Tsuba II: Yamashiro Tenpo
pron Tenpou (also Tempo; Tembo)
These tsuba were made in Yamashiro. They are a robust forged iron plate (ita gane) made from the Muromachi period and well into the Edo period. They are considered to have originally been made by armour makers (katchushi), and usually have the typical raised or thickened rim (mimi) known as sukidashi. Occasionally these tsuba are signed; usually Tenpo or Tenpo Yamashiro 天保 山城. In “Nihonto Koza vol VI: Kodogu” it states that the group was started by Sanada Tenpo who was affiliated with the Saotome Ryu.
The tsuba associated with the Saotome group of armour makers usually have folded or rolled rims (uchikaeshi mimi) at the four corners, often with a pattern of angled grooves filed across the rim. These tsuba may also have some ko-sukashi designs.
Tenpo tsuba are of quite variable quality but the early ones are made of well forged iron (tetsu). Many of these tsuba are basic and made for practical purposes, but many are also of pleasing design with a strong feeling of “budo”. They were produced all through the Edo period; some of these ita gane tsuba are probably from the early-mid 1800’s.
The majority are mokko gata (4 lobe shape) and many are quite large and often over 8.0 cm in size. Some Tenpo tsuba have sukashi designs, often of Buddhist symbols or possibly mon. Probably the most striking feature are the “hot stamps”(kokuin); some of these stamps are the symbols of the natural elements. Stamps include 天 ten (heaven), but possibly the most common is a stamp with two characters 大 tai (great) and 土 tsuchi (earth) which would be read as 大 土 “dai tsuchi” or “great earth”. Other common symbols are 風 kaze (wind), 金 kin (metal or gold) and ki (wood). One uncommon kokuin is a stylised version of “kotobuki” which means good luck.
There are a number of stamps of crossed lines: 2 crosses or “hatch” #, and a 3-bar hatch here referred to as kakine (fence). Those of two pairs of lines at an angle are probably i-geta, which is the frame or fence around a water well. There are various versions of this design which are used as kamon. Wells are considered as special places, as spirits may live within them.
A known signed example tsuba had six different stamps (ten, tsuchi, kin, kaze, mizu (possible) and another unclear). There are other tsuba with the three kanji for “Saotome”.
It is likely that there is some significance of size and characters on stamps, as to period and different tsubako, but such information has not been located. Possibly they are sub-groups within the Yamashiro Tenpo group. For example, the kaze tsuba look of similar construction, and tend to be thinner. It may not be correct to call all these different tsuba “Tenpo”?
Some Tenpo tsuba have brass applied (zogan) as pins, or foil; these ones may be later work. Some of these may have very large “#” stamps that appear rather crude.
The following page by Jim Gilbert “Saotome-Tembo Tsuba” has some good examples and explanatory text: located in Richard Stein’s website: The Japanese Sword Guide
Examples of Tenpo Tsuba
Tenpo tsuba for katana, mokko gata, thin iron plate, 8.20 x 7.55 x 0.35 cm. Two hitsu, one kozuka and one kogai. Numerous stamping of a small ten stamp.
Tenpo tsuba for katana, mokko gata, 8.7 x 8.4 x 0.45 cm. Two hitsu ana. Numerous stamping of a small stamps of ten and kaze. Unusual as signed “Yamashiro (no) Ju” “Tenpo”. Very irregular surface.
Tenpo mokko gata tsuba, kozuka and kogai hitsu ana, 8.6 x 8.3 x 0.55 cm. Mumei, irregular hammered surface (tsuchime). Kokuin of ten and another slightly larger? Probably late Edo.
Mokko gata Tenpo tsuba for katana, height 8.4 cm, thinner plate with slight thickening of rim, stamps appear to be ten and tsuchi
Tenpo tsuba for tanto, mokko gata, thin iron plate, folded rim, but not greatly thicker at mimi, 5.7 x 5.2 x 0.35 cm, hitsu kozuke (of hitsu kogai shape); numerous overlapping stamping probably of a small ten stamp.
