Yoshioka Inaba-no-Suke TsubaYoshioka Inaba-no-Suke

periodMid Edo (ca. 1750)
designationNBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Tosogu Tsuba
ratingJoko
mei吉岡因幡介 – Yoshioka Inaba no Suke
measurements7.95 x 7.65 cm
price -sold-

Yoshioka was, like the Gotō, a high-ranking kinkō school which worked exclusively for the bakufu and daimyō. The founder and 1st gen. of the Yoshioka family of kinkō artists was Shigetsugu (重次). He was able to trace back his ancestry to the Fujiwara family and was born in Kyōto in the twelfth year of Eiroku (1569). Markus Sesko, Kinko Kodogu

The Yoshioka school of fittings makers begins with a Fujiwara clan member, Shigetsugu in the Momoyama period, working out of Kyoto. It is comprised of a main line and a secondary branch. They were a parallel school to the Goto makers, and worked pretty much exclusively for the Tokugawa shogunate beginning with Tokugawa Ieyasu. As fittings makers to the Shoguns, it illustrates the importance and quality of their craftsmanship. In 1629, the Tokugawa gave them a mansion in Edo, and this became their center of manufacture.


On the tenth day of the third month of Kan´ei six (1629) he received the hereditary salary of 100 hyō (~ 40 koku) and a stipend for the support of ten persons. His son received at that time his own salary, namely in the amount of 100 hyō accompanied by a stipend for the support of four persons. This makes altogether 80 koku for father and son, a very high amount for a kinkō artist at that time. At about the same time the bakufu also provided for the resettlement from Kyōto to the Edo mansion (which measured 150 tsubo, about 500 m2). Also the honorary titles Bungo no Suke (豊後介) and Buzen no Kami (豊前守) were granted to Shigetsugu at that time. Some say that the Yoshioka school had its origins as preparatory craftsmen of the Gotō but the latter did not move the Edo until the 10th gen. Renjō, that means more than thirty years later, this is rather unlikely. Markus Sesko, Kinko Kodogu

From 1688, the Yoshioka school was responsible for making kinzoganmei at the request of the Honami masters, when they put attribution into fine swords which lost their signature due to shortening. In earlier eras this was done by the Umetada family.

Fine work of the Yoshioka school was meant for consumption by the elites during the Edo period and is equivalent to the best Goto school work in quality. Because of their patronage by the Tokugawa Shoguns and various daimyo, they withheld signatures from most of their work. One of the hallmarks of their work is extremely careful and precise nanako ground in shakudo.

On unusual occasions we see a signature of Inaba no Suke on items made by the Yoshioka family. This is something used by the mainline smiths starting with Yoshioka Hisatsugu, who is the 2nd mainline master and the third son of Shigetsugu. The third mainline master was actually a son of Goto Seijo, so there is some cross-pollination between the Yoshioka and Goto schools. The 4th generation Yoshioka master Shigehiro was also a student of Yokoya Soyo, who himself was Goto educated.

The study of these signatures has been left open at this point so usually there is not a big attempt on papers to attribute them to a specific master of the school. Rather they are just papered as Yoshioka Inaba no Suke, and the Kinko Meikan collectively ranks the work as Joko for superior quality.

The generations of the main line of the school which were entitled to this signature are:

  1. 重次 - Shigetsugu (Yoshioka Buzen no Kami, Buzen no Suke)
  2. 久次 - Hisatsugu (Shigeyoshi Yoshioka Inaba no Suke)
  3. 重長 - Shigenaga (son of Goto Seijo)
  4. 重広 - Shigehiro (aka Morotsugu, studied under Yokoya Soyo)
  5. 易次 - Yasutsugu
  6. 清次 - Kiyotsugu
  7. 照次 - Terutsugu (signed his name, aka Teruharu)
  8. 寛次 - Hirotsugu
  9. 重貞 - Shigesada (signed his name)

The Yoshioka school had a minor branch as well starting with Nagatsugu, who worked in parallel with the 2nd generation Hisatsugu. Various skilled smiths such as Munetsugu, Nobutsugu, Mitsutsugu, Tsunetsugu and others worked under the branch until the Meiji period. There are some signed works with personal names for these makers.

