by Fukushi Shigeo and Robert E. Haynes, edited and studied by Elliott Long


This is called SUKEBORI , but because in this hori, lines like those in a sumie (black ink drawing) are engraved with a triangular tagane, differences in the amount of skill are clearly apparent. Therefore, it can be said that a single piece or a single drawing cannot be ignored. This technique of KEBORI has been applied since olden times, and even in the works of the GOTO KE, around the time of the shodai YUJO, a portion of the pictorial element was already being executed in KEBORI. Also, there is KEBORI in KO-KINKO, NOBUIYE, KANEIYE, and UMETADA MYOJU.


The method referred to as KATAKIRI BORI is an extension of KEBORI. In the case of KEBORI, the lines are a little bit wider and narrower, but the tagane almost uniformly enters the HIRA JI. The KATAKIRI BORI uses a KATAKIRI tagane, and due to the fact that the tagane is slanted on one side only, there are wide and narrow sections in the line. This is probably a technique to show with the tagane the forceful lines of the watercolor drawings which appeared in SESSHU in the Muromachi Jidai, or the KANO Ke of the Momoyama Jidai, and the like.
This was originated by YOKOYA SOMIN, who is said to be the founder of the MACHIBORI. As artisans, there is the third generation, SOYO, his adopted son YOSHIKAWA GENCHIN, JOCHIN, KIKUCHI TSUNEKATSU and the like, a great number of artisans in the YOKOYA KE, and continued for a number of generations. In Kyoto, ICHINOMIYA NAGATSUNE who was a little bit later than SOMIN started KATAKIRI BORI, but depending on the item, there are also products that are thought to have a little more strength than those of SOMIN.

As for the kebori and the katakiri bori during the Edo jidai, there are places where these are not clearly distinguishable. For example, in the works of NATSUO, there are cases wherein, in spite of the fact that it is clearly katakiri bori, NATSUO himself has inscribed "kebori" in the hakogaki. Also, in the katakiri bori of SOMIN or SOYO, and in UNNO SHOMIN, there are cases where in IKEDA TAKAO has inscribed hakogaki of "kebori." Also, something that is most clear is that SOYO has judged the katakiri bori of SOMIN to be kebori. Therefore, whether it is said to be katakiri bori or kebori is not a mistake, and it can be considered that products were made by using kebori and katakiri bori together.


What is referred to as KOSUKIBORI, at first glance looks like kebori or katakiri bori, but there is no cutting by the tagane. When it is looked at with a magnifying glass, it is round towards the bottom, and moreover is gradual, the lines go in and out. It is thought that this is referred to as KOSUKIBORI because the leading edge looks as if it was done with a tagane (chisel) rounded like a half-moon, and the HIRAI tagane is an engraving that looks as if it has been plowed away. (TN: SUKI it means to plow.) As for artisans, there are many products by GOTO ICHIJO and his Mon, but it is particularly plentiful in the works of FUNATA IKKIN, he used various jigane such as tetsu ji, shakudo ji, shibuichi ji, and suaka ji, and his skill is exhibited in the umeki (plum tree). Therefore, when limited to KOSUKIBORI, even though the teacher can be said to be ICHIJO, it can be said that he did not surpass IKKIN.


The term FUKABORI indicates a work wherein the design is left, and its surroundings are deeply carved away. This is present in about the middle of the Edo Jidai, in the KINKO such as MITSUMASA, MITSUNOBU, and MITSUAKI of MINO NO KUNI, and they seemed to have made fuchi kashira which were engraved as deeply as possible. In the "Soken Kicho" published in TENMON GANNEN (1532) it says "Gold is applied up to the TENJO of the fuchi, and it is FUKABORI to the AKINO or the like." (TN: Of course, the TENJO is the cap on the fuchi. I do not know the significance of the term AKINO used here.) Well, I guess it is from this fact that it was given the name "MINO no FUKABORI". However, the appearance is quite different than that of the MINO BORI of the Muromachi period and the Momoyama period. From the 1950s to the 1960s, because the items that were FUKABORI look old (FURUI pronounced KO in compounds), KO was applied, and were called KO MINO. Sensei Okubo Ken'ichi stated in Kinko Mino Bori, "The items referred to as KO-MINO are thought to be only pieces that were made in MINO but their place of manufacture is not limited to MINO, and these were also made in KYOTO, SAKAI, NARA, MINO, and the like, and were made under the cultural influence of that time."


