koshirae fittings (dated 1871)
Certification: NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon
In 1855 Fukui Ichiju became a student of Hashimoto Isshi, one of the five most famous students of
known as the "Go-Ko Ichijo" (Five tigers of Ichijo). In 1861,
Ichiju himself became a student of
the very famous Goto Ichijo, at the peak of his career. Fukui Ichiju's style
followed closely the teachings of Ichijo. He was very skilled at
iroe (a raised carved design "painted" using different colored metals).
Fukui Ichiju worked in Yamashiro and
Musashi provinces into the Meiji period. He was born in 1835 and died in
The inscription on the fuchi states these fittings were
made in mid-winter. It is isn't hard to
imagine a cold grey day, Ichiju at his work-bench visualizing the simple
joys of Spring and Summer, as he carves these fittings. The saya is done in shiny black
lacquer with longitudinal gold nashiji streaks, possibly representing
a night rain. The design is a Spring
and Summer theme with various flowers, grasses, foliage, and butterflies. The
silver base metal is decorated using hira-zogan (flush inlay) of various
metals, katakiri bori (carving, like the strokes of a painters brush), and raised butterflies in gold,
shakudō, and silver, with very fine detail, including
multicolored cells in the wings.
The fuchi, koiguchi and kojiri are all signed. The
koiguchi and kurigata are all en-suite, clearly made by the same hand.
The backs/insides of the menuki, 'kurigata' and
are not accessible to check for signatures. The original tsuba may also have
been by Ichiju, but was separated from the koshirae at some
point in history. We know the tsuba has been substituted because the original gold foil
cutouts and groves on their backs (visible from the side view in the top
right photo below) to accommodate the raised decoration protruding onto the original
tsuba's seppa-dai, and are not present on this tsuba.
These fittings are part of a toppei style gaiso (complete mounting) for a
suriage katana by the first generation Hizen no Kuni Tadayoshi (肥前図忠吉),
founder of the famous Tadayoshi School (also with NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon papers).
This toppei type gaiso is Higo in style. A late mounting, very appropriate
for the blade it was made for.
Photos by Jack Edick