Early Soft Metal Tsuba 3

Kanji for Kokinko

Ko Kinko Tsuba

Ko Kinko means old gold worker, and is usually applied to relatively ornate, early non-Goto, non-Mino shakudo and yamagane fittings. These guards are considered the work of specialist kodogu makers, although their names are not recorded.   The work of unknown Edo period Kinko is usually called Kyo Kinko or Edo Kinko.  In this case the prefix ko denotes fittings made before the Edo period.

Ko Kinko Tsuba, late Muromachi

7.7 cm H x 7.1 cm W 0.5 cm T seppa dai, 0.2 cm T mimi

Solid shakudo (an alloy of copper and gold) with Gold uttori

Nagemarugata

Shakudo fukurin mimi

Background design of carved waves with fish and kiri (chrysanthemum).  The gold is applied in the uttori technique, with a thick foil mechanically attached around the edges of the carved shakudo figures.

Kokinko Tsuba

Ko Kinko Tsuba, Momoyama

7.2 cm x 0.3 cm T

Shakudo with gold overlay

Hachi mokko gata

Kaku mimi

Eight Fans design

Seppa dai slightly modified to accommodate a kogai

This must have been a rather popular style, since a fair number seem to have survived in good condition. I have also seen quite a few Edo period versions done in iron plate. NBTHK Tokubetsu Kicho.

Kokinko Tsuba

Ko Kinko tsuba, mumei, late Muromachi

5.7 cm H x 5.0 cm W x 0.6 cm seppa dai, 0.4 cm mimi

Sanmai construction with two thick shakudo plates sandwiching a thicker copper plate

Fukurin maru mimi

The relief is carved rather than stamped (other than the nanako) and shows traces of lacquer.  It is not the repousse style of plate seen in the later shiiremono examples.  It is a rather brown shakudo alloy. There are drops of silver inlay. The active design of flowers, leaves, buds with rope-like and swirling elements is unusual and engaging. The nakago ana, and presumably the sword it was mounted on, is rather large for such a small tsuba and seems to be a fashion of the times. The kogai ana is original.

Kokinko Tsuba frontKokinko Tsuba back

Ko Kinko tsuba, mumei, late Muromachi

6.0 cm H x 5.5 cm W x 0.35 cm T

Yamagane plate

Maru mimi

The surface of this guard is decorated with a profusion of scattered stamps. Black lacquer remains in the depressions. These guards are often identified as Tachikanagushi, but this one has a hakogaki by Sasano sensei attributing it to Ko Kinko and rating it shu saku (superb or excellent). Similar stamp work appears on early Muromachi Aoi tsuba. I wonder if this style of guard was the inspiration for the later Tembo tsuba. They were certainly copied verbatim in late Edo times.


Ko Kinko or Ko Mino tsuba, late Muromachi

7.0 cm H x 6.5 cm W x 0.45 cm T at mimi

Shakudo plate

Kiku gata

The carved down areas within the petals of the chrysanthemum are filled with very fine nanako in linear arrangement.  The gold overlay on the rim has worn away from the high points.  With its sharp cutting and high relief, it may be Ko Mino work.

Copyright 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 Jim Gilbert


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