Funada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi TantoFunada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi

periodTanto Early Muromachi (ca. 1430) Koshirae late Edo (ca. 1850)
designationNBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Koshirae, Hozon Tanto
ratingJo-ko and Chu-jo saku
nakagoubu mumei
nagasa22.1 cm
sorislight uchizori
kinzogan-meiウの津 · Unotsu
fuchi-mei一琴「花押」· Ikkin (kao)
kogai-mei一琴 · Ikkin
price$15,000 $21,000 sale!

Funada Ikkin, Imai Nagatake, Hashimoto Isshi, Nakagawa Issho, and Wada Isshin were the five most outstanding pupils of Goto Ichijo. Among them, Ikkin comes first in his expertise in the art of taka-nikubori (high relief). Kano Natsuo

Funada Yutaro was born to in Shonai of Dewa province in the far north of the main island of Japan in 1812. His father was Funada Kanjo, who was a student of the great master Iwamoto Konkan and his student Kanri.

Kanjo died when when Yutaro was very young and his mother later married Kumagai Yoshinobu. Yoshinobu was also a tosogu artisan who then began training Yutaro, now named Shoji, at the age of 15. The young boy showed extreme talent so his step-father brought him to Edo to present to his own teacher Kumagai Yoshiyuki of the Edo Higo school, and asked him to teach the young boy. Yoshiyuki agreed, and granted the boy his first art name Yoshinaga (義長).

Already at the age of 17 in 1828, Yoshinaga was showing incredible talent and so he was taken and presented to Goto Ichijo who agreed to bring him into his studio and train him further. At this point Yoshinaga left Edo to go to Kyoto with Ichijo.

Goto Ichijo had a large number of pupils, twenty-two of whom are named by Mosle. Among them none won and deserved a higher reputation than Funada Yoshinaga, or Ikkin as he sometimes signed his mounts, an artist who died in 1862. Helen Gunsaulus, Japanese Sword Mounts in the Collections of Field Museum

Funada Ikkin Yoshinaga

After ten years of apprenticeship, Ichijo granted Yoshinaga one character of his own name, something reserved for only his best students. Yoshinaga now became known as Ikkin (一琴) and at the age of 27 returned to Edo to build his own studio. From this studio he would make tosogu for the Sakai daimyo who was in charge of Ikkin's home town of Shonai. This involved some travel back and forth between Shonai and Edo and he may have shifted his center of work along with the Daimyo's schedule of one year in Edo, and one year in Shonai.

Ikkin's productive period would last from 1838 to his unfortunate early death in 1863 at the age of 52, so there are relatively few works compared to some other of the Ichijo school including Ichijo himself.

Ikkin developed his own techniques separately from the school, designing his own chisels and coming up with a kosuki-bori technique used to carve tree branches in a thick style which is both artistic and generates a great feeling from the presentation. He is a master of takabori and katakiribori as well and is the best among the school in this regard. He sometimes but not very often chose to use nanako in the Goto style, and he had a curiosity and interest in using various metals and textures to produce new feelings from his work. Mikagi-jo which is a polished base was his preferred form for tsuba and kozuka. He worked in Iron as well and was influenced by the Shoami school from his home town of Shonai and also drew inspiration from Yasuchika of the Nara school. There are others that connect back to Goto iebori of dragons and when working in this style his precision and incredible craftsmanship makes them stand out as among the very best of what you can expect from the greater Goto school as a whole. Other than dragons, he liked living things, animals and plants and did use Mt. Fuji which was an inspiration to all Japanese artists.

Kosuki-bori technique
Kosuki-bori technique

Ikkin was famous for his peculiar katakiribori carvings and the so-called technique of kōsuki-bori (甲鋤彫) for his interpretations of plum trees. For this technique, a chisel with a crescent-shaped tip is applied to create broad linear elements. Markus Sesko, Kinko Kodogu

Ikkin signed most of his work as Funada Ikkin (船田一琴), but sometimes signed just as Ikkin, or at other times as Funada Ikkin Yoshinaga. The signatures reflect Ichijo's training and calligraphy style as is common among his best students. He has to the present day retained a reputation as the best student of Ichijo, and he maintained a very close relationship with the second best of Ichijo's students Hashimoto Isshi.

