Jump to content

Edo Period Japanese Sword Fittings - Kodogu

Henry 24th

Recommended Posts

Members of the GMIC.

I thought I would share with you something a little different from my collection. There has been a number of postings on Japanese Swords, most of which have been war-time "shin-gunto" swords. I do not have any war-time weapons, and, It is not the swords or blades I wish to showcase - but the fittings themselves. Mostly pieces from the Edo period.

Kodogu and Tosogu refer to the small fittings or ornaments that adorn the Samurai sword. They often portray religious, mythological, historical or nature themes. In addition, there is often some kind of symbology/iconography contained in the composition as well. Sword fittings were very much of a personal nature - like jewelry today. As the Samurai did not make use of personal adornment the way we have done in the west for thousands of years, the sword became adorned using all manner of depictions. Use of patinated metals ranging from deep blueish black to chromium yellow and brilliant reds, allowed the Japanese craftsmen to create "Iroe" - paintings of/in metal.

Not our normal military collectables ie" photos, medals and uniforms, but military artifacts none the less. When you look at these fittings try and think: How would you create this image in metal. Any and all questions and comments are greatly appreciated.

If you have any fittings you would like to show, please feel free to post them here. Enjoy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First off - a Japanese Sword Guard (Tsuba)

This tsuba depicts Shinto Ideology - the theme of which is prevalent in Japanese art. I will post three more fittings with this theme soon. Superstitions regarding the rabbit relate that the female conceives by running across the surface of water under a full moon on the eighteenth night of the eighth month. If however the moon is obstructed by cloud or mist, or not yet full, then she will not conceive. Please note that the moon on this tsuba is in crescent form.

This is one of my absolute favorite guards. The rabbits are of copper inlay and then gilded, jumping over waves carved into the iron surface. The water spray is executed in gold and Silver dot inlay. Moon in silver. Unsigned. circa 1750 - Mito School.

Obverse on the left Reverse on the right

Edited by Henry 24th
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A Fuchi Kashira set. These two pieces belong to the sword handle - one at the pommel (Kashira), the other (fuchi) goes just before the sword guard. Depicted are a bat, stag and reishi mushrooms. All are emblems of longevity and good fortune. The whole composition is constructed of silver, copper and shakudo inlay, over an iron body. Unsigned, Nara School circa 1750.



More soon.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

How about this one for old?

<a href="http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=20333" target="_blank">http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=20333</a>

It has been languishing down the page, having stumped anyone here.

Thanks for the comments thus far Brian and Rick. More will be posted soon.

Rick, I have sent you a PM.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

An orphaned (single) fuchi. This means the kashira has gone missing. This time it depicts an allusion to the legend of Chokwaro. Japanese mythology is filled with 'Sennin" - hermit monks that have attained magical powers through extreme age and meditation, and/or some object. There are well over 50 of them. Chokwaros particular gift was a gourd that when opened, would release a horse that he could ride away on. Had the pommel still been with this fuchi, it would most certainly have depicted Chokwaro himself.

Gourd is of gold, Horse and string are shibuichi (see above) and the ground is Shakudo Nanako. The underplate is signed Mitsutsura. school unknown, circa 1780



Underplate (tenjo gane)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...

Japanese Sword Fuchi

To the fuchi surface, a female bat with her pup closely entwined. Both bats have fur intricately incised over their entire bodies. Minute gold inlay for the eyes and teeth. Also the mother bats tongue is of a deep rich red inlayed copper. Note the use of Shishiabori carving where the wings are both above and below the fuchi surface. This is most likely the work of a very accomplished Hamano artist. In all likelihood there was once a signature. Hamano School, Unsigned, circa 1800.

Constructed entirely of Shibuichi, this single fuchi is a both a tragedy and a pleasure to behold. High relief carving , and Shishiabori have been effectively used to bring out a dramatic depth and life to the composition. The term "Intaglio Rivaleto" and Shishiabori refer to the same technique ... carving away the image from below the surface - Sunk relief carving. This technique was a specialty of the Hamano and Joi Schools though not exclusive to them.

Unfortunately the fuchi has been cut down and dissected to prepare it for use as part of another piece of jewelry. Many pieces of "western" jewelry are found that had previously been Japanese sword fittings. Menuki made for great cufflinks, brooches and bracelets, Kozuka became eating utensil handles and brooches, kashira most often became rings and fuchi strung together made bracelets. This was a peculiarity of Victorian England during the Art Nouveau movement.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...

This is without doubt THE absolute favorite fuchi in my collection.

A somber mid-grey shibuichi polished body. Two shakudo honzogan (flush inlay) crows perch upon an ancient gnarled tree branch,

laden with snow. This design wraps around to the opposite face where more snow partially obscures water grasses next

to a frozen stream. Katakiribori (brush-like engraving) was employed for the tree branch, and some detail to the crows wings and tail. All

snow patches are of silver honzogan inlay. The birds eyes and river grass are gilded. Underneath, the copper Tenjo

gane reads Ishiguro Masayoshi with kao.


The signature of this fuchi, it can be conjectured, may be false. There are many examples of ishiguro Masayoshi's work

to be found. All original examples are of extreme quality and craftsmanship. All manner of iroe incrustation are

employed resulting in an incredible pallet of life and colour. In general a favorite, but not exclusive topic of the

Ishiguro school, was birds. If Masayoshi set out to create a piece depicting crows in a winter setting, then he would not

have had much use for the standard ishiguro colour pallet. The artist did however execute the piece wonderfully,

regardless if it was Masayoshi himself or a pupil within the Ishiguro school. Ishiguro School circa 1850

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Thomas and Hugh.

I am glad you like them. Thomas is the tsuba shown in your collection?

Hugh, did you manage to find some pieces for yourself?

I will post some more items soon.


I was able to find some interesting ODM, which really started me on my small Japanese collection. I started at the flea market outside the Meiji Shrine, and graduated over time. Toward the end of my visits there, I found a dealer whose name is at home (I'm travelling now), who had wonderful stuff. I speak virtually no Japanese and he spoke no English, but he sold me a few things and showed me some wonderful pieces, including a First Class Order of the Kite breast star which was as impressive a piece as I've ever seen. He only wanted Y1,000,000 for it (2003 or so), but that was a lot more than I had available. I'm still sorry to have left it there.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Blog Comments

    • As a theology student my professor, a much published former Naval chaplain, set us an essay, saying that if we could answer that successfully we would be guaranteed  a good degree "Which of the gospel writers was the biggest liar, discuss."   I got a good mark, but  don't want to be burned for heresy.   P
    • As my father used to say: "Tain't so much Pappy's a liar - he just remembers big."  
    • Brian: First, let me say that I always enjoy reading your blog and your "spot on" comments.  Another fine topic with such a broad expansion into so many different facets.  I had watched this a week or two ago and when reading your blog, it reminded me of this great quote.   There is a great video on the origins of "Who was Murphy in Murphy's Law"   Anyway, about mid way through this video, there is this great quote and I think it sums it up quite well to your statem
    • I've received word from the Curator that she has permission to re-open this summer.   We're already making plans for a November event at the Museum.   Michael
    • I recall I did the same on hot days at Old Fort York back in 1973-74 - wool uniforms, and at 90F they would let you take your backpack off.   Michael
  • Create New...