokume gitae it just may be a Myôchin plate.

Others had postured that katchushi guard making began with Myôchin Takayoshi, second son of Yoshinori and younger brother of Yoshinaga, the 14th mainline master 150 years later, as the country braced itself at the onset of the 1467 ŌniWar, during which Kyoto was devastated and the Ashikaga bakufu dismantled. Takayoshi was not a representative of the main line but is one of the most celebrated of the Myôchin artists. He worked at Kamakura, unlike 10 generations of family before him who called Kyoto their home. It seems a smart move to have broken with family tradition and moved from Kyoto, the city that was to be utterly destroyed by war, and not to recover until the mid-16th century.

But during the search for the first Myôchin tsuba shi we come across three Myôchin armorers who dominated at the turn of the 16th century and became known as the “Nochi no Sansaku” for their excellence in their craft. They all worked together but only one was a mainline master. These were Myôchin Takayoshi, the 2nd son of the 15th master, Yoshiari, Myôchin Yoshimichi, also said to be a son of Yoshiari, and a very familiar name, Myôchin Nobuie (1496 – 1564), the 17th master of the school.

Originally, he was called Yasuiye, and one of the most celebrated of the Myôchin Masters.

If not Myôchin Takayoshi of 1450, then surely Myôchin Nobuie of the Kōji Period (弘治, 1555-1558) would have been the one to make the highly refined tsuba with a decorative plate. Well, the armorer, Nobuie was third of the Nochi no San-saku, and if he indeed made guards (on the side) then it is most probable that his two immediate predecessors, Yoshimichi (1530) and Takayoshi (1490) also worked during the epoch when the Goto family's skill had given new importance to the decoration of sword mounts, would have produced fine guards in a similar style.

And so, when we speak of Nobuie, modern accepted theory tells us that it was not the 17th master armorer who worked for the Takeda at Kai Province, but rather another Nobuie of an unknown relationship to the Myôchin armor smith, who rose to prominence with his great tsuba. Many connoisseurs recognize this Nobuie as the first to carry the method of plate decoration to the point of really high excellence and will point out that before Nobuie it was possible to tell the story of tsuba making without reference to the artist. Nobuie’s work refuses such anonymity.

The most popular theory of this tsuba shi (suggested by the late Akiyama Kyūsakuand revisited by Katsuya Toshikazu) tells us that our Nobuie worked for the Oda clan at the Owari stronghold of Kiyosu during the early Momoyama Period (1573 - 1580), and then a second generation, a son or student, left Owari with Fukushima Masanori and went to work in Aki Province around Genna (元和, 1615-1624) just after Kiyosu castle was dismantled and the capital, along with parts of the castle, relocated to Nagoya.

That there are several competing theories about which Myôchin began making tsuba, and how many and which Nobuie carried his influence to the Tosa – Myôchin remains certain; however, Nobuie inspired workmanship is seen in both Myôchin and Tosa- Myôchin tsuba throughout the Edo Period.

In the tsuba shi Nobuie's guards there is line engraving combined with chiseling in very low relief; and also pierced (ko sukashi) decoration on a fine ita plate. Tsuba with their surface covered with an engraved floral scroll (karakusa) among which are leaves and blossoms (generally of the Paulownia or the evening gourd) in slight relief. These works show the influence which the Goto family's methods had already exercised upon the fashion of the time.

In the guards with pierced decoration, the most common designs are a network pattern (ami-gata), or a kikko diaper (tortoise-shell tessellation), and occasionally verses of poetry in monji (Japanese written characters) cut in the plate representing the attitudes of the Sengoku period. Two of many examples sometimes seen are “Namu Hachiman Daibosatsu(南無八幡大菩薩 - “Hail Hachiman, the God of War”), and “un wa ten ni ari” (運有天, “Fate lies with heaven”).

Of his shape, many are mokko gata with or without the popular inome (boars eye) piercing at the four quadrants and mostly with rims of sukidashi, sukinokoshi, or wamimi. Amida radiating lines and raised rims appear as standard in some motifs. Since many of these features can be seen in Tosa-Myôchin works, the Nobuie style is considered a second style of that school and seen in the first four generations.

