Funada Ikkin Yoshimori Tsuba

Funada Ikkin Yoshimori

periodLate Edo (ca. 1850)
designationNBTHK Hozon Tosogu Tsuba
dimensions6.9 x 6.7 cm
mei船田一琴「花押」 · Funada Ikkin (kao)
price -sold-

Funada Ikkin, Imai Nagatake, Hashimoto Isshi, Nakagawa Issho, and Wada Isshin were the five most outstanding pupils of Goto Ichijo. Among them, Ikkin comes first in his expertise in the art of taka-nikubori (high relief). Kano Natsuo

Funada Yutaro was born to in Shonai of Dewa province in the far north of the main island of Japan in 1812. His father was Funada Kanjo, who was a student of the great master Iwamoto Konkan and his student Kanri.

Kanjo died when when Yutaro was very young and his mother later married Kumagai Yoshinobu. Yoshinobu was also a tosogu artisan who then began training Yutaro, now named Shoji, at the age of 15. The young boy showed extreme talent so his step-father brought him to Edo to present to his own teacher Kumagai Yoshiyuki of the Edo Higo school, and asked him to teach the young boy. Yoshiyuki agreed, and granted the boy his first art name Yoshinaga (義長).

Already at the age of 17 in 1828, Yoshinaga was showing incredible talent and so he was taken and presented to Goto Ichijo who agreed to bring him into his studio and train him further. At this point Yoshinaga left Edo to go to Kyoto with Ichijo.

Goto Ichijo had a large number of pupils, twenty-two of whom are named by Mosle. Among them none won and deserved a higher reputation than Funada Yoshinaga, or Ikkin as he sometimes signed his mounts, an artist who died in 1862. Helen Gunsaulus, Japanese Sword Mounts in the Collections of Field Museum

Juyo Ikkin Koshirae
Juyo Ikkin Koshirae

Funada Ikkin Yoshinaga

After ten years of apprenticeship, Ichijo granted Yoshinaga one character of his own name, something reserved for only his best students. Yoshinaga now became known as Ikkin (一琴) and at the age of 27 returned to Edo to build his own studio. From this studio he would make tosogu for the Sakai daimyo who was in charge of Ikkin's home town of Shonai. This involved some travel back and forth between Shonai and Edo and he may have shifted his center of work along with the Daimyo's schedule of one year in Edo, and one year in Shonai.

Ikkin's productive period would last from 1838 to his unfortunate early death in 1863 at the age of 52, so there are relatively few works compared to some other of the Ichijo school including Ichijo himself.

Kosuki-bori technique
Kosuki-bori technique

Ikkin developed his own techniques separately from the school, designing his own chisels and coming up with a kosuki-bori technique used to carve tree branches in a thick style which is both artistic and generates a great feeling from the presentation. He is a master of takabori and katakiribori as well and is the best among the school in this regard. He sometimes but not very often chose to use nanako in the Goto style, and he had a curiosity and interest in using various metals and textures to produce new feelings from his work. Mikagi-jo which is a polished base was his preferred form for tsuba and kozuka. He worked in Iron as well and was influenced by the Shoami school from his home town of Shonai and also drew inspiration from Yasuchika of the Nara school. There are others that connect back to Goto iebori of dragons and when working in this style his precision and incredible craftsmanship makes them stand out as among the very best of what you can expect from the greater Goto school as a whole. Other than dragons, he liked living things, animals and plants and did use Mt. Fuji which was an inspiration to all Japanese artists.

Ikkin was famous for his peculiar katakiribori carvings and the so-called technique of kōsuki-bori (甲鋤彫) for his interpretations of plum trees. For this technique, a chisel with a crescent-shaped tip is applied to create broad linear elements. Markus Sesko, Kinko Kodogu

Ikkin signed most of his work as Funada Ikkin (船田一琴), but sometimes signed just as Ikkin, or at other times as Funada Ikkin Yoshinaga. The signatures reflect Ichijo's training and calligraphy style as is common among his best students. He has to the present day retained a reputation as the best student of Ichijo, and he maintained a very close relationship with the second best of Ichijo's students Hashimoto Isshi.

