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tsuba / tanto / menuki / fuchi-kashira / bodkin / blade / saya / tsuka

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Tanto (dagger blade) OA+.3809.a. Made of steel. Inscribed. Carving of two short parallel grooves (gomabashi) on obverse.

    Saya (scabbard) OA+.3809.b. Black-lacquered and ribbed; bamboo and paulownia in maki-e. Made of wood, metal, braided textile and vermilion.

    Umabari ('horse needle'; bodkin). OA+.3809.c. Made of iron with paulownia and grasses in gold inlay appeared as woven textile.

    Tsuka (hilt) OA+.3809.d. Fuchi-kashira; menuki. Hilt: made of wood, ray skin, braided textile, gold overlaid iron and vermilion. Menuki: fruits and wasps sculpted in coloured metals. Fuchi-kashira: made of iron with stylized grasses in gold inlay appeared as woven textile.

    Tsuba (sword guard) OA+.3809.e. Mokko-shaped. Plum bough carved in sunken relief. Made of shibuichi overlaid patinated iron, gold and vermilion.


  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1394-1428
    • 19thC (c. assembled)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 32.5 centimetres (without tang)
    • Length: 10 centimetres
    • Diameter: 5 centimetres (c.)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Transliteration

        Hachiman Dai Bosatsu
      • Inscription Translation

        Great Bodhisattva Hachiman
      • Inscription Comment

        Carving of five characters.
  • Curator's comments

    Harris 2005

    This straight 'sunnobi tanto' blade is 'hira zukuri' and has a 'marumune'. On the 'omote' there are 'gomabashi' that taper off on the tang and on the 'ura' there is a 'bohi' with an inset 'ukibori' carving of five characters reading 'Hachiman Dai Bosatsu' (Great Bodhisattva Hachiman). The unmodified, deeply angled tang has one hole and the file marks are 'sujigai'. The tang tip is 'kiri'. The grain is 'koitame' with some large 'hada', and the steel is bright and gentle. Very little of the straight 'hamon' of small 'nie' remains, save for some patches along the edge and on the 'kissaki', due to repeated and severe polishing over the ages. What little remains of the 'boshi' reveals it as 'komaru'.

    Despite the poor survival of the 'hamon', the shape of the blade and tang identifies it as the work of Tsukushi Nobukuni, made during the Oei era (1394-1428). Three generations of a family who signed 'Nobukuni' are said to have worked in the Yamashiro tradition in Kyoto during the fourteenth century, as well as a certain 'Shikibu no jo Nobukuni' who produced 'tanto' in the early fifteenth century. Records tell of smiths signing 'Nobukuni' in different provinces thereafter. But the name is particularly associated with the smith to whom this blade is ascribed -who worked in Tsukushi (Chikuzen and Chikugo Provinces) in the early fifteenth century - and with his successors during the Muromachi period (1392-1573). 'Nobukuni' became virtually a family name, and was used as such during the ensuing centuries and into the Edo period.

    The 'wakizashi' mounting for this 'tanto' has a vermilion- and black-lacquered ribbed scabbard, with bamboo and paulownia in 'makie', which appear to have been added at a later date. The 'fuchi' and 'kashira' are of iron with stylized grasses in gold 'nunome zogan'. The 'menuki' are of fruits and wasps sculpted in coloured metals. The small 'tsuba' is patinated iron with a plum tree carved in 'ukibori'. The 'umabari' is of iron with paulownia and grasses in gold 'nunome zogan'. This mounting was assembled either in the late Edo period or Meiji era.


  • Bibliography

    • Harris 2005 10, B&W pl. 10 bibliographic details
  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition date


  • Department


  • Registration number


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Object reference number: JCR4687

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