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MEITO (Master Pieces)

The definition of Masterpieces : Work done of extraordinary artistic skill and by master ranked Tosogu artists. These works are extremely rare and were one of a kind usually made on special order by these masters.In addition they are exceptional works of great design and utmost dedication .Because of the above reasons it is virtually impossible to acquire items such as these offered on this page. One of the main reasons for this is that there are many collectors in Japan and worldwide along with Museums who wait for this opportunity to arise, also very few were made. It is a case of who you know, trust and timing when an opportunity arises to acquire these. Understanding and knowledge to appreciate these items of superiority is important.
These exceptional Tsuba are offered to the discerning collector , connoisseur.


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Setsumei (Explanation)

This outstanding rare elegant one of a kind Tsuba of a Koi is by an artist in the Kano Natsuo school. Kano Natsuo was the last famous Master of Sword Fittings in Japan He had few students and only the chosen ones were allowed make Sword fittings. Katsunao who made this Tsuba is in Meikan and along with Katsumori had distinguished profiles and also created great works.
This Tsuba is a fantastic and also a rare item of Japanese art and is executed perfectly in balance , proportion and design and depicts a Koi swimming. When compared to Natsuo’s work it is extremely similar in design and quality . This Tsuba would be in the centre of any upper class collection.

Natsuo’s Tsuba designs were simple however although the motif was simple and the utmost thought and care has been put into the design and through this commitment the works are masterpieces. His students who learned the art from him were few and some of the noteworthy were : Nomura Katsumori and Katsunao, Kagawa Katsuhiro and Masuda Tomo.Their works are also outstanding and extremely rare as they are direct students from the Natsuo school. It is also recorded that before Natsuo’s death in the 1890s an America collector had paid twenty-five hundred dollars for a Tsuba that Natsuo had made.This is the equivalent of USD$84,729.95 today.

Certification : NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Certificate (Extraordinarily Worthy of Preservation)
Height : 8.4cm
Width : 7.2cm
Mimi (rim) 4mm
Jidai (era) Late Edo Period
Mei (signature) KATSUNAO

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Setsumei (Explanation)

This is an outstanding, exquisite and extremely rare Tsuba of a Samurai battle scene. Nearly all of the Soten Tsuba are made of iron and also Namban Tetsu ( Foreign Iron ). The rarity factor of this Tsuba that it is made of Shakudo which is basically 10% Gold and 90% solid copper one of the irogane class of coloured metals which can be treated a black, or sometimes indigo patina resembling lacquer , the process to make this is long and requires exceptional skills and is much more complex and expensive than it would have been to make an iron Tsuba.

This Tsuba is of large proportion and the workmanship is monumental, just the minute detail in silver on the horses reigns is exceptional.The detailing to the Samurai , horses, battle weapons and armour is exceptional. Abundant gold and small portions of silver and other metals are used to create this piece of Samurai artwork which has a 3D effect when looked at. As always the Tsuba in the hand and viewed closely by the human eye shows the real beauty and realism.

This is the first time I have seen a Shakudo Tsuba by the Master Soheishi Soten. I believe this was a one off special order given as a gift, the abundant amount of gold used and high level of workmanship and detail in comparison with other Soten Tsuba confirms this evaluation.

The Tsuba has been with a Japanese collector for a very long time and has never been offered for sale before. It is a one time opportunity for the advanced collector and connoisseur to add this exceptional Tsuba to their collection.

Soten School in Hikone in Omi Province Japan 17th - 19th Century

Height : 8.2cm
Width : 7.5 cm
Mimi ( rim ) : 5 mm ( Rim is covered with gold )
Jidai ( Era ) Edo Period
Mei : Soheishi ( Mogarishi ) Soten Sei Goshu

Original certification : NBTHK Tokubetsu Kicho Token Certificate ( Especially Precious ) It is cased in a special antique custom made box of high quality and also has an inner case made from leather with two gem stones on the top portion which opens up to expose the Tsuba, complete set is in original and excellent condition.

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Setsumei (Explanation)

Nami - Ryu no zu Tsuba - Tsuba depicting a dragon in waves.
Mei: Yurakusai Sekibun + Kao
Height: 88.7 mm
Width: 82.2 mm
Rim thickness: 6.0 mm
Centre thickness: 4.0 mm
Condition : Showing beautiful dark untouched rich iron patina and extraordinary workmanship.

