Ko Katchushi Tsuba

The Ko Katchushi style is believed to have come into production a bit later than the Ko Tosho, possibly beginning in the late Kamakura period. This category describes tsuba that have somewhat more involved mon sukashi motifs, and often have various styles of raised rims created through controlled hammer work. These have probably been attributed as the work of katchushi because of the open work designs sometimes seen on the menpo (face mask) of Japanese armor, and because the techniques used to produce the raised rims appear related to those used in forming armor. Of course, I question whether an able armor maker would choose to spend his time on tsuba. Again, I suspect that these, and many of the other early guard styles were the work of specialized professional tsuba makers. Because we have their signed examples, Kaneie and Nobuie are traditionally recognized as the first professional tsubako. While both of these artists introduced significant innovations in the decoration of the iron tsuba, I believe that they were preceded by many tsubako whose names we will never know.

Ko Tosho and Ko Katchushi tsuba were both produced in large numbers through the Muromachi jidai, and the numbers were probably too high for these to have been made by the same workers busy with turning out equally large quantities of swords and armor.

Robert Haynes has proposed a new term for these early iron tsuba. He sites Joly's manuscript translation of the 1913 publication Hompo Soken Kinko Ryakushi by Wada Tsunashiro. Included there is the line "The tsuba makers are tanko." (Nelson's kanji 4895:1451) This compound basically means metalworker, and seems quite appropriate. For further detail, see Katchushi to Tosho by any other name…


Ko-Katchushi tsuba, mumei, early Muromachi

8.75 cm H x 8.70 cm W x 0.77 cm mimi x 0.26 cm seppa dai

Iron

Maru gata

Taka dote mimi

The sukashi design is of two cloves.  The mimi is very high, with a straight inside wall.  Note that there was a large kozuka ana that is now filled.  There are some traces of lacquer on the plate.  A classic katchushi-style work.


Ko-Katchushi tsuba, mumei, early to mid Muromachi

9.47 cm H x 9.30 cm W x 0.63 cm mimi x 0.27 cm seppa dai

Iron

Maru gata

Taka dote mimi

The design is snowflakes and paper sheets for fans.


Ko Katchushi style tsuba, mumei, mid Muromachi

7.9 cm H x 7.9 cm W x 0.30 cm mimi, 0.20 cm seppa dai

Iron

Maru gata

Uchikaeshi mimi

The sukashi design is of a Daikon radish.  A small but beautiful guard with a velvet texture to the iron surface and a very well formed rim.   The kozuka ana is probably original.


Ko Katchushi style tsuba, mumei, late Muromachi

8.6 cm H x 8.6 cm W x 0.5 cm T at mimi, 0.3 cm T at seppa dai

Iron

Maru gata

Dote mimi

A good example in excellent condition with no kozuka ana cut in. Sukashi design of a flower. The iron has a very dense feeling and is probably quite hard. It is very interesting that many of these early guards have little or no modification to the nakago ana. Could it be that they were only mounted once or twice? A very reliable guard of beautiful construction and texture. NTHK Kanteisho to Katchushi. 


Katchushi style tsuba, late Muromachi

9.5 cm H x 9.5 cm W x 0.5 cm T at mimi, 0.35 cm T at seppa dai

Iron with lacquered surface.

Maru gata

Uchikaeshi mimi

The design is of two mon.  This tsuba has the thickness of later work, but the surface and forging of the iron appears older. 


Ko Katchushi style tsuba, mumei, late Muromachi

8.9 cm H x 8.7 cm W x 0.2 – 0.3 cm T

Iron

Maru gata

Kaku mimi koniku

While lacking a raised rim, tsuba with symmetrical sukashi designs across most of the plate are usually classified as Ko-Katchushi type.  The fine lines in the openwork are very well preserved.  The kogai ana is filled with lead.  Very nice iron texture and color.


