Yokoya Nobusada and Goto Mitsunobu
|period||Mid-Edo (ca. 1720-1740)|
|designation||NBTHK Tokubetsu Juyo Tosogu Daisho Koshirae|
|Foundation work by Kimura Kyūichirō|
|Carved by Yokoya Nobusada|
|Goto Mitsunobu (kao)|
|Goto Mitsunobu (kao)|
|price||-new- -please enquire-|
The daisho is the pairing of a long and short sword together, dai meaning big, and sho meaning small. This pairing of swords in terms of a katana and wakizashi is something that happened first in the late Muromachi period. After Hideyoshi's time, and the formalization of the samurai class, wearing of the daisho was reserved to those of samurai and higher rank.
Though this pairing is so famous, most daisho used swords made by different swordsmiths and were united together in a pair of matched koshirae. During the early part of the Edo period it is quite rare to encounter purpose-built katana and wakizashi pairs. This can be attributed both to the fact that it was not common to do so, as in many instances a samurai would be required to supply one of the two blades and his lord the other; and also because the ravages of time tend to separate sets.
When we examine the NBTHK Juyo Token, there is only one pair of swords from the Momoyama period that are still together and a purpose made pair. This is a set by Jusuke Kunishige, a Takada school smith. The next set is a pair by Shodai Tadayoshi (signed with the Tadahiro mei). There are only 5 other pairs before we get to 1800, after which there are 17 pairs. So, with only 24 matched pairs of daisho token in contrast to around 11,500 swords that passed Juyo, it is fair to conclude that it was an uncommon thing to have a custom made set of swords.
As a result, in practice the daisho refers to the koshirae, or a mounted pair of swords in these koshirae. Other pairings that were made to go together, we would specifically refer to using daisho as an adjective. So we would have in the case of these swords, 24 daisho token. If one has a matched pair of tsuba for katana and wakizashi, they will be daisho tsuba and so forth.
Though the daisho is a very common concept, time and economics have conspired to separate many purpose built sets of tosogu. Saya being made of wood and lacquer in general wear out and fall apart. Metal parts made of gold, shakudo and iron stand up well to time and with a worn out saya, these parts are easily unmounted and preserved in boxes. Sometimes a mounted set of swords will be separated from its koshirae because a sword dealer can get more by selling off the swords separately to two sword collectors, and then the koshirae to fittings collectors, as these collectors with their specialized interests will devalue the other components.
Sadly, in this we fail as custodians and collectors.
Koshirae as well are often disassembled for the same reason. A sword collector may want to have a mount for his sword in order for it to feel complete, but he won't want to pay more than the price of the sword. A fittings collector may have no interest in a saya. As a result, the saya gets disassembled, the fittings get moved into boxes, junk fittings take their place and the sword collector keeps the mount which makes him feel he has a “complete sword”.
We can see the impact of this in the Juyo tosogu, as there are 72 daisho tsuba that have passed Juyo and 85 daisho koshirae which have passed. As well vast majority of the daisho koshirae that passed Juyo no longer have the swords that they once held. The total number I think is somewhere around five.
Looking at it on the surface we can guess then that at least 50% of the time, daisho koshirae are disassembled. In this case the tsuba have also been disassociated from the other tosogu. It is possible with a single set of daisho koshirae to disassemble, leave the mounts with the swords, make two sets of fuchigashira, a daisho tsuba set, a mitokoromono and then a pair of menuki. All of these can be sold to different collectors and probably return more than waiting for one buyer to buy everything. As some tosogu collectors prefer boxed items to mounted ones (which is a failure in my opinion and causes this kind of destruction), there is usually some economic benefit to doing this. Some of my clients have through painstaking work and pure luck been able to reassemble daisho tsuba which indicates that even the tsuba were disassociated at times. So the number is quite likely much higher than 50% of the time that daisho were broken down.
