GOTO Honke (Goto main family)

Family pedigree of the Goto head

The head family of Goto continued from the founder Yujo to the 17th head Tenjo. At the time of 
the 6th head Eijo, the Goto family was appointed as an official craftsman by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

The founder Goto Yujo

Yujo — the founder of the family, true name Masaoki Shirobei — held the title of " Sado-no-kami" (lord of Sado). A native of Mino, he served in a military capacity under the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Born in 1439, he died in 1512, at the age of seventy-three. He established the rules and traditions of the family which were religiously kept for eleven generations. Yujo obtained many of his designs from the celebrated painter Kano Masa-nobu. He is regarded as the founder of the school of sword-decorators, and his works possess great value. He invented the style of chiselling called taka-bori (carving in high relief), and his work is almost supernaturally skilled. It may be compared to the " exquisite view of Gobi's snow-clad peak towering lofty in the sky " (from a Chinese poet), or to the weeping-willow in the Imperial garden as it waves in the soft breeze, or to the lovely lotus in the fairy lake washed by pearls of dew. So elevated is the tone, so delightfully chaste the character, of the carving that one cannot look at it without emotion. The traces of the chisel are at once bold and delicate, and every part of the work stands out vivid and almost divine. Yujo may truly be called the " Saint of the Art."
Goto Yujo
Goto Yujo
(1440 - 1512)

The 2nd head Sojo

Sojo, true name of Takemitsu Shirobei, was the son of Yujo. He received the art title Hogcn. Born 1486; died 1564. His work resembles that of his father so closely as to be almost indistinguishable. The carvings of the two masters may be compared to the iris and the sweet flag, distinct plants which nevertheless bear a strong likeness to each other in colour, fragrance, and even time of flowering.

The 3rd head Joshin

Joshin, true name Yoshihisa Shirobei, was the son of Sojo. Born 1511; died 1562. The marks of the chisel are sharp ; the relief very high and the depression deep. It is strong work. In making a menuki of shakudo or gold, he beat it into the desired form, and then added the plating in colors. This method was called uchidashi (repousse), and the addition of the colored metals without fracturing the ground was known as uttori. This style obtained much vogue in Joshin's time, but is less fashionable now. The art of inlaying (zogan), as applied to sword ornaments, was also inaugurated by Joshin, and his productions are the most varied and peculiar of the iye-bori works. His work may be compared to a brave warrior who is not only a strong guardian but also a trusty councillor; for while it has boldness and strength, it has also something of delicacy and softness. He bore a different art-flower, but the same fruit as his predecessor. He died on the battlefield in 1562. His handiworks are full of masculine dynamism, and we can feel his character from those pieces of works.

The 4th head Kojo

Kojo, also called Mitsuiye, was born in 1530, and died in 1620 at the age of 92. He was a son of Joshin. His work resembles that of Yujo in style. It is noble and dignified, neither too strong nor too weak. The impression it conveys is that of resting under the green shadow of a patriarchal pine and looking out on a glow of cherry bloom. Or it may be compared to a noble lady standing beside the brushwood gate of a rustic dwelling. It is generally said that Kojo's carving style is smilar to the founder Yujo's. There are only several pieces of works which are inscribed his name.

The 5th head Tokujo

Tokujo, also called Mitsutsugu, was the son of Kojo. Born 1549; died 1631. Hideyoshi, the Taiko, conferred an estate on him in the year 1580. While living in Kyoto, he executed orders from the Imperial court and the Tokugawa Shogunate. His work has the characteristic of strong surface modeling, and many specimens are scarcely distinguishable from those of his father Kojo. Looking at his designs, one is reminded of white sails scattered near and far over the wide bosom of the sea when the brooding breath of spring softens their outlines. It was in Tokujo's time that the custom originated of issuing certificates of authenticity (origami) with the works of the Goto family. One of his sons, Chojo, became the founder of a branch of the family known as the " Shimo-Goto" (lower Goto). Before Tokujo, men of the Goto family had made only what is called Mitokoromono (Kozuka, Kougai and Menuki). Tokujo started making sword guards (Tsuba). His wife came from the Honami family that is famous for appraisal of Japanese swords. And more, the Gotos were related to the Kano family that is famous for painting. We know from the facts that the Gotos tried to continue family marital ties with other forceful families.

