Yanagawa and Furukawa Menuki

Yanagawa and Furukawa

periodLate Edo (ca. 1780)
menukiNBTHK Hozon Tosogu Menuki
measurements3.0 x 1.3 cm - 3.0 x 1.35 cm
measurements3.8 x 2.1 cm
mei古川常珍「花押」· Furukawa Jochin [kao]
price -sold-

The Yanagawa school was founded by Naomasa who was the senior student of Yokoya Somin, the founder of the machibori movement. Naomasa was born in 1652 with the name Heijiro and transferred from the Yoshioka school to study under Somin. His style is quite like Somin and he made utsushi of Somin's works from time to time. He lived to the age of 66 and left the school to Naohisa and Naomasa.

Notably, he used Somin's favorite subject of Shishi made with takaniku bori and this style reminds of of Somin, and has a dignified look. Kano Natsuo praised Naomasa work stating His technique is excellent, he is Somin's senior student, and already he must be one of the master smiths.

His chisel work is clear, beautiful and dynamic, and his nanako work is very refined. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

Other artists that would follow are Naoharu, Naotsura, Naotsune, Naoaka, and Naotoshi. As mentioned here the house style follows Somin but also shows influence from Somin's roots in the Goto tradition.

The Yanagawa school itself was highly successful and is the origin of the Kikuoka, Inagawa, Kono, Tanabe, Toyama, Sano, Ishiguro and Washida schools. So Yanagawa can be seen as the channel through whom Somin's technique seeded a great flowering of activity in the machibori movement.

Notably Ishiguro Masatsune who founded the Ishiguro school trained in the Yanagawa school under Naotsune from whom he got a character of his name. And the Kikuoka smiths in particular made work quite similar to the main branch though the others would evolve their own specific techniques and styles.

Hozon Yanagawa and Furukawa MenukiYanagawa and Furukawa Menuki Origami

Hozon Yanagawa and Furukawa Menuki

These menuki are solid gold kirin, who are mythical animals. They originate with Chinese folklore (via mandarin, it is anglicized as qilin). Kirin have the head of a dragon, and the body of a horse, or a deer, with cloven hooves. Chinese dragons have antlers so often times these are expressed with antlers as well.

Kirin are said to appear on the passing of a sage, and have the ability of knowing whether someone is good or evil and having the power to punish evildoers.

In Buddhist influenced depictions, they will refuse to walk upon grass for fear of harming a single blade, and thus are often depicted walking upon the clouds or the water. As they are divine and peaceful creatures, their diets do not include flesh. They take great care when they walk to never tread on a living creature, and appear only in areas ruled by a wise and benevolent leader, which can include a household. They can become fierce if a pure person is threatened by a malicious one, spouting flames from their mouths and exercising other fearsome powers that vary from story to story.

Legends tell that qilin have appeared in the garden of the legendary Yellow Emperor and in the capital of Emperor Yao. Both events bore testimony to the benevolent nature of the rulers. It has been told in legends that the birth of the great sage Confucius was foretold by the arrival of a qilin.

Qilin are thought to be a symbol of luck, good omens, protection, prosperity, success, and longevity by the Chinese. Qilin are also a symbol of fertility, and often depicted in decorations as bringing a baby to a family.

In the Post-Qin Chinese hierarchy of mythological animals, the qilin is ranked as the third most powerful creature (after the dragon and phoenix), but in Japan, the kirin occupies the top spot. This is following the style of the ancient Chinese, as qilin was ranked higher than the dragon or phoenix before the Qin dynasty. During the Zhou dynasty, the qilin was ranked the highest, the phoenix ranked second, and the dragon the third. Wikipedia

The style shown here is very typical for the Yanagawa school and follows Somin, and we also see this kind of work in the Kikuoka school.

Menuki Boxed
Yanagawa and Furukawa Menuki Fuchi Mei

Fukurukawa School

The Furukawa (古川) school was founded by the smith Genchin (元珍). Genchin originally made metal ornaments as part of the Yoshikawa school.

Later, he too would study under Somin and faithfully follow his style, and made tosogu around the year 1720. He faithfully followed Somin's style and worked hand in hand with his son Jochin (常珍) generally focusing on kozuka. They lived in Kanda (an area of Edo and now of Tokyo) and both were highly skilled with items appearing at Juyo and as the featured Token Bijutsu masterpiece. Genchin and Jochin are sometimes read as Mototaka and Tsunetaka. Jochin would continue working around 1750 after his father's passing. Together these two artists are sometimes simply classified as being in the Yokoya school. Genchin and Jochin are ranked as Joko for superior craftsmanship in the Kinko Meikan.

Jochin. Furukawa. 1790. A skilled expert, even better than his father Genchin. His carving is generally incised, but sometimes in relief. Brinkley, Japan, its History Arts and Literature

Haynes also notes that Jochin's katakiri carving is the equal of his father.

I had been holding these menuki for a while and added a fuchi by Furukawa Jochin to the set, and intended at some point to use them for making koshirae. A single fuchi like this can be found without a kashira because they can be paired with a horn kashira. I was told previously that the NBTHK does not (for whatever reason) paper single fuchi though the NTHK will but since I was told that I have seen two such items so I may have been told incorrectly or they will do so in special circumstances (elite level makers). I have had the mei checked out in Japan and got positive answers. With the skill shown in this fuchi featuring a fierce and deeply carved kirin and its clear and confident signature, I don't see any problem with it getting papers from the NTHK and will guarantee this fuchi will pass and arrange submission for the purchaser.

I am including it here with these menuki, since the Furukawa and Yanagawa schools both spawned from Somin and together we can see their interpretations of the style he handed down to them. Paired again with a horn kashira it will be very good for use in making koshirae or can be put in a box and held on its own. I quite like it.

Furukawa Jochin FuchiFurukawa Jochin Fuchi

For further reference, this is a montage of signatures from the Kinko Meikan for Furukawa Jochin and even if you can't read Japanese you can see the signature is an exact match.

Kinko Meikan Jochin Signature Examples