Japanese Sword Ginza Choshuya




Craftsmen of Tosogu

We will illustrate the outline of Tsubakou , Edo kinkou , Kyou kinkou and regional kinkou with sample pictures. Hope to make understanding about world of tousougu.


Toushou tsuba
Iron based tsuba with kosukashi and marumimi and most of them are simple and naive sukashi. Well forged iron produces peculiar taste. There is a view that sword smithmade it as hobby or pastime but it is unknown.
Kacchushi tsuba
Kacchushi tsuba is same as toushou tsuba that base is iron and has kosukashi, the difference is that the edge is dotemimi and a little more thin.
Ko-shouami tsuba
Shouami tsuba before than Momoyama period is generally called ko-shouami. "Ami" is kind of title that was given to bonze who showed one's ability of art and culture and also made contribution as a connoisseur and to progress of various accomplishments as tea ceremony and so on. Kan'ami, Se'ami, and Nou'ami is also popular.The title "ami" allowed any bonze to make friendship with the nobility so that they energeticly used "something Ami".
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Ounin tsuba
Iron base , made thin, and setted suemon zougan , dot zougan , line zougan by brass. Some has small sukashi like cherry blossom , ume , genjikou or so.
Heianjou zougan tsuba
At the beginning of Heianjou zougan, only brass has used for zougan but as time goes by also gold, silver, shakudou and copper used aswell. Shape is also various kinds as marugata, tatemarugata, mokkougata, nadekakugata.
Yoshirou tsuba
Yoshirou tsuba comes from tsuba kou named "Yoshirou ..." like Yoshirou Naomasa who worked in Momoyama period. Hira zougan with brass is done with fine technique. Similar style spreaded through the country but signed piece is hardly ever, most of them has no sign.
Kamakura tsuba
The name of Kamakura tsuba comes from one of the technique of wood carving called "Kamakura-bori", it mood is so similar to that. It is nothing to do with either Kamakura period or Kamakura area. Main design are chrysumthemum , cherry blossom and running water described with sukidashi-bori.
Kanayama tsuba
A little small sized and has a thickness. Jigane looks dark and iron frame is appeared from kitae hada that Kanayama is known as wild style. Main place of product is conjectured Owari.
Kagami-shi tuba

Kagami-shi means mirror craftsman, the design of Japanese mirror was casted and has in common with this kind of tsuba and a lot of them was made from yamagane. Though it is groundless that mirror craftsman made the tsuba but it is certain that craftsman had accurate technique and fine sesibility that won people's sympathy.

Kyou-sukashi tsuba
Tsuba with delicate sukashi and looks graceful. Made mainly in Yamashiro Kyoto.
Owari tsuba
Owari tsuba has thick frame and the shape gives powerful impression. The frame protrude from well forged jigane and that severe mood suits for actual battle. It has a sharp contrast with elegant Kyou-sukashi and praised as two greatest authorities of sukashi tuba
Ouno sukashi
Works made by the group of tsuba kou from a village of Ouno in Owari prefecture is generally called Ouno tsuba. Style is in common with Kayanayama tsuba and is powerful and uncouthly shaped. The name of "Fukushige" is seen in this group.
Houan tsuba
Houan is known as the leading tsuba kou among Owari tsuba. The first generation employ himself in Asano Tamamasa and be accompanied when Asano family emigrated to Kii from Kai. After the second generation Houan school reside in Kii permanently.
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Yamayoshi tsuba
Yamayoshi the first is bequeathed to be an aumour craftsman of the Oda family. He is one of the popular tsuba kou in Owari.
Yagyu tsuba
Yagyu Genkaku started Yagyu school which is one of the owari sukashi school. The design seems to express swordmanship which is their original, and reproduced works are seen in Kanayama tsuba and so the others. There are also bamboo, three stars, wave designs and so on.
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Kaneie tsuba
Kaneie, Nobuie and Myouju is admired as three masters in Momoyama period. Kaneie's design was pictorial, and creation of this style was his great contribution that had an effect on later kikou world.
Nobuie tsuba
Nobuie the great craftsman played active part in Momoyama period. His style has some resemblance with Kanayama, Owari, Yamayoshi and Houan, so it is considered that he had some relation with Owari.
Akasaka tsuba
Akasaka school occured and made progress in Edo. Tadamasa the first, Tadamasa second and Tadatora is specially called ko-Akasaka, and left superior works but never signed. After fourth generation, Tadashige was the only one who was allowed to beocome independent.

