Shakudô ita tsuba signed 豫州松山住亀嶋甚右衛門源光義作 – Yôshû Matsuyama no jû kameshima jin’emon minamoto Mitsuyoshi saku. The features include 竪丸形 Tatemaru-gata (elongated round shape), 赤銅魚子地 Shakudô nanakô ji, 鋤出彫 Sukidashi bori (the body is carved away to leave the raised design), 金色絵 Kin Iroe, 鋤残耳 Sukinokoshi mimi, (a raised rim that is the result of the surface being carved away).
75mm x 71mm x 4.5mm
NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon.
Mitsuyoshi was an active artist of the Matsuyama district between 1750 – 1800 (app). He worked in both soft metals and iron and Akiyama Kyusaku noted his work resembled that of Tajima Miyochin Yoshisada. He also made pieces in the style of Izumo Harate. (Haynes: Index of Japanese sword fittings and associated artists M-R, P.1121 H05580.0)
The design is referred to by the NBTHK as 波濤飛龍図鍔 (Hado-Hiryu zu Tsuba) or Wave Dragon design tsuba. This description is a little thin as I believe this is actually a depiction of the Chinese dragon Yinglong 应龙 or winged dragon. Mr Ford Hallam informs me that in Japanese art these dragons are quite rare and I am currently researching this (any additional information would be greatly appreciated). The following is from OnMark Productions and I find this section on the origin of Japanese dragons interesting.
In Japanese mythology, the Dragon King’s Palace (Ryūgū 竜宮) is said to be located at the bottom of the sea, near the Ryūkū (Ryukyu) 琉球 Islands (Okinawa), and it belongs to Ryūjin (Ryujin) 竜神, the Japanese name for the dragon king. The palace is also known as the “Evergreen Land.” In his book Japanese Poetry, Professor B. H. Chamberlain says the Japanese word for Dragon Palace (Ryūgū) is likewise the Japanese pronunciation of the southernmost Ryūkū islands. He writes about one ode in the Man’yōshū 万葉集 (Japan’s oldest anthology of verse compiled in the 8th century), which says the orange was first brought to Japan from the “Evergreen Land” lying to the south. The many-storied palace is built from red and white coral, guarded by dragons, and full of treasure, especially the Tide Jewels, which control the ebb and flow of tidal waters. Fish and other sea life serve Ryūjin as vassals, with the turtle acting as the dragon’s main messenger. On the north side of the palace there is the Winter Hall, where snow falls all the time. On the eastern side lies the Hall of Spring where butterflies visit cherry blossoms while the nightingale sings. On the southern side of the palace is the Summer Hall where crickets chirp in the warm evening. Finally, on the western side is the Autumn Hall where the maple trees glow in bright colors. For a human, a day in this palace is like 100 years on earth.
I wonder if there is a connection between this tsuba and the waves, to the story above.
One of the most delightful features to me is the polished surface of the carved areas and an almost matte finish to the nanakô. This sets off an amazing contrast depicting the dragon in all it’s glory. I have tried to capture that in the following image.
The colour variance in these two photos if from the being in full sun and the bottom in full shade.
Information on Dragon Mythology with many thanks from http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/dragon.shtml
Thank you for reading.