The Yoshioka main line continued until the 9th generation master Shigesada who worked during the Meiji restoration, and with the changes of this time along with the sword man, most of these traditional craftsmen lost their jobs. However, the 10th generation Yoshioka Sounsai continued to work for the Imperial Household Agency who kept some of these traditional skills going through sponsoring some of the top sword and kodogu artists of the time. The Yoshioka school died with him in the Kano earthquake in 1923, and the subsequent major fires which took his life.

Yoshioka work is comparatively rare when we place it up against the larger Goto school. The quality is parallel though, and because of the rarity works of the Yoshioka school have passed 15 times at Juyo, mostly still mounted on koshirae. One went on to pass Tokubetsu Juyo which are mounted on koshirae used by the 5th Tokugawa Shogun himself. Sometimes Yoshioka fittings have been matched with Goto school fittings on the same mounts, indicating that there was not any large difference seen in the quality, style and status of the work. Also as a result of this, sometimes Yoshioka works have been attributed to the Goto school, and as a result some of the works are lost via mis-attribution.

Please note on the following pictures that the nanako are so fine and regularly organized that they form interference patterns with screens at this size. So you may see various artifacts and moire, this is not due to any flaw with the tsuba, just that the nanako are so small as to do this.

Tokubetsu Hozon Yoshioka Inaba-no-Suke TsubaTokubetsu Hozon Yoshioka Inaba-no-Suke Tsuba
Yoshioka Inaba-no-Suke Tsuba OrigamiYoshioka Inaba-no-Suke Tsuba Lion LeftYoshioka Inaba-no-Suke Tsuba Tree

Tokubetsu Hozon Tsuba

This is a gorgeous katana tsuba from the main line of the Yoshioka school. It has their trademark excellent nanako with shishi that are as good as any Goto work. In spite of its age it is in good condition.

The Yoshioka master who made this tsuba integrated negative space beautifully with the small subjects, and allows the fine nanako work to stand out. This would have been on a really gorgeous koshirae suitable for a daimyo. It's unusual to find this kind of Shishi theme on Yoshioka work, and maybe without the signature it would have ended up attributed to the Goto school. It's a great example for any tosogu collector, and might be worth taking a shot at Juyo.

It bears the signature of Yoshioka Inaba no Suke, and of the nine mainline masters this signature is distinct handwork of one of the craftsmen but since he never used a personal name it's difficult to know which. For the most part, books and papers will punt on this issue and say it's open for further study.

We can do some analysis on this and start to rule out the generations by finding out which we can get some signature examples, other reasons.

Like with many Goto works, Yoshioka craftsmen rarely signed their name as these were delivered to higher levels of the warrior elite. Some were signed though on rare occasions, why exactly is not known. But the first four generations were less likely to sign than the later generations. So this tsuba is most likely work somewhere in the middle of the Yoshioka school. Others with this exact signature are usually stated to be from the 1700s. We do know it's the main line since the title Inaba no Suke is used.

Terutsugu and Shigesada
Terutsugu and Shigesada
  1. Shigetsugu: ruled out as he did not have the Inaba no Suke title
  2. Hisatsugu: not likely, first to use Inaba no Suke
  3. Shigenaga: not likely
  4. Shigehiro: not likely
  5. Yasutsugu: candidate
  6. Kiyotsugu: candidate
  7. Terutsugu: signed with his name, and examples exist with different signing habits, ruling him out.
  8. Hirotsugu: candidate.
  9. Shigesada: signed with his name, and examples exist with different signing habits, ruling him out.

Since Shigesada and Terutsugu both did sign with their own name, this is potentially something introduced at the time of Terutsugu.

So we can I think narrow this down to the two most likely authors being Yasutsugu and Kiyotsugu for this signature, with alternate possibilities to Hirotsugu and then the 2nd to the 4th main line master as least likely, and three of the others ruled out.

A cross reference example for this mei is at https://japaneseart.eu/portfolio_page/tsuba-yoshioka-inaba-no-suke/

It comes in a custom fit box and a custom shikufu to cover the box.

Tosogu Box Tosogu Shikufu