The 6th head Yeijo

Yeijo, also called Masamitsu, the son of Tokujo, was born in 1574 and died in 1617. His work combines the finished skill of both Kojo and Tokujo, and has, at the same time, a certain quality of richness, tenderness, and restfulness. One may find a comparison in the view of a little boy driving an ox to pasture on a verdant plain; or the carriage of a nobleman standing beside a rustic fence over which convolvulus blossoms cluster.

Mitokoromono by Goto Kenjo The 7th head Kenjo

Kenjo, also called Masatsugu, was also a son of Tokujo. He represented the family during the minority of his nephew Sokujo, and was promoted to the rank of Hokkyo. Born 1585; died 1663. His manner of using the chisel greatly resembled that of Kojo. One is reminded of a pine-tree and a bamboo covered with snow: they present a delightful contrast, but at heart retain the same changeless green. The fidelity and chastity of his work force themselves into notice. During the Kwanyei era (1625-1643) his services were engaged by the feudal chief of Kaga, who gave him a pension of 1150 koku of rice annually (about 1,50x3 yen), and he made it a custom to live in Kaga every second year.

The 8th head Sokujo

Sokujo, called also Mitsushige, was the son of Yeijo. Born 1603 ; died 1631. His style resembles that of Kenjo, and is characterised by directness, strength, and vigour. Connoisseurs are wont to class the works of Yujo, Kojo, and Kenjo as the "three chefs-d'oeuvre" (sansakti), but specimens by Sokujo are exchangeable with those of Kenjo. There is a notion that something of the value attaching to Sokujo's works is due to their rarity, for as he died at the early age of twenty-eight, his productions were not numerous. But that is a mistake. He was a veritable genius, and to that fact alone is due the esteem in which his carvings are held. It is believed by good judges that had he lived longer and attained the mastery of technique which many years of effort can alone give, he would even have surpassed his ancestors, and a sympathetic perception of his latent capacities has something to do with the rank accorded to him by posterity. In the same way connoisseurs often class the works of Tsujo (11th family head), Sokujo, and Kojo as the three chefs-d'oeuvre, declining to include the sculptures of Yujo, whom they place in a rank by himself as a divine and matchless master. That is a point of delicacy.
by the 7th
Goto Kenjo

The 9th head Teijo

Teijo, also called Mitsumasa, the son of Kenjo, was born in 1603, and died in 1673. He represented the family during the minority of his nephew Renjo. He was promoted to the art rank of Hokkyo. His works are at once charming, noble, and dignified. It is impossible to deny their title to be called masterpieces. Though his time was not very remote from our own era (1781), his carvings have the peculiar aspect of age presented by the work of Kojo and the other early masters. The chisel-marks are somewhat deep, clear, and strong. His designs suggest the feeling experienced when, looking out under the bamboo blinds from the upper room of a lofty riverside dwelling, one sees the moon rise on an autumn evening. This artist succeeded to the pension of his father Kenjo, and used to live in Kanazawa (chief town of Kaga) every second year. In the house that he inhabited there may still be seen a stone garden-ewer with the figure of Hakuga (a Chinese poet) engraved on it by the chisel of Teijo. It is said that during Teijo's time the Goto family employed a number of Kyoto chisellers to do rough work.

The 10th head Renjo

Renjo, called also Mitsutomo, the son of Sokujo, was born in 1626 and died 1708. His work is gentle and magnanimous in tone. It reminds one of the quiet, subdued style in which the story of Akashi is told by the author of the Minamoto Annals (Genji Monogatari). He lived to a ripe old age and had many pupils, so that his works are often found. A son of his called Mitsuyoshi gave promise of future greatness, but unfortunately died young and few specimens exist from his chisel.

The 11th head Tsujo

Tsujo, also called Mitsutoshi, was the son of Senjo and grandson of Teijo. He did not belong to the elder branch of the family. Born in 1668, he died in 1721. Early in the 18th century, he was given an establishment at Yedo by the Shogun and tempted from the family traditions. Once in the atmoshere of the new city, Tsujo found himself hard pressed to keep up his prestige among such artists as Somin, Toshinaga, Yasuchika, and others. His works are classed among the "three chefs-d'oeuvre (san-saku)." His style is somewhat showy. One can almost smell the fragrance of the flowers he chiselled, his birds seem to be on the point of flying or in actual flight, and his human figures smile as though words hovered on their lips. His sculptures are in truth beautiful beyond expression. Chinese annals tell of a puppet presented by a certain artist to a great monarch, and describe how the figure sang and danced automatically. That was a mere mechanical contrivance for the amusement of the moment. Very different is the air of vivid vitality imparted to his sculpture by the master-artist. There is no actual motion to strike the eye of the common observer, but there is a latent force that imparts to everything the element of motion, and creates a precious picture to be for ever esteemed and admired.