Part II

In 1635 the Daimyō Yamauchi Tadayoshi’s early visits to Edo were codified into the strict policy of the sankin-kōtai (参勤交代 - alternate attendance) for all tozama Daimyō (外様大名 – outside Daimyo).

During this time the castle town of Kōchi came to acquire the characteristics of a commercial city, the rseagmuularrai moved in, and as some farmers abandoned the country side, merchants and artisans emerged to serve the needs of the growing urban population. The 17th century Edo period produced many remarkable figures in the fine arts and crafts in the cities. The Akasaka had opened up their Edo

workshop around 1625 at a time of tremendous urbanization and began making Edo’s first ji sukashi tsuba. In 1650 The 23rd Myôchin master Munetoshi (Kunimichi), and 24th master, Myôchin Munesuke had also moved their workshop to Edo and were making armor and iron ita tsuba there.

In 1657 Tadatoyo became 3rd Yamauchi Daimyō of Tosa, and in this same year, on March 2nd -4th the Great Fire of Meireki (明暦の大火 Meireki no taika) burned seventy percent of the city of Edo to the ground. With the disaster of the fire came a silver lining for Tosa’s lumber industry, and the economy of Tosa grew rapidly, as did its population, peaking at 411,000 in 1697. The mood between Tadatoyo and

Tokugawa Ietsuna ((徳川 家綱, 1641-1680), the 4th Tokugawa Shogun, was likely good.

In 1659 Ietsuna presided over the reopening ceremonies of Edo, the city taking only two years to rebuild. The Tosa domain most surely provided vast amounts of lumber for the reconstruction. The once financially strained domain was now a shining star through the end of the 17th century.

Signs of trouble began just after the beginning of the 18th century when a period of famine dominated Tosa, indicating a serious problem with Japan’s agricultural economy as a whole. Tosa’s population became stagnant with some people fleeing to Satsuma, Osaka, or even Edo to make a living and to freely pursue various trades.

Tsuba had been produced in Shikoku for many years as katchushi and even more decorative styles. As an example, Shoami tsuba are known to have been made in Iyo Province in Shikoku during the later Muromachi Period. The Iyo Shoami have an older, Spartan look reminiscent of katchushi, but this may simply be that the thick mokko gata and nadegaku gata plates worked better with the heavy Yamauchi blades that, in turn, developed from the tree felling of their history

Shoami tsuba shi spread to Awa, and to Tosa where Shoami Shigekuni set up shop in Kōchi. The Awa and Tosa Shoami schools are not noteworthy but served an important role in outfitting the many lower Samurai of Tosa who still needed to adorn their swords respectfully and with style. Many gôshi would have only one set of fittings for their sword. What Yamauchi Toyotaka, 6th Daimyō of Tosa (1673–1720; r. 1706–1720) needed was a tsuba kei to make great tsuba for the regular and upper Samurai in the city, better than the simple Shoami or older Katchushi ones, and more in line with the fashions of Edo. These modern tsuba could surely add income for the han, that the Yamauchi were willing to explore.

To help understand how the collaboration among the schools (Tosa, Myochin, and Akasaka) may have begun it would help to clarify Tosa’s presence at Edo since the mid 17th century. We’ve said that the Sankin-kōtai ("alternate attendance", a daimyō's alternate-year residence in Edo) began for Tosa in 1635 with Yamauchi Tadayoshi, a tozama Daimyo. The size of Tadayoshi’s escort was determined by Shogunal decree, local status, and land holdings. In Tosa’s case 196 retainers were stationed permanently in Edo and, while Tadayoshi was in Edo, 1,683 more retainers and sub retainers (those not on the daimyō's payroll), divided equally, journeyed to and from Edo.

The daimyō's procession traveled from Kochi, over remote mountain paths to Awa on the northern coast of Shikoku and took a boat over to Osaka where the Tosa fief also maintained residences. This would be a welcome break for the Lord and his entourage before the two-week trek up the Tokaido to Edo.

Shogunal decree and fief holdings continually increased for the Yamauchi, buoyed by the great prosperity of the 17th century. By 1684 the 4th Daimyō of Tosa, Yamauchi Toyomasa, brought 2,025 retainers to Edo and had 1,021 permanently stationed there. Of these 3,046 only 310 were Samurai

(others being cooks, scribes, priests, women attendants, craftsman, and the like), but nonetheless a respectable presence by the Tosa fief in Edo, a city of around 600,000 in Genroku (元禄) times.

