|period:||Late Edo (ca. 1800)|
The Yoshioka school of fittings makers begins with Shigetsugu in the Momoyama period and is comprised of two main branches. They were a parallel school to the Goto makers, and worked pretty much exclusively for the Tokugawa shogunate.
On the tenth day of the third month of Kan´ei six (1629) he received the hereditary salary of 100 hyō (~ 40 koku) and a stipend for the support of ten persons. His son received at that time his own salary, namely in the amount of 100 hyō accompanied by a stipend for the support of four persons. This makes altogether 80 koku for father and son, a very high amount for a kinkō artist at that time. At about the same time the bakufu also provided for the “resettlement” from Kyōto to the Edo mansion (which measured 150 tsubo, about 500 m2). Also the honorary titles “Bungo no Suke” (豊後介) and “Buzen no Kami” (豊前守) were granted to Shigetsugu at that time. Some say that the Yoshioka school had its origins as preparatory craftsmen of the Gotō but the latter did not move the Edo until the 10th gen. Renjō, that means more than thirty years later, this is rather unlikely. Markus Sesko - Kinko Kodogu
Fine work of the Yoshioka school was meant for consumption by the elites during the Edo period and is equivalent to the best Goto school work in quality. Because of their patronage by the Tokugawa Shoguns and various daimyo, they withheld signatures from most of their work.
On unusual occasions we see a signature of Inaba no Suke on items made by the Yoshioka family. This is something used by the mainline smiths starting with Yoshioka Hisatsugu, who is the 2nd mainline master and the third son of Shigetsugu. The third mainline master was actually a son of Goto Seijo, so there is some cross-pollination between the Yoshioka and Goto schools. The 4th generation Yoshioka master Shigehiro was also a student of Yokoya Soyo, who himself was Goto educated.
The Yoshioka school continued until the 9th generation master Shigesada who worked during the Meiji restoration, and with the changes of this time along with the sword man, most of these traditional craftsmen lost their jobs. However, the 10th generation Yoshioka Sounsai continued to work for the Imperial Household Agency who kept some of these traditional skills going through sponsoring some of the top sword and kodogu artists of the time.
From 1688, the Yoshioka school was responsible for making kinzoganmei at the request of the Honami masters, when they put attribution into fine swords which lost their signature due to shortening. In earlier eras this was done by the Umetada family.
This mitokoromono (“things for three places”) came out of an old Japanese collection and was under wraps for about 40 years. I bought it some time ago and it's been in my own collection since then.
I knew it to be Yoshioka work from the quality. The chisel cuts in fact feel sharp to the touch and the photos do not do this set justice. I sent this to the NTHK shinsa in San Francisco in 2017 and they confirmed it as late Edo Yoshioka work. They received this ranking just a month before this listing, and when the papers are sent to me I will add them to this page.
Of course this is made easier by the fact that this set was made for a high ranking member of the Tokugawa shogunate, as it bears the mon of the Tokugawa family, the quality is very high and it is made in gold and shakudo. This style of manufacture was required for wear on swords on duty in Edo castle and would be mounted on a high level sword.
This set is wonderful to keep in its custom made box, as a relic of the Tokugawa era of Japan, or could be used to furnish koshirae for a Juyo level blade (what it was made for in the first place).
For me, I was happy to keep them in the box, and have my own little piece of the Tokugawa Shogunate.