Nihonto.com is pleased to add to our gallery an outstanding iron tsuba by the Iyo (current day Ehime Prefecture) tsuba artist Shôami Shigechika (正阿弥重親). He worked around 1750-1800.
Shigetaka’s family name was Shôami and one of his art names was Nanshôsanshin (南松山臣). The name, Nanshôsanshin (南松山臣), if read literally could also be read “Nan Matsuyama Shin. “Nan” means “Southern”, Matsuyama is a place name in Iyo, which in turn is the old name for Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku Island, and “Shin” means “Retainer or Subject”. Therefore, this working name literally means “a retainer of the southern Matsuyama family”. He also worked in Izu Province.
This is a beautiful example of his work that is in splendid condition. The subject matter is focused on having a healthy, wealthy, and long life filled with good fortune. The primary figure displayed on the tsuba is a completely captivating carving of Fukurokuju, the God of wealth and longevity. His usual physical appearances aside (such as his extremely high forehead), the expressiveness shown in his facial features can keep one captivated for hours. Flying over his head and off to his right is a graceful crane. The crane is another symbol of long life and health because it is said a crane lives a thousand years.
When we look at the reverse of this tsuba we find a tortoise under a pine tree. The tortoise is the constant symbolic companion of the crane and further accentuates the idea of long life because the tortoise is said to live ten thousand years. The pine tree is also an auspicious symbol of good fortune.
The tsuba is signed simply Shôami Shigechika and is a wonderful and beautiful example of this artists work.