The Yamauchi maintained from five to twelve compounds (yashiki) at different times in Edo and bought and sold property according to economic need and to promote their status. Their three principal compounds were on land granted them by the Shogunate and consisted of a main headquarters in Kajibashi district on Daimyō Avenue, just inside the gate on the inner moat for which it was named, one middle compound at Shiba, and a lower compound at Shinagawa.

The Kajibashi (鍛冶橋, Blacksmith Bridge) District was near the center of the city and served as the place for highly skilled artisans. Potters, painters (the famous Kanō school), and of course, blacksmiths (鍛冶師 kaji shi), gunsmiths (鉄砲鍛冶 - teppo kaji), and swordsmiths worked there in their own neighborhoods. The guilds here were well off and the Daimyo and his upper-class Samurai and attendants would usually stay in Kajibashi. Here it became convenient for the craftsmen to absorb skills from the Edo masters and learn not only metalworking techniques, but fashion and potential client opportunities. During the Kyōhō era

(1716-1736) Yamauchi Toyotaka arranged for his katchu shi, Kawasaki Munetoshi (川崎宗利) to apprentice under the 24th head of the Myôchin main line, Myōchin Ōsumi no Kami Munesuke (明珍大隅守宗介). This likely took place somewhere in the Kajibashi district.

Tosa was bequeathed the land grant at Shinagwa a few years later in 1660 and it became the most spacious of the compounds. Shinagawa prospered as the first post town (shukuba) of the 53 stations of the Tokaido (Eastern Sea Road), the most important road linking Kyoto with Edo at its southern end. The station had honjin and waki-honjin (main and auxiliary lodgings for feudal lords and their vassals), hatago (inns) where common people stayed, and toiyaba, (the administrative offices) for freight forwarders. During the Edo Shinagawa was a lively town with a population of 7,000 and 1,600 houses.

Shinagawa was also a port town, and the Yamauchi compound was situated facing the Bay of Edo and received the cooling sea breezes and boats carrying supplies. Besides Yamauchi retainers, the large compound contained storehouses for lumber and materials required for use during the year. Additional retainers lived in outlying residences purchased by the fief in townsman lands. Some of these Tosa craftsmen worked at “home” (ishoku 居職) in Shinagawa, while the more specialized shi (), like tsuba and armorers, traveled to Kajibashi to work among the clients and guilds.

As the Yamauchi approached Edo from their northbound route along the Tokaido, they would first pass Shinagawa, their lower port compound, then Shiba, and finally Kajibashi, their main headquarters in Edo. In the 18th century Akasaka Tadashige set up his workshop in Kyōbashi, close by to the Yamauchi.

After four years of training (1717-1720) with Myōchin Munesuke, 24th master of the Edo Myōchin line the

Tosa- Myôchin group was named as a distant branch of that family of armorers. It was Kawasaki

Monroku (1680-1743) who brought that honor to his family and to the Yamauchi of Tosa. Upon earning the branch affiliation, Monroku was given the “-Mune” character by his master and became the craftsman, Myōchin Ki no Munetoshi shodai of the Tosa-Myōchin.

The Tosa group was actually made up by three different families – The Kawasaki (川崎), who we’ve already met, began with armor making and became actively involved in making tsuba. The Ichikawa (市川) apprenticed later and remained concentrated on armor production, while the Nomachi family emerged from the local Myōchin branch to specialize in embossing, zōgan inlay onto gun barrels, and making smaller objects including some tsuba.

As competition among armorers for a share of the shrinking market became fierce, the Kawasaki branch of the family began to specialize in the production of tsuba, sometimes forging the iron plate onto which other craftsmen inlaid designs in soft colored metals or chiseled out into the popular sukashi (openwork) of the times. It is possibly this working relationship between good katchu shi (Myōchin ) and skilled tsuba-shi (Akasaka) that introduced Kawasaki Monroku (now known as Myōchin Munetoshi) to this new craft for, while his katchu shi pedigree sprang from Myōchin Ōsumi no Kami Munesuke, there is no recorded master student relationship for his tsuba learning.

