Japanese Antiques by Ichiban Oriental and Asian Art
A Satsuma Koro-Gosu Blue Tokugawa Crest-Edo/Meiji

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Ichiban Japanese & Oriental Antiques
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A Satsuma Koro-Gosu Blue Tokugawa Crest-Edo/Meiji
This wonderful Japanese Satsuma Koro - incense burner - has four mons of the Tokugawa clan done in the highly prized gosu blue enamel - (See footnotes.) Three of the mons are on the sides and one is in the center of the top of the koro. They are all executed in overglaze blue enamel. These mons are surrounded by underglaze olive brown colored karakusa vines. There are two fake raised rings on the sides of the koro.

The top of the censer has three heart shaped holes for the smoke from the incense to escape. Photos of the interior of the piece show clearly that it was used extensively - yet, the koro is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks or hairlines. It measures 3 7/8"high by 4 1/4"diameter at its widest and stands on small tripod legs.

There is an old collector's label on the base that reads -"Japanese Incense Burner. Tokugawa 1889 w.pap. Satsuma, Aoi crest - (3 leaf)". We date to the early Meiji period, circa 1889 - however, was more likely to have been made in the late Edo period, circa 1800-1850 as this was the period that saw the end of the Tokugawa period.


1. Mons - Mon (紋?), also monshō (紋章?), mondokoro (紋所?), and kamon (家紋?), are Japanese emblems used to decorate and identify an individual or family. While mon is an encompassing term that may refer to any such device, kamon and mondokoro refer specifically to emblems used to identify a family. Maruni Mitsu Aoi (Mitsuba aoi), was the mon of the Tokugawa clan. Tokugawa's clan crest, known in Japanese as a "mon", the "triple hollyhock" (although commonly, but mistakenly identified as "hollyhock", the "aoi" actually belongs to the birthwort family and translates as "wild ginger"—Asarum), has been a readily recognized icon in Japan, symbolizing in equal parts the Tokugawa clan and the last shogunate. The crest derives from a mythical clan, the Kamo clan, which legendarily descended from Yatagarasu.

2. Tokugawa Clan - The Tokugawa clan (徳川氏 Tokugawa-shi?) was a powerful daimyo family of Japan. They nominally descended from Emperor Seiwa (850–880) and were a branch of the Minamoto clan (Seiwa Genji) by the Nitta clan. The clan rose to power at the end of the Sengoku period, and to the end of the Edo period they ruled Japan as shoguns. All in all, there were fifteen Tokugawa shoguns. Their dominance was so strong that some history books use the term "Tokugawa era" instead of "Edo period".

3. Gosu Blue: A term that is used frequently regarding Satsuma or Japanese pottery and ceramics is "Gosu Blue". Gosu Blue refers to the use of certain natural minerals and elements such as Cobalt or Asbolite to be used as the base for an under glaze or over glaze of the piece of pottery. Satsuma Pottery that has been decorated using the Gosu Blue techniques has a certain bluish hue to the images that are hand painted onto the surface of the pottery. When Gosu Blue is used as an over glaze as on this koro, the images become brighter and more vivid. Gosu Blue Satsuma Pottery is possibly the most popular type to own and therefore commands a higher price than other types of Japanese ceramics. Pottery that was produced using this method was seldom and was made during the mid 19th century in Kyoto, Japan.

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