Edo kinko

Hirata handed down the technique of cloisonne. That is to depict the pattern by enamel on metal base. Hirata held an unshakable position among the kinkou world in early Edo period. Michihito Hikozaburou the founder of Hirata school learned csoisonne technique from korea, and employed Ieyasu(Tokugawa) with this singular ability. He was expert in the design of Mt.Fuji, the way he depict the expance of Mt.Fuji in the limited space was perfect that no other composition appeared later on.
First generation of Yanagawa school is Naomasa who sudied under Yokoya Soumin. He was specialaized with takabori iroe in iebori style, which was also strong point of his master's. There exists very few works of katakiribori.
Kikuoka Mitsuyuki started Kikuoka school who was main force of Yanagawa Naomitsu school. He is known as elaborate and beautiful style, it seems that his hard working character is detected in his work. Precision add to Yokoya style becomes Yanagawa style.
Masatsune, the first generation of Ishiguro, studied under Naomasa(the founder of Yanagawa school) and katou Naotsune. He showed his fine workmanship in chasing birds of prey realistically.
Omori is a branch school of Yokoya's and showed prosperity as Ishiguro. The founder is substantially second Terumasa who lived konryuzan-Sensouji in Edo. He left quite dignified work of shakudou nanako takabori kin iroe which was expert of his teacher Soumin. And next Teruhide is well-known as skillful craftsman through the school. He created the original design of wave which became representative of Omori's.
Yoshioka Inabanosuke
Yoshioka Inabanosuke worked for Tokugawa bakufu so as Goto family and Hirata family. Early generations works has no sign, later they signs equally "Yoshioka Inabanosuke" but it is hard to consider the indivisual from the sign. There might have exist the professional just to sign, therefore the sign doesn't show the each character of the generation.
Nara school was leading school of kinkou world that trained many branch school. Excellent craftsman as Toshinaga, joui, Yasuchika and Masayuki was produced from here.
Hamano Shouzui studied under Toshinaga(Nara school) and gave his name Otsuryuken, Miboku and Shisu and so on. He came after "Nara san saku"(Three great workmanship of Nara) and known as wild style. predecessor appraised his style as "simple but vigorous".
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Yasuchika stand at second place of "Nara san saku", he was born in Yamagata prefecture in Kanbun 10th. First he studied under Shouami Yoshihisa in Shounai, then at the age of 34 he left his family behind and went Edo to become pupil of Nara Tatsumasa. During the Shoutoku(1711-1715) his efforts rewarded with success which he became in Matsudaira Yorisada's employ with exceptionally good treatment. But in Kyouhou(1716-1735) he felt limitation to work as employee and again he came back to Edo and settled down in Kanda to devote himself to work free and launch many excellent pieces in the world.
Ito school prospered in both Edo and Odawara and was popular during mid to the end of Edo period, they were specialized in tsuba. His elaborated design as sukishitabori, shishbori, ita tsuba with sukashi gained people's heart at that time. Several kind of flower is seen in his design.
Iwamoto school improved the carving technique based on Yokoya style. Konkan is the most famous who was affected by his predecessor Ryoukan and Nara school. His style typically represents Edo temperament but also original.
The first generation of Sonobe is Yoshio, he studied under Tanaka 5th Yoshiaki. He uses two defferent Japaneses character for "sono".
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Chizuka Hisanori was Bushi and started to learn metal carving at the age of 38. His master Teruhide is known as one of the best craftsman in Omori school. Teruhide should have been impressed with Hisanori's spirits to be proficient in an art that Teruhide taught him sincerely. He left exquisite menukis.
Okinari started Horie school, he learned Nara style from Hamano Shouzui then after Shouzui's death, he studied under Omori Teruhide. Okinari employed Hachisuka family in Awa.
Jochiku, commonly called Seijirou is the founder of Murakami. His father was a craftsman of inlaying stirrup so Jochiku also engaged in that work when he was young. His peculiar ishimeji looks like crape and dragonfly, bees and fishes are taken up in his design and inlay way called "sumie zougan"(this inlay looks as if it had drawn by writing brush) is usually seen in his work. He named Mitsunori in his last years. There are Masanori and Johaku under him.
Tomonobu learned painting from Tani Fumiaki, so he drew rough sketch by himself. His design has been precisely chased and looks as if it had been cutted out from a landscape.
Sano Naoyoshi learned Yanagawa style from Nakamura Naonori and showed imcomparable ability that he promoted Sano school and employ himself in Akimoto Tajimanokami in Yamagata prefecture.
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Inagawa Naoshige whose name was Shouzaburou is the first generation of Inawgawa school. It is not clear where he learned but it is considered either Nara school or Yanagawa Naomasa. Shigeyoshi and Shigetsugu is the same person. Naokatsu is his real son and known as the best craftsman in the school that he gained a reputation. Yoshikatsu and Kikuchi Jokatsu are pupil of Naokatsu's.
Nagatoshi was born in Kurume(Chikugo), studied under Yokoya school and was in Arima's employ. Later he removed to Edo and promoted his school around Kansei term. His style is based on Yokoya's that is shakudou nanakoji and takabori iroe. There is Egawa Toshimune(Sourin is the same person) is his pupil that also worked for Arima family.
Kouno Haruaki was born in Tenmei 7th, learned from Yanagawa Naoharu. He moved from place to place through Touhoku area to raise his technique during that, he once settled down in Sendai for two years and went to Aizu-Wakamatsu and Tsuruoka. He kept his motivation till late years.
Yoshitsugu who belongs to Touryusai school called himself Tokujirou, studied under his father and Tanaka Kiyonaga. His works expresses his personality and been teacher of Okada Yukiga but unfortunatly he ends his life in Meiji 6th at his age of 32.
The first generation of Tobari is Tomihisa, who is one of the favourite pupils of Goto Enjo Mitsutaka. He took on himself heavy responsibility as to subsititute for his master's. Later he became independent and taught his son Yoshihisa as a pupil and Tomiyuki.
Rinsendou Tsuji Mitsumasa
Tsuji Mitsumasa came out from the family of gun smiths. He studied kinkou under Yokoya Souyo and created original style of his own. He was very fond of Edo culture called "iki" that he tried to represent it faithfully therefore his works has some poetry mood.
Kanou Natsuo

