|period||Late Edo (ca. 1810)|
|mei||Goto Mitsutaka saku|
|designation||NBTHK Hozon Tosogu|
The mainline Shirobei branch of the Goto family stands by itself in the history of soft metal fittings. Its founder is Yujo, who was likely born in Mino in 1440 and assimilated the various traditions of the time. He worked for the Ashikaga shogun Yoshimasa, and developed a typical style which he handed down to his son Sojo and would form the basis for house carving – iebori – for the rulers of Japan.
The Ashikaga Shoguns granted Yujo (who died in 1512) and his heirs a certain amount of hereditary income from Sakamoto in Omi province. This continued through the sponsorship of Goto Joshin who worked for Ashikaga Shoguns Yoshiharu and Yoshiteru. The fifteenth Ashikaga Shogun Yoshiaka was the last of the line, and died when Oda Nobunaga began conquering Japan and took over Kyoto in 1568. At this point the Goto family began working for Nobunaga and his circle, which would eventually hand power to Toyotomi Hideyoshi and then to Tokugawa Ieyasu. The Goto line continued working for the Tokugawa through the end of the Edo period.
The first three generations of the main line, Yujo, Sojo, and Joshin took their names after entering the priesthood and did not sign their work. We generally do not see signatures until the later generations of this school. Along with the fourth generation Kojo, the work of these initial generations is restricted to the small fittings, kogai, kozuka and menuki, sometimes in sets of mitokoromono (
things for three places).
These fittings were strictly made in a style we call iebori, or
house carving, and were made entirely in gold or shakudo or a combination of the two metals by rule.
Popular themes included dragons and shishi, which reflected themes of power and majesty and well suited the kinds of top level blades on which they would be placed. We tend to see these themes in gold on kozuka and kogai, placed on black shakudo nanako ground. We collectively refer to them as Ko-Goto, which is a term referred to for pre-Momoyama Goto work. This term I have seen used with a bit of flexibility, either to denote the first three generations, or the first five. The fifth generation Tokujo however is the first to make tsuba, and also he developed chemical plating processes that were used in place of the mechanical riveting processes of the older generations. As well his work is aligned with the Momoyama period, and so I think this is the logical place to separate the groups.
Seijo-Goto Mitsutaka Fuchigashira
Goto Kojo's student Chojo would work in parallel to Goto Tokujo, the 5th mainline master, and father three lines of the Goto family: Shichirobei, Seibei, and Gonbei lines.
The Gonbei line is founded by Goto Seijo (aka Gonbei), one of the students of Chojo, and there would be several generations of Seijo that followed him. As well this school overlapped with the Yoshioka school as Yoshioka Shigenaga was the second son of the first Goto Seijo. Later on members of the Tanaka school would study under one of the following generations of Goto Seijo and there was some intermarriage as Masanori, the teacher of Tanaka Kiyotoshi was married to Seijo's daughter.
The 5th generation Goto Seijo was working in the late 1700s and the 6th generation around 1800. Among their students was an interesting fellow, a retired samurai who took up kinko craftsmanship late in life.
He was born under the name Watanabe and became a samurai in 1767. It's not clear when he started studying tosogu manufacture but he was accepted into the Goto family under the name Goto Mitsutaka (後藤光高, a different taka character from the mainline master Mitsutaka) in 1806. In 1812 he left behind a dated work saying he was 72 years old, so at the time of his investiture in the Goto family he would have been already 68 years old, and thus he achieved samurai status at 27 years old. Thus, I think he had a good career as a samurai and retired into this as a hobby.
His skill was high enough that the Kikkawa clan under the daimyo Kikkawa Tsunehiro hired him as their craftsman and he continued in this role until his death at 80 years old in 1817. They were daimyo of Izumo and Iwakuni provinces.
The fuchigashira in question here is a nicely made set of horses that bears some clear relationship to the works of the Yoshioka school. This is no surprise as the Seijo line intermingled with both Yoshioka and Tanaka schools. This style of horse goes back to Somin, and from there we see it go through to the various subschools such as Omori. The work in gold on these fuchigashira also brings to mind some of the Omori school.
While Goto Mitsutaka is not one of the well known Goto school members, the work is nicely skilled, and his story is interesting. There are other times where samurai have become tosogu craftsmen or sword makers, two of the most famous were Go Yoshihiro who was a samurai and then one of the most famous makers of swords. And then of course Miyamoto Musashi who was a writer, painter, and maker of tosogu and famously advised in his Book of Five Rings to study various crafts and become familiar with many skills.
They come in a custom fit box.