Certification: NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Certificate ( Extraordinarily Worthy of Preservation)

Comment: The detail attained by Sekibun on this large and overpowering Tsuba is truly a masterpiece as described in the book it is published in. The Dragon looks real as it is coming through the waves and the carving of its claws and scales look realistic. The eyes and whiskers are gold.The size and balance of the detail on the Tsuba are executed perfectly. A Masterpiece rare Tsuba and a great investment and opportunity for a Connoisseur collector to add this to their collection.

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Translation from the book this Tsuba is published in . This book contains some of the best and most desirable Tsuba in Japan which are in collections and not available for sale.

90. nami-ryū no zu tsuba (波龍の図鐔) – Tsuba depicting a dragon in waves

By Katsurano Sekibun (桂野赤文)

Edo period

Signed: Yūrakusai Sekibun + kaō (遊洛斎赤文「花押」)

mokkō-gata, iron, takabori, iroe

Height 88.7 mm, width 82.2 mm, thickness 6.0 mm


Sekibun mostly made ita-tsuba that are interpreted in takaikubori and iroe, in katakiribori, and/or in usunikubori [see page 143] and that show a wide variety of motifs, e.g. animals and insects.
This tsuba is very powerful and a representative masterwork of Sekibun and is interpreted in sukidashitakabori. Sekibun was from the Katsurano family and was born in Murakami (村上) in Echigo province.
He then studied in Edo but also went to Kyōto ro refine his craft whereupon he was employed in Bunsei seven (文政, 1825), aged 35, by the Sakai (酒井) family who were the daimyō of the Shōnai fief, setting thus in the Shinmachi (新町) neighborhood of Tsuruoka, the capital of Shōnai. Having enjoyed a long life, Sekibun died in Meiji eight (明治, 1875) at the ripe old age of 87.




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Setsumei ( Explanation)

Mokozu Tsuba, design of a fierce Tiger. Edo period

Sekijoken Taizan Motozane was Born in 1741 and Died in 1830. He was the founder of the Taizan Sekijoken family school. He studied with the Master’s of the NARA School and worked in the MITO Province. This is Masterpiece Tsuba by this great artist.

Mei: Sekijoken Motoyama Motozane ( Kao)
Height: 8.1cm
Width: 7.8cm
Rim Thickness 4mm
Centre Thickness 5 mm
Comes with it’s box and outer box cover.
Condition: Showing a beautiful untouched dark brown Iron patina with fine and intricate Gold work.

Certification : NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Certificate ( Extraordinarily Worthy of Preservation)

Comment: Intricate detail in 3D formation of the Tiger emerging from the Iron Tsuba. The Gold inlay and carving of the Tiger is superb and the workmanship is of the highest level, as yet this has not been submitted for Juyo but has Juyo qualities and is a contender. Images can never portray reality and in the hand under observation of the human eyes this is truly a Masterpiece . For the connoisseur Tsuba collector a rare addition to their collection.

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Height : 8cm
Width : 7.7cm
Rim Thickness : 3.5mm
Centre Thickness : 4 mm
Comes with it’s box and outer box cover.

Certification : NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Certificate ( Extraordinarily Worthy of Preservation)

Setsmei : ( Explanation)

Condition: The condition of this Tsuba is wonderful and has a very fine beautiful brown Iron patina. The Koi ( Carp) is intricately made with fine detail in Shibuichi giving it a beautiful contrast with the Iron, with waves, and water plants executed in high relief Gold on both sides. Both Hitsu Ana are filled with Gold with intricate and symmetrical vertical lines. In the hand and observed and appreciated with human eyes the Tsuba is overwhelming and yet has calm aesthetic harmony with the Koi balanced perfectly in 3D.

YASUNARI was recognised as a best student of the Famous YASUCHIKA ( Nara Sansaku) One of the three great Masters of Nara.

Yasunari’s work in this particular design of a KOI clearly attains the level of his Master’s work of a very similar design and is a Testament of his dedication and level of artistry on this particular Tsuba. YASUNARI ca 1700. ( YASUNARI worked in Shonai Dewa Province) This Tsuba is a Masterpiece of the highest level by YASUNARI and has potential for Juyo although it hasn’t been submitted as yet. I present and recommend this extremely rare Tsuba for connoisseurs who appreciate the very best in Japanese Tsuba Artwork.