The term KATACHI BORI is the name that is used only with menuki. When looked at closely, these take on an almost three dimensional appearance of the SUGATA KATACHI (full rounded shape) of an object, and become a form in which these are cut in half. In other words, they are called KATACHI BORT. (TN: there is a bit of play on words here that does not translate well. Suffice it to say that SUGATA, KATACHI (kata, gata) and KATACHI all mean form or shape.) Occasionally, in tsuba, for example in the NATAMAME (hatchet bean or sword bean, a kind of bean) of SATSUMA, the SAN'EN (three monkeys) of AKASAKA TADASHIGE, NAMAZU (fresh water catfish) of HIGO, the HACHISU (lotus) of AKITA SHOAMI, and the KIKKA (KIKU HANA) of NAKAI ZENSUKE, there are items that we would like to call KATACHI BORI, but the term KATACHI BORI is not used with tsuba.


If we were to broadly divide the tsuba, this would become the ITA TSUBA and the SUKASHI TSUBA, and this is particularly true in old tsuba. When the katana is thrust in the sash, in the case of the ITA TSUBA, from the viewpoint of the opposite party, all that can be seen is pure black outline, and they cannot tell very well what it is. From that point, in the case of the SUKASHI TSUBA, even when somewhat distant, the feeling of it can be picked up by the opposite party. Perhaps from that standpoint, since it can be seen by anyone, it was liked by a large number of people, and because of that, the SUKASHI TSUBA of cherished olden times are called the "King of the Sukashi Tsuba."


There are people who say KAGEZUKASHI, and there are also people who say IN NO SUKASHI, but they are both the same. (TN: Both KAGE and IN mean shadow. Also, IN means negative, and is used to denote a negative in photography. IN is also used in the sense of a negative force in the universe, the opposite of which is YO, and is not bad, just opposite and necessary). There are pieces among the works of KO-TOSHO and KO-KATCHUSHI in which small IN (negative) designs were done in sukashi, but these are the easiest to understand if they are imagined to be shadow pictures. For the artisans, besides the TOSHO and KATCHUSHI, these were made by NOBUIYE, YAMAKICHI, HOAN, the UMETADA HA, HIGO, AKASAKA, and so on, right up to Bakumatsu (The end of the Bakufu Era).


In contrast to the IN, this is YO NO SUKASHI, and the excess portions of the HIRA JI of the tsuba are cut away, leaving the MIMI, SEPPA DAI, or the portions for the HITSU ANA, and the portion for the design, is called JI SUKASHI. There are also instances where a design is added in kebori, but the tsuba becomes flat faced. As representative JI SUKASHI TSUBA, there are HEIANJO SUKASHI, KYO SUKASHI, OWARI SUKASHI, KANEYAMA SUKASHI, AKASAKA SUKASHI, HIGO SUKASHI, and so on, but these are also in KO-SHOAMI.


If the design of the SUKASHI becomes flat faced, this means that it is called JI SUKASHI, but what is referred to as NIKUBORI JI SUKASHI is one wherein the design becomes three dimensional (NIKUBORI). In the older periods, KO-SHOAMI and KYO SHOAMI used this technique, but in the case of KYO SHOAMI, there seems to be many pieces wherein a KIN (gold) NUNOME ZOGAN was executed. With the arrival of the Edo Jidai, it is thought that the SHOAMI HA had relationships dispersed throughout the entire country, and the NIKUBORI JI SUKASHI was popular nationwide. There were ECHIZEN KINAI, the ITO HA of BUSHU (MUSASHI), CHOSHU TSUBA (NAGATO), the KATCHUSHI MEICHIN HA, the KASUGA HA of the same, various Ha of SATSUMA, and if they were all counted, there was no end of them.


The term MARUBORI SUKASHI refers to a tsuba that is made NIKUBORI SUKASHI, by including the MIMI. The entire body is said to be KATACHI BORI, and this means that it has become MARUBORI. (TN: MARUBORI can be interpreted as meaning engraved (HORI) in the round (MARU). As for ZENBORI, ZEN means all.) There are a number of MARUBORI SUKASHI pieces extant for ECHIZEN KINAI, TETSUGENDO SHORAKU, YAGAMI MITSUHIRO, AKASAKA TADASHIGE, SASHU (SADO) TOSHISADA, BUSHU (MUSASHI) KASUGA HA, and the ODA HA of SATSUMA, respectively.


A fine SUKASHI with lines like a thread (ITO) is called ITOZUKASHI. For the technique used in this, first, small holes are opened with a drill here and there, and the material is filed away from hole to hole using a fine YAUSRI (file) like a needle, and extreme effort and perseverance are required. Naturally, both wide places and narrow places in the line can be made, but when I asked, "At that time what were they doing? " I was instructed that when a flat piece was pierced and hammered out, "They could make the sukashi to any fineness." This ITO SUKASHI is most common in the ITO HA of BUSHU but it also appears in BAMEN TSUNEMASA and the later generations of the AKASAKA HA. In the older periods, it also show up in AKITA SHOAMI.

