Rare Tsuba by Sochi with Motif of Centipede and Karajishi
Yokoya Sōmin (横谷宗珉), 2 nd gen. Yokoya, 1 st gen. Sōmin Yokoya Sōmin was born in Edo as the son of the 1st gen. Sōyo in the tenth year of Kanbun (1670). His first name was „Chōjirō“ (長二郎) but he later adopted his fathers first name „Jibei“ (治兵衛). His civilian name was „Tomotsune“ (友常) and at the beginning of his career he signed with the name „Sōchi“ (宗知). He was also employed by the bakufu and contemporary records say that he worked first as a preparatory craftsman for his father and other, unspecified, Gotō masters. At the age of 21, after the death of Sōyo in Genroku three (1690), he started his own business. It is unknown when he started using the name „Sōmin“ but on the basis of extant signed works we can say that this was the case at the latest in the ninth year of Genroku (1696) when he was 27. Later he voluntarily renounced his post at the bakufu. There are several theories about the reasons for this but the most accepted one is that his urge to work artistically independent was so strong that he saw himself forced to take this step. He feared that if he continued to work for the bakufu he would be doomed to make pieces in Gotō style for the rest of his life.
Yokoya Sōmin´s creative period was at the time of the boom of the Edo culture, i.e. the Genroku and Kyōhō eras, when in the east an antipole to the old-established culture of Kyōto started to emerge. As mentioned in chapter 6.1, the machibori trend breathed new life into the world of sword fittings, not only in terms of motifs but also in terms of interpretation, combination of colours, and raw materials. Sōmin is considered today as the pioneer of the machibori movement. He was the first who worked in pure katakiribori without additional hira-zōgan applications and who used a vertical-format composition on kozuka. The otherwise undecorated katakiribori looks simple at a glance but was strongly influenced by contemporary painters who in turn tried to get rid of the classical subjects of, for example, the Kanō school. Sōmin´s personal influence goes to a large extent back to the Edo painter Hanabusa Itchō (英一蝶, 1652-1724). Their friendship began when Sōmin was about 40. The relationship was quite close, Sōmin used sketches by Itchō for his kinkō works and even accommodated Itchō´s mother for eleven years when the latter was banished to the island of Miyakejima (三宅島) for eleven years due to his „eccentric“ lifestyle. By the way, the banishment lasted from the eleventh year of Genroku (1698) until the fifth year of Hōei (1709), when Itchō was pardoned. In his later years Sōmin entered priesthood under the name „Ton´an“ (遯庵). He had no children and so he adopted first a son from the Ueda family (植田) but the adoption – which lasted from the second year of Hōei (1705) to the fifth year of Shōtoku (1715) – was later dissolved. Upon this he adopted Tomosada (友貞), the second son of his student Yokoya Sōju (宗寿),*43 who succeeded as the 3 rd gen. Yokoya and as the 2 nd gen. Sōyo. Sōmin died on the sixth day of the eighth month of Kyōhō 18 (1733) at the age of 64. Like Sōyo, he is buried in Asakusa´s Tōkōji.
*43 According to a theory, Sōju was the brother or brother-in-law of Sōmin and was also trained by the 1st gen. Sōyo. The sources on Sōju´s death date also differ greatly. One says he died in Kyōhō 19 (1734) at the age of 64 and others in Kei´an three (1650) at the age of 84.