Large Tenpo tsuba for katana, mokko gata, 9.25 x 8.7 x 0.45 cm, well forged plate, two hitsu ana, three large stamps: dai-tsuchi, kaze and large #
Tenpo-Saotome tsuba for katana, mokko gata, kaku-sukidashi mimi, 9.20 x 8.50 x 0.40 cm, two hitsu ana, dai-tsuchi stamp, sukashi conch (horagai) and two batons? (another possibility is sangi, or counting sticks). Mid-Edo period.
Mokko gata Tenpo-Saotome tsuba for katana, kaku-sukidashi mimi, 8.8 x 8.3 x 0.40 cm, no hitsu ana, dai-tsuchi stamp, and large # stamps, mid-Edo period.
Thick Tenpo tsuba, mokko gata, 8.8 x 8.0 x 0.5 cm, two holes of hitsu ana one with gold coated copper plug, mimi is thickened, stamps of dai-tsuchi and #
Tenpo tsuba, mokko gata, two hitsu ana, kogai hitsu ana umegane is gold coated with raised pattern, mimi is thickened sukidashi, 8.1 x 7.35 x 0.4 cm, stamps of dai-tsuchi and pair of X.
Mokko gata Tenpo tsuba of 8.8 x 8.3 cm, has thick stamps of dai-tsuchi and a remnant of a gold zogan design.
Tenpo tsuba for katana, thick iron plate, mokko gata, 8.65 x 8.00 x 0.50 cm, two hitsu ana, unclear stamping of combined dai-tsuchi, sukashi design of suhama (”sandbar” which is a mon), and ko-sukashi of two batons/counting sticks.
Large Tenpo tsuba for katana, mokko gata, 9.20 x 8.50 x 0.45 cm, well forged, one kozuka hitsu, sukashi of two small hearts or boar’s eye (inome), large stamp of combined dai-tsuchi
Omote of large Tenpo tsuba, aoi gata, no hitsu ana, stamps of hatch.
Aoi gata Tenpo tsuba for katana, ura, 8.5 x 8.0 x 0.3 cm. Small hitsu ana for kozuka. Stamps are dai-tsuchi and #.
Tenpo tsuba for wakizashi or small katana, rounded square shape (nagegaku gata), rather thick plate, rim not greatly thickened
and stamp is dai-tsuchi
Tenpo tsuba for wakizashi, of rounded square shape (nagegaku gata) with large kozuka hitsu and dai-tsuchi stamp. Thickened rim (sukidashi)
Tsuba for katana, of rounded square shape (nagegaku gata) with large kozuka and kogai hitsu ana (both suhama shape). Two large clearly applied stamps dai-tsuchi and another similar to #.
Extremely large mokko gata tsuba of 10.7 x 10.3 cm with thickened sukidashi rim, large kozuka and kogai (suhama) hitsu ana. Two stamps
dai-tsuchi and 3-bar hatch (kakine). Probably early Edo. The original nakago hitsu is around 3.8 cm long, and been shortened with copper sekigane to 2.7 cm; possibly originally mounted on a nodachi.
Hamidashi tsuba with sukidashi rim and open kozuka ana, 5.1 x 3.8 cm. Omote has stamps of dai and tsuchi, and partial stamps of a circle? Ura has 3 stamps that look like stylised “i” the zodiac sign of wild boar. Nakago ana shows the blade was very thick (possibly yoroi doshi).
Mokko gata Tenpo tsuba for katana, one hitsu ana (suhama), sukidashi mimi, groups of kaze stamps.
Mokko gata Tenpo tsuba, 8.00 x 7.65 x 0.30 cm, thin plate with thin sukidashi mimi, kozuka ana and kogai ana with copper plug (umegane), stamps of kaze, copper sekigane. Mid-late Edo.
Mokko gata, sukidashi mimi, two hitsu ana, 8.20 x 7.60 x 0.35 cm, groups of kaze stamps. Two udenuki ana (holes for wrist cords) with shakudo linning. Probably mid-Edo.
Tenpo tsuba for katana, shape is kaku mokko gata, flat iron plate only slightly raised rim, kozuka and kogai hitsu, 8.40 x 7.90 x 0.45 cm, stamps of kaze and tsuchi
Tenpo tsuba for katana, maru gata (slightly oval), thinner iron plate, 8.60 x 8.15 x 0.35 cm, two kogai-shape hitsu, numerous stamps of kaze
Saotome tsuba, mokko gata,iron plate, 8.70 x 7.80 x 0.3-0.45 cm. Has typical folded rim (uchikaeshi) at the four “corners” with grooves around mimi, two hitsu (one kozuka and one kogai of suhama gata). Brass linning at seppa dai. There are punch marks of sakura flower, but no kokuin. Ura mei of “Saotome” “Iyesada”, one of the main names of Saotome tsuba. This is attributed to yondai Iyesada.
