Goto Ichijo Futakoromono

Goto Ichijo

periodEnd of Edo (1865)
designationNBTHK Juyo Tosogu Futakoromono
Made by Hakuō at the old age of 75
Goto Hokkyo Ichijo (kao)
price -sold-

The maker Goto Ichijo is the last greatest metalworker that the distinguished Goto family produced at the end of their glorious history. He was active at the end of the Edo Period and lived long. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

At the end of the line for the Goto family came its greatest artist, Goto Ichijo.

He was born in Kyoto 1791 with the name Eijuro to Goto Jujo of the Shichiroemon line of the Goto family. He studied under his adopted father Goto Kenjo (Hachirobei) until the age of nine, and then Hanzaemon Kijo. When Kenjo died in 1805, Ichijo inherited the Hachirobei line at the young age of only fifteen years old and changed his name to Mitsutaka, and in 1811 changed to Mitsuyuki.

At this time he began doing work for the Edo branch (Shirobei) and some time after this began signing as Mitsuyo (around 1820). His work at this point began its rise to excellence and many Juyo exist today with this Mitsuyo signature.

Already at only the age of 34 in 1824 he was given the task to decorate the Masamune bin the Imperial Collection of Emperor Kokaku. Because of the excellent work done for the Emperor he was given the rank of Hokkyo and changed his name to Ichijo. By 1851 his reputation rose to the point that the Shogunate asked him to move to Edo to make works directly for the Tokugawa. He brought with him Hashimoto Isshi and his student Funada Ikkin, and by 1855 demand and respect for his work was so high he had his son Mitsunobu come to Edo to help in the workshop.

Goto Ichijo
Goto Ichijo

Gotō Ichijō produced many finely detailed works during the height of his career. Usually the elegance of a work suffers from too much detail but Ichijō understood like no other kinkō master how to maintain elegance and taste even at highly detailed interpretations. NBTHK Token Bijutsu English

By 1862 at the age of 73 he moved back to Kyoto, presumably to retire to a more simple life, but he never stopped working. At the age of 74 he was asked by Emperor Komei to make a tachi mounting and in return Emperor Komei gave him the rank of Hogen. In his (never quote) semi-retirement he experimented with iron, which was a material that the Goto family forbid itself from using. For these pieces he signed with the name Hakuo (伯応, meaning an elder brother or a leader), and sometimes he added Totsuo-sanjin (凸凹山人) which means Hermit of Unevenness, and I take to be an expression of great humility as he expressed his skills in this new material.

He experimented with various materials not traditionally used by the Goto house, including silver, shibuichi, and iron. For this he is an iconoclast, but his work was always exquisitely made and carefully laid out and his aesthetic sense is perhaps the greatest of all fittings makers to have lived. As such it is always a simple case to look at the work and immediately know it is by his hand as none others could do it.

Goto Ichijo Futakoromono Tsuba
Goto Ichijo Futakoromono Fuchigashira

Ichijo was the last and one of the greatest masters representing the Goto school. When he first took up the metal art, he followed the Goto's traditional style called iebori, and mainly produced the so-called mitokoromono consisting of three parts of sword fittings, namely menuki, kogai, and kozuka. His favorite designs were of dragon and shishi. Later, he dropped the iebori workmanship and turned to the style based on realistic depiction of nature. His motifs were quite diversified and included natural objects such as grasses, flowers, insects, birds, and landscapes. He depicted them in a highly elaborate and precise manner. NBTHK Token Bijutsu English

Many great students studied under him: Funada Ikkin, Hashimoto Isshi, Nakagawa Issho, Imai Nagatake, and Araki Tomei are leaders among this group. But many others came to train and learn from the old master and he graciously trained them all with good spirit. I have been told in Japan that Kano Natsuo, the other luminary artist of this time period, was a harsh taskmaster in his relentless pursuit of perfection and as a result many students wilted and dropped out under his tutelage. But Goto Ichijo was a kind gardener, watering the plants and caring for them and under his teachings these masters all bloomed and have many Juyo works of their own. Each of them shows the hallmarks of careful composition, and exquisite, I would also say tender technique that made his works so elegantly beautiful.