There are cases where the two of them made daisho sets together, with Ikkin making the dai and Isshi making the Sho which also reflects their relative rank. These are sometimes in the style of their teacher and they are thought to sometimes have substituted for Ichijo in the manufacture of some of the tosogu which came out of the workshop as they were the two who had the closest relationship to Ichijo.

Ikkin was very skilled with takabori and katakiribori, unrivalled when it comes to the carving technique of kōsukibori, and his skill and ability was acknowledged by his master Ichijō. NBTHK Juyo Tosogu

Issho must have had a stressful life, with his responsibility as senior student to Ichijo and thus the work in Ichijo's vast group of students, as well as the travel to Shonai and back with the Sakai daimyo. He also seems to have directly trained Imai Nagatake who was himself highly skilled, and so some of the reason that Ichijo was able to train so many students may have been due to contributions from both Ikkin and Isshi working silently behind the scenes.

Ikkin is also said to have trained the swordsmith Kurihara Nobuhide in the art of carving, which Nobuhide then applied to swords. Nobuhide was the best student of Kiyomaro and himself is the very best shinshinto smith in his horimono carving. The only horimono carver who can match him is Ikkanshi Tadatsuna. So again we see Ikkin adopting Ichijo's generosity with his time and knowledge and probably taking on far too many personal burdens.

Likely as a result from all of this responsibility and workload, Ikkin fell into some hard drinking habits and this may have contributed to his early death at 53 years old. This robbed the tosogu world of one of its great talents and reduced the number of works available by this artist.

There are 13 items from Funada Ikkin which have passed Juyo with the NBTHK including some that show that he worked side by side on the same subject matter as Goto Ichijo (and in these cases, the work is not inferior but actually shows it could even be better than Ichijo). Two of these have passed on to Tokubetsu Juyo including one of the joint works with Isshi. There is only a small list of tosogu makers that have passed Tokubetsu Juyo: Egawa Sogi, Omori Eisho, Hikozo, Ichijo, Ikkin, Jingo, Jochiku, Joi, Goto Joshin, Kaneie, Goto Kenjo, Ishiguro Masatsune, Ishiguro Masayoshi, Goto Mitsuakira, Goto Mitsumasa, Goto Mitsunobu, Umetada Myoju, Kano Natsuo, Nobuie, Nobukiyo, Tadaoki, Umetada Shigeyoshi, Unno Shomin, Yokoya Soyo, Yokoya Somin, Otsuki Tokuoki, Araki Tomei, Nara Toshinaga, Tou, Yasuchika, and Goto Yujo.

So if you wanted to make a heavenly choir of tosogu artists this would be what it would look like, and Ikkin finds himself in excellent company above. Bear in mind as well that many of them have only one example as Tokubetsu Juyo is extremely hard for fittings to pass.

Ikkin's work can be found in the prestigious Mitsumura collection at the Nezu Museum, in the Walter's Museum, in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and in the Tokyo National Museum.

Funada Ikkin Yoshimori Tsuba Tsuba

Funada Ikkin Yoshimori

Yutaro (later Shoshuke), was born into Ikkin's family some time around 1830 or 1840. As the de-facto leader of the Ichijo students (and there were many), and with his responsibility to the Sakai daimyo and the travel schedule to and from Shonai, Ikkin was not able to handle the full responsibility of training his own son.

For example Imai Nagatake was another great student of Ichijo but Ikkin seems to have been responsible for his training. The travel schedule back and forth to Shonai may not have been considered to be in the boy's best interests either. In this, we need to understand that Ikkin was acting out of a strong sense of duty to both his teacher and his patron as well as deciding what was best for his young son. I think it illustrates much good character on the part of Ikkin and he seems in all of this to have put his own desires last.

