Japanese Iron Tsuba

Japanese Iron Tsuba | Sword Guard with Pine Needle Motif



Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 3-18” x 3-1/4”

This Tsuba is made of Iron, with an uneven hammered finish with piercing, low-relief carving, and a gold overlay of pine needles on both the front and reverse side of the piece. This Tsuba, as were others, was developed as an independent branch of the sword furniture. It is very subtle ornamented with a motif of Pine needles, as though they were lying on the ground after having fallen from a tree. There is unusual handling of the matching Hitsu-ana, with a Nakago-ana having Sekigane (fillers). There is no Mimi (rim) on this piece. This Tsuba comes in its original Kiri wood box and silk case. The piece is unsigned and has its original Kirkwood box. The piece is unsigned and in excellent condition.

Vintage Condition: Excellent, complete set as originally made. “As is” with no effects from aging, and retains the original craft/workmanship. By running one’s hand over the piece, one can feel the texture of how the craftsman lays each piece onto the metal of the tsuba, thus treating it as a painter’s canvas. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear, or structural damage noted. 

NOTE: The Samurai sword or Bushi, have long fascinated people around the world. They have been a symbol of nobility and honor for Japanese warriors of ancient times, and are still considered to be one of the most essential tools in martial arts history. A tsuba is a handguard mounted on the Japanese sword. It serves to keep the user's hand from sliding up onto the blade of the sword, to counterbalance the weight of the blade, to communicate the social standing, beliefs, and tastes of its owner, and, to some degree, to protect the hand from an opponent's blade.

The Tsuba though first a utilitarian handguard for the swordsman is also an art form that for years have been admired for their beauty. This marriage of utility and pure art is not unique in the fine arts of Japan. This very quality is inherent in all forms of art and crafted objects coming from Japan. Every art form, whether it is painting, tsuba, sword blades, sculpture, lacquerware, or any other, has a utility as well as an innate beauty that cannot be separated.

Tsuba is commonly divided into two types; iron (tetsu) and soft metal (kinko). The most common shapes of tsuba are round (maru gata), rounded square (kaku gata), and four-lobed (mokko) with many variations within each basic design. The mixed metals and patina, (surface coloration), give the tsuba its beauty. In its simplest form, a tsuba can be a plain and undecorated plate and is strictly functional. Most however are embellished to some degree with surface texturing, cut-out openwork in positive and negative silhouette, or inlay/overlay of various and sometimes precious metals. Decorated or not, a good tsuba must first satisfy the basic demands of function, which is to protect the user from the sharp blade of the sword.