Mei: 豫劦松山住中興・開山正阿弥森次 Yôshû Matsuyama jû chuko ・ kaizan Shôami Moritsugu. Mokko gata, 木瓜形 Yamagani mikage ji 山銅槌目地, Kuro (black) Urushi 黒うるし, maru mimi 丸耳. The dimensions are 78.5mm x 76mm x 4mm (centre) and 6mm (mimi)The design is Shi hô Inome sukashi 四方猪目 or 4 direction Inome (boars eyes). Inome had several uses in Japan’s early history. It was commonly used as a window in tea houses and was known as “inomemado 猪目窓” The window is really more of a heart-shaped opening in the wall at the side of the alcove, tokonoma 床の間, in a tea ceremony house or in a short wall dropped from the ceiling about a third of the way down across the front of the tokonoma. It allowed some light to enter the tokonoma, for example in the Yodomi-no-seki 淀看の席 tea ceremony room at Saiouin 西翁院, Kyoto.
Also, other uses included inome gegyo 猪目懸魚 or boars eye pendant where three heart shaped holes were often arranged in triangle at the base of the pendant. These were often seen on temples and date back to the Kamakura period. The design was also used for decorations and carved into shelving used in tea houses. At the beginning of the Momoyama period, the tea ceremony had a strong cultural influence on the bushi, and the ideals and associated designs were incorporated into many kodôgu as well as other art.
The tsuba’s mimi is nicely carved and there is a large amount of black lacquer (kuro urushi) left in the channel.
Moritsugu was one of the main Shôami artists of the Matsuyama prefecture in the Ito province. He worked from the mid/late 1600’s through to the mid 1700’s and was a prolific artist. It is said his work in iron was not as fine as his soft metal tsuba. His yamagane pieces are believed to be among his best.
Lastly, in regards to the mei, the variant of Shu 劦 used in this signature was common amongst the Iyo artisans and was used in place of the more common 州. Many generations of this group signed Yôshû in this manner.
This tsuba was published in Nihontô Taikan – Tsuba, Kodôgu Hen (Homma Junji, Sato Kanichi) 日本刀大鑑 鐔小道具編 (Item #67, page 39.
There is also a hakogaki by Kanzan that accompanies the guard.
Thank you for reading.
References on Inome – http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus/