Katana (2) - Tsuba, Menuki


Katana (2) - Tsuba, Menuki, Daruma and the Sword
刀、鍔、目抜きとだるま― 武芸散歩

. Katana 日本刀 Sword (1)  

In this story we will talk about the Japanese samurai sword first and then look at some special decorations featuring Daruma san.

The first Japanese sword may have come from the gods, as we saw in Part 1, but a more realistic version has it come from Mainland China and Korea to Japan. Swords from the Heian period to the Muromachi period are called "Old Swords" (kotoo, koto 古刀), from the first year of Keichoo (1596) we talk about the "New Sword" (shintoo, shinto 新刀) and during the later half of the Edo period the "New New Sword" (shinshintoo 新新刀) came to be known.

The older great sword (tachi 太刀) had been hung from the belt. The long sword (katana 刀) and a shorter companion sword (wakisashi 脇指), both stuck in a sash, as we can see on typical Samurai pictures, came into use during the Momoyama period. Fighting shools for one or two swords developed during the peaceful Edo period and the decorative parts of a sword, the guard (tsuba) and other hilt decorations (menuki) became more and more elaborate.
The most famous hero fighting with two swords is maybe Miyamoto Musashi, who will be subject of a yearlong TV series on NHK in 2003.
Musashi also painted Daruma san.
Reference : Kumamoto : Musashi


You find all the knowledge about the Japanese Sword on this extensive HP in English.

For example the History of Swords.
A Glossary of Japanese Sword Terms.
A Museum full of famous Japanes swords.

And there is also our Empress Jinguu Koogoo with the War God Hachiman

source : www.sho-shin.com


The Sword Guard 鍔 Tsuba  

. Tsuba 鍔  .

The sword guard is a heavy metal disc attached between the hilt and the blade.
This part of a sword fitting has always been considered one of the most esteemed posessions of a samurai. During the Muromachi period and the Momoyama period feudal lords and powerful clans fought fierce battles against each other. Therefore the functionality of the sword guard was more important than its decoration. The Edo period brought an uninterrupted period of 256 years of peace to Japan. Now the Japanese sword guard rapidly developed into a refined piece of art.

The primary purposes of the guard are to balance the sword, prevent the hand from sliding down the blade and, as a last resort, to use it as a block against a thrust or slash. Thus the guard protected the hand of the samurai, but more important it was a reflection of himself, an expression of this thoughts and imagination. Simple open work in early pieces as well as lavish and intricate techniques often allow us only an idea of what the original owner was attempting to express. Intellectual principles, mostly with a deep religious background, have been woven into a group of artifacts, which illustrate as clearly as any other the cultural and sociological development of Japan throughout history.

The strong connection of Zen Buddhism with the way of the samurai makes Daruma san a suited object on the sword decorations.
The sword guard had patterns on both sides and some extra holes to permit the insertion of a utility knife (kozuka 小柄), a skewer (koogai 笄) to scratch the head under the helmet and chopsticks (waribashi 割り箸).
These items were called the "Three Things" (mitokoro mono 三所物).
source : ils.unc.edu

More online reference :
source : Reference


from online auctions


Here is a very useful introduction:

Günther Heckmann - Tsuba
Nurtingen : H.U.B. Verlag, 1995

This book is composed of 143 colour plates with descriptions in English, German and Japanese. It also contains glossaries and indices in the same languages.
Mr. Heckmann has been a guest at my Paradise Hermitage (GokuRakuAn) in Okayama a few years ago. He restores laquer art items of Japan and other Asian countries.


Sword Decorations 目抜きとほかの刀装飾道具   

. Menuki 目抜き  .

Menuki are pairs of small metal ornaments, secured one to each side of the hilt of the sword by means of a braid that covers the hilt. They are functional, miniature works of art that portray a wide range of subjects. Their original purpose was to hold the peg that locks the blade and hilt together. Later their position was moved and their purpose was to allow a better grip on the handle. From the late Kamakura period onward, the menuki were placed on each side of the handle under the grasp of the fingers to prevent slipping.
Nowadays we even find menuki reworked to be used as cuff links in an American crosscultural version.


What is the connection
between the sword and Daruma after all, you might ask again.

