Feature for May, 1999


picture of feature

The history of Japanese swords and sword fittings began in ancient times. Scabbards, decorated with sword fittings, began to appear in the 12th century. Until the 15th century sword fittings, served only practical purposes. Both swords and fittings were crafted by the swordsmith. Initially iron was the primary material for sword fittings.

Thereafter, swordsmithing evolved into an art form. In the early stages, warriors and lords specified certain designs and patterns to be incorporated into swords and fitting. Most designs were of a religious nature and included images of pagodas and sanscrit-like patterns resembling Buddhist prayers. These designs were intended as charms to guarantee the warrior a safe return from battle or a peaceful death.

The refinement of the craft of sword fittings to a fine art is credited to Yujo Goto, a 16th century master metalsmith patronized by the Ashikaga Shogun. By this time, sword fittings had become both functional and decorative. The typical sword fittings included

Sword fittings were typically made of red copper, copper, brass and other metals that were combined to achieve a delicate tone of colors. This technique defined the very unique art of Japanese metal work. As this art form became popular, local feudal lords heavily patronized sword fitting artists as a way of flaunting their wealth and power. The feudal lords' support encouraged the establishment of many schools of sword fitting artists. When a peaceful era began with reign of the Tokugawa shogunate, armor and helmet producers could no longer sustain themselves crafting crude implements for battle. These craftsmen followed the trend set by sword fitting artists, and began producing decorative armor and helmets.

The art of sword fitting reached its pinnacle during the Edo period. Swords and fittings were exchanged as gifts among lords. Often, shoguns and lords offered sword fittings as prizes and gifts to retainers. Nowadays, it not possible for the modern artist to recreate the quality, techniques or the artistic sense of the Edo period sword fitting artists.

Prices are quoted at the beginning of the feature month. We reserve the right to change prices at any time. Please note that we do not update this page to reflect availability of items. If you are interested in purchasing any items, please contact Harumi Antiques.

To see a larger image of each piece, click on the image (~100K).

picture in a new window 1) Dragon (Tsuba)
  • Dragon and worrior with ocean waves, copper and zinc alloy.
  • 8.0 cm x 8.0 cm
  • ca.1850
  • ¥ 220,000
picture in a new window 2) back side of previous item
picture in a new window 3) Ocean wave (Tsuba)
  • Fine hair-line gold inlay(Kaga-zogan) of waves, perfect conditon, shakudo, gold and copper alloy.
  • 8.0 cm x 7.8 cm
  • ca.1800
  • ¥ 220,000
picture in a new window 4) Heron with bamboo (Tsuba)
  • Signed Ichijo Goto, the most famous sword fitting artist in Japan. Silver inlay bird on iron.
  • 6.4 cm x 5.8 cm
  • ca.1840
  • ¥ 1,600,000
picture in a new window 5) back side of previous item
picture in a new window 6) Cherry blossoms (Tsuba)
  • Early cloisonne cherry blossoms on red copper
  • 8.0 cm x 7.8 cm
  • ca. 1650
  • ¥ 220,000
picture in a new window 7) back side of previous item
picture in a new window 8) Pine with monkey (Tsuba)
  • Typical Shoami school perforated tsuba, set of two
  • 7.9 cm x 7.9 cm
  • ca.1750
  • ¥ 250,000
picture in a new window 9) back side of previous item
picture in a new window 10) Cherry blossom (Tsuba)
  • Ito school iron tsuba.
  • 8.5 cm x 7.8 cm
  • ca.1750
  • ¥ 170,000
picture in a new window 11) Butterfly (Tsuba)
  • Simple butterfly iron tsuba. This kind of tsuba looks very handsome when attached to hilt.
  • 7.7cm x 7.4 cm
  • ca. 1680
  • ¥ 30,000
picture in a new window 12) back side of previous item
picture in a new window 13) Menuki
  • Chinese men with tree. Pure gold
  • 1.3 cm x 4.0 cm
  • ca.1750
  • ¥ 250,000
picture in a new window 14) Heianjo inlay (Tsuba)
  • Geometric design, brass inlay on iron. Inlay missing in a few spots.
  • 8.2 cm x 7.8 cm
  • ca. 1750
  • ¥ 120,000
picture in a new window 15) Fuchigashira
  • Gold inlay on Nanako base red copper. Made by Korin Otsuki,, who started the Korin school, died 1742. Set of two.
  • 3.8 cm
  • ca 1730
  • ¥ 250,000

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