The 12th head Jujo

Jujo, also called Mitsumasa, son of Tsujo, was born in 1694 and died in 1742. His work differs from that of Tsujo. It resembles the best productions of Mitsutaka, the present (1781) representative of the family. One is reminded of a man reaching his goal by steadily treading the right road. There is also an element of balanced strength that suggests the fabulous serpent of Jozan, which could defend itself equally with either end.

The 13th head Yenjo

Yenjo, also called Mitsutaka; son of Jujo, was born in 1720 and died in 1784. Criticised unreservedly, his works seem to vary in quality. The best are not unlike the productions of Tsujo, for which they may easily be mistaken. The lustre of his house is not tarnished, nor the long-sustained reputation of his family impaired, in his hands.

The 14th head Keijo

Keijo, also called Mitsumori, son of Yenjo, was born in 1739, and died in 1804. The work of this artist has the beauty of his grandfather Tsujo's carving, together with the well-balanced arrangement of his predecessors. His style is his own. There is a tender suggestiveness about his designs that reminds one of a light shower sweeping across the verdant slope of a mountain, or a soft haze resting on the bosom of a limpid lake. His work always shows that noble elevation of tone which belongs to the true artist and can never be imitated.

The 15nd head Shinjo

Shinjo, also called Mitsuyoshi, was born in 1780, and died in 1843.

The 16nd head Hojo

Hojo, also called Mitsuaki, was born in 1816 and died in 1856.

The 17nd head Tenjo

Tenjo, also called Mitsunori, was born in 1835 and died in 1879.

Since the death of Yujo, the founder of the family, two hundred and sixty years have passed. During that time the works of the masters from generation to generation have found their way into the hands of the great and the noble, who treasure them as precious possessions, their value augmenting as time rolls on. That is because the art of the illustrious ancestor has been adorned by the achievements of his descendants, every one of whom was himself a master. These happy results are mainly due, however, to the peaceful sway by which we are blessed, and to the tranquil times when men have leisure to show their respect for the dignity of a sword by the decoration they lavish on its mountings.


Goto Ichijo

Ichijo, also known as Goto Yeijiro, was born in 1791 and died in 1876. Ichijo was the son to the 15th head Shinjo. He was a scion of Hachirobei, a sub-school of the Goto Shirobei. As to the assertion that sword-mount experts continued to work with undiminished skill to the year 1876, a better illustration cannot be adduced than that of Goto Ichijo. It may be explained here, however, that in addition to the principal family and its two great branches in Kyoto the Kami-Goto and the Shimo-Goto there were in that city two minor branches ; in Kaga a branch founded by Ichiyemon, a pupil of Kenjo, in 1610; and in Noto a branch founded in 1550 by Jinyemon, a pupil of Takujo. When only nineteen years of age he received a commission to carve mounts for a sword belonging to the Emperor Kokaku, and he succeeded so well that the title of Hokkyo was accorded to him, together with a reward of twenty pieces of silver and five bundles of silk. In his thirty-fourth year he was invited to Yedo by the Tokugawa Court, received a house and a perpetual pension of ten rations, which was afterwards increased from time to time, until, in 1862, he attained the highest art rank, that of Hogen.

