Otsuryuken Miboku SoroikanaguOtsuryuken Miboku

periodLate Edo (ca. 1810)
designationNBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Tosogu Soroikanagu
tsuba-meiOtsuryuken Miboku (kao) — 乙柳軒味墨「花押」
fuchi-meiOtsuryuken Miboku (kao) — 乙柳軒味墨「花押」
menuki-meiMi · Boku — 味·墨
kurigata-meiMiboku— 味墨
kashira-meiMiboku— 味墨
price$24,000 -new-

Hamano Shozui (政随, which can be read as Masayuki) was born in 1696 and died in 1769. He is an elite maker of sword fittings and ranked very highly at Meiko in the Kinko Taikan.

Shozui began his artistic period in the Nara school, as a student under one of the Nara Sansaku (three great gold-workers of Nara), Nara Toshinaga and would go on to found the Hamano school. Due to his greatness this set of three masters (Toshinaga, Yasuchika and Joi) is sometimes extended to a quartet including Shozui.

Hamano Masayuki [i.e. Shozui] was Nara Toshinaga's pupil, a famous master smith, and his works are considered to be at the same level as the Nara sansaku (the three best master smiths), Toshinaga, Joi and Yasuchika. His styles are diverse, and he inherited his teacher Toshinaga's style and took the essence of Joi and Yasuchika's work. His dynamic engraving styles, taka-nikubori, sukidashibori, and shishiaibori, show excellent skills. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

Kurigata Kurigata
Hamano Shozui
Hamano Shozui

The Hamano school thrived in the Edo period and produced a large number of works that relate both to its founding in Nara and to the contemporaneous Yokoya school. Other great artists of this school are Noriyuki, Naoyuki, Iawama Masatoshi, and Horie Okinari.

His school was very capable of keeping up with the Yokoya school in terms of number of students and influence on the machibori movement. Simply spoken, he combined the styles of the Yokoya and the Nara school with the interpretations of Sugiura Jōi, that means he worked in takabori-iroe and in zōgan but with larger-sized motifs than those use by the Nara school, enriched with usunikubori and shishiaibori. And regarding his selection of motifs, he chose various historical, epic, worldly and figurative subjects, as well as a broad variety of plants and animals. Markus Sesko, Kinko Kodogu

Shozui signed both as Hamano Shozui (浜野政随) and under his alternate name of Miboku (味墨) and used a variety of nicknames through his career.

Miboku (Masanobu) Juyo Example
Miboku (Masanobu) Juyo Example

[Shozui] had many art titles — Otsuriuken, Miboku Rifudo, etc. He worked chiefly in shakudo, but often in iron, not making any departure from the Nara style, but using his chisels with extraordinary strength yet at no sacrifice of grace and delicacy. The Soken Kisho says that the lines of his carving are like the storm of a tiger’s roar or the wind of a drag- on’s rush through the clouds. It may be truly said of the Hamano family that it did not give one inferior artist to Japan. Shozui himself was probably the greatest, but his pupils Moriyuki and Noriyori, and his successors Masanobu (1780) and Norinobu (1790) rank almost as his peers. F. Brinkley, Japan, its History Arts and Literature

His themes are wide ranging, but due to his training in the Nara school he made some very interesting naturalistic scenes on iron tosogu that look like eroded wood or insects on tree bark. For instance there is a fairly well known theme of cicada on a tree and in this case the entire surface of the kozuka is transformed into a section from a tree. This is territory inherited from Yasuchika as he treated the ground as part of the overall theme instead of a frame or a backdrop for ornaments.

There are others that are a stylistic departure and resemble what would become later work of the Goto school and some which resemble the Omori school when it emulates Yokoya.

Otsuryuken Miboku Soroikanagu Fuchigashira

Otsuryuken Miboku

Otsuryuken Miboku was a name handed down through the main line of the Hamano school. There are five mainline masters: Shozui, Kaneyuki, Nobuyuki, Masanobu and Masayoshi. All of these used the Miboku name on occasion. The Hamano school was quite large and successful and many smiths from it are known.

Other than Shozui himself the most talented of these seems to have been Ooka Masanobu (大岡政信) who was the fourth mainline master. He only rarely signed with his name Masanobu but seems to have been fond of the Miboku alias. He came from Edo and was born in 1773, and died in 1844 at the age of 71. His family name Ooka is also used to describe a branch of the Hamano school which he founded.