In regard to IROE (CHAKUSHOKU)

What is referred to IROE is one type of CHAKUSHOKU (applying color). Color is applied to a design like a picture by using various metals. As methods for doing that, there is TOKIN (plating), UTTORI IROE (FUKURO GISE) (TN: Putting on a glove or bag], ROZUKE IROE (ROZUKE = soldered), OKIGANE (overlay), ZOGAN (inlay), and so on. Among these, ZOGAN is the usual, and is not called IROE, but since it is no different than coloring, I think it is better if it is included in IROE. There are also many types within this ZOGAN, such as HIRA ZOGAN, HORIKOMI ZOGAN, NUNOME ZOGAN, KESHI ZOGAN, and so on, and if they were all enumerated, there would be many more. (See GLOSSARY for TSUBA)


TOKIN is MEKKI (plating). This technique is one that has been used since a very long time ago, but as for the method used today, the gold is crushed very fine and dissolved in hydrochloric acid and nitric acid, this is added to water and heated, and when potassium prussiate is added to this, a liquid can be obtained in which the gold is dissolved very well. This liquid is the plating (MEKKI) solution, the metal on which the plating is to be done is placed on the bottom, this is one electrode, the solution is painted on this, an iron or carbon rod is the other electrode, and when an electrical current is passed, the MEKKI (plating) can be done comparatively easily.


This technique is a method wherein the place where the color is to be applied is covered with a thin plate of gold, and is held in place by pushing the plate into grooves that have been cut in beforehand skirting the outline of that location. This is characterized in that solder is not used. With a product that has been finished in this manner, with the passage of time, the places where the metal is high is rubbed down, the KIN (gold) of the IROE is torn, the black SHAKUDO comes to be seen from beneath that, and it comes to have a somehow indescribable taste of classic elegance. As for the period, this is said to have already been in use during the KOFUN JIDAI (Tumulus Period 250-552), but the items that are most frequently seen as TOSOGU are from the Muromachi jidai. Also, from the latter part of the Muromachi Jidai to the beginning of the Momoyama Jidai, since a solder that could be applied at low temperature was developed, the UTTORI IROE used up until this time was discarded, and the ROZUKE IROE became the mainstream. Now then, occasionally a piece is seen wherein all of the UTTORI IROE has peeled off, and a slight trace of gold remains in the design outline, but the engraving has been superbly done. When this type of a product is looked at, it can be appreciated as one in which the engraving was done so precisely in this manner even though it was a place where the ancient artisans could not see. Since the finished IROE also becomes poor if the foundation is not precisely engraved, this means that they did not do any slipshod work.


Generally, when IROE is mentioned, this designates the ROZUKE IROE that began from the Momoyama Jidai. In the old terminology this was called KABUSE but this was a method wherein a sheet of KIN or GIN (gold or silver) as thin as paper was capped on a portion of the metal that became the foundation, and made to adhere by flowing a silver solder between them. In this case, in the pieces from the very earliest part of the Momoyama Jidai, because the plate of KIN (gold) were made a little on the thick side, these are a little coarse, and can be mistaken for UTTORI IROE. Later, it gradually became thinner, and how thin it is made and how skillfully it is adhered can be taken as an indication of the skill of the artisan.


This is called KINDAI OKIGANE or SHAKUDO NI OKIGANE but this is also one type of IROE. As for the technique, because it is one wherein a thick gold leaf, shakudo leaf, or shibuichi leaf is soldered to a portion that becomes the DAI (setting), and engraving is executed on this, it becomes quite different from those like thin paper and are fairly thick, and can be seen as metal of a different nature riding on top of the DAI. This technique is a method which the KINKOSHI, of the latter part of the Edo period, mainly used and the finish became very beautiful.


KESHI is also one type of IROE. This is also called KESHI TOKIN YAKITSUKE. As for the technique, when kin (gold) is drawn thin, placed in SUIGIN (mercury) and heat is applied, the gold dissolves in the mercury and becomes an amalgam (a liquid-like alloy of gold and mercury). The engraving is completed, and plum vinegar is painted at the locations at which IROE is intended to be added, and it is dried. When the amalgam is painted on and it is baked with fire, the mercury evaporates and only the gold remains, and becomes one type of IROE. ZOGAN of extremely fine lines, or fine grains like sand are mainly made by means of this KESHI ZOGAN. As a method of discerning this, when looked at with a magnifying glass, it appears a little below the flat surface, and there are pimples and depressions.


In what is referred to as NUNOME ZOGAN, at the location were it is desired to do the ZOGAN, it is made like YASURIME, by making cuts vertically and horizontally with a TAGANE (chisel) in a NUNOME (cloth-like pattern). Gold wire or a pattern that has been cut thin is laid on top of this, it is pushed in with a bamboo 'tagane,' and is made to closely adhere by pushing it into the NUNOME.

