Waki Gotō



Mumei (unsigned):  Waki-Gotō (脇後藤)

Size: 8,25cm x 8,2 cm

Thickness at rim: 0,4 cm

Weight: 179 gr

Period: Early Edo

N.B.T.H.K. Tokubetsu Hozon Tōsōgu certification

In kiri box

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Here we have an excellently Waki-Gotō (脇後藤) tsuba.

The Gotō (後藤) school, worked, at least from the Muromachi to the early Edo period, exclusively for customers from the upper warrior class, that means first and foremost for the circles surrounding the shōgun. The Gotō school were pioneers of soft metal mounts, and the classical style they initiated became regulation court wear.

With their affiliation to the warrior class, the Gotō family had certain obligations and duties. They had to take care of their own financial management and accountancy, maintain obligatory militia functions and, besides that, their family system was organized centrally, i.e. a head had to be appointed, headquarters had to be maintained, and for the creation of branch families and many other things permission from the bakufu had to be sought. The first thing that stands out is the fact that the early Gotō artisans did not make tsuba or fittings for tachi mounts. They were ordered to make sword fittings which had, in those days, the highest ornamental rank, namely the menuki, the kōgai and the kozuka, summed up as „mitokoromono“ (三所物, lit. „things [fittings] of the three places“).

The Gotō Shirobei Masaoku (1440-1512) was the ancestor of the kinkō lineage of the Gotō family, a samurai of Mino province, better known by his art-name Yūjō (後藤祐乗), who worked at Kyōto for the eighth Ashikaga Shogun, Yoshimasa. Characteristics of the style are the use of shakudō as a background, plain save for the nanako, or “fish-roe”, granulated surface, the invention of which is credited to Yūjō himself, with animal and figural designs of rather severe style incrusted in gold or gilt metal.

Some of the branches of Gotō were established after the time of the 4th head Gotō Kōjō (後藤光乗, 1529-1620) and the 5th head Gotō Tokujō (後藤徳乗, 1550-1631).  These branch families are called “Byōke” (seedling or off-shoot family) of the same, and are also called “Waki-Gotō” (脇後藤) (This is the same as the “waki” in Wakizashi, and means side, other way, supporting role). They are probably called Waki-Gotō because they have the same family name as Gotō, and because they are subsidiary lines in relation to the true line. They were as many as 16 branches.

We also know that:

  • The name of the former line goes back to „Ribei“ (理兵衛, 1586-1663), the hereditary name of Kenjō; „Hachirōbei“ (八郎兵衛) to that of Kanjō; and „Shichirō´emon“ (七郎右衛門) to that of Injō. Many artists of the Ribei line worked primarily in Kaga, although they commuted between there, Kyōto and Edo.
  • The Kanbei (勘兵衛) and Jinbei (甚兵衛) line, founded by Kōjō (光乗, 1529-1620) 4th gen. mainline, including Kakujō (覚乗).
  • The Jizaemon (次左衛門) line, founded by Sokujō (即乗, 1600-1631) 8th gen. mainline.
  • The Kibei (喜兵衛) line (or Genjō-Takujō line) in Kyōto, founded by Jōshin (乗真, 1512-1562) 3rd gen. mainline, one of the best workers in this family being Denjō (伝乗, died 1712).
  • The large Chōjō (長乗) school [Shichirōbei (七郎兵衛), Gonbei (権兵衛), Seibei (瀬兵衛), Edo-Seijō (江戸清乗) line], founded in the early 17th century by Chōjo (長乗, 1561-1616) son of Kōjō; including with Ryūjō (立乗) and the six Seijō (清乗), and from which the school of Ichinomiya was somewhat derived through its protagonist Nagatsune (一宮長常).
  • The school of Kyūjō (休乗, 1594-1646) [Hanzaemon (半左衛門), Saburō´emon (三郎右衛門) and Genbei (源兵衛) line], son of 5th head Gotō Tokujō (後藤徳乗, 1550-1631), with Unjō (運乗), Mitsuyasu, Yamazaki Ichiga, ecc.

Sword-mounts of Gotō style remained the correct wear at Shogunal court ceremonies right down to the end of the Tokugawa regime.