Ko Katchushi style, mumei, ca. mid to late Muromachi

9.5 cm H x 9.4 cm W x 0.4 cm mimi x 0.2 cm seppa dai

Iron with punched surface, hakkakugata, kaku mimi ko niku

Is it Katchushi or is it Tosho? Because of the sophistication of the shape and surface treatment, and the folded construction, it fits in the former box better than the latter. However, the quality of the work and the concise form are not consistent with it being the product of a casual effort. It is the work of a specialist in tsuba.

The back of this guard nearly flat, and the front has a subtle taper from the center to the edge that gives an almost cupped feel. The overall impression is almost like an old leather tsuba. The centerline of the octagonal outline is slightly twisted on the axis of the nakago ana. The punch work is done with a nanako-type punch. It follows the outline of the mimi and defines the seppa dai. The hitsuana are also outlined with a small border, indicating that they are original to the plate.


Ko Katchushi style, mumei, ca. mid to late Muromachi

7.90 cm H x 7.85 cm W x 0.5 cm mimi x 0.3 cm seppa dai

Iron, inome iri mokko gata, uchikaeshi mimi, kaku ko niku

Beautiful iron with fine hammered texture and deep color. Hints of tekkotsu within the well modeled mimi. The ryohitsu unbalance the composition of the piece somewhat, and were probably added later. This may have originally been a tachi tsuba. Ex Sasano collection.


Ko Katchushi style, mumei, ca. Momoyama to early Edo

8.4 cm H x 8.4 cm W x 0.4 cm T

Iron with Amida yasuri (radiating file marks) and gold and silver nunome

Maru gata

Kaku mimi

This is quite a busy design with openwork of plum and cherry blossoms, file marks and broken brocade nunome. The nunome appears to be original to the plate. The kozuka ana is probably original, but may be enlarged. There are enough examples of early mon sukashi iron tsuba with bits of nunome to allow for the possibility that some of our now plain iron plates were once more elaborately decorated. Pieces like the one above are likely showing us the roots of the Shoami nunome style in the old iron plate tsuba smiths. This type of colored metal decoration and carving was beginning to compete against the established decorative styles of the Heianjo and Kamakura types. Later, the decoration will eclipse the value of the plate itself.


Katchushi style tsuba, mumei, early Edo

9.4 cm H x 8.9 cm W x 0.6 cm T at mimi, 0.4 cm T at seppa dai

Iron

Kobushigata (fist shaped)

Uchikaeshi mimi

The design is of Genji mon, blossom and smoking incense – a motif that brings the leisure pursuits of the court to mind.  This style of later Katchushi guard is encountered fairly often.  The shape and design reflect the more relaxed mood of the time.  The Genji mon does not match any of the chapter headings exactly.


Katchushi style tsuba, mumei, late Edo

9.2 cm H x 9.2 cm W x 0.5-0.7 cm T at mimi x 0.3 cm T at seppa dai

Iron, very fine texture with large hammer marks

Raised rim hammered from the plate (uchikaeshi mimi).

The sukashi design is of Yanone (Japanese arrow heads). This is of course a Shinshinto attempt to revive the spirit of the Katchushi style work. The iron, though, is very good with a fine patina that shows iridescence in sunlight. The nakago ana is small for the size of the guard.  NTHK Kanteisho to Myochin.


Possibly Katchushi tsuba, ca. late Muromachi

8.0 cm H x 8.2 cm W x 0.3 cm T

Iron

Maru gata

Kaku mimi ko niku

This unusual guard may be a katchushi tsuba.  The plate is quite thin and the texture of the iron is similar to what is seen in katchushi guards.  There are conspicuous tekkotsu.  The delicate openwork and narrow seppa dai seem like Kyo Sukashi, but the type of iron, the forging of the plate and the treatment of the rim is much different.  The balancing of the composition to account for the kozuka ana is interesting.


Copyright Jim Gilbert 2003, 2004, 2005

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