By Andy Grilz
On my first day of work as Operations Manager at MTS I happened to mention that I had done some research into the family crest seen in an earlier blog post by Michelle Drummey entitled A Warrior in our Midst. Naturally, I was conscripted to share my discovery with you.
Detail of Samurai helmet, or kabuto
This mon, or kamon, is a family emblem found on the Samurai helmet currently being treated at MTS.
Courtesy of SamuraiWiki
A quick search of the web identified it as one of the kamon of the So clan, established on the Island of Tsushima in the Korean Strait. The So are believed to be an offshoot of the Koremune clan (although there is claim to lineage tracing back to historical hero Taira no Tomomori). In 1274, leader So Kukekuni heroically perished defending Tsushima against the Mongol invasion of Japan.
Given the geographic proximity and the mountainous terrain of Tsushima, the So have been a prominent fixture in Japanese-Korean trade and relations since the late 12th century. Despite years of mutually beneficial trade, So clan members did participate in the unsuccessful invasions of Korea in the 1590s. But in the early 1600s So Yoshitoshi, Han of the Tsushima Shogunate, actively worked to restore diplomatic and economic relations between Japan and Korea of his own accord, despite having participated in the invasion. His efforts were continued by his successors, with no less than 12 embassies traveling to Korea between 1611 and 1800.
The efforts of the So clan were critical in maintaining relations with Korea during the Edo period. The Tokugawa Shogunate entrusted their official diplomatic relations with Korea to the clan. Following the arrival of Admiral Perry and the ‘Black Ships’, the So clan took a progressive position and fought against the ‘Revere the Emperor/Banish the Barbarians’ movement, supporting the Shogunate. In 1871, with abolition of the Han system, the head of the clan was named governor of the prefecture.
Is this level of historical research required, or even possible, for most conservation treatments? No. Do we enjoy it when we can do it? You becha.