Humble tsuba, big context

Another “mystery piece” in the collection of the Department of Arms and Armor at The Met.

Made by Gotō Ichijō (後藤一乗, 1791-1876) in Kōka three (弘化, 1846) per special order, it is decorated with a couplet (平生未報恩・留作忠魂補) by the Ming Dynasty court official and Confucianist Yang Jisheng (楊継盛, 1516-1555), and a poem by Kawaji Saemon no Jō Toshiakira (川路左衛門尉聖謨, 1801-1868), one of the signers of the Treaty of Shimoda in 1854, whose name is also inscribed on the tsuba.

Kawaji, who was paralyzed on one side of the body after a stroke he had right after retiring in 1863, committed suicide when the Shogunate fell in 1868. He shot himself with a pistol, according to period records because he felt committing tradional seppuku with a sword would have been “unsightly” due to his paralysis.

Stay tuned for the full story.

Sword Guard (Tsuba)

Sword Guard (Tsuba)

Tsuba, signed: Gotō Hokkyō Ichijō + kaō – Koretoki Kōka san umadoshi natsu ōju saku (後藤法橋一乗「花押」・于時弘化三午年夏應需作) – “Made by Gotō Hokkyō Ichijō on request in summer of Kōka three (1846), year of the horse; Gift of Herman A. E. and Paul C. Jaehne, 1943; 43.120.940



Yang Jisheng (楊継盛, 1516-1555)


Kawaji Saemon no Jō Toshiakira (川路左衛門尉聖謨, 1801-1868)