Friday, 21 March 2008
These don't belong to me but they are a lovely example of dragonfly menuki. The image was sent to me by my teachers good friend, a sword polisher by the name of Ikeda Nagamasa San. His late father was a great collector of sword fittings and had a particularly impressive collection of works by Kano Natsuo.
Dragonfly's are called tombo, in Japanese, and were a popular design motif with the warrior class. I imagine the swift and erratic flight of these insects could be seen as an inspiration to swordsmen and their precision attacks on their prey would have drawn much admiration. It's interesting to note how such humble, almost unassuming, creatures caught the attention of fighting men in this way, and how the beauty of nature was so sensitively appreciated.
The samurai called it katsumushi; "Invincible insect" and it can frequently be seen adorning the front of kabuto, Japanese warriors helmets.
An ancient Japanese name for dragonfly is akitsu. According to legend the first emperor, Jinmu, was once bitten by a mosquito which was then promptly eaten by a passing dragonfly. This apparently led to the land being known as Akitsushima; The Island of the Dragonfly.
I know Richard Turner likes them too...so these images are especially for you, Rich.
but you can't have them ;-)