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Kokubo's Ten Rules of Tsuba Collecting

Translated from the book "Korekara no Tsuba shushu" by Kenichi Kokubo

1972 first edition

Translated material provided by

1) The good ones have high a manner (taste, class, style). They have a lively design composition and display outstanding skills. There are only a few of them. The makers put their effort and also their spirit into the creation of these tsuba. They are the product of the maker's spirit. One could also say that the acquisition of a tsuba which possess this spirit is something that can not be forced or obtained with money alone. They come to ones collection via karma. (Note: This means it will happen when it is meant to happen. Financial resources will not circumvent karma. One cannot force the acquisition of great works. This conveys the same meaning of something that we hear in sword circles "the sword will find you - you don't find the sword".)

2) There are cases when a mei was added to a mumei piece. There are also ones conceived entirely as a fake. The target of these works range from high-end to mid-level makers (even mediocre products were being faked). After the Meji restoration and the abolishment of the sword, many skilled kinko craftsmen produced fake tsuba aimed at old highly ranked makers. The fake ones don't have "haki" (power, ambition, unbridled sprit) like the real thing. The material is different. The patina is different. Genuine works have pure (clear) patina while the fake ones are muddy.

3) Respect and learn from other collector's opinions and knowledge. This will improve ones eyes and facilitate an ability to see the real ones.

4) The iron tsuba made by tosho and katchushi as well as yamagane tsuba made by habaki makers from the Muromachi period all have the look of antiquity and a non-sophisticated aesthetic. This is because the makers at that time had less interest in expressing beauty in their works. The need to produce a functional tsuba was the primary goal. The key here is the quality of the ji. Many fakes were made during and after the Meiji period, be careful.

5) Country works tend to have some good products with strong personality and design composition. The ones bearing a mei or date are important research information.

6) Large tsuba are suitable for kantei. The smaller ones are good to play with in ones hands.

7) All tsuba by famous makers have a good composition. The noteworthy tsuba craftsmen of later times learned how to paint. Therefore, the design compositions are all very good. (Painting requires knowledge of proper asymmetrical balance and the weight that design aspects have to the viewer's eyes)

8) Iron tsuba differ from other iron craft products in the sense that iron tsuba can be played with in ones hands. Even a rusty iron tsuba that defies the scrutiny of our eyes may have the right tactile qualities. Thus, revealing its potential. The touch and weight of a guard in ones hand is important in the appreciation and evaluation process. When making a tsuba, it is difficult to reach a good balance between the niku and mimi. Therefore, if a tsuba feels good in one's hand, it usually is a good one. (the balance of the thickness of the tsuba's center vs. the thickness of the mimi and the overall shape of the tsuba all play an important role here) Therefore, when enjoying an iron tsuba, we need to see with our hands as well as our eyes.

9) Early tsuba exhibit strong individuality from group to group. This characteristic becomes diminished the in mid to late Edo works. The strong personality/individuality is the charm of early tsuba. It makes the tsuba look alive. Some country works with no clear lineage or school somehow show strong individuality. They are good.

10) Color of the patina is the last and most important thing. It is so important that it could even make up for some other shortcoming.