There are cases where the two of them made daisho sets together, with Ikkin making the dai and Isshi making the Sho which also reflects their relative rank. These are sometimes in the style of their teacher and they are thought to sometimes have substituted for Ichijo in the manufacture of some of the tosogu which came out of the workshop as they were the two who had the closest relationship to Ichijo.

Ikkin was very skilled with takabori and katakiribori, unrivalled when it comes to the carving technique of kōsukibori, and his skill and ability was acknowledged by his master Ichijō. NBTHK Juyo Tosogu

Issho must have had a stressful life, with his responsibility as senior student to Ichijo and thus the work in Ichijo's vast group of students, as well as the travel to Shonai and back with the Sakai daimyo. He also seems to have directly trained Imai Nagatake who was himself highly skilled, and so some of the reason that Ichijo was able to train so many students may have been due to contributions from both Ikkin and Isshi working silently behind the scenes.

Detail of Tokubetsu Hozon and Hozon Funada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi Tanto

Ikkin is also said to have trained the swordsmith Kurihara Nobuhide in the art of carving, which Nobuhide then applied to swords. Nobuhide was the best student of Kiyomaro and himself is the very best shinshinto smith in his horimono carving. The only horimono carver who can match him is Ikkanshi Tadatsuna. So again we see Ikkin adopting Ichijo's generosity with his time and knowledge and probably taking on far too many personal burdens.

Likely as a result from all of this responsibility and workload, Ikkin fell into some hard drinking habits and this may have contributed to his early death at 53 years old. This robbed the tosogu world of one of its great talents and reduced the number of works available by this artist.

There are 13 items from Funada Ikkin which have passed Juyo with the NBTHK including some that show that he worked side by side on the same subject matter as Goto Ichijo (and in these cases, the work is not inferior but actually shows it could even be better than Ichijo). Two of these have passed on to Tokubetsu Juyo including one of the joint works with Isshi. There is only a small list of tosogu makers that have passed Tokubetsu Juyo: Egawa Sogi, Omori Eisho, Hikozo, Ichijo, Ikkin, Jingo, Jochiku, Joi, Goto Joshin, Kaneie, Goto Kenjo, Ishiguro Masatsune, Ishiguro Masayoshi, Goto Mitsuakira, Goto Mitsumasa, Goto Mitsunobu, Umetada Myoju, Kano Natsuo, Nobuie, Nobukiyo, Tadaoki, Umetada Shigeyoshi, Unno Shomin, Yokoya Soyo, Yokoya Somin, Otsuki Tokuoki, Araki Tomei, Nara Toshinaga, Tou, Yasuchika, and Goto Yujo.

So if you wanted to make a heavenly choir of tosogu artists this would be what it would look like, and Ikkin finds himself in excellent company above. Bear in mind as well that many of them have only one example as Tokubetsu Juyo is extremely hard for fittings to pass.

Ikkin's work can be found in the prestigious Mitsumura collection at the Nezu Museum, in the Walter's Museum, in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and in the Tokyo National Museum.

Detail of Tokubetsu Hozon and Hozon Funada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi Tanto
Konyudo Kunimitsu
Konyudo Kunimitsu

Uda Kuniyoshi

The Uda school begins with a smith known as Konyudo Kunimitsu at the Kamakura period. He is a smith who worked in the Uda district of Yamato and moved north to Etchu province. Though it has been written that there are no signed works of Konyudo left, in the modern era two tachi have been found by him, one of which passed Tokubetsu Juyo and establish his style and signature in the late Kamakura period. One is ubu and signed in niji-mei and the other is signed as Uda Kunimitsu. These seem to be in the style of Taema and are excellently forged.

Konyudo had two sons Kunifusa, and Kunimune and they seem to have had some relationship with the two great masters of Etchu province.