Ichijo went to Yamato-e's revivalist Kikuchi Yosai (1788-1878) to obtain the design for his carving. He also took drawing lessons from Matsumoto Kensai. His understanding and mastery of Japanese traditional poem is also conspicuous in his work. He produced all the metal parts attached to the sword-mounting. The kinds of jigane he used include kin or gold, shakudo, Shibuichi, straka, and tetsu or iron. He did the most thorough work throughout, from basics, nanako work, and to finish. He was also very careful to make sure his works were well taken care of, and signing on the container box was his means of showing his sentiment toward each piece of his work. The techniques he used were varied combinations of takabori (high relief), usu-nikubon (low-relief), iroe (use of various color metals), zogan (inlay), kata-kiribori (line carving with a cross section having an upright and slanting cuts), and kebori (hair-line carving). He was especially successful in the kin-sunagozogan (tiny granular gold inlay) and kirigane-zogan (thin foil inlay) by which he created decorative effects similar to lacquer work. When he reached his last years around the Ansei and Man'en eras, he took up iron which was unconventional material in the Goto tradition. When he used iron, he signed his alias TOTSUO-SANJIN. NBTHK Token Bijutsu English

This great, and last master of the Goto line, died in the 9th year of Meiji (1876) at the age of 86, beloved by his students and clients and art lovers. His students often signed Ichijo Monjin in their mei to show the pride in having received instruction from this teacher.

To date Goto Ichijo has achieved Juyo 81 times, Tokubetsu Juyo 7 times, Juyo Bijutsuhin 2 times, and Juyo Bunkazai 2 times.

Juyo Goto Ichijo Futakoromono

Juyo Goto Ichijo Futakoromono

This amazing set touched my heart the moment I saw it. I have no idea who can afford it but I feel in love and I had to have it for my website.

This set has several interesting motifs which all concentrate on good fortune. The characters on the tsuba indicate this, the bats are also bearers of good fortune since the second character in the name of komori is a homonym of good fortune.

This set also illustrates Ichijo's mastery of iron and shakudo as both are made with the highest quality material and finished beautifully. The fuchigashira on their own are masterpieces and bear the signature he used when loyal to Goto style of gold and shakudo, and he switched to his Hakuo signature for the tsuba.

The detail on the bats is amazing, they are both cute and lively, with their gold eyes and I am not sure but I think he seems to have inserted shells in the bellies and wings for a tone change. I couldn't make it out until shooting under magnification.

Goto Ichijo Futakoromono Bat1Goto Ichijo Futakoromono Bat2Goto Ichijo Futakoromono Bat3

This set feels very celebratory in nature, it's made in his 75th year and he shows the full range of Goto technique to his inventions as Hakuo and seems to look back fondly at a long and illustrious career. Only Ichijo was capable of making these gentle and dainty carvings that still come alive off of the plate.

He tops this off with the mastery of the golden sunago-zogan which makes for a beautiful background and appears almost like lacquerwork makie. I am further told by a friend that clouds in this form also appear close to mushrooms (I have seen Ichijo make mushroom menuki before and these went with a bat tsuba and I didn't understand it). I'll leave him anonymous but this is some interesting additional information and shows that Ichijo did his homework well.

The execution of the clouds is distinctly Chinese and iconographically they double for both clouds and lingzhi mushrooms. Such a pattern with bats, clouds and lingzhi exists in the world of Chinese art for which the underlying meaning is one of good fortune. When painted, a red sky often accompanies the bats which in this case Ichijo used gold.

I will also point out that an arrangement of five bats is particularly auspicious as it represents the Five Lucks: longevity, wealth, a successful career, health, and the prosperity of your children. And Goto Ichijo certainly saw all of that happen in his lifetime, and I think really this set was made to celebrate his life though that is my own idea.

So maybe today is your lucky day and you can add this magnificent set to your collection and experience good fortune for the rest of your days.

