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Heianjō Tsuba

This large Heianjō tsuba (平安城鐔) is outstanding in its boldness.  Iron plate, with motif  of Japanese gourds or Hyōtan (瓢箪), a symbol of longevity and luck.  The gourds are inlaid in Heianjō zōgan (平安城象嵌) style, flush with the plate. Two inlay materials are utilized, brass or shinchū (真鍮), and a reddish copper, or suaka (素銅).  On the reverse of the plate, two of the inlayed gourds have fallen out. Rather than leave gaps, at some point, the owner had them filled back in with color matched lacquer - you can see them at ~1:00 and 7:00  on the right image, appearing darker than the surrounding inlays.  Clearly this was a valued tsuba throughout its life.  In addition, a large negative silhouette kage-sukashi (影透) gourd against a trellis is cut out of the plate.  Worthy of mention is the abnormally large and blocky hitsu-ana and nakago-ana.  They seem to be original, matching the bold design of the tsuba, and sharing the same cutting style and lines.

As a point of interest, this tsuba has been described as rather 'avant-guarde' in style -- certainly it would have been bold, bright, eye-catching at the time of manufacture.  Culturally, this fits with the ascribed date of early Edo.  During this time of newly found peace, society was inwardly focused, and all arts began to flourish. One movement which swept through Japan, with deep impact, was Kabuki.  It brought with it a flare which the shogunate considered ostentatious and gaudy. It even issued sumptuary edicts to control brash display, but the public loved it as a rebuke of traditional samurai austerity, and these edicts were dropped as they simply couldn't be enforced.  This tsuba seems to represent such sentiment, and likely is an expression of that cultural movement.


Translation of the Tokubetsu Hozon paper description follows:

瓢箪図鐔 (Hyōtan-zu tsuba)

無銘 平安城象嵌 (Mumei Heianjō zōgan)

丸形 鉄地 影透  (Maru-gata tetsu-ji kage-sukashi)

真鍮 素銅 象嵌 (Shinchu suaka zōgan)

Heisei 3rd year (1991) June 21st


Measurements: 9.6cm x 9.6cm x 0.4cm

Early Edo Period (江戸時代前期), 17th century.



Heianjo Hyotan Tsuba_small_1300px 

Heianjo Hyotan Paper_small_900px 



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