The jidai of the shodai KUNIFUSA is around OAN (1368-1375). It is said that he is the son of KONYUDO KUNIMITSU and that he learned his trade from NORISHIGE. The shodai KUNIMUNE was almost of the same time period and it says in the Kuda Token Dansho that he was also a member of the Norishige Mon. Nihonto Koza

With this in mind some say that the work of Kunifusa is more alike to that of Go Yoshihiro so he may have instead been a student of Go. Regardless it seems that Konyudo came from Uda and settled in Etchu and then had his sons study locally, likely after Norishige returned from Kamakura when his learning was finished there. Go Yoshihiro is said to have died early and Norishige otherwise has no school of followers, so this leaves the Uda school as those who adopted and continued his style going down through the ages.

The style and workmanship of the Uda school widely vary and include the styles taken from Yamato, Norishige and Go, Rai, Nobukuni, Fujishima Tomoshige, and Sue-Soshu. Among the diversified characteristics, ones pertinent to Uda smiths are the dark hue of the metal vividly showing shiny nie grains. The fairly large and very shiny grains are placed separately to show individual grains. Such nie presentation is conspicuous in the boshi. Tanobe Michihiro

Under Kunifusa and Kunimune the Uda school became quite successful and the dominant force in Etchu swordmaking, as other period smiths like Tametsugu (said to be the son of Go) and Esshu Kuniyuki moved along with Shizu Kaneuji to Mino and continued the Soshu tradition there.

Works of the early Uda school are referred to as Ko-Uda and it is true that we see Norishige style traits, likely due to training and local materials matching. Northern steel is said to be dark and we see this in Go, Norishige and in the Uda school which followed them. Works that are close to Norishige in style but not quite there in skill will often fall to a Ko-Uda attribution as this is the next best answer. Kunifusa in particular is held in high regard as being a high quality smith with some works that rivalled his teacher Norishige.

With Kunifusa there is some confusion because this smith has four works ranked at Juyo Bijutsuhin, and two of these are listed as Nanbokucho therein. One of the two is documented in the Nihonto Koza as late Kamakura. So those that are dated in Oei have to be by the second generation Kunifusa. Fujishiro lists three generations but makes no attempt to separate the first and second generation. Prior to this the Nihonto Koza states that the first Kunifusa is around Oan (1368) in the Nanbokucho period.

Detail of Tokubetsu Hozon and Hozon Funada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi Tanto

As for the Uda school, the jitetsu is more moderate than that of the other Kita Kuni Mono (i.e. Echizen and Kaga works), the kitae is fine, well folded and is beautiful. It is like the jitetsu of Kyo [i.e. Yamashiro works] and perhaps there are impurities left remaining in the bottom, but if you look closely you will see that it is not clear like that of Kyo and Yamato. The nie is a bit coarse and the hikari is strong, the grains are separated and twinkle like stars, and you could say that the fact this is especially prevalent in the ji and ha in the vicinity of the boshi is a characteristic trait of this [school].

Also it is customary that there are places in the yakiba where the nie is vigorous and places where there is only nioi.

[Following old books ranking Uda works at middle to upper-middle grades] ... as for the former, the ranking is severe and the latter can be viewed as about appropriate, but I believe if these were kaji originally from Yamashiro or Bizen there are sufficient qualities to raise them one more grade.

Something frequently heard in this world is, This tanto is of excellent workmanship for Uda.. However, as for Uda, they are all skilled. As long as the works are of around Oei, it is expected that all of them are skillfully done. A kaji of a different place [than Bizen or Yamashiro] is placed at a disadvantage.

Nihonto Koza

These remarks show but some bias exists in which people will by reflex downgrade them then in surprise remark how some example at hand seems to be unusually good. This is however not to pull the Uda school into the first rank of smiths but to illustrate they were better than competent and a lot of the work is skillfully made.

Detail of Tokubetsu Hozon and Hozon Funada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi Tanto

The Uda school continued until the end of the Koto period and there are numerous Uda smiths including Kunihisa, Kunitsugu, Kuninaga, Kuniyoshi, Kunihiro, Kunikiyo, Sanekuni, Hirakuni and so on with some names having second and third generations. In total these smiths have 58 Juyo, one Tokubetsu Juyo and four Juyo Bijutsuhin works.

koshirae leftkoshirae left
Funada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi Tanto Tanto PresentationFunada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi Tanto Tanto Origami

Tokubetsu Hozon and Hozon Funada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi Tanto

Uda Kuniyoshi is one of the sons of Uda Kunihisa and so is the grandson of Uda Kunifusa. Kunihisa's style of manufacture is itame mixed with masame and this seems to be the case as well for his son, who worked around 1429 at the end of the Oei period. His rating in the Toko Taikan is 350 man and this equates to about a Chu-jo saku rating in Fujishiro. Most of the Uda smiths are Jo saku and Chu-jo saku and so this is about par for the course (and please take in mind the comments above).

