Mumei (unsigned): Kamakura
Size: 7,40 cm x 7,64 cm
Thickness at rim: 0,28 cm
Period: Early Edo
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Warabi-te design on iron plate. This item is a typical example of Kamakura tsuba.
Kamakura tsuba were made from Late Muromachi to Edo period. They are usually thin iron ita-tsuba with uchikaeshi-mimi and mostly large dimensioned carvings. They bear similarities to Katchūshi tsuba and Ōnin-tsuba. All of them are unsigned so there is no information about their makers; from an overall interpretation, it seems likely that they were made by craftsmen from the Katchūshi group. They were quite popular, so many copies and fakes were made.
The name “Kamakura tsuba” does not refer to the Kamakura period as the time of production, nor to the place (being made in Kyōto): it derives from a type of engraving called Kamakura-bori (Kamakura carving), a Chinese engraving technique originally used on lacquerware, that by Muromachi period was being applied also to tea utensils, Zen-related implements and eventually to tsuba decorations.
There exist both large and small examples of Kamakura tsuba: most of them are in round shape, but there are also examples in irregular kawari-gata or lobed-shape. In most cases the iron is not high quality (even though there are exceptions), they are thin ita tsuba with large-dimensioned pattern carved out in sukidashibori, often accentuated with kebori and the carvings are not very crisp. Many Kamakura tsuba show ko-sukashi openings whose borders were left raised in sukinokoshi-bori after the surface was worked off (an interpretation which is similar to Ōnin and Heianjō-zōgan tsuba). The seppadai is in almost all cases left raised in sukinokoshi manner, so is the rest of the motif, and thus it has the same height as the patterns. The rim area is slightly thinner than the seppadai and most Kamakura tsuba show a kaku-mimi ko niku in a raised sukinokoshi interpretation. They can come with or without hitsu-ana (many were subsequently opened).
The great majority of the designs looks Chinese. They are large dimensioned, bold and mostly pattern-like. There are also more picturesque interpretations but realistic depictions are not seen. The main design motifs are floral/natural elements, animals, Japanese traditional elements such as torii shrine gates, temple bells and so on.