Saotome Tenpo tsuba for wakizashi, mokko gata, medium iron plate, 8.20 x 7.55 x 0.40 cm. Has typical folded rim at the four “corners” with grooves diagonally around mimi, two hitsu (one kozuka and one kogai). There are two medium size stamps which are unusual; these may be sao and tome (like a large “Z”).
This very large iron tsuba, 10.7 x 10.2 cm with thickened (sukidashi) rim. Has several chrysanthemum (mon) stamps as well as ten and tsuchi; it is mokko gata and has an two hitsu surrounded by sukashi design. May be a presentation tsuba.
A large mokko shape iron tsuba, 9.3 x 8.6 cm, sukidashi mimi, two hitsu ana, with ten-tsuchi stamp, and another more detailed stamp (not sure of design).(image from JapaneseSword.com)
Mokko gata tsuba of 9.1 x 8.5 x 0.45 cm, kozuka hitsu ana, a pair of cord holes (udenuki ana) which are punched, but not enlarged. Unusual shapped hole on right is not a kogai ana, but could be a large udenuki ana. The kokuin is a large stamp with double pattern; can not identify a kanji.
Ura of Tenpo tsuba of 9.0 x 8.6 cm, mokko gata with same stamp as tsuba above. Large kozuka hitsu and unusual sukashi design of heart-shaped inome (boar’s eye).
Tenpo tsuba, rounded square shape (nagegaku gata), thin iron plate (ita gane), 8.60 x 7.80 x 0.35 cm, rim is kaku mimi and not thickened. Two hitsu ana, kogai is suhama gata. Mumei, mid Edo. Stamps are dai-tsuchi and kotobuki (good luck).
Tenpo tsuba, mokko gata, forged iron plate (ita gane), 8.5 x 8.0 cm, maru mimi. Two hitsu ana with copper edge on seppa dai. Mumei, mid Edo. Two stamps of dai-tsuchi and kotobuki (good luck).
Tenpo Saotome tsuba for katana, nagegaku gata, iron plate, 8.50 x 8.15 and thickens to 0.55 cm on rim. Rim is folded and has striations along the rim. Two hitsu, one kozuka (brass lined) and one kogai. Numerous stamping of a small combined dai-tsuchi, plus another large unclear stamp (looks like “C”)
Small, thick tanto tsuba, hamidashi shape, thick tanto tsuba with raised rim, 5.00 x 3.85 x 0.40. On front are four stampings of a kakihan or “seal”, which could be a stylised “Masahide”, plus three “flower” stamps. On rear two stampings of one character (not recognised). Not sure if this is a Tenpo tsuba
Tenpo tsuba aoi gata, sukidashi mimi, 8.50 x 7.75 x 0.45 cm, kozuka and kogai hitsu ana both with iron plugs (umegane) of iron with hammered finish (tsuchime). The kokuin is a three bar kakine (fence) stamp. mid-late Edo. numerous stampings of a large “#”.
Tenpo tsuba mokko gata, sukidashi mimi, 7.6 x 7.0 cm, kozuka ana with shakudo plug, numerous stampings of a large “#”. [Hageyama@mindspring]
Mokko gata, sukidashi mimi, very large 10.0 x 9.5 cm, kozuka and kogai ana,on each side 4 stamps of pairs of clouds? Kozuka and kogai hitsu ana (suhama); omote mei “Masada” “Tenpo”. Gold plated copper pins representing dew.
Tenpo tsuba for katana, mokko gata, 9.32 x 9.14 x 0.50 cm, with brass film (zogan) worked into the iron plate and latter punched; numerous small stamps of ten
Tenpo mokko gata tsuba, 8.3 x 8.1 cm, brass film (zogan), two stamps, mumei, a large square (plain?) stamp, and a smaller ki (wood) stamp on top. Mid-late Edo.