There is a theory that the Hamano mainline made these works and signed in this manner when they were in the style of Shozui. As Brinkley notes above there is almost no drop off of skill as you descend down the main line of Hamano and he notes that Masanobu is nearly a peer of Shozui.

Masanobu seems to have been particularly talented in insect themes, which were started by Shozui and continued down the line. There are two Juyo examples extant with a variety of insects and he seems to have cleverly used the kurigata in these presentations. He was able to work in various soft metals which were inlaid onto either shakudo or iron ground. His iron takes on a beautiful patina and when it ages it creates a feeling of depth and charm as a backdrop for the soft metal subject matter.

The attention of collectors should be drawn to one point connected with the Hamano experts. It is that among the eleven art names used by Shozui, four (Otsuriuken, Miboku, Rifudo, and Kankyo) appear upon the works of Masanobu, and two (Otsuriuken and Miboku) upon the works of Norinobu. Thus a specimen cannot be exactly identified merely because it bears one or more of these names. Another point is that Masayoshi, a pupil of Shozui, was called Shozui Bozu (old man Shozui), and being exceptionally skilful as an imitator of old masterpieces, did not hesitate to copy the works of his teacher and to mark them Shozui. F. Brinkley, Japan, its History Arts and Literature

Tsuba Left
Tsuba Right
Menuki Left
Menuki Right
Otsuryuken Miboku Soroikanagu OrigamiTokubetsu Hozon Otsuryuken Miboku SoroikanaguOtsuryuken Miboku Soroikanagu Menuki Mei

Tokubetsu Hozon Otsuryuken Miboku Soroikanagu

This is a really amazing full set of matched tosogu (soroikanagu) from Miboku (the 4th mainline master Masanobu). He's signed this with his alternate name Otsuryuken Miboku and it matches well with the two similar Juyo examples in insect theme. Because of this I think it stands a good chance for submission.

Of all the Juyo items by the Hamano school, Hamano Shozui himself has 11 Juyo and one Juyo Bijutsuhin. Hamano Noriyuki has four Juyo, Iwama Masayoshi has two, Nobuyoshi and Naoyuki each have one. Masanobu signing as Miboku has three which places him highly in the school. In the Ooka branch are another three Juyo from Masataka (two), and Masatsugu.

This set shows some whimsy as the round tsuba is envisioned as a spider's web, and in this web a spider consumes a dragonfly. There is maybe a message here since dragonflies were held in high regard by the samurai because of their aggressive behavior and purposeful flight... yet today the little spider won the battle. So, maybe it is a message that with a bit of planning, patience and courage, even the small can be victorious over the powerful.

The kurigata has become a wasp's nest in shibuichi housing a wasp. The fuchigashira have a cricket and rhinoceros beetle in shakudo on iron which emulates the color of their carapaces. The menuki are a dragonfly and a grasshopper (locust?). Throughout, a variety of silver, gold, copper and shakudo are used to color the insects in their natural tones and indicates a mastery of all of these materials. The texturing and color of the metal is incredible and fine, the photo above of the kurigata is blown up significantly with a macro lens and the detail on the wings and wasp's nest is still too fine to resolve. How he did that is a mystery to me. It is so rare to get a kurigata element in a set and this for me is the highlight.

Kurigata are only very rarely found in tosogu sets and having one here is special. As well he signed every element including the kurigata and even the kashira.

The insects are rendered beautifully and the menuki also bear an inscription under them which seems to be O-Sa or Ooka which is his family name. If it is O-Sa then it would be self evident about what sword was used with these fittings. I'm looking into it deeper at the moment. Anyway I think it is Ooka and because of this, it's nice as it allows us to know for certain that it is the 4th Hamano head Masanobu who made these. Also take note that it is very rare for any kashira to be signed, and this is signed Miboku underneath.

Overall it will be a great addition to any fittings collection, given the interesting subject material and high level respect for the Hamano school founder Shozui who made this set. They of course come in a custom fit box, ready to enjoy.

soroikanagu box
Menuki Inscription - Ooka
Menuki Inscription - Ooka
Signed Kashira - Miboku
Signed Kashira - Miboku