Nice iron tsuba with clematis flowers and vines in gold and silver inlay. Signed Nara Saku (made in Nara). This is the school signature that was used by this group of artists. They never signed with their individual names. This tsuba is slightly convex in shape and dates to the mid Edo Period (17th century).

Together with the Goto and Yokoya, the Nara school set the standards of Edo period sword fittings. Although early Nara work probably origined in Kyoto in the 16th century, the mainline school originated in the 17th century with Toshiteru, who made iron tsuba at the Shogun’s court. Toshiteru, and eight subsequent masters and many students, produced excellent work. This main line however was to be eclipsed by three of the greatest artists in the history of sword fittings – Toshinaga, Joi and Yasuchika. These three masters are called the Nara sansaku.

Toshinaga (1667 – 1737) produced bold, high relief, solid and fully-carved tsuba with elaborate attention to detail. He used iron at first, but later added soft metal. While Toshinaga was producing his masterpieces, a young man some 33 years his junior arrived in Edo and studied under the master. This man was Sugiura Joi, who soon began to develop his own personal techniques of low relief carving on slighlty concave tsuba. The third Nara master, Yasuchika (1670 – 1744) was one of the greatest artists of swords fittings. He upset the popular Goto and Somin schools of the time by breaking the established rules by producing pictorial, inlaid brass and iron tsuba. (Iron was considered ugly by the Goto). Yasuchika combined the soft metal work of the Goto and Yokoya with a wide variety of subjects in many techniques and was comfortable working in iron as in soft metal. Classic Yasuchika subjects include birds in the rain, representations of Kano style paintings, animals and people.




Length – 7.7 cm
Width – 7.6 cm
Thickness at seppa dai – 0.5 cm
Thickness at rim – 0.3 cm




Clematis are climbing plants on a woody vine that come in a wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes and can be trained to climb up trellis, walls or just left to ramble over and through flower beds. Clematis flowers are part of the buttercup family and tend to be white or pink in colour. Flowers like the ones below grow in early spring on the previous year’s shoots. The wild Clematis species are native to China and made their way into Japanese gardens by the 17th century.

Clematis plant
Clematis flowers