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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Kozuka with design of fishing rod, creel and hat
Date: 19th century
Medium: Shakudo with gold inlay
Dimensions: 1/2 x 3 3/4 in., 1/8 in. (1.3 x 9.5 cm, 0.3 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Henry D. Rosin
Object Number: 79.094.010
Label Text: BRIEF DESCRIPTION
This small item is the handle for a utility knife (kogatana) that is often attached to the scabbard of a samurai sword.

WHERE WAS IT MADE?
This object was made in Japan during the Edo period (1615-1868).

HOW WAS IT MADE?
This handle was handcrafted from a material known as shakudo, a copper-based alloy containing small amounts of gold and silver that can be polished to a deep shiny blue or blue-black. Fine gold designs have been set, or inlaid, into the shakudo. These designs were hammered into shape and then finely worked with chisels to achieve their realistic forms.

Notice the textured surface of the shakudo. This texturing is known as nanako (“fish roe”), and is achieved by hammering a small punch into the soft surface of the metal many times in a regular pattern. The Goto School or workshop, a long-established line of metalsmiths and sword fitting craftsmen descending from Goto Yujo (1440-1512), is known for the nanako technique and for combining inlaid gold designs with shakudo. During the 17th century, legal codes for the samurai specifically required them to carry swords with Goto fittings.

HOW WAS IT USED?
The kozuka was a decorative hilt for a small utility blade. During the Edo period, it was one of a number of sword accessories that were the focus of fine craftsmanship and the appreciative sensibilities of collectors. Well-crafted, beautiful accessories reflected the prestige and good tastes of their owners.

WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?
This kozuka features the tools of a fisherman—a fishing pole, a hat, and creel (a basket for the catch). Oftentimes the sword fittings for a particular sword were united by a common theme; in this case, that theme seems to be fishing.

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.