The Tosa Myōchin school is said to have spanned 5 generations and 150 years working between Kochi

and Edo. The mainline (Kawasaki family) consisted of these men:

Myōchin Ki no Munetoshi (明珍紀宗利) 1st generation 1680-1743 Learned armor making from

Myōchin Munesuke, 24th master of the Edo Myōchin line. Began tsuba making.

Myōchin Ki no Toshio (明珍紀利雄) 2nd generation 1707 -1793 He was the son of Munetoshi. his real name was Kawasaki Mongo and his first name was Yusuke. He was primarily an armorer but did make tsuba for many years. In the Akasaka Ha Keifu his name is referred to as a student of Tadanori, but his work seems to more evoke the ko Akasaka style and can be envisioned as having taken inspiration from Tadatoki. His seppa dai and hitsu ana are early Akasaka style. He also worked in an independent ji sukashi style.

Myōchin Ki no Tsunehira (明珍紀常平) 3rd generation 1767-1799. Son, or adopted son, of Toshio. His family name was Kawasaki Tsunehira. His relatively short working life was probably focused on armor production as extant tsuba are rare or questionable.

After the death of Tsunehira the Yamauchi fief made a decision to discontinue the Kawasaki lineage. During this time there worked a very talented tsuba shi named Munehide (宗栄). He was born in 1740 yet does not appear in any of the Yamauchi Library records. His first name was Monroku, and it has been proposed that he may have been in the family line of Munetoshi Toshio Muneyoshi, and a direct student of Akasaka Tadanori. Munehide was a greatly skilled master and his work reflects Tadanori of the Tadashige mon. Some experts view Munehide’s work to be on par with the great Myōchin Ki no Muneyoshi, and well above the later generations of Akasaka.

Myōchin Ki no Muneyoshi (明珍紀宗義) 4th generation 1791-1867 His personal name was Iroku and he was the foster son and apprentice of a gunmaker named Yoshihira. In in 1817 he began his apprenticeship with the armorer, Ichikawa Matahei. Muneyoshi is considered the most accomplished of the Tosa Myôchin group and has a most delightful story of invention and persistence.

Myōchin Ki no Munenaga (明珍紀宗) 5th generation 1839 - was the 5th master of the school and the adopted son of Muneyoshi. He succeeded to the head of the school on the 27th day of the fourth month of Keiō three (1867).

Although known primarily for their ji sukashi the Tosa Myôchin were experts in tsuba making and made wide variations in type and shape. Many of these were hammered from a strong iron plate in ita style as expertly taught by the Myōchin and Nobuie.

Decoration of any kind could be absent in the early, austere works of Munetoshi, or simply in kage sukashi, small negative piercings in keeping with katchushi tradition. The dense iron works were heavy, providing appropriate balance (including visual “balance”) for the hefty blades being forged in the Province. Nakadaka (thicker at the seppa dai) was applied for further allusion to weight. The weighty Tosa sword and tsuba had a quiet rural charm reminiscent of years of foresting by axe and heavy adze.

Their raised mimi (rim) execution, when it does appear, is also rustic, with pleasing variation in an almost “free forging” style carefully learned in their katchushi training. There can be found ukinokoshi, uchikaeshi, and wa mimi examples. The Tosa Myôchin really produced quite a breadth of good early iron works, always showcasing their armor making roots.

Middle Edo examples will continue to show a nicely forged and hammered iron plate, but begin to incorporate features learned from outside the Province - file marks radiating from the center of the

tsuba that resemble the mandorla of the celestial Buddha Amida (amida yasuri), or hitsu ana resembling matsukawa bishi Edo effects from their visits to the Shogun’s capital city. Their leap from katchushi to ji sukashi, endowing their tsuba with a sense of movement and subtle departures from symmetry, would come from the relationships they were to forge with their Akasaka teachers while in Edo.

As the Edo period continued the Tosa-Myōchin group began to produce stylish ji sukashi, whose origins are widely known to be from the Akasaka School of Edo. It was the unbounded admiration for the Akasaka by Yamauchi Toyosuke, 12th Daimyō of Tosa (1794–1872; r. 1809–1843), that prompted his request to the Myôchin to make tsuba in that style as a means to further increases fief revenue. Drawing on his own knowledge gleaned from first hand study, he knew that any marketable fitting had to be in a style that was being used and popular otherwise they simply wouldn't sell. The Akasaka would provide that avenue.

