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A fine example of a Marunami Yagyu tsuba, one of the 36 original Yagyu designs by Kano Tan Yu. 5.382 mm x 5.292 cm x 4.69 mm. Wonderful condition, classic Yagyu patina. In a custom fitted box with a silk cover. NBTHK Hozon kanteisho. $7,500
Better detail on the left / better color on the right
Yagyu is a small village in Nara bordering on Kyoto prefecture. The Yagyu school of shinkage ryu (new shadow school) was developed in the mid 16th century, by Yagyu Munetoshi (1527-1606) who became the second Yagyu master. However, it was many years later, when the famous swordsman, Yagyu Ren'ya Toshikane (1625 - 1694), developed the 36 Yagyu tsuba.
In 1624 Ren'ya came into e employ of the Owari Daimyo, Tokugawa Yoshinao. During his post in Edo, he competed in over thirty duels, winning them all without being struck once. In 1648 his father retired, and he became the official fencing instructor of the Owari fief.
There were two branches of the Yagyu, Edo and Owari. In 1651, in the presence of the shogun, Ren'ya Toshitomo fought a duel with Edo Yagyu Munefuyu, defeating him with a single blow. After that, the Edo and Owari branches separated.
In Kambun 8 (1668), Yagyu Toshitomo, took the name of Toshikane, and passed his position to the sixth Yagyu master to Mitsutomo. In 1685, he entered the priesthood, and took the name Ura Ren'ya.
After taking the name Toshikane, he started experimenting with an acid and heat treatment for finishing tsuba. He, as well as others, started testing the strength of tsuba by bashing them in a mortar. None survived satisfactorily except those by Kotetsu Gozaemon of Akasaka. Thus he had him make 36 plates, and Goto Shobei Mitsuteru cut the sukashi designs drawn by Kano Tan Yu.
For a detailed history, google Yagyu Tsuba Markus Sesko
NBTHK Hozon Kanteisho
Legend has it that while roaming the hillside, Yagyu Munetoshi encountered a Tengu, a creature noted for their skill with a sword. Eager to test his skill, he engaged the Tengu, and seeing an opening went to strike the Tengu's head. Just before the sword made contact, the Tengu vanished, and so strong was Munetoshi's stroke, that his sword sword cleaved a bolder where the Tengu had been standing..
The rock split by Yagyu Muneyoshi in his duel with a Tengyu