Unique epoch of Edo to Meiji produced the great craftsman of modern kinkou world such as Kanou Natsuo. His achievement of bringing kinkou up to art has been left as his brilliant footprint.
Natsuo was born in Bunsei 10th as a son of rice shop called Fushimi-ya in Atago Yamashiro and became adopted child of Kanou Harusuke the sword dealer in his young age. Later he learned metal carving from Ikeda Takahisa who belongs to Otsuki school and learned painting from Nakajima Raishou who belongs to Maruyama school. Desire to improve himself made him study not only art but also the Chinese classics and his personality attracte people's mind that many pupils gathered around him with deep respect. The pupils are Kagawa Katsuhiro, Nomura Katsumori, Tsukada Hideaki, and Un'no Shoumin and so on.
In Meiji 27th Natsuo became professor of Tokyo art school and made big effort to develop the kinkou world.

Kyo kinko

Umetada Myouju, alias Hikojirou, and named soukichi in his early age, was born in Kyoto at Eiroku 1st. Umetada is a distinguished family that employed in Ashikaga Shogun for generations, Myouju himself worked for Ashikaga Yoshiaki aswell. His works as a swordsmith especially tanto and ingenious sculpture are quite different from swordsmiths before and was equal to Horikawa Kunihiro who was look up to as a father of Shintou. And big name as "Hizen Tadayoshi" and "Harimanokami Teruhiro" were his pupil. On the other hand, Myoju was famous with his work as kinkou. He used various kind of metal to inlay with his original way of hirazougan.
There are various kinds of "Ami" title for each accomplishments and "Shouami" was given to tsubakou. In Muromachi period, the common people began to participate in art world but it was still not easy to sit with upper class people, so those people who was proficient in art acquired "Ami" to be equal with bonze and made circle of friends with the nobility.
Shouami school originates in close associates of Ashikaga Yoshimasa and prosper in centering around Kyoto. Gorgeous design with gold inlay was their typical style.
Kyouho 6th, Ichinomiya Nagatsune was born in Tsuruga Echizen. He went to Kyoto and studied under the kinkou called Kashiwaya Tadahachi and later became pupil of Yasui Takanaga and trained there. Mid Edo period was the time of cultural ripeness. Maruyama Oukyo, Ito Jakuoki, and Soga Ranpaku who was famous as painter was his rival even if they were not in the same field. Nagatsune earned his good reputation among the Kyou kinkou world that when Soumin represented east kinkou world, Nagatsune stood for west kinkou world. Nagayoshi, Tsunenao and Nagayoshi are his pupil.

