By Yoshimichi, seventh generation, dated An'ei 8 (1779)
Of slender shinogi-zukuri form with shallow sori, medium notare-ha of nie with profuse kinsuji, distinct itame-hada, a koshi-hi to either side, the long, slender kuri-jiri ubu nakago with one mekugi-ana, signed and dated Tanba no kami Yoshimichi with an engraved chrysanthemum, An'ei hachi idoshi nigatsu kichijitsu (a lucky day in the 2nd month, 1780); in shirazaya with sayagaki; koshira-e: the saya of nashiji, with trailing foliage in gold takamaki-e and medallions of gold foil and inlaid aogai engraved and lacquered with birds and flowers; the tachi fittings of gilt-metal engraved with karakusa ('Chinese grasses'), the mekugi-ana of gold, in the form of twin bird and flower medallions, with kiri-wood tomobako, titled Maki-e raden on-tachi (Tachi with maki-e and shell), the inside of the lid inscribed An'ei kyu kanoe-ne doshi nigatsu hi shincho (Newly made in the second month of the ninth, kanoe-ne, year of An'ei ) and two storage bags. The blade 70.2cm (27 5/8in) long. (5).
This is a Nashiji-nuri saya 梨地塗鞘 (wooden scabbard lacquered with fine gold flakes) of an Efu Tachi koshirae 衛府太刀 (a formal style of sword mounting worn by Imperial Courtiers). A similar style was in use during the Heian period 平安時代 (794-1185) although this example dates from the end part of the Edo period 江戸時代 (1603-1868). I was comissioned to make the missing Sageo 下緒 (tying cord), the two missing Obitori 帯執 (hangers) and the round doeskin cord which is suspended from the Tsuka 柄. The client requested that the sageo be made from Japanese doeskin 鹿革 as opposed to the commonly encountered woven silk variety.
The Obitori 帯執 or Ashi-gawa as they are sometimes called, are made from Japanese white tanned leather (Shiro-nameshi gawa) 白鞣革 which is now only produced by the one surviving craftsman in Japan. They are then covered with handmade E-gawa 絵革 (stencilled leather). The stencil for the E-gawa I cut from handmade Katagami paper 型紙 and applied the dye to the soft Japanese doeskin in the traditional manner. Once this work was complete they were ready for assembling and attaching to the saya along with their gilt soft metal fittings. The Sageo I also made using a core of Shiro-nameshi leather but covered this time with soft doeskin which I dyed using the traditional Japanese plant dye called Shikon 紫根 to produce the purple dye known as Murasaki 紫). The completed sageo, remarkably, is over ten feet long and with fine hand stitching on its reverse, running along its entire length.
By the way, have you tried to tye a Sageo? Check it out here: