Early Kodogu



Ko-Kinko means old (pre Edo) gold worker, and by extension, soft metal worker.  A rather broad term.  Ko-Mino is pre Edo work by a kinko in Mino or at least in Mino style.  These early works are not signed, and a lot of the categories and names we use today in studying early fittings were applied long after these objects were made.  However, there are signed Mino works from the Edo period and these help to establish that these works did actually come from Mino.


Mino design motifs are very often based on plants.  Insects, shells and other animals are sometimes used as well.  These menuki incorporate choji, sansho and other plant material designs.  There is a distinctive feel to Mino design that is hard to mistake once you've seen a few examples.


In addition to menuki, Ko-Mino workers made tsuba, kozuka, kogai and fuchigashira.  The ground metal is usually shakudo or yamagane, sometimes with gold decoration.  If in yamagane (unrefined copper), the color is usually very dark.  Ko-Mino work is characterized by unusually high relief and sharp, steep sidewalls to the carving, although this is not always seen.  On some kogai, fuchigashira, etc., the effect can be startling.  This doesn't really show up in face-on photos.


With Ko-Mino menuki there is usually a sense of "dome" to the shape.  The metal is fairly thin and is pushed into a deep mold.  The front sides are carved in detail, though, not just punched into the repousse mold.  The thickness of the edge is uniform.  [The above is true of Ko-Kinko and Ko-Goto menuki as well.]  There are usually many perforations, and when looking at the backs there is a very thin, sharp ridge of metal around the edge of each perforation.  


The outside edge of the menuki follows the design closely and is carved crisply down the side.  As with these examples, the edge walls often actually slope inward, helping to make the view of the front silhouette as sharp as possible.   The back is sometimes curved to follow the shape of the tsuka.  This long, thin shape was popular among Ko-Mino workers, although they also made "normally" proportioned ones.  The thin style menuki usually do not have posts.  As with these, the design does not leave any room for them. 


A good reference is "Kinko Mino Bori" by Kokubo Kenichi.  Published by Token Shunjo Shinbunsha, Tokyo, 1973.









Ko Mino Menuki, ca late Muromachi

1.0 cm H x 5.0 cm W x 0.5 cm T

Dark Yamagane

Motif of choji, sansho, etc.





Ko Mino Menuki, ca. late Muromachi

1.4 cm H x 4.1 cm W x 0.6 m T

Very dark yamagane

Sansho Motif



Ko Mino menuki, ca. late Muromachi

1.2 cm H x 3.5 cm W x 0.5 cm T

Shakudo with gold uttori





Mino Menuki, ca. early Edo

1.3 cm H x 4.4 cm W x 0.55 cm T

Yamagane with gold uttori




Ko Goto Kozuka, ca. late Muromachi


9.6 cm H x 1.4 cm W


Very good shakudo with nanako ground.  The motif is suisen (narcissus) with silver uttori.  NTHK Kanteisho.


Goto Eijo kogai naoshi kozuka


9.7 cm H x 1.4 cm W


Goto Eijo was the 6th head of the Goto Shirobei main line.  He lived from 1577 to 1617.  NTBHK Tokubetsu Hozon


Kogai naoshi Ko Kinko kozuka, ca. late Muromachi


9.6 cm H x 1.4 cm W


Shakudo nanako with gold uttori design of autumn millet.  Hakogaki by Sasano Masayuki.

Ko Kinko O-kozuka, ca. Momoyama


10.2 cm H x 1.8 cm W


Shakudo nanako with silver iroe design of a wisteria flower.


NTHK Kanteisho.




Ko Kinko Kogai, Muromachi


21.1 H x 1.4 cm W

Yamagane with a design of kaki (persimmon)

The carved kaki are attached to the nanako ground with a pin that is visible on the back of the piece. 

NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon


Copyright 2003 Jim Gilbert


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