During the Edo period, many "WAYS" were developed, based on the principles of Zen and practised by the samurai, and "The Way of the Warrior" (Bushidoo) was of course one of them. One aspect of Bushidoo is "The Way of the Sword" (Kendoo) and the "Way of the Bow" (Kyuudoo). Part of the training of a young lord was to spend time in a Zen temple and meditate about Life and Death and the non-existence of Life and Death in order to prepare him not to fear anything that came along his way.
During my many years of practising with the bow in a Zen temple in Kamakura we usually started a training session with a meditation period. And if you read the concepts of modern Kendoo Federation, you find some of them quite close to Zen concepts. For example "to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself" is quite close to the pursuit of Enlightenment. Therefore I guess the appearance of Daruma on items connected with the sword were ment to remind the samurai of the most noble WAY of all.

The famous samurai Miyamoto Musashi even painted Daruma, as we have seen above.
source : www.museum.pref.kumamoto


Tsuba with design of Bishamon and centipede

MFA, Boston

source : www.mfa.org/collections

. Bishamon-Ten . 毘沙門天 .   


From the collection of my friend George O Hawkins
Look at many more here:
source : Facebook album


Kurikara menuki 倶利伽羅

- shared by : Bradford Pomeroy - fb 2014

. Fudō Myō-ō, Fudoo Myoo-Oo 不動明王 Fudo Myo-O
Acala Vidyârâja – Vidyaraja – Fudo Myoo .


. kappa 河童 / 合羽 / かっぱ Kappa water goblin - Kappapedia .

a rather large tsuba with Kappa motives, too big to attach to a sword.

One side shows a kappa and a tree monster, the other side a willow tree with a woman ghost.
If the Kappa is on the front side, it is for a wakisashi sword 脇差, if the woman ghost is for the front, it is a long sword 長刀.
- source : Kappa Museum -

. . . CLICK here for Photos !

. Kappa,Tsuba and Menuki - MORE .


source : facebook

. Mount Fuji 富士山, Fuji-san, or Fujiyama, .


. Katana 日本刀 Sword (1)   

. Fuchi Kashira and Menuki Set
more about
TSUBA, the sword guard  





Gabi Greve said...

sword guard with Kumasaka Chohan

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Fudo Myoo Menuki
Fudo Myoo, the Buddhist divinity of fire, is one of the most important beings venerated at Akakura Mountain Shrine.
Mt. Akakuradake 赤倉岳 (あかくらだけ)
and Fudo Myo-O

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

tsuba with Daruma

Gabi Greve - Kappa said...

- Kappa Goods 河童グッズ - Introduction -

河童図柄の刀鍔 tsuba sword guard

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

minogame 蓑亀 minokame,
"turtle with a raincoat" art motives

and tsuba

Gabi Greve said...

Katana coasters:
Samurai sword tableware brings bushido to your home

Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

Japanese hobby and novelty item company Kotobukiya primarily specializes in figures from popular anime, movie, and video game franchises. But sift through its product catalogue of gender-bent horror movie icons and suggestive sniper game bosses, and you’ll also find some offerings with a historical slant, such as its line of samurai sword chopsticks.

Their battlefield prowess and tactical minds notwithstanding, samurai were also rather attuned to aesthetics, and the most famous of Japan’s warriors had distinctive, customized arms and armor. While you probably don’t have much need for a full set of lamellar in your modern, non-Sengoku period lifestyle, you can at least bring a little bushido to your tabletop with Kotobukiya’s new series of katana handguard coasters.

Officially called the Samurai Dining Ware Tsuba Coasters
(tsuba being the Japanese word for “handguard”), the lineup represents four of the most famous figures of the feudal era. First is Oda Nobunaga, the ambitious general who nearly untied all of Japan before being betrayed and killed by one of his subordinates.


Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

kendoo 剣道 Kendo - 天狗 Tengu and The Way of the Sword
剣道独稽古 - 山本晴幸
Kendo Hitori Keiko - Practising Kendo Fencing by yourself
Japanese Tengu Armour - yoroi 鎧 and kabuto 兜 with Tengu

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Tsuba with design of Kikujido gathering chrysanthemums.
kikujidoo, kiku jidoo 菊慈童 Kikujido "The Boy with Chrysanthemums"

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

samuhara tsuba サムハラ鍔 sword guard
Samuhara jinja サムハラ神社 Samuhara Shrine, Osaka
the power of the letters SA MU HA RA.