Iyo Shoami tsuba signed Yôshû Matsuyama jû chûko Shôami Morimine – 豫刕松山住中興正阿弥森峯. Maru gata 丸形 (round shape), tetsu ji 地鉄 (iron surface), ji sukashi niku bori (地透肉彫 (open surface carved in the positive, in a slightly rounded style), kebori 毛彫 (fine surface or line carving), maru mini 丸耳 (rounded rim), Ryohitsu Shitate 両櫃仕立 (finished with 2 hitsu ana).
This tsuba is for a Wakizashi and the dimensions are 67mm x 64mm x 3.5mm.
The theme depicts Shigure-tei 時雨亭. Shigure-tei was the mountain retreat of the poet Fujiwara no Sadaie (藤原定家), better-known as Fujiwara no Teika (1162 – 1241) and it was here that he completed the famous anthology Hyakunin Isshu 百人一首 or 100 Poems by 100 Poets.
In his early years, Teika met Princess Shikishi (式子内親王 Shikishi Naishinnō) and it is said that they wrote to each other for many years and that Teika was a great admirer of the Princes’s poetry. Teika began visiting Princess Shikishi with great frequency and all of this become the basis for suspicion of a love affair between them.
Later on, in the fifteenth century a Noh play was written titled Teika and by then the love affair between the Princessi and Teika had raken the shape of a widely known fact and generated an image of a tragic love.
In the play, a traveling monk takes shelter from the rain in an old abandoned cottage. A lady appears and guides him to a tombstone wrapped in vines and creepers. This was her grave and she, the princess Shikishi, whom Teika had much loved and grieved her death. The cottage is known as Shigure-tei and Teika’s soul is said to have dwelt in the vines. It was at this point that the traveler monk decided to recite a sutra for the couple, releasing their souls to the heavens where they could finally rest.
It is this story that is the basis of the tsuba’s theme. The old cottage high in the mountain and clouds, with the tombstone covered in vines. The tsuba features Kebori on the roof of the hut and and around the rocks, and niku bori is seen on the rocks and clouds. The tagane on the nakago ana is also interesting. Fine double rows of punch marks that are very even. I am always open to the idea that this is some form of signature. I will endeavour and find more of this artists work to see if that theory holds any truth.
Morimine was a Matsuyama artisan who worked in Genroku 元禄 jidai (1688 – 1704) and produced works in the Kyo tradition, most especially the Kyo Shôami tradition. He is considered to be one of the better testu tsubako and is often listed with other major Matsuyama artists that are singled out such as Morikune 盛国 , Moritsugu 森次 and Ietake 家武.. It is said that Morimine, along with Ietake 家武 had worked for the Hisamatsu Matsudaira clan which was founded by Hisamatsu Sadakatsu 久松 定勝, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s half-brother.
The use of chûko 中興 (as well as chukô kaizan 中興開山) is seen in many of the Matsuyama tsuba. Mr Jim Gilbert has a tsuba on his website that displays the chuko kaiazan in a mei that reads Tenka chûkô kaizan Shôami Kinjuro and notes that “The signature means something to the effect that Kinjuro has restored the house of the Shôami”. Chûkô alone generally traslates to “restoration” and kaizan can mean “temple” so perhaps this mei has an abbreviation of the full chukô kaizan. I have also seen the term chûko referred to as being a link to Buddhism and the artisan possibly taking a role in religion. Perhaps it has a completely other meaning.
In the meantime, I will continue to work on these meanings and of course, if you can offer anything further, please contact me.
Overall, this is a fine tsuba that is well carved and depicts a story stepped in Japanese folklore.
Thank you for reading
The portrait of Teika is attributed to Fujiwara no Nobuzane (Kamakura period) courtesy of Wikipedia (see link below)
The Japanese toso-kinko Schools by Markus Sesko
The Index of Japanese Sword Fitings ans Associated Artists by Robert E Haynes.
KANSHO GADAI JITEN (The Art Appreciation of Japanese Sword Fittings) by Shigeo Fukushi
Jim Gilbert Tsuba