Every once in a while, we collectors come across a guard that falls into multiple categories and can be hard to place. I would like to present such a guard here. The tsuba is Mokko gata, and the theme displays a combination of Paulnowia crests and Myôga (ginger root).
Seemingly Owari based, this guard appears to cover several work groups and times. Lets begin by looking at what it has to offer in the form of kantei points. It’s size is small, like Kanayama, but the tsuba is a little thin and tapers out from the centre those these traights while not normal for Kanayama work can be seen from time to time. The dimensions are Height 76mm – Width 63.5mm. The Mimi thickness is 4.5 mm and the Centre thickness is 5.5mm. The iron is well forged and black in colour. This also lends itself to Ôwari work. There are numerous small tekottsu 鉄骨 on the surface of the tsuba, but hardly any on the mimi. The mimi 耳 though is interesting as it is maru, and very rounded, and also has Senkotsu 仙骨. The visible forging layers that can resemble pastry layers, and are often seen in Akasaka work.
The Kebori is a little crude, and not fine like Akasaka work, but more on the heavy side and much like Ko Shôami, as is the colour, mimi and size. However the surface tekkotsu and senkotsu are not at all typical for Ko Shôami.
The Hitsu-ana 櫃穴 are light and the design lends itself to older work, and could also perhaps indicate Ôwari origins. The Kozuka hitsu is of the square variety. The other pening incorporates a design element I do not understand but would only work for a long and narrow Kôgai, or perhaps a Wari-kôgai.
I tend to not use Ategane 当金 as a kantei point unless very specific as in the works of Akasaka Tadashige, Jingo and the likes, but these “feathered” ategane are seen regularly on the works of the 4th and 5th mainline Akasaka masters.
The senkotsu can be seen clearly in the mimi and runs through approximately 1/3rd of the rim. It is not showing up so well in these images but it does run quite strongly though the rim. And if we look in the photo directly above, we can see the same layers on the walls of the sukashi. It is especially noticeable in the left left sukashi opening, to the left of the paulownia crest. It is also visible in many other areas of the tsuba.
Other thoughts for this are Proto Akasaka. The tsuba thought to be made in the style of the Akasaka works we know from the Edô period, but manufactured in the late Muromachi period. This has been for a long time, an argument made by Mr. Bob Haynes and his latest book “Gai So Shi” has two examples Bob believes to be from this group. The second of these I would myself argue to be Ko Shôami but that of course is just my opinion.
Norisuke. The first was renowned for making great copies and had not only tekkotsu down as a fine art but also many of his guards had senkotsu in the mimi. It was a common feature of his.
I am going to leave this here with no conclusiuon, other than I think it to have Ôwari origins and may be from the late Muromachi period through to the early Edô priod. I would love to hear from you the readers, in regards to your feelings on this guard, and what is says to you.
Thanks for reading.
Note: I have replaced the first image with one I took today. I am experimenting with a new lighting rig and if it successful (as it seems to be) I will re photograph my favorite pieces and post them here.