If we look at what sets we have left at Juyo, there are a total of 208 daisho of all forms (koshirae, tsuba, fuchigashira sets and so on). This is out of 2,535 tosogu that have passed Juyo to this point, so any matched set of anything needs to be understood to be less than one in 10 out of all tosogu. Retaining a pair or more of a set, being rare itself, helps with passing Juyo if the quality is high. So what we see at Juyo is an exaggeration of the reality. That is, if about 8% of Juyo tosogu are in matched daisho sets of some kind, this number is going to be a lot smaller at levels lower than Juyo.
If this logic is correct we should see the inverse at Tokubetsu Juyo. And in fact with 108 tosogu that have passed Tokubetsu Juyo, 21 of these are daisho sets of some sort so we have moved up to a number of about 20%. This further underscores the importance and rarity of matched sets.
When we look at koshirae in particular, there are 11 out of these 108, so around 10% of all Tokuju tosogu. At Juyo, daisho represent 85 out of 2535, or only 3%. Below Juyo daisho koshirae are also in the minority of all tosogu, but there are also a lot of simple tosogu out there and still simple daisho koshirae exist. It is difficult to try to guess at what the ratio would be.
What we need to understand out of this, is that a preserved set of any form is something precious and the more complete it is, the more rare it is, and thus the more precious. When we see only 85 examples at Juyo of full daisho koshirae, it's clear that we do not have very many examples left in total of high quality daisho and there is no mysterious source for more.
Yokoya Nobusada (横谷宣貞) is the priest name of Katsura Eiju (桂永寿). He was the founder of the Katsura school and had the given name Sajuro. He was born in Chikugo, moved to Edo and studied under the second generation Yokoya Soyo (who in turn was the student of the great Somin).
Regarding his workmanship, Eiju stuck to the initial Yokoya style in shakudō-nanako with takabori-iroe ornamentation and almost no works in the later Yokoya-style with katakiribori are known. It is said that Eiju once made a daishō-tsuba with takabori carvings of one hundred horses for the lord of the Satsuma fief, for which he was royally rewarded with 100 ryō.
There is some missing information about Eiju, his birth and death are not known and some of his work is attributed to the late 1700s. The NBTHK however says he was active in the early 1700s. It's possible then that he was actually the student of the first Soyo rather than the second, which would clarify some of the dating issues.
At some point Eiju entered the priesthood and changed his name to Nobusada, which can also be read as Sentei. He used the school name of Yokoya in his signature. When he left Edo he returned to his home province of Chikugo and took up employment from the Arima daimyo of the Kurume fief. He was granted the rank of bushi at this time.
Kimura Kyuichiro (木村九市良) seems to have been the deshi of Nobusada. The Kimura family both had their own school starting with Yasusada, though this seems to have been located in Dewa in the North of Japan. There were also various Kimura family members mixed into the Imagawa school. I'm looking into the career of this artist, as he may have taken a different name after working under Nobusada.
Goto Tsujo was the 11th mainline master of the famous Goto family. His civilian name is Goto Mitsunobu (後藤光寿), sometimes read or transliterated as Mitsutoshi. On this point Fukushi reads him as Mitsunobu and also the Toso Kodogu Koza says that
He is commonly read Mitsutoshi but Goto documents quote him with Mitsunobu as furigana reading aides. As the Goto themselves used Mitsunobu for his reading, it would seem that Mitsutoshi is a modern mistake which has been repeated enough as to cause confusion.
The Goto were employed by the Tokugawa Shogunate as well as Hideyoshi before them, and made traditional mitokoromono in gold and shakudo until the end of the Edo period where Goto Ichijo specifically began to experiment with other materials. As for the work of Mitsunobu, there are 24 items by him that have passed Juyo which indicate a very high level of skill.
Mitsunobu was born in 1663 to Goto Senjo, who was the fourth son of Goto Kenjo, the 7th mainline Goto master. He was adopted by Goto Renjo, the 10th master who moved the school from Kyoto to Edo because Renjo's son Mitsuyoshi died young at 25 years old. Mitsunobu married Renjo's daughter and inherited the Goto school at 34 years old. He died in 1721.