Otsuki Mitsuoki was the best craftsman of Otsuki school and considered as actual founder. He will be 4th generation from Kourin. He was also one of the best craftsman in Kyoto at his time, ranked with Tetsugendou Shouraku and Ichinomiya Nagatsune. Just after the age of 30, he went to Edo and studied under Kishi Koma who was a Court painter and also became friends with Nagasawa Rosetsu who was a pupil of Maruyama Oukyo. Mitsuoki was strongly influenced by his friend and introduced their way into his rough sketch. Late in his life, Mitsuoki got out of realism and approached to the stage of Zen spirit. A sense of evanescence originate in the death of his mother and 6 year old son and reflection is appeared in his works as some kind of sadness. Mitsuoki became more pessimistic as he gets older and his spirit has be seen very strongly. Hideoki, Tokuoki, Hidekuni, Gassan and Takaoki are from this school.

Okamoto Tetsugendou

Tetsugendou Shouraku is counted as one of the "Kyoto san meikou(three great craftsman of Kyoto)". His name was Genbei and signed Tetsugendou Shouraku and also Toshiyuki. In the prime of manhood, he changed the character of "gen". Tetsugendou was outstanding in technique of tetsu(iron) tsuba and was never second to none. To many people's regret, he died in An'ei 9th.

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Yamazaki Ichiga
Yamazaki Ichiga named Ninzaemon for generations and alias Kosui. The founder was a pupil of Gotou Shujou so their style was following Gotou and made specialty of shakudou nanakoji takabori iroe.
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Hosono Masamori
Hosono Masamori named Souzaemon. He usually used copper and shibuichi(silver) base and and carved sensitive kebori and inlay various kinds of metal to sketche Kyoto in distdant view.
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Ayanokouji Nagamine
Edge of fuchi is covered with thick gold plate, this is distinguishing feature of his. Ayanokouji Nagamine is called Jirouzou. The way of his carving is called "kamigata bori" , kamigata correspond to Kyoto, Osaka area, which is based on Mino-Goto style.
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Gotou Ichijou
Goto Ichijou is the last big name of Goto and ranked with Natsuo as great master of modern kinkou world. He was born as Kyou-Goto Juujou's second son and started to learn metal chasing under Gotou Kijou. At the age of fifteen, Ichijou inherited adoptive family and named Kouka and changed his name Mitsuyuki when he was twenty-one. And when he was thirty-four he changed again to Mitsushiro at the age of thirty-four and had a opportunity of making fitting for emperor and given rank of Houkyou. At the same time, he had his head shaved and became Ichijou. There are Funada Ikkin, Hashimoto Isshi and Araki Toumei as his pupil.
Ichijou was a man of culture that showed remakable ability in painting, haiku and waka. After the Meiji ishin, he carried out public duty at Kyoto, appointed from governor and on October 17th Meiji 9th, he ended his glorious life at the age of eighty-six.

Local kinko

Yoshihisa is from Shouami and went to Edo and learned from Nara Toshiharu. He spreaded out Nara style through Shounai area. And his pupils as Tsuchiya Yasuchika, Watanabe Arichika and Andou Yoshitoki followed after him and gain reputation of shounai kinkou.
Other famous craftsman are Yokoya Souju, Washita Mitsuchika, Katsurano Sekibun, Muneyoshi and Munehira.
Mutsu(Tsugaru) is a generic term of Iwaki, Iwashiro, Rikuzen, Rikuchu and Mutsu. It used to be called Michinoku until Meiji 1st when Mutsu divided in five area.
Two different Shouami Kiyoaki took big part in mid Edo period. The others are known quite few.
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Nanbu family came into existence from Nanbu village in Kai prefecture, built a castle and stayed as a lord of Morioka castle since Bunroku 1st till Meiji period. Tachibana Takaie, Takatsugu, Takamune are known for Morioka kinkou, their typical works are well-forged iron base tsuba with kosukashi. And there was a group which has "Masa" in each name, Masatsura, Masaharu, and another Masatsura. Tomomichi is one of the craftsman worked for Nanbu family who studied under Someya Tomonobu and Goto Mitsuakira.
Sendai was a castle town ruled by Date family. In the reign of Date Masamune people became more and more interested in culture and art, those bright tone had an effect on works of kinkou.
Famous kinkou in Sendai is Kiyosada who worked for Date family. He studied in Omori school and deviced a unique way of hirazougan(inlaying) and left many fine works.
Aizu Shouami
In Aizu Wakamatsu district school of Aizu Shouami worked during early to mid Edo period. They named "Naga somthing" and their style was generally old fashioned. And also many craftsman existed after mid Edo period till Meiji but was different from early people. Masamitsu and Masashige are quite famous.
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Akita Shouami
Craftsman who followed Satake family when they removed to Akita organized a group of Akita Shouami. Representative one is Shouami-Denbei-Shigeyoshi. Denbei was born in Keian 4th(1651) at Shounai, at the age of eighteen he went to Edo and became pupil of Shouami-something and studied hard for four years. In Enpou 1st(1673) he moved to Akita and stayed there. Kiyoshige and Hisakuni are his brother.
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Mito procuced a number of craftsman in late Edo period and known as big producing district of tsuba as Choushu. The origin is said that Satake invited a chaser of Shouami school from Kyoto but it is not clear.
Gunji Yogorou and Yatabe Michitoshi constructed the base of Mito kinkou and then Tamagawa school appeared. Tamagawa Yoshihisa was a pupil of Michitoshi and also Uchikoshi Hirotoshi who showed good technique in realistic carving.
Tamagawa, Ooyama and Ichiryu are the typical schools existed in late Edo period.
Echizen is a part of Hokurikudou and now is Fukui prefecture. Kinai is a big school in Echizen produced good rounded iron sukashi tsuba. And Myouchin Yoshihisa school succeeded to 10 generations through Edo period. Haruta school is also famous for armour maker. Akao school worked at Edo as well as Echizen.
Kaga prefecture prospered under Maeda family's control, Kanazawa was the center and showed cultural growth brightly next to Kyoto and Edo.
Craftsmen decorats by inlaying into armour are the origin of Kaga kinkou. They worked under the patronage of Maeda and influenced by Goto Teijou and other Goto. Later they establishedf their own style which is shakudo nanako base with autumn plants in Mino taste and silver(shibuichi) base with bright inlay(hirazougan) and so.