Goto Ichijo Futakoromono OshigataGoto Ichijo Futakoromono Origami

Juyo Futakoromono

Appointed on the 13th of October, 2005

Futakoromono, Goto Ichijo, Jifuku-tenrai moji, unmon, kumo no zu tsuba, fuchigashira (自福天来文字雲文蜘蛛図鐔・縁頭) - Tsuba and fuchigashira showing the characters for “heaven-sent good fortune”, clouds, and bats


Hinshitsu-keijo: tsuba tatemaru-gata, iron, polished finish, sukidashi-takabori, gold and silver zōgan, sukinokoshi-uchikaeshi-mimi, kozuka-hitsu-ana with a shakudō plug that is finished with a nanako ground; fuchigashira of polished shakudō, in sukidashibori, and with gold sunago-zōgan


End of Edo period


Ichijō was born in Kansei three (寛政, 1791) as son of Jūjō (重乗), the 4th generation of the Gotō Shichirō ́emon (七郎右衛門) line in Kyōto. At the age of nine, he was adopted by Kenjō (謙乗) from the Gotō Hachirōbei (八郎兵衛) lineage and when he was eleven, he started to learn carving from Gotō Hanzaemon Kijō (後藤半左衛門亀乗). He took over the Hachirõbei lineage when his father died when he was 15 years old. His older brother was Zejō Mitsuhiro (是乗光熈) and his younger brother Kyūjō Mitsutada (久乗光覧). Ichijō signed initially with Mitsutaka (光貨), followed by Mitsuyuki (光行) and Mitsuyo (光代). In Bunsei seven (1824), when he was 34 years old, he made the fittings for a sword of Emperor Kōkaku (光格天皇, 1771-1840) whereupon he received the Buddhist priest rank of a hokkyō and whereupon he used the name Ichijō. In Bunkyū two (1862), he made tachi fittings for Emperor Kōmei (孝明天皇, 1831-1867) and received the year after the Buddhist priest rank of hōgen. Ichijō died in Meiji nine (明治, 1876) at the age of 86.

This set shows seas of clouds, the characters jifuku-tenrai (about “heaven-sent good fortune”), and bats. The character for fuku (福), lit. “good fortune,” is so to speak interacting with the bats (Japanese kōmori, 蝙蝠) as their second character (蝠) also reads fuku, which again means good fortune in a homonymous context. Due to this auspicious connotation, the bat was a favorite motif used by Ichijō. The tsuba is of iron and is signed with his later name, Hakuō, and is also inscribed with the detail that he made it at the advanced age of 75, what is incredible taking into consideration the smooth and fluid chiselings and carvings of this set. The bats and also the clouds on both tsuba and fuchigashira are voluminous and full of power and the golden sunago-zōgan (lit. “sand-like inlay”) all over the set gives the work an atmosphere of flamboyance.

Goto Ichijo Futakoromono Tagane No Hana

Tagane no Hana

Mitsumura Toshimo (光村利藻, 1877-1955), aka Ryûshidô (龍獅堂), was a major sword and sword fittings collector of the Meiji era. For not letting the sword and sword fittings related crafts become extinct with the changes of the Meiji Restoration, Ryûshidô did not only collect but commissioned contemporary artists to make for example new koshirae and the like. He was born on November 4th 1877 as oldest son of Mitsumura Yahei (光村弥兵衛), a wealthy industrialist from Yamaguchi Prefecture involved in railway and shipping industries in the Kansai area. He was very interested in photography and founded in 1901 the Kansai Photo Plate Making Company, a printing company based in Kôbe.

In 1918, Mitsumura moved his entire base of operations to Tokyo and changed the name of his company to the Mitsumura Printing Company in 1928 and retired six years later. His work was aiming at art printing and his so-called “Mitsumura tricolor printing” was widely recognized and admired. Mitsumura passed away on February 21st 1955, aged 77. He was born and grew up in Ôsaka.

He printed the book Tagane no Hana (Flowers of the Chisel) to document his collection of over 3,000 items and assist in study of tosogu.

This tsuba is documented in his book, and these items as far as I understand it were items from his own collection. He his probably the top fittings collector in history and was responsible for preserving appreciation of this traditional artwork into the modern times.