The NBTHK states that he employed techniques from Yokoya Somin and there are some statements that say at the time of his rise to mastership in the Goto family that many of their records were destroyed. Somin himself was a Goto craftsman before inventing his new style, so I think the truth of the matter is that the separation of schools is not so cut and dried as we would like to believe at this moment in time. I think it is likely that Mitsunobu took some Yokoya training before his sudden entrance into the mainline of the Goto school by way of adoption, and this would explain why he used Yokoya techniques rather than obtaining them by simple diffusion by way of living in Edo.
Tokubetsu Juyo Yokoya Nobusada and Goto Mitsunobu Daisho Koshirae
I submitted this daisho koshirae to the NBTHK Tokubetsu Juyo shinsa in 2018 and it passed, making it the 12th daisho set to have achieved this topmost ranking.
This particular daisho is unique amongst all daisho that have passed Juyo and higher. Rather than being lacquered, the saya in this set is covered with solid gold plates. The result is a very heavy daisho, probably not practical to wear, but certainly outrageously expensive to make and is a statement of power and prestige. They are made in handachi style, where tachi elements are used to mount a katana and/or wakizashi.
The daisho conspicuously bears the mon of the Asano daimyo. The Asano were daimyo in several provinces, in particular Aki (Hiroshima), and in Harima during the Edo period. The clan gained importance through marriage directly to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. As Yokoya Nobusada worked for the Arima daimyo in Kurume, it would seem to imply that this was made as a gift from the Arima to the Asano for some auspicious occasion. They are both in the south of Japan and located about 320km apart by roadway. There are some variations on mon so sometimes it can be hard to be precisely sure, but three bands in hawk feathers was most likely Asano. The modern rendition of the Asano mon does not match this, but from the time of make of the daisho it seems to be accurate. In particular the hawks's feathers mon usually renders as the left feather over the right and Asano renders right over left. Also, I got to cheat as one of my friends asked one of the Asano family if this was their mon and they said yes.
The tosogu are signed by three masters: Yokoya Nobusada, Goto Mitsunobu and as well as Kimura Kyuichiro who did the foundation work for Nobusada. These foundation workers are usually students working anonymously doing preparation work for the working master who is responsible for overall design and production and signs his name. It is unusual to have the foundation worker named and I think is an indication of pride at his accomplishment that Nobusada added his name to the fuchigashira.
We don't have accurate birth and death dates for Nobusada as above. We do for Tsujo and this set matches perfectly almost as if it were made by one hand. The NBTHK says that it is a work of around Kyoho which dates it to 1716-1736. As Mitsunobu dies in 1721 it is likely that the kozuka, kogai and menuki were made by Mitsunobu (kozuka and kogai bear his signature) and Yokoya Nobusada was tasked with completing work that Mitsunobu begun on the koshirae. It is also telling that Mitsunobu seems to have a connection to the Yokoya school and now we have this set seeming to be joint work of the Goto and Yokoya schools.
When I first saw this set in Japan I was shocked and it took me all of five seconds to buy it. I didn't even know or ask what the price was. I had never seen anything like it, and I probably never will again. I've reviewed all of the 85 other Juyo daisho koshirae and nothing like this exists. I knew though I had on my hands something very special and immediately submitted it to Tokubetsu Juyo where it passed in the 2018 session. It was on display at the NBTHK museum as one of the selected items from the shinsa. The papers will be ready in late spring of 2019, so there is nothing for me to translate for these as of November 2018.
The carving is marvellous and deep, and it is in absolutely pristine condition. I think due to the weight of all the gold it was not something that would be reasonable to use. There must have been a pair of wonderful swords with it, but now we will never know.
This unique daisho is only one of twelve to achieve the highest rank of Tokubetsu Juyo. It is something of wonder to be owned by any collector, whether that be in the Nihonto domain or a collector of art. It is really a wondrous thing, that deserves the high praise the NBTHK showered on it.
