Sasayama Tokuoki Fuchigashira

Sasayama Tokuoki

periodLate Edo (ca. 1845)
designationNBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Tosogu Fuchigashira
mei篤興 - Tokuoki
fuchi2.2 x 3.95 cm
kashira1.8 x 3.65 cm

Sasayama Tokuoki was the most skilful among all the artisans in the Otsuki school, which was influenced by the major painters, such as Maruyama Okyo and Rosetsu, established in Kyoto. The metalworkers learned a great deal about the painting and fully applied their painterly skill in the composition and coloring of their works. English Token Bijutsu

Sasayama Tokuoki (篠山篤興) was born in 1813 and had the given name of Seiichiro and lived for 79 years, dying in 1891. By the age of 15 he was working as a tosogu artist, apprenticed to Hideoki, who in turn was the student of Otsuki Mitsuoki. Mitsuoki held a great reputation as one of the three master smiths of Kyoto, along with Ichinomiya Nagatsune and Tetsugendo Shoraku.

He remained resident in Kyoto and by the age of 30 he was creating great masterpieces. Around the age of 50 he received special orders for tosogu from the Tokugawa Shogun Iemochi, and Emperor Komei which indicates the perception of his great talent. Shogun Iemochi granted him the title Osumi no Daijo in recognition of his craftsmanship. The art name of Ikkosai was granted to him by Emperor Komei and used on his commission. Today he is noted as the best smith of the Otsuki school, eclipsing his teacher and the founder of the school.


Sasayama Tokuoki was a Kyōto-based kinkō artist who also belonged to the renowned Ōtsuki School, having studied with Mitsuoki’s master student Kawarabayashi Hideoki as mentioned. He not only worked at the side of other great Ōtsuki artists, e.g., Ōtsuki Mitsuhiro (⼤⽉光弘), Minayama Ōki (皆⼭応起), Tenkōdō Hidekuni (天光堂秀国), and Matsuo Gassan (松尾⽉⼭), but was especially appreciated as a great master. In Bunkyū two (⽂久, 1862), Tokuoki received an order for tachi fittings from the family of the Tokugawa shōgun and was rewarded for this with the honorary title of Ōsumi Daijō (⼤隅⼤掾). The year after, he had the honor of making fittings for Emperor Kōmei (孝明天皇, 1831-1867) whereupon he used the art name Ikkōsai (⼀⾏斎). NBTHK Juyo Tosogu


During his lifetime Tokuoki collaborated with his teacher Hideoki as well as married Hideoki’s daughter when he became independent at the age of 25. He also made works together with Matsuo Gassan of the Otsuki school. There is also a koshirae that recently passed Tokubetsu Juyo that was made by Tokuoki, Gassan, Hidekuni, Harutsura, Wada Isshin and Natsuo indicating there was at times a greater level of collaboration between great artists though this is certainly a rare case. He had two main students, his younger brother Tokuhiro and Tokuaki.

Tokubetsu Hozon Sasayama Tokuoki FuchigashiraSasayama Tokuoki Fuchigashira Origami

Sasayama Tokuoki Fuchigashira

Tokuoki ranked as Joko in the Kinko Meikan for his great skill and his work has passed Juyo 22 times, two of which went on to Tokubetsu Juyo, one of which is the jointly made koshirae above.

Tokuoki’s main style was the takabori-iroe of the Otsuki school, but he had a special skill in hira-zogan and katakiribori for which he has received great praise and the Token Bijutsu magazine went so far as to group him with Natsuo and Ichijo.

It can be said that Sasayama Tokuoki was one of the best kinko smiths, along with Natsuo and Goto Ichijo.

Hirazogan and katakiribori were his specialty, and even with difficult and complex compositions, he was still able to maintain Kyoto’s elegant and sophisticated style. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

This fuchigashira is one of Tokuoki’s masterful works in katakiribori. He has added his name to the side of the fuchi as well by carving it in the same manner. It’s made in shibuichi and the crystalline texture and color in combination with the carving make this piece quite beautiful. As you change its orientation in the light, the effect of reflections and shadow changes your perception of the subject.

The theme depicts a cloud dragon amid clouds and rain drops (looks like maybe waves to me though with seaspray) which are carved in deep and bold strokes. This shows incredible control of the chisel and one mistake in such work means the end of the piece.

Tokuoki is also noted for talented inlay work, and this is manifested in the gold eyes of this dragon. If you look closely you can see he overlaps the inlay with katakiribori carving as well.

Tokuoki’s skill in inlay work was indeed supreme. The trailing cloud is given in gold nashiji-zogan where the inlay is done in the finest dots like those in the pear skin. NBTHK Token Bijutsu English

This fuchigashira is a good example to take home of the Otsuki school and the carving shows Tokuoki’s particular style very well. It’s very easy to love, ranked Tokubetsu Hozon, and comes in a custom fit box.