When his business collapsed in 1909, Nezu Kaichirō purchased a large part of it in order to prevent it from being broken up. In spite of this we see items from time to time that passed out of his collection. Nezu's work went on to form the basis of the Nezu museum in Tokyo which shows many of the breathtaking fittings he was able to preserve from Mitsumura's vast collection of masterpieces.

Goto Ichijo Futakoromono Kinko TsubaGoto Ichijo Futakoromono Kinko Tsuba Ichijo

Kinko Tsuba

This tsuba also appears in the book Kinko Tsuba.

gofuku no zu tsuba (五福の図鐔) – Tsuba with the motif of “Five Lucks”

End of Edo period

mei: Jinen nanajūgo-sai – Hakuō saku (時年七十五才・伯應作) – “Made by Hakuō at the age of 75”

Iron, polished finish, takabori, iroe

In the West, the bat has been regarded as a bad omen but as the second character (蝠, fuku) for “bat” (蝙蝠, Japanese kōmori) has the same pronunciation as “luck” (福, fuku) the animal has become a sign of good luck. Accordingly, bats found their way into painting motifs, handicrafts, and the decoration of everyday items. Particularly popular was the depiction of five bats as these so represent the so-called Five Lucks (gofuku) which are longevity, wealth, a successful career, health, and the prosperity of ones offsprings (or many children).

Bats are also found in various interpretations on sword fittings and we often see them on Yokoya School works by for example Sōmin or Yanagawa Naomasa. Compared to Yokoya bats, the animals are interpreted on this tsuba with stouter bodies and in a more cute and charming manner, that is, they do not have anything evil on them whatsoever.

The plate of this tsuba is decorated here and there in sand-like (sunago) kinzōgan what adds an aura of nobility to it. Despite being made when Ichijō was 75 years old, we do not see any weakening in the application of the chisel at all. As it was Gotō convention to not work in iron, Ichijō, who did so, refrained from signing such works with his Gotō name and used instead pseudonyms like Hakuō and Totsuō-sanjin (凸凹山人).

Goto Ichijo Futakoromono Hakogaki


This tsuba bears an inscription from Amiya Souemon. 阿弥屋惣右衛門, business name of Ogura Yōkichi, 小倉陽吉, 1878-1953. He was the fifth and last generation proprietor of the famous Amiya Sō’emon sword store. He was an expert in tosogu and wrote such books as Mei-saku Shu Nobuiye Hen, and Meisho no Token. which is a volume now found in the Nihonto Koza. His father (or grandfather) was involved in sponsoring work of Minamoto Kiyomaro.

  1. 後藤法橋一乗印在銘 傑作
    Gotō Hokkyō Ichijō in zaimei - kessaku
    Signed and sealed Gotō Hokkyō Ichijō
  2. 赤銅鋤出彫象嵌雲之図縁頭
    Shakudō, sukidashibori, zōgan, kumo no zu fuchigashira
    Masterwork fuchigashira of shakudō, in sukidashibori with zōgan, and a cloud motif.
  3. 時年七十五翁
    Jinen nanajūgo’ō
  4. 伯応作 在銘 傑作
    Hakuō saku zaimei - kessaku
    Signed “Made by Hakuō at the old age of 75.”
  5. 鉄撫角形鋤出彫象嵌雲ニ蝙蝠
    Tetsu nadekaku-gata sukidashibori, zōgan, kumo ni kōmori
    Masterwork tsuba of iron, in nadekaku-gata, sukidashibori, zōgan, and showing clouds, bats, and the characters for heaven-sent good fortune, one hitsu-ana.
  6. 天来自福之文字片櫃鐔昭和壬辰春
    Tenrai-jifuku no moji, kata-hitsu tsuba Shōwa mizunoe-tatsu haru
    Spring in the year of the dragon of the Shōwa era (1952).
  7. 阿弥屋惣右
    Amiya Sōu

This incredible set will make any collector of art, antiquties and swords extraordinarily happy for the rest of their days. I can recommend it with the highest compliments. It resides in a custom made box for the set.

Goto Ichijo Futakoromono Box