GOTO EIJO (1577-1617)


These menuki were one of those dream finds. While shopping in a small shop which specialized in Japanese pottery, I happened to ask the proprietor if there might be any swords or fittings for sale. I was told that there was nothing like that in the store. On my way out I happened to spot a Koshirae laying on the bottom shelf of an out of the way cabinet. As I zeroed in for a closer inspection of the Koshirae, much to my surprise sitting in the back of the shelf completely out of sight were these menuki. One look told me they were "good", but I was not sure how good. With a little research they only got better, and then a trip to shinsa for confirmation and viola, they were indeed a mainline Goto Masters work. These menuki were given a Tokubetsu Hozon rating their first time to shinsa. I hope to see them obtain a Juyo ranking at some point.

The Goto Line of metal engravers needs no introduction. In fact the first Goto master, Goto Yujo is considered to be the founder of metal engraving. While there were engravers prior to Yujo, he was extraordinarily talented and not only refined but standardized the engraving methods. The mainline descendants of Yujo or Goto Honke (main family) continued for seventeen generations over a period of some 400 years. As the Goto family became larger they also divided over time into sixteen branches of the family. These families or schools are referred to as Waki Goto or off-shoots.

Hakogaki Translation

Yujo (祐乗) was the first generation of Goto family (後藤家) and his real name was Shirobee Masaoki (四郎兵衛正奥). He was a legitimate son of Goi-ge Uemon no jo (五位下右衛門尉; a title of officers) and he was called Keikomaru (経光丸; reading?) when he was a child. He became a page of Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利義政: the 8th shogun of Ashikaga Bakuhu). As he was excellent at chasing, he was ordered by Yoshimasa to chase fittings of swords. He called himself Yujo as his pseudonym and he received Hokkyo (法橋: a title for priests). The Emperor Gohanazono (後花園天皇: 御花園天皇 on the hakogaki is a typo.) heard his reputation and gave him Hoin (法印: the highest title for priests). Yoshimasa gave him 200 kan (二百貫: about 750 kg = annual income of rice or money in those weight?) for his living at Sakamoto in Omi province (近江國坂本). He invented a technique to carve relief by tracing sketches drawn by Kano Motonobu (狩野元信). He passed away on the 7th day of the 5th month in 9th year of Eisho (永正九年五月七日: 1512), when he was 79 years old. He was buried in Jotoku-temple (常徳寺) at Kyoto Murasakino (京都紫野).

He had been an official craftsman for the shogun family (将軍家), and his works are rare in the world. Gun-En no zu (群猿ノ図) which traced the sketch of Motonobu is specifically excellent and it is a masterpiece in the world which was certified as Kicho Kodogu (貴重小道具) on May 24th in 27th year of Showa (昭和二十七年五月廿四日; 1952).

October 15th, 1956 (昭和三十一年十月十五日)

Written by Ganko-do (玩古堂)

Special thanks to my friend Koichi san for this translation.