Ichijo had no less than fifty pupils, all of whom worked with considerable success. Among them was Natsuo, who probably deserves to rank next to Ichijo among the masters of the nineteenth century. Ichijo has left it on record that in his youth he made a habit of praying at the shrine of Fushimi Inari that the deity would grant him skill. One night after his devotions, he fell asleep and saw in a dream a dragon carved by his illustrious ancestor, Goto Yujo. Thenceforth he had before his eyes a perfect model of a dragon. His workmanship, however, was finer than anything done by Yujo. Japanese connoisseurs say that it combines the soft style of Goto Kwojo with the microscopic minuteness of Goto Kenjo, and a story is told that a party of skilled experts being challenged to name the maker of a set of sword-mounts by Ichijo without seeing the name carved on the back, were divided in opinion as to whether the work should be ascribed to Kwojo or to Kenjo. These details furnish some indication of the career of a great Japanese carver, and of the honours extended to him. There was, indeed, no limit to the appreciation he received. Among the archives of Ichijo's family there is a letter addressed to the artist by Okubo Toshimitsu, one of the leading statesmen of the Restoration. It is couched in terms of the most profound politeness ; it speaks of Ichijo's work as beautiful enough to " move the gods to tears ". It declares that the specimens just completed at the writer's request shall be treasured by him and his heirs so long as the house of Okubo lasts. Ichijo certainly deserved to be famous. He excelled in every kind of chiselling, though most of his finest work is in relief; he knew how to produce admirable decorative effects by combining metals of various colours ; his range of motives was almost limitless, and the poetic feeling of some of his designs gives them a charm quite independent of their grand technique.

The difficulty experienced in attempting to set down any record of the metal-workers in the nineteenth century is that quite an embarrassing number of artists reached a standard entitling them to notice. The greatest do not stand as far above the general level as did the masters of preceding epochs, but, on the other hand, the general level in the nineteenth century was higher than it had ever been before. It can be said with confidence, however, that no school of experts contributed so much to the treasures of the time as did the representatives and disciples of the Ishiguro family. According to strict chronological order, this family should have been included in the annals of the eighteenth century, for its founder, Masatsune, who also must be called one of its greatest representatives, was born in 1757 and died in 1828. He is placed here, however, not only because much of the finest work of his mature years was executed in the nineteenth century, but also because all his successors and pupils flourished during the latter. The Ishiguro family carried the art to an extreme standard of elaboration. No subject was too intricate or too difficult for them, and it is probable that their works figure largely in foreign collections, for technical beauty and richness of general effect are qualities which appeal at once to the average dilettante. Masatsune had three art names Yimiyo, Togakushi, and Yikokusai and during his youth he called himself Koretsune. He is thus often confounded with his second son, Koretsune, an equally great artist, the confusion being augmented by the fact that among Koretsune's seven art names (Togakuski, Ritswnei, Shinryo, Hogyokusai, Gishinken, Kounken, and Ichiyeian) the first was identical with one of Masatsune's. No less than forty-two experts belonged to the Ishiguro group, and every one of them contributed some good specimens to the treasures of the century. After Masatsune and Koretsune, the most renowned were Koreshige (art name, Icbio\t) a pupil of Koretsune ; Koreo (art name, Hakuunshi), also a pupil of Koretsune ; Yoshitsune (art names, Senyusbi, Gammon, and Tominsai), grandson of Masatsune ; Masayoshi (art name, yikosai), a student of Masatsune ; Koreyoshi (art names, Jikakushi and Kwansai}, son of Masayoshi ; Yoshisato (art name, Jitekisai), a pupil of Masayoshi who worked in Hizen; Haruaki, who received the highest art title of Hogen ; Masahiro (art names, Gantoshi, Keiho, Kwakujusai, and Korinsha), a pupil of Masatsune; Masakiyo (art name, Yikiyokusai] ; Masaharu and Kiyonari (art name, Giyokkosai). All of these, with the one exception noted in its place, worked in Yedo. With the Ishiguro experts must be bracketed, in point of technical skill, the three families of Omori, Hamano, and Iwamoto. The origin of these has already been spoken of, and it will be sufficient to note here the celebrities that they severally contributed to the nineteenth century, namely :


  • Hidetomo ; art name, Riuriusai. Yedo.
  • Hideyoshi ; art name, Ittokusai. Yedo.
  • Hideyori. Hirado (Hizen).
  • Hidenori. Hirado.
  • Hidetomi. Sendai.
  • Hidelciyo. Yedo.
  • Kazutomo ; art name, Kenkosai. Yedo.
  • Tomochika; art name, Riunsai. Yedo.
  • Tomotsune. Yedo.
  • Terumoto. Yedo.


  • Shunzui, or Haruyori. Yedo.
  • Juzui, or Hisayori. Yedo.
  • Shuzui, or Hideyori. Yedo.
  • Kiuzui, or Hisayori. Yedo.