Koi as a Samurai Warrior

Koi Symbolism is also very prevalent in Japanese culture. It is said that a Koi swims up rivers and climbs waterfalls with bravery not unlike a Samurai warrior. As well, it is said that if a Koi is caught, it will lie still beneath the knife, facing its death bravely like a Samurai facing a sword.
Koi fish symbolism has gained strength over the centuries to encompass numerous positive qualities related to courage, overcoming adversity, the ability to attain the highest goals, and strong character.

Dragon's Gate on Yellow River

According to Chinese legend, there was a place called Dragon's Gate at the top of a large waterfall on Yellow River. Koi (Carp) would swim up the river, against the current to reach the base of the waterfall. Although many would try, only a few were brave and able enough to attempt the final leap up the waterfall. It was said that if a carp was able to complete the journey through Dragon's Gate at the top of the falls, then it would be transformed into a powerful dragon. In Chinese culture, the dragon is a symbol of great power. The story symbolises that anybody who is able to persevere through great trials can accomplish their highest goals to become great.

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Height : 7.7cm
Width : 7.5cm
Rim Thickness : 5mm
Condition : Beautiful untouched Iron Patina with exceptional detail in 3D format Bear emerging from forest, the Bear’s eyes are Gold and two Teeth showing from mouth in fine detail. The balanced use of Gold (Kin ) and Silver (Gin ) set in Iron is wonderful

Certification : NBTHK Juyo Tosogu ( Important work ).
Note it is extremely hard for Tosogu to qualify and pass Juyo and only items of extreme excellence and high importance are successful.


Era : Late Edo Period / Shonai Province modern day Yamagata Prefecture, Japan 庄内藩 Shōnai-han was a Feudal domain in Edo period Japan located in Dewa Province. It has been recorded that SEKIBUN moved to SHONAI in 1824 and worked for the SAKAI DAIMYO of the area. He was an extremely talented Artist and worked in both Iron and Soft Metals and was very versatile. His works are rare and are sought by collectors in Japan and also abroad.
SEKIBUN was born at Murakami in Echigo Province, he worked at Shonai Dewa Province. D: born 1790, died 1872.

This Tsuba is an extremely desirable Tsuba because of the unusual octagon shape and the rarity of the subject and is a Masterpiece by this Artist.

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JUYO Setsumei ( Explanation of Juyo Certificate)

Jūyō-tōsōgu at the 46th jūyō shinsa held on October 5, 2000

kuma no zu tsuba (熊図鐔) - Tsuba with bear motif

mei: Yūrakusai + kaō - Sekibun (遊洛斎「花押」・赤文)

Chiba Prefecture, Taguma Seiji (田熊政治)


Height 7.8 cm, width 7.4 cm, thickness at rim 0.5 cm


Hinshitsu-keijō: octagonal shape, iron, tsuchime finish, sukidashi-takabori relief, zōgan, iroe, uchikaeshi-sukinokoshi-mimi, two hitsu-ana (both plugged with shakudō) Jidai: end of Edo period


Katsurano Sekibun (桂野赤文) was born in Kansei two (寛政, 1790) in Murakami (村上) in Echigo province. Iit is said that he left his home town at a young ago to study with the Hamano School in Edo but his art name Yūrakusai rather suggests that he was trained in Kyōto (Note: raku is another term for Kyōto). In Bunsei seven (文政, 1824), he was hired by the Sakai (酒井) family who were the daimyō of the Shōnai fief (庄内藩) and from Kōka two (弘化, 1845) on, he permanently lived and worked in the Shōnai capital Tsuruoka (鶴岡) where he also died in Meiji eight (明治, 1875) at the age of 87. Sekibun mostly made tsuba and usually used iron or shakudō as raw material. He focused on a takanikubori ornamentation with iroe accents but also worked in katakiribori, shishiaibori, zōgan, and other techniques of metalwork. His signature is based on the calligraphic style of local Echigo-based calligrapher Kameda Bōsai (亀田鵬斎, 1752-1826). Sekibun particularly studied the works of master Tsuchiya Yasuchika (土屋安親) and his preferred motifs were animals and birds.

This iron tsuba has an octagonal shape in the style of Yasuchika. It is carved in sukidashi-takabori and colored with gold and silver zōgan and iroe applications. The omote side shows a bear in a forest and the ura side a waterfall, both sides interpreted in perspective and the posture of the bear hidden in the depth of far away mountains is highly skilfully executed. Both arrangement of the motif and carving techniques display a high degree of refinement and so we have here a work that truly reflects Sekibuns ability and art.