The Arima who employed Yokoya Nobusada were previously in power in Hizen had interactions with Portuguese traders and were one of the Christian daimyo until Tokugawa Ieyasu's purges of Christians. Arima Harunobu who was baptized with the Christian name of João (John), was in fact ordered to commit seppuku by Ieyasu (though this may not have been related to his Christianity). Harunobu refused this order because of Christian beliefs against suicide. Instead he ordered his retainers to behead him based on Ieyasu's demand. This act of resistance made him famous in European circles and Bishop Alphonsus Liguori (of the then Kingdom of Napoli, now Italy) wrote of him as Prince John of Arima. Liguori was later canonized by Pope Gregory XVI.
It is the custom in Japan that when it is desired that a prince should die, the persons of his court defend him till death. But John begged his servants not to oppose his execution, and through affection for him they obeyed most reluctantly. Moreover, he made them swear not to open his body after death... He then wrote to his unnatural son a letter full of tenderness, and asked his pardon should he ever have offended him. He afterwards had the Passion of Jesus Christ read to him, praying with tears that the many sins of his past life might be forgiven him. Having had a crucifix put before him, he went on his knees and calmly awaited the death-blow. The good Princess Justa, his wife, who was present, took the head of her husband between her hands and kissed it. Then she withdrew to her apartments, where she cut off her hair, indicating thereby that she renounced the world. Saint Alphonsus Liguori
His son Naozumi (baptized as Miguel) would go on to divorce his Christian wife, marry Ieyasu's adopted daughter Kunihime, renounce Christianity, murder his Christian half-brothers, and be granted back the land that was confiscated by Ieyasu when he ordered his father's death. He later went on to supress Christian peasant revolts in Hyuga. He seems to not have been a very nice man.
The Arima retained power in Kuroke and the daimyo in power around the time this daisho was made were Norifusa and Yoriyuki. Yoriyuki is noted for being a mathematician as well, and made the calculation of 4,282,245,933,349,304 / 136,308,121,570,117 which is an approximation of the value of π to 29 digits.
The Arima clan was extensive and more research can be found on them at Wikipedia.
The Asano main branch was in Aki province and descends from the Minamoto clan. They ruled 50,000 koku in Hitachi, 376,000 koku in Kii, 20,000 Koku in Shimotsuke, 53,500 Koko in Hitachi, 426,500 koku in Hiroshima, 30,000 koku in Aki, 90,000 Koku in Bingo, and 53,000 koku in Harima for a total of over one million koku. This means the revenue from their holdings produced enough to support the food requirements for one million people as one koku is the amount of rice needed for one person, per year.
Asano Nagamasa was the brother in law of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the warlord who completed Oda Nobunaga's dream of uniting Japan under one ruler and was one of the famous daimyo from this family.
The Ako domain in Harima was theirs and this is associated with the famous story of the Forty-seven Ronin. Asano Naganori is the daimyo who was forced to commit seppuku and left his samurai with no lord. Biding their time, these samurai, now ronin (masterless samurai), were able to ultimately exert their revenge on Kira Yoshinaka who had manipulated Nagamori to his death. This has become one of the most famous stories in Japanese history.
This crossed hawk's feathers mon was used in several variations by several daimyo family but they all seemed to be the left feather placed over the right, except for the Asano who reversed it, as far as I can research. The Asano used different backgrounds in the hawks feathers and this mon most resembles that of Asano Yoshinaga who was the son-in-law of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and married one of the daughters of the Ikeda clan. His branch of the family moved around somewhat until the Tokugawa moved them back to Hiroshima in the early 1600s, which places them geographically close to the Arima. So as far as I can tell, this is the best match for the mon and a clan of this standing would be right for such an extravagant daisho.
There were other prominent Asano daimyo and the Asano clan can be further researched on Wikipedia.