In the Geijutsu-ko of Dr. Torigoye, he states - “…Tosa is famous for the Tosa Myōchin school. They were a distant branch of the main line of the Myochin family. They worked for the most part in Akasaka style since the lord of the area preferred the tsuba style of that school.

A group of the Tosa Myōchin smiths went to Edo to study with the Akasaka masters Tadatoki and Tadanori in the late Edo age. It was the lord of Tosa, Yamauchi, who inspired the Tosa school masters to work in Akasaka style. “

The Tadatoki that Dr.Torigoye writes of is Hikojuro Tadatoki 忠時 known as Oyahiko (the parent Hiko). Tadatoki was the fourth master of the Akasaka school and pursued such excellence to become recognized as the school’s most accomplished. He was working in Edo around Hōei (宝永, 1704-1711) around the time Munetoshi was learning armor making from Myōchin Munesuke. Above his many students Tadatoki’s long shadow loomed over the busy workshop that included his son, Tadatoki (nidai), and younger brother, Ta’emon Tadashige, who indirectly became responsible for the strong Tosa-Myōchin acquaintanceship.

Ta’emon Tadashige was active around Kyouho 15th year (1730) and had the most emblematic career of the Akasaka apart from the early mainline. He was so accomplished that he was allowed to become independent, sign with his own name, and have his own students. Among those were Seizaemon Tadanori and his son who also had the name Seizamon Tadanori (nidai). The Tadashige mon came at a time where the ko (old) Akasaka Owari style had faded, and the late Edo design book revision by the 7th Akasaka (hats, yanone, sakura, fans…) was not yet fashionable.

Tadashige liked to work in a revival style of the ko Akasaka but also in Higo utsushi, faithfully copying the great Nishigaki Kanshiro who had worked for the Hosokawa Sansai at Kumamoto castle in Higo during the later years of the 17th century. He was an innovator of the times – venerating tradition but defying convention in creating a very popular style of tetsu ji sukashi tsuba for the Edo Samurai.

As expected, Tadashige refused to be bound by strict rules, viewing traditional Akasaka style as a point of departure and not his destination - paying tribute to the Akasaka tradition but then bringing changes onto their basic themes, giving rise to novel forms. It was destined that Tadashige would become independent and move himself and workshop from Akasaka gomon, outside the outer moat where the mainline acquired its name and had worked for 100 years, to Kyōbashi (京橋, Kyoto Bridge” district) inside the outer moat and immediately to the west of Edo castle.

Kyōbashi was a middle class “downtown”, an important center of the city's economy by the many communities of craftsmen and artisans that lived there, It was located next door to the Kajibashi district where the main Yamauchi headquarters were situated. Tadashige’s neighborhood was Minami Kaji-machi - South Blacksmith's village, an area just above Kyōbashi’s most famous neighborhood of all,

Ginza", the location of the Shogun's silver mint.

There in Kyōbashi, the Tadashige mon had proximity and access to their work by the Tosa Lord, his Samurai, and the fief’s visiting craftsmen. In Kyōbashi these two schools would work together with the Tosa Myōchin embracing the Akasaka (Higo) style and testify to Tadashige’s artistic prowess through exploiting technical and expressive effects like kebori carving. In kind, the Tosa-Myōchin artists would provide their forged iron ground plate to the Akasaka allowing them to concentrate on chiseling the design and polishing and patinating the final surfaces. Their schools became profoundly entangled.

It was Bunsei three (文政 , 1820) and Yamauchi Toyosuke, 12th Daimyō of Tosa had rule over the fief. The Kawasaki family line had been placed on hold for twenty-one years, and a man named Iroku, an armorer of Tosa, stealthily blended in with the Sankin kotai procession to Edo and there he took it upon himself to study tsuba making with 1st generation, Akasaka Tadanori. For six years he made tsuba so diligently and so well that he was granted permission by the fief to use the name Iroku Kawasaki, and in 1829 was rewarded as both a katchu shi and tsuba shi with increased stipend.

