Etsujō (悦乗) was born in the 19th year of Kanei (1642) as second son of the 9th Gotō main line generation master, Teijō (程乗) in Kyōto and his legal name was Mitsukuni (光邦). He was employed by the Maeda Daimyo family of Kaga and later moved to the Gôtô residence in Edo.
The theme of this beautiful mitokoromono of kozuka, kogai, and menuki by Gôtô Etsujô is that of shachi-hoko (also called shachi). Shachi-hoko are fearsome sea monsters. They have the body of a large fish and the head of a tiger. Their broad fins and tails always point towards the heavens, and their dorsal fins have numerous sharp spikes. Shachi-hoko live in colder, norther oceans. They are able to swallow massive amounts of water with a single gulp and hold it in their bellies. They are also able to summon clouds and control the rain.
Shachi-hoko are often found adorning the rooftops of Japanese castles, temples, gates, and samurai residences. They are placed facing each other on opposite ends of a roof. They serve as protector spirits, similar to the oni roof tiles also commonly found on castles. It was believed that in the event of a fire, the shachi-hoko could protect the building by summoning rain clouds or by spitting out the massive amounts of water they had previously swallowed.
Shachi-hoko as an element of construction evolved from shibi, large, ornamental roof end tiles. Shibi originated in China during the Jin dynasty and were popularized in Japan during the Nara and Heian periods. During the Sengoku period, when castles rapidly began appearing all over Japan, shibi were reimagined as large fish, and the image of the shachi-hoko was popularized. From then on, shachi-hoko remained popular elements of Japanese roof construction.
This beautiful set of gold fittings was awarded the designation of Jûyô kodôgu at the 65th Jûyô shinsa in 2019. The translation of the Jûyô certificate is as follows:
Jūyō-kodōgu at the 65th jūyō shinsa held on November 7, 2019
Shachi no zu mitokoromono ( 図三所物) – Mitokoromono depicting mythical Shachi
kozuka, kōgai mei: Etsujō + kaō (悦乗「押)
menuki, mumei: Etsujō (悦乗)
Kozuka length 9.6 cm, width 1.45 cm; kōgai length 21.2 cm, width 1.25 cm
Hinshitsu-keijō: kozuka and kōgai of shakudō, with wave-patterned ground, kinmon motif elements, and gilded reverse; menuki of pure gold and in katachibori
Early Edo period
Etsujō (悦乗) was born in Kan-ei 19 (寛永, 1642) as second son of the 9th Gotō main line generation Teijō (程乗) in Kyōto and his legal name was Mitsukuni (光邦). Etsujō belonged to the Ribei (理兵衛) lineage of the Gotō and received an annual salary of 150 koku from the Kaga Maeda (前⽥) family. Like Enjō (演乗) from the Kanbei (勘兵衛) lineage, Etsujō resided on a biannual basis in Kanazawa (⾦沢), the capital of Kaga province, where he trained mainy craftsmen that were employed by the Maeda, playing so an important role in the development of the local Kaga kinkō artists. In his later years, Etsujō moved to the Gotō residence of the Shitaya (下⾕) district in Edo where he worked with the main line of the family for the Tokugawa Shōgunate. Etsujō died in Hōei five (宝永, 1708) at the age of 67. The artist signed both with “Gotō Etsujō + kaō” (後藤悦乗「押) and “Gotō Mitsukuni + kaō” (後藤光「押). His workmanship faithfully follows the traditional iebori style of the Gotō family and he was equally skilled as his father Teijō (程乗).
This mitokoromono set depicts the mythical Shachi creature and thus stands out among the traditional Gotō motifs of dragons and shishi lions. The Shachi are interpreted in a very lively manner, using their tail fins to jump vigorously out of the underlying velvety shakudō waves.
Although the kinmon motif elements are fairly large, they are minutely engraved down to the smallest detail. Etsujō put all his efforts into this set, and as both kozuka and kōgai are firmly signed, we have here an exemplary masterwork for this artist.