Wooden fittings

The Kanazawa College of Art owns quite an interesting dansu drawer (see link here). It comes from the Mizuno family (水野) of shirogane-shi for the former Kaga fief, or to be more precise from the Genroku line (源六) of the Mizuno. This drawer contains a large number of full-size wooden models for sword fittings. There are altogether 391 wooden kashira, 518 wooden fuchi, 57 wooden tsuba, and several wooden kojiri, other fittings and resin castings of fittings. Apart from these wooden models, there are also some copper pieces with cut-out design which are the models for the sukashi-tsuba. There exist basically two theories on the background of these wooden fittings. One say that they served as demonstration models to show potential customers from which they were able to pick what they wanted, and the other assume that they served as patterns for their own craftsmen. Most of the pieces bear ink inscriptions on the back which mention their size and some show other inscriptions like names of motifs or „nanako“ (七々子) to point out certain interpretations. I can understand both approaches but these inscriptions bring me to the assumption that they were demonstration models for customers. From patterns for craftsmen I would expect much more detailed inscriptions like the usage of what metal to be applied where. Also for a pattern a detailed drawing would be sufficient I think, but for a customer, it is nicer to have something in the hand, maybe also to put it at the hip to see how it might look when mounted on a sword. But the lowermost drawer with the resin castings in turn speaks for an use in the workshop. Or maybe the castings were just put there later.

The founder of the Mizuno school was Yoshihide (良栄) whose civilian name was „Mizuno Genji“ (水野源次). He was once a retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and from Ôsaka but became a rônin after the death of the latter. He decided to go to Kyôto to become a kinkô artist and entered an apprenticeship with Kôjô (後藤光乗), the 4th generation of the Gotô mainline. Other transmissions say that he studied under Kôjô´s son Chôjô (長乗) or under Enjô (演乗), the 2nd generation of the Kanbei line. Sometime during the Keichô era (1596-1615) he was hired as silversmith by Maeda Toshinaga (前田利長, 1562-1614) and received a stipend for the support of five persons. During the Genna era (1615-1624) the Mizuno family moved to Kanazawa in the Kaga fief. Yoshihide died in the second year of Keian (1649). The mainline of the Mizuno family was succeeded by Yoshihide´s eldest son. He and his successors all used the hereditary first name „Genji“ (源次) and it has to be mentioned that, apart from some exceptions, no craftsman names were used or are known respectively. From the 9th generation onwards, craftsman names are known. The ninth generation of the Genji line was Katsuhiro (克弘). He was succeeded by Katsumasa (克正) and Katsunori (克則). Katsunori, the 11st and last generation, died in 1909. The second line of the Mizuno family was founded by Yoshihide´s second son Yoshifusa (良房) whose first name „Genroku“ (源六) served as the hereditary name of the line. The Genroku line of the Mizuno family was founded by him in the first year of Kan´ei (1624) and he and his successors worked as silversmiths for the Kaga-Maeda family too. The stipend was also identical to the Genji line, i.e. a support for five persons. Contrary to the Genji line we know all the individual craftsman names. The 10th and last generation was Akira (朗, 1886-1965), the son of the 9th generation Mitsuyoshi (光美, 1868-1938).

2 thoughts on “Wooden fittings

  1. In Noriko Aso’s “Public Properties: Museums in Imperial Japan” she mentions that “modern” shopping where the customer wanders through a shop looking at goods on display came to Japan in the late 19thC.

    “During the Tokugawa period, it had been customary for merchant establishments to have customers stay seated while clerks fetched sample goods that might meet the customer’s needs. On occasion, clerks would visit the home of wealthier customers to show them samples.”

    I’d imagine that at least some customers for fittings like these would merit home visits, where a set of light weight wooden samples would be ideal.

    • Light wooden samples for home visits makes perfect sense! We have three boxes in the Met collection which contain each multiple small wooden plates showing lacquer samples for saya. I would like to introduce them here at some point as these samplers were probably designed for bringing them to customers as well. Thanks for the input Jim.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s