Iroku continued his outstanding service to the fief and in Tenpō 9 (天保 九, 1838), for his skill and dedication, he was given audience with Daimyō Yamauchi Toyosuke. His salary was again increased, but it was not until Yamauchi Toyonori, 16th Daimyo of Tosa (1846–1886; r. 1859–1869) that it was agreed to restore the Tosa Myōchin lineage to the Kawasaki family under the name of Muneyoshi, 4th master of the line. Muneyoshi spent most of his days in Edo then moved to Tsuchiura Domain in Hitachi

Province at the end of Edo period where he died in Keiō 3 (慶応 三, 1867). Muneyoshi’s work is considered by many to be well above the later generations of Akasaka working in Edo.

In the Kinko Tanki and Akasaka Ha Keifu the students of the nidai Tadanori include Zenkichi, Mongo, and Iroku, all men of Tosa. It is thought then that Iroku (known later as Muneyoshi), who worked with the shodai Tadanori also worked with his son, and that Muneyoshi’s adopted son, worked with him also. There is an example of a Saiga style okitenugui-nari kabuto joint work (gassaku, 合作) by Akasaka nidai Tadanori and Myôchin ki no Munenaga in the Samurai Art Museum in Berlin Germany that bears witness to this master-student relationship. Our appreciation goes to Markus Sesko for his fine work in documenting that historical find.

To modern eyes, the Tosa-Myōchin’s departure from the Akasaka design book may appear minor but Tosa- Myōchin guards (when done in Akasaka style sukashi) can be distinguished from Akasaka and Higo works in a few ways. Looking closely, their characteristic kakushi-tagane (“hidden chisel”) are usually placed at the upper ordinal points of the nakago ana. The Akasaka adjusting chisel (yose tagane) of the time, typically is fashioned in the round (maru tagane) and is applied in a punctuated manner – a built up “mountain” at the cardinal points (top and bottom) of the nakago ana. This kind of adaptation among schools suggests a free sharing of ideas and artistic tastes.

Another point of departure is the manner in which the Tosa-Myōchin “kebori” is made. The lines are actually chased by geri bori, the same technique used by swordsmiths to sign their mei onto a nakago.

Its overall feeling can vary from that of the Akasaka in one of two ways. First, it can give the impression of stiffness, resisting a flow with the chisel and appearing strained. Secondly it is with a decorative vitality that sometimes seems to overstate the intended expressive effect. This unique use of geri bori can be described as a curling line reminiscent of Nobuie.

A last comparison with the Akasaka is that the thickness of Tosa Myōchin tsuba would reduce to around 4 mm during Muneyoshi’s time. This would not occur in Akasaka works until their seventh generation.

As we leave this story of the Tosa Myōchin, history may not remember them as consequential as perhaps Owari or Hizen but we can see that Tosa Province had an important role in the development and preservation of Nihonto (日本) Katchû (甲冑), and tsuba () since the 14th century, bearing the journey of a Tokugawa han with dignity and always with its compass set on a promising future.


Nihonto Koza Kodogu Kantei Volume VI - Tsubako Ogura Souemon and Noda Kiyoshige

translated by Harry Watson

Tosa Myochin / Akasaka Collaboration (article 9-2-17) Markus Sesko

Tsuba Geijutsu-ko Kazutaro Torigoye / Robert Haynes

Meikô Zukan Matsumiya and Myochin.

Étude du Meikô Zukan. Armuriers du Japon Robert Burawoy

(xvie - xviiie siècle) English translation courtesy of

Study of the Meikô Zukan: Armorers of Japan Samurai Armor Forum

(16th-18th century)

Japan. Its History Arts and Literature (1901) Frank Brinkley

The Japanese Sword Kanzan Sato

Mercantilism in a Japanese Domain: The Merchant Luke S. Roberts

Origins of Economic Nationalism in 18th century Tosa

Tosa Kinko Schools Markus Sesko

Memorial of Imakita Sakubei to the Lord of Tosa translation by Luke Roberts

Edo Culture: Daily Life and Diversions in Urban Japan Matsunosuke Nishiyama

Akasaka Tanka Roku Ogura Yokichi

translation by Markus Sesko

Tosogu Classroom Volume I Fukushi Shigeo / Markus Sesko

Togosu Classroom Volume II Fukushi Shigeo / Markus Sesko

Tour of Duty: Samurai Military Service in Edo Constantine Nomikos Vaporis

Tsuba Kodogu Kantei Nyumon Wakayama Homatsu & Idia Kazuo