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)




One thought on “Humble tsuba, big context

  1. Dear Mr. Sesko, After I sent this message, I recalled your article on a “Humble tsuba”…very nice! I can only hope that the tsuba that I am asking about is worthy of your help. I have recently purchased this tsuba that appears to have a poem or haiku inscribed on it. The tsuba will be paired with a fuchikashira that bear 2 Bashō haiku on them. I know that it is difficult to translate this type of cursive Japanese calligraphy, but I’m hoping that your experience will do the trick! Any information about the Tsuba maker would also be a plus! I will include a photo of the Tsuba and would be happy to pay for your services. Thank you, George Papandreas

    Sent from my iPad


Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s