Tobari Tomihisa KozukaTobari Tomihisa

periodLate Edo (ca. 1800)
designationNBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Tosogu Kozuka
mei戸張富久「花押」— Tobari Tomihisa (kao)
price$12,000 -new-

Tobari Tomihisa is a Goto school kinko craftsman from the late 1700s to early 1800s. He was the best student of Goto Enjo the 13th generation of the Goto Mainline, and lived in Edo, first producing foundation work for Enjo. Due to an argument over the level of his pay he quit the Goto school and became an independent craftsman. Otherwise it is likely he would have taken on the position of the 14th mainline Goto master due to his overwhelming skill. He died in 1825 and was probably born around 1770. The Kinko Tanki makes reference to him being a highly skilled Goto craftsman.

Tomihisa as well inherited a vibrant business in a Soba restaurant called Kisoji (喜惣次), in which he was the fourth generation owner. So it's thought that his family was wealthy and as such they sponsored a career in the arts for their son Tomihisa. This is documented at length in Markus Sesko's blog entry on Tomihisa.

Tomihisa – whose first name was Kisōji (喜惣次) – was one of the best and most influential students of Gotō Enjō (後藤延乗), the 13th gen. of the Gotō mainline. He was also allowed to make daisaku works for his master. Markus Sesko, Kinko Kodogu

Making daisaku works for your master indicates that the master considers your skill level equivalent to his own, hence permitting you to sign his name to your work. This is reserved only for the top students of any sword or tosogu craftsman, those who are masters in their own right.

Tomihisa was friends with several daimyo and became a poet as well under the names Shoseisai, Kosoken, and Senri.

Tomihisa was succeeded by his son Yoshihisa who also maintained a relationship with the Goto family, training or producing in the workshop of Goto Renjo (14th master) and Shinjo (15th master).

This mitokoromo’s workmanship for the Shishi in the kozuka and kogai are Goto style work. The rich nikudori, high and low variations or depth in the carving, and the dynamic feeling show no inferiority when compared with mainstream Goto work. Even though he was so skillful, we do not see much of his work today. From this, it seems that he worked for the Goto’s family executing shitabori (foundation engraving or carving) and daisaku (unattributed) work, the same as his father Tomihisa did. Possibly some of the mainline Goto family work was partially made and produced by excellent students like Yoshihisa. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

The Kinko Meikan gives Tomihisa a high ranking of Ryoko indicating his great level of skill, this is in keeping with makers achieving Juyo status.

Tokubetsu Hozon Tobari Tomihisa Kozuka
Tobari Tomihisa Kozuka Origami

Tokubetsu Hozon Tobari Tomihisa Kozuka

This beautiful kozuka has only just received its Tokubetsu Hozon papers and is a former possession of Mitsumura Toshimo who had established the finest collection of sword fittings of all time. Mitsumura sponsored various artists like Natsuo and Goto Ichijo, producing works for his collection and was a major supporter and advocate of traditional Japanese arts.

“No one before or since Mitsumura has made such amazing contributions to the world of sword fittings. Therefore, I think it is reasonable to say that you cannot speak about sword fittings if you do not know about Toshimo Mitsumura and the Mitsumura Collection,” said one of the exhibition curators, Naoko Naito.

Toshimo Mitsumura (1877-1955) was born in Osaka in 1877 (Meiji 10). He was the eldest son of Yahei Mitsumura (1827-1891), a magnate who controlled the shipping industry in the whole of western Japan. When Mitsumura was 14 years old, his father died, leaving him an enormous inheritance.

Fascinated by the skill and beauty of sword fittings, he used his inheritance to amass a magnificent collection of swords and fittings of over 3,000 pieces. Mitsumura did not only collect works, but also took part in a wide range of activities to help further a deeper understanding of sword and fittings. He held regular appreciation and appraisal events at his residence, attended by hundreds of guests. Japan Forward

Items from the Mitsumura collection are available at rare times on the market, and much of it has been exhibited in the Nezu Museum.

This kozuka shows Tomihisa's formidable skill and perfect execution of the nanako ground, as well as a clever subject matter of mirrors, in which we see the front and backs of these. The front even has some degree of reflectivity in it, which made it a bit hard for me to photograph (I could see some of my reflection in it in a microscopic scale).

Tobari Tomihisa Kozuka Mitsumura

Mitsumura Toshimo

Mitsumura had special boxes made for his collection items, and this retains one of the special boxes, wherein a piece of silk holds the kozuka box inside an outer box. This is precious and wonderful to have as it shows the respect he had for the items in his collection. Most boxes of the time period featured string ties to hold the items in place on a flat platform, unlike the modern period where we have carved backings into which the items are custom fit. These ties predate the elastic ties that are found on similar box mountings of the current day (they did not have elastic rubber technology). These ties tended to wear out or break, as is seen on the old platform on which this kozuka resided.

The inside lid bears Mitsumura's personal seal Ryūshidō'in (龍獅堂印). Ryūshidō was Mitsumura's art name. It retains an inventory tag but the origin is not clear. The third column states the motif, 鏡 (kagami = mirror) and the fourth the ground plate, ukin (烏金 = shakudō) with nanako ground (魶子). On the reverse, the stamp 相済 (aisumi) means finished/ended, like when an auction is over. (Thanks to Markus Sesko for the details on this).

outer lidinner box

I had a custom fit new platform and cushion made in Japan for this kozuka so it can reside in a more secure fashion in the modern day, but I have preserved the originals as they are part of the history of this piece.

new box

This kozuka is highly recommended for collectors of the Goto school, as signed work of Tobari Tomihisa is rare and the quality ranks parallel the best of the Goto makers of the era. The provenance of the piece cannot possibly be better, and I think there is a solid chance of this kozuka passing Juyo in the future.

Tobari Tomihisa Kozuka HakogakiTobari Tomihisa Kozuka Tag


Capping this off, there is a hakogaki by Ikeda Takao which dates to the time of Mitsumura's collection. Takao has one of the characters of Natsuo's name as he was one of Natsuo's students. This is a nice bonus for this item.

  1. 鏡図小柄
    Kagami no zu kozuka
    Kozuka with mirror motif.
  2. 烏金地魶子色繪高彫
    Ukin, nanako, iroe, takabori
    Ukin (= shakudō), nanako, iroe accents, takabori relief.
  3. 富久作
    Tomihisa saku
    Work of Tomihisa
  4. 在銘
  5. 明治甲辰春日 隆雄誌「印」
    Meiji kinoe-tatsu shunjitsu Takao shirusu + in
    Written by Takao on a spring day in the year of the dragon of the Meiji era (1904) + seal