This blade is quite lovely and at first glance one thinks of a Hosho school work because of the clear masame present in it. But unlike Hosho this is mixed heavily with ko-itame that becomes more clear after the first glance. The second glance at the blade makes one think of the Sa school with the long turnback in the boshi and the wide hamon. If one thinks about Soshu and Yamato mixed craftsmanship, this brings us to Go Yoshihiro and Shizu as origin points as they both mix in some straight grain into their works. As Uda follows in Etchu under Norishige and Go as one of the main styles, this is likely one of these works that was influenced by Go rather than Norishige. Along with the nice forging, this style brings us into the Uda school and Kuniyoshi was thought by the NBTHK to be the best attribution. I feel it is pretty accurate.

It shows fine chikei, masame with itame mixed in, nie utsuri and the hamon is composed of sparkling ko-nie in suguba. This blade bears a kinzogan mei on it that is a bit difficult to read as a bit got punched out. As a result the NBTHK passed on an attempt to read it. It is either a name for the tanto, or else it is potentially Unotsu (ウの津) which is an older name for the Uda school. If so this is interesting because it means an older judge made the same conclusion as the NBTHK.

Overall then this pairing of tanto and koshirae is a nice combination, with the koshirae in the lead as a work of a great maker in Funada Ikkin, the tanto itself is actually quite enjoyable and is old work from the Oei period and does a good job as a tsunagi of the koshirae.

kogai detail
Funada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi Tanto Mei DetailFunada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi Tanto Koshirae Origami

Tokubetsu Hozon and Hozon Funada Ikkin and Uda Kuniyoshi Tanto

Coming to the koshirae, it suits my own tastes quite well as the refined tastes of Funada Ikkin are quite evident in the low contrast presentation of rogin, silver and gold come together to make you have to look at it closely to appreciate all of the beauty. It is issaku koshirae, meaning work of one maker and since so many koshirae were completely dismounted, this is a nice find with good lacquerwork in the saya.

This is work of the first generation Funada Ikkin, the student of Goto Ichijo and his signature is found on the kogai and the fuchi. In this he signed the fuchi with Ikkin and his kao, and he used an alternate form of the second character of his name on the kogai, and is thus a rare example of his signature in this style.

Otherwise his metalwork comprises kojiri, fuchi, gashira, menuki, kogai, koiguchi and kurigata. These are all made in rogin which is a mostly silver alloy with copper to darken it. Into these are inlaid fine silver sakura flowers and petals, as well as gold stamens and grains in the ground. The kogai is made of a finer grade of rogin, closer to fine silver, to give it some contrast with the rest of the fittings.

The autumn flowers on a dark background serve as a counterpoint to the sakura flowers in the tosogu which in their brightness and their famous time of appearance invoke springtime.

The menuki of the koshirae as well reflect opposites though the subtle work can be glossed over if you look too quickly. One is gold and the other is silver, and so invoke the sun and moon. As a whole then we see with this koshirae some reflection on the passing of days, and the passing of seasons. It gives me the same feeling of the sakura season in Japan where the experience is bittersweet. The blossoms come quickly and are intensely beautiful and are gone just as fast. The philosophical ruminations that go with this are the short time we are here on the planet and to enjoy the good times while they are here. There is a little bit of wear and tear in the tsuka, but this is fine as it simply shows that this is an antique and was used. I wouldn't alter anything on it.

tsuka detail

With the silver leaves of sakura blossoms falling off I think the interpretation is pretty clear. This koshirae makes me think of the flow of time and in its simplicity and beauty I find there to be a very charming wistfulness. Thankfully the two together survived the passage of time without being separated and boxed and represents a good mounting from the end of the samurai era in Japan.

kurigata detailkojiri detail