NUNOME (Japanese inlay work) by Robert Haynes

Styles of nunome tend to fall into 2 general categories:
1) The Shoami schools
2) Everyone else, some times called the "eastern style"

The Shoami were originators of gold and silver nunome as far back as the Muromachi period. Nunome is occasionally found on soft metals, but more often than not, it is on iron. Other than the Shoami the other two schools that did a great deal of nunome work were the Umetada and Higo schools.

The most notable pattern of chisel marks (especially by the Shoami) was that of intersecting diagonal lines (first example).

Another common variation included the addition of a vertical component of chisel lines (second example).

In the period spanning the end of the Muromachi to the middle Edo (1550-1700) craftsmen of the Shoami school were most careful to hammer out (flatten away) any cross hatching not included within the boundaries of the inlaid design. The Kyoto Shoami were especially careful in this respect. At the same period of time the Higo were not as careful, so that the chisel marks often extended beyond the inlaid pattern. As with most other aspects of the samurai related arts,features attributable to specific schools no longer remained the province of those schools after about 1700 as artisans grew sloppier, on the one hand, and more given to employ whatever style seemed to be compatible with the fashion of the moment. The Ko-shoami of around 1600 employed a horizontal line over the familiar double diagonal cross hatching.

Sheet Thickness
The majority of nunome work employed a soft metal sheet of adequate thickness and chisel marks sufficiently shallow so that the sheet adequately covered the chisel lines. But on the island of Kyushu most Higo, Hizen and Umetada work employed heavy (deep) chiseling and thin sheet overlay with the next result that the inlay would be hammered down predominantly within the chiseled lines -- the pattern of which could easily be seen on the surface. Hizen artisans employed predominantly silver in their work while those in Higo used gold primarily. The Hizen Umetada followed the "eastern style". In the Choshu school the metals are used approximately 50:50.

Kyo Shoami, nunome evolution
After about 1700 the Kyo Shoami chiseling pattern changed from

and the diagonal chisel lines employ wider spacing than do the horizontal and vertical lines. This later type is called Hon sambon kiri (true three line cutting).

Line inlay
The Mitsutada school typically employed strip rather than sheet inlay especially in the period 1580-1650.

Random Patterns
The Jakushi school their inlay was thin and did not adhere very well; this is also a problem with the Jingo school. Unfortunately, the realities imposed by economics imposed certain restrictions on the capabilities of the various schools to employ soft metal inlay to good effect periodic unavail-ability of gold and silver as well as the wealth of a particular daimyo in the feudal hierarchy deter-mined what artisans in a particular province could and could not create.

Utori (tucked in)
Some muromachi period fittings employed the technique wherein the soft metal foil was not ham-mered into the pattern of an entire design but was anchored into a channel chiseled into the outline of the design's periphery. Since the soft metal (usually gold or shakudo) was secured only at the edges, it was especially vulnerable to being rubbed off on the surface -- leaving some vestigal inlay in the outline of the design itself. This can give the impression of being strip inlay, but it is not.

Higo School
The Higo did a lot of wire inlay which usually didn't adhere very well. The best of it is very good, employing thick gold. The Hayashi were a particularly wealthy clan and their artisans had sufficient access to the metal that they could employ it in thick sheets. Higo and Umetada work is often so thick that we can see the edges of the sheet.


The process referred to as HIRA ZOGAN is one wherein the pattern for a design is engraved beforehand in a tsuba or kodogu, then a plate of KIN, GIN, SHAKUDO or other metal is fitted into this, and it is flattened and polished. If KATAKIRI BORI is added to this, it becomes HIRA ZOGAN KATAKIRI BORI, and if it is KEBORI it becomes HIRA ZOGAN KEBORI.
This method was used even in the old periods, but from the latter part of the Muromachi Jidai to the Momoyama Jidai, it was called HEIANJO ZOGAN and HIRA ZOGAN of SHINCHU (brass) was quite popular. There are a fair number of extant works by YAMASHIRO NO KUNI JU NAGAYOSHI, HEIANJO JU MASASHIGE, IZUMI NO KAMI KOIKE YOSHIRO, and the like. Also, UMETADA MYOJU, who is said to be the founder of SHINTO, and who is even more famous for engraving TOSHIN (sword blades), brought forth famous tsuba of elegant HIRA ZOGAN which have as motif the paintings of the RIN Ha style.
This HIRA ZOGAN in katana, became the KIN ZOGAN MEI of the HON'AMI KE, came forth in the tsuba of UMETADA MYOJU and his Mon, and became the KIN ZOGAN MEI of KOJO and TOKUJO in the GOTO KE. Later, it was done in KAGA as KAGA ZOGAN in KYOTO became the HIRA ZOGAN KATAKIRI BORI of ICHINOMIYA NAGATSUNE, and blossomed as splendid pieces of work.

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