Hashimoto Isshi being the second best of the Ichijo students was no slouch by any means and an excellent source of knowledge. Ikkin asked Isshi to take on his son as an apprentice, and as a result the son Shosuke took up study with Isshi at the age of 14. Within four years at the age of 18 he showed great advances and graduated to become a direct student of Ichijo. He first took on the name Yoshiyasu from his father, and later became Ikkin Yoshimori (一琴義守) likely with the blessing of Ichijo since it contains one character of his name.

Funada Ikkin Yoshimori mostly signed his work in two characters, Ikkin, but used a distinctive kao from his father and thus it is easy to tell which generation made any work signed Ikkin. It is clear that Ikkin also taught his son as his son adopted the same chisel cuts and style and subject matter of his father. So we can see again that between his various responsibilities, though unofficially, he took time out to train his son and do his best as a father.

We get to see not so many of the nidai's existing works, but his skill was closely compatible to his father's. His mei was either IKKIN YOSHIMORI with the monogram or IKKIN with the monogram. The chisel cuts are amazingly similar to his father's, but their monograms are distinctly different. NBTHK English Token Bijutsu

Ikkin Yoshimori surely lived to see the sword ban and the subsequent failure of the economy for tosogu makers, so what work we find today is relatively rare according to the NBTHK. They also state that his technique and skill is very close to his father. Since he signed the same way as his father on occasion and their skills being very close, some of the fame of Funada Ikkin is likely due to, or at the very least attested to by the son's work.

It is said that he returned to Shōnai after his father’s death. He enjoyed a long life and so it is assumed that many of the works signed Ikkin are from the hand of the 2nd gen., also because father and son worked in almost the same style. Markus Sesko, Kinko Kodogu

As Sesko writes above the nidai Ikkin went to Shonai after his father's death and would likely have taken up the responsibilities of his father to the daimyo in 1863. No date is given for his death but after the sword ban and very likely along with other tosogu artists of the time, due to the failing economy around the Japanese sword, retired and faded away.

Hozon Funada Ikkin Yoshimori Tsuba
Ikkin Yoshimori
Funada Ikkin Yoshimori Tsuba OrigamiFunada Ikkin Yoshimori Tsuba Box

Hozon Funada Ikkin Yoshimori Tsuba

The tsuba shows off Ikkin's uniquely developed kosuki-bori chiselling technique which is used to create the branches of plum trees. Inlaid is silver and gold plum blossoms. The shape of the tsuba, the patina and the texture combine together for a really exquisite feeling. When the tsuba is flipped it can be seen to be one continuous scene as the branches connect. It shows careful planning and perfect execution in all ways.

The base metal of this tsuba is known as akagane or suaka and is a copper with naturally occurring zinc and lead in it which results in a beautiful natural patina that is not uniform but shows a play of color from orange, yellow and red. It is carefully textured as well with an organic natural surface. As a result it feels like something that came straight from the ground without forced artifice. It compliments perfectly the carving and the texture put into the tsuba as well as the beautiful blossoms inlaid into it. There are other copper alloys such as shinchu, and sentoku which can be candidates for this material.

Ikkin's work appeals very strongly to my personal taste and the gentle, natural feeling makes for a very pleasant study which never fails to bring a smile to my face. I'm drawn in particular to the texturing which is so subtle and so gentle and reflects in my opinion a very high degree of taste. It's things like this tsuba that has at first an appearance of simplicity due to its natural appearance, but on closer inspection you realize the sophistication of construction is extremely high.

There are stronger and weaker works always in the span of all works made by an artist. There are some that reflect the roots of their training and there are others that reflect the final destination of where they went to. This work illustrates very well the exact special technique for which both Ikkin were praised and exist in the body of work that substantiates the reputation of Funada Ikkin as the top student of Goto Ichijo and also won praise for his son. Since the father Funada Ikkin was specially renowned for his depiction of plum trees, this work of the second generation stands as a good example of this style and an homage to his father.

This tsuba is ranked Hozon, but I have no problem guaranteeing Tokubetsu Hozon for both to any buyer. Often times in Japan when submitting tosogu for papers, Hozon is only asked for to guarantee the signature as the artistry is self-evident to anyone including those who have not studied tosogu.