  • Konju. Yedo.
  • Kwanri (end of eighteenth and beginning of nineteenth century). Yedo.
  • Yeishu, or Yasuchika Shinsuke (end of eighteenth and beginning of nineteenth century). Celebrated for Katakiri chiselling. Mito.
  • Riyoyei, or Suzuki Kinyemon. Celebrated for carving fish. Yedo. Kwanjo.
  • Shoho, or Buto Gempachi, marked his works Konkwan-mon. Yedo.

The productions of the four families, Omori, Hamano, Iwamoto and Ishiguro, stand to the masterpieces of the early metal-carvers in much the same relation as the genre pictures (ukiyo-ye] y which had their development contemporaneously with the work of these families, stand to the paintings of the classical school. In reviewing Japanese pictorial art it has been shown that the popular school of painters, the Ukiyo-ye artists, were a natural outcome of the social evolution of their era, and that they reflected the nation's passage from the comparatively austere canons of a military age to the voluptuous ease and refinement of the later Tokugawa epochs. Similar evidence of the changes of the times might be expected to present themselves in the field of glyptic art.

The formal designs and uniform methods of chiselling ti jour practised up to the middle of the fifteenth century represent the pure Chinese style, or, at any rate, were suggested by the classical spirit which then permeated every branch of the national civilisation. By and by, when the immortal painters Kano Masanobu and Kano Motonobu raised their art into a new realm of national inspiration, a corresponding impulse was felt in the domain of metal carving, and the Goto masters, shaking themselves partially free from classical fetters, began to seek decorative motives in the pages of recent history or among the natural objects that surrounded them. The work of the early Goto experts cannot, however, be assigned purely to any one academy. In their representations of historical scenes, warriors, and animals they followed the Tosa school with almost slavish accuracy. In their carvings of flowers, birds, and incidents from the daily life of the people, they took the Kano artists for models. And in their chiselling of dragons, Dogs of Fo, Kylin, phoenixes, and supernatural beings, they saw nothing higher than Chinese types. They preserved, indeed, a closer touch with the Chinese school than with any other, for each scion of the family and each student in its ateliers commenced his education by learning how to carve a dragon, and in every Japanese collection of Goto masterpieces the shishi, the kirin, and the ho-o repeat themselves persistently.

But even Yujo himself did not recognise any limit to his range of motives, and, as has been already seen, he and his descendants must undoubtedly be credited with having opened a new vista to their art. The Nara school was the next link in the chain of evolution. Faithful to the fashions of the era in which it had its birth, it made a still wider departure from the classical style than the Goto experts had attempted, and drew its inspiration from the Kano and the Tosa schools only, combining the strength, realism, and softness of the former with the decorative splendour of the latter. The Yokoya masters went a step farther. It is true that they may be said to have revived the Chinese spirit, since linear force, directness, and vitality became, in their hands, paramount elements of glyptic skill. But in that respect they stand to their own branch of art as the Kano painters stood to theirs ; if they followed the technical methods of the Chinese school, they derived their motives chiefly from Japanese life and annals. Side by side with the Yokoya masters, and in many respects closely connected with them, the Yanagawa, Kikuoka, Kikuchi, Yoshioka, and Kikugawa families produced works which correspond with the pictures of the naturalistic school of Kyoto, the Shijo academy, which had its greatest representative in Maruyama Okio. Then finally came the four families forming the popular school, the Omori, the Hamano, the Iwamoto, and the Ishiguro, to whom Goto Ichijo must be added as an unsurpassed master of their style. It is difficult to convey in words any general idea of the luxury of decoration, delicacy of chiselling, poetry of motive, and, withal, simplicity of subject exhibited in the masterpieces of experts like Omori Teruhide, Iwamoto Konkwan, Hamano Noriyuki, Ishiguro Masatsune, and many of their disciples and followers, as well as their contemporary artists of the naturalistic school.


Goto Seijo

Seijo, also known as Mitsutoyo, died in 1734. As the school founder, he made but few tsuba. The second of the school, Seijo-Mitsuzane (died 1750), worked in relief, and also did inlay in the nunome style. He often used the water dragon on his guards and delighted in carving curious flowers. During this time, there was a demand for foreign designs, and this school turned out many guards in Canton and Namban style. The Nidai onward used the same signature, 'Seijo'. The sixth Seijo, also known as Harumitsu, Sessai, or Shiunchin, was famed for his excellent composition and detail. The 3rd to the 7th generations went to Edo, lived in Shitaya, and were known as the Shitaya Goto.

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