Yanagawa Naomitsu

period Mid Edo (ca. 1760)
designation NBTHK Hozon Tosogu (Tokubetsu Hozon guaranteed)
measurements 3.4cm x 1.8cm, 3.2cm x 1.8cm
price $6,000

Yanagawa Naomitsu was the student of the great Yanagawa Naomasa, in who in turn was the primary student of Somin. So he is classified within the greater Yokoya school but in particular the Yanagawa school of makers. He is ranked in the Kinko Meikan as Joko, for superior level of craftsmanship.

Naomitsu was the son of Ishida Kōemon (石田幸右衛門) who worked as shirogane-shi for the Sōma fief (相馬) of Mutsu province. He was born in the 18th year of Kyōhō (1733) and bore the first name Rizaemon (利左衛門). Later, his son-in-law Naotoki (直時) who originally came from the Sugiura family (杉浦), inherited this name and opened his own branch of the Yanagawa school. Thereupon he took the first name Ribei (利兵衛). He learned the basic kinkō techniques from his father Kōemon but went to Edo to become a student of Yanagawa Naomasa in Kann´en three (1740), at the age of 18. He was 25 years old when his master died and so it is assumed that he must have been adopted by the latter when he was still alive as he succeeded as the 2nd head of the Yanagawa school. After Naohisa’s death in the first year of Hōreki (1751) he married the widow and adopted her son Naoharu (直春). Naomitsu retired during the Kansei era (1789-1801). His nyūdō-gō was Sōko (宗固) and he used the pseudonyms Dokugetsu´an (独月庵, or in the old version 獨月庵), Gyokusensai (玉泉斎) and „Niryūken“ (二柳庵). Markus Sesko, Kinko Kodogu

Yanagawa Naomitsu menuki

One of the forms he specialized in was birds, in particular chickens which actually have symbolism in samurai art. Quoting from a Juyo daisho by one of Naomitsu's students:

The fittings of this daishô-koshirae were made by Hattori Mitsunao who was a student of the Edo-kinkô Yanagawa Naomitsu (柳川直光). The motif shows en suite chicken, comprised of cocks, hens and chicks playing in the garden and harmonious and intimate chicken couples. The chicken (Japanese „niwatori“, 鶏) was a favourite motif on the sword fittings of samurai because of its connotation. The term „niwatori“ can also be understood as „niwa o toru“ (庭をとる), lit. „obtain/take/hold a garden“, which on the other hand stands for „to obtain or to come into possession of a territorial dominion (= feudal fief)“. The fittings of this koshirae take up this auspicious symbolism in a careful and elaborate manner. The koshirae itself can be dated to the late Edo period.

These chickens are signed on the on the belly by Yanagawa Naomasa and he signed in a very old-fashioned style which reads right to left. These are signed kibata-mei or on the bottom edge in very fine chiselwork. This kind of signature is a lot harder to fake than when done on a gold plate separately and then attached to the insides of the menuki. As well, obviously, gold plates can be removed and put on other work so they need to be looked at closely. Anyway the signature and kao here are particularly pleasant for the archaic ordering and the attention to detail on them.

These match almost exactly to a Juyo set of mitokoromono by Naomitsu except that the signature in this case is better than is on the Juyo set menuki. So I think this testifies to the quality of this set very well.

These menuki are solid gold and thickly made, in excellent condition. They are high quality representatives of Yanagawa school work. May you enjoy them for yourself and may they help you secure your own landholding one day. They come in a custom box (which I forgot to photograph and will be listed shortly). Tokubetsu Hozon is guaranteed for this set if you want this level of paper, provided you ask me to do the submission for you within one year of purchase.