Juyo Daisho Koshirae
Appointed to Juyo on the 11th of November, 1994
kin-ishime mon-ita-zutsumi saya daishō-koshirae (金石目文板包鞘大小拵) - Daishō-koshirae with saya covered with golden plates that feature an ishime finish
Mei: Kimura Kyūichirō shitaji (木村九市良下地) - “Foundation work by Kimura Kyūichirō” Yokoya Nobusada horu (横谷宣貞彫) - “Carved by Yokoya Nobusada”
Kozuka and kōgai
Mei: Gotō Mitsunobu + kaō (後藤光寿「花押」)
Overall length dai 96.8 cm, shō 68.0 cm; overall sori dai 4.7 cm, shō 3.5 cm; tsuka length dai 22.6 cm, shō 15.4 cm; tsuka sori dai 0.4 cm, shō 0.4 cm; saya length dai 74.0 cm, shō 52.2 cm; saya sori dai 3.0 cm, shō 1.9 cm.
Hinshitsu-keijo: sō-kanagu (fuchi, kabutogane, kojiri, shibabikigane, semegane, kashiwaba, kurigata, kaerizuno, uragawara, sarute) of shakudō, with a nanako ground, and a takabori and gold iroe design of the crest of young pines in a round on crossed hawk feathers, edges gilded, mumei;
daishō-tsuka covered with white same and wrapped in navy-blue tsumamimaki;
daishō-menuki of shakudō, takabori design en suite with fittings but with gold and silver iroe;
daishō-tsuba in aoi-mokkō-gata, of shakudō with a nanako ground, same takabori gold iroe design, dote-mimi, gold fukurin, dai has no and shō has two hitsu-ana with a gold fukurin, daishō dai-seppa of shakudō with nanako ground, cross element highlighted in gold iroe, takabori gold iroe warabite design in four directions, four inome-sukashi which are highlighted with gold iroe;
shō kozuka and kōgai of shakudō with nanako ground, same takabori gold iroe design as fittings, back side gilded; daishō-saya covered with golden plates that feature an ishime finish.
The term daishō refers to the sword pair consisting of the uchigatana and the wakizashi, a combination which is assumed to have appeared at the end of the Muromachi period. In the Edo period, the bakufu dictated samurai to wear a formal daishō-koshirae when serving in Edo Castle. This daishō-koshirae is referred to as kamishimozashi (裃指) or banzashi (番指) and its requirements are described in the Bakugi Sankō (幕儀参考) as follows: “The saya have to have a black glossy lacquer finish with that for the dai having a straight and that of the shō a round tip. The hilts have to be covered in white same and wrapped hishimaki style with black braids. The kashira has to be of black-lacquered horn and the fuchi of shakudō with either a nanako ground or a polished finish. The tsuba has to be of polished shakudō, i.e. be a so-called kenjō-tsuba. The mitokoromono should be a high-quality Gotō work, preferably depicting family crests highlighted in iroe. The sageo should be black but may be purple in case of the swords being a gift.” Apart from that specific case, the bakufu did not regulate daishō-koshirae but many interpretations were based on that banzashi style.
For this koshirae, tachi fittings and tachi tsuba were used which were added with a kurigata and a kaerizuno, turning it into a so-called handachi-koshirae. The fittings are decorated with the crest of young pines in a round on crossed hawk feathers and the mei on the fuchi tells us that they are works of Yokoya Nobusada. Nobusada, also read Sentei, was the mei that Katsura Eiju (桂永寿) used after entering priesthood. He worked for the Arima (有馬) family who were the daimyō of the Kurume (久留米) fief. The kozuka and kōgai are works of the 11th Gotō generation Tsūjō (後藤通乗) alias Mitsunobu. The saya are covered with golden plates that feature an ishime finish and a ridge line on both sides. This extremely luxurious and gorgeous koshirae was made in the mid-Edo period, around Kyōhō (享保, 1716-1736).
Tokubetsu Juyo Daisho Koshirae
Appointed in 2018
Tokubetsu Juyo papers will be ready in the first part of 2019 and the translation will be added for them at this point. For now I've added the proof of passing Tokubetsu Juyo in the 2018 shinsa and will update this content when the papers are published.