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Gotō Jōshin Kōgai

A very rare kōgai attributed to Gotō Jōshin (乗真) (1511 - 1562), the 3rd mainline master of the Shirobei branch of the Gotō family of sword furniture makers.   Jōshin is widely recognized as among the greatest craftsmen of the school, and his works are highly sought after, becoming cornerstones of any serious tōsōgu collection.  His work is characterized by a boldness and purpose of design that stands out from the works of his grandfather (Yujō), and father (Sōjō).  Jōshin was a samurai, who was also a craftsman.  Jōshin worked for both the 12th and 13th Ashikaga Shoguns, attaining a rank of Hogen.  He served various lords throughout his life, and ultimately died on the battle field at the age of 51, fighting against forces aligned with Oda Nobunaga.  His works are boldly carved, and have slightly more robust proportions than his predecessors. The shape of his kogai are  often a bit more robust than those of his predecessors. His works reflect his samurai spirit, and distinguish him from the rest of his lineage.  I would personally say that Joshin is the most desirable of the Ko-Gotō lineage (pre-Momoyama period), not withstanding his legendary grandfather (whose works are often ... legendary).  The early Gotō never signed their works, so attribution is made through experience, and sometimes through attestation by later members of the Gotō lineage.


The motif is of a bundle of Omoto (万年青), a evergreen plant  with red berries, that was thought to be fortuitous and a symbol of a long and happy life.  In English, it is called the Japanese 'sacred lily'.   It is said that when Tokugawa Ieyasu first moved into Edo castle, he brought with him three  potted  Omoto to inaugurate his new seat of power.

The kogai is made of black shakudō (赤銅), with a very finely punched background of nanako (魚子地), with selective application of gold foil, in a technique called uttori (うっとり), where the gold is mechanically overlain, and affixed in very fine furrows around the edges of the motif. The artist would sometimes purposely remove areas of the gold foil to show windows to the base metal below.  The fine nanako on the plate is worn down outside of the high relief motif, and along the edges. This is a normal characteristic of such old kogai.  Gold inlay remains on the warabite (蕨手), the decorative curvilinear carvings toward the back of the kōgai. The NBTHK Hozon papers use an alternate term for uttori, in this case, kanabukuro-kise iroe (金袋着色絵), which literally means 'application of a gold bag [coloration]'. The motif itself is a executed in high relief or takabori (高彫). 

I am honored to be able to offer this piece, along with a highly complimentary kogai by Jōshin's father, Sōjō here.  Take the time to compare and contrast the pieces, its educational.


Translation of the Hozon paper description follows:

万年青図 (Omoto-zu kōgai)

無銘 乗真 (Mumei Jōshin)

赤銅 魚子地 高彫 金袋着色絵 (Shakudō nanako-ji takabori kanabukuro-kise iroe)

蕨手 金象嵌  (Warabite Kin-zōgan)

Heisei 20th year (2008) December 24th

Ex-Tosogu Bijutsukan Museum and Ikeda Suematsu Collection

Published: Ko-Kōgai. Ikeda Suematsu and Miyake Teruyoshi. 1997. pg. 382

Measurements: 20.35cm x 1.19cm x 0.46cm

Late Muromachi Period (室町後期時代), mid 16th century


Goto Joshin Omoto Kogai Composite_1300px 

Goto Joshin Hozon Papers_900px 

Goto Joshin_KoKogai_pg382_1300px

Goto Joshin Omoto Kogai Boxed_1300px


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