Works made by specialized metal carving technique called "Minobori" are seen a lot in Mino. Design of minobori are mostly autumn plants made by shakudou base and iron tsuba is hardly seen. Shakudou nanako base, leave the seppadai and mimi(edge) part and sukisage(carve the design) are their way.
The works that classified into "ko-Mino" are generic term for all Mino style fittings made before Momoyama period. It is just that they are similar to Mino way and also old, it doesn't mean they were made in Mino.


The most famous craftsman of Kitagawa school is Mogarashi(or Souheishi) Souten. There are several generations with same name and the 1st Souten named Hidenori in his early days. They produced dignified tsuba with Mino style design and iron sukashi tsuba with samurai design.

Hazama tsuba is a generic term for tsubas produced by craftsmen in Kameyama area in Mie prefecture. Those craftsmen existed here and there and their ancestor was gunsmiths of Kunitomo village in Oumi so that their inlay is based on gun's inlay that they called its unique technique "sahari"zougan. Saharizougan uses lead for inlay and looks apparantly plain and simple but with a elaborate observation it emits an iris peculiarly and elegant aspects appears.

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Nagato belongs to Sanyoudou and corresponds to Yamaguchi prefecture together with Suou. Great number of kinkou appeared from Choushu such as Nakai Zensuke Tomotsune, Okada Nobumasa and Taira Tomokiyo. Iron based round tsuba with sukidashi takabori are chiefly seen.
In Higo, Hayashi, Hirata, Nishigaki and Shimizu shcools prospered under the guidance of Hosokawa Sansai Tadaoki who were skilled in both literary and military arts. Sansai was well versed in tea ceremony and counted as one of the expert and its spirit carried weight in his teaching. "Higo koshirae", one of the ideal of uchigatana-koshirae, derived from his taste.
Late in Edo period, Kamiyoshi Fukanobu appeared and breathe new life into Higo tsuba world.
In Hizen, Nabeshima family put great deal of effort to increase productive industry. As a consequence Japanese sword and tsubas product were vigorous.
Tadayoshi 1st was a big name as swordsmith and also made tsuba. During the period of national isolation Nagasaki was the only entrance to foreign country and exotic design called "Nanban tsuba" prevalented there. Others are Jakushi, Yagami and Hirato school. And Tadayoshi 1st ,a big name as swordsmith, also made tsuba.
Satsuma is a part of Kagoshima prefecture now. Pieces from here are mostly well-forged and designs are powerful for example, "tiger in bamboo forest", "natamame(kind of beans)". Oda Naoka ,learned from Ikeda Toshimine and Ataka Isshu, expressed spirit of Satsuma people into his works and was worthy of praise. Also craftsmen belongs to Chishiki(knowledge) school existed. And famous swordsmith such as "Houkinokami Masayuki" and "Oku Motohira" made themselves tsubas.


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