- Museum number
a) Katana (long sword) blade. Made of steel. Signed. Stored in wooden storage sheath.
b) Saya (scabbard). Decorated with blossoms, floral lozenges and long-tailed birds, all in thick gold makie lacquer. Made of black lacquered wood.
c) Kozuka (knife). Decorated with shishi and peonies in gold pinned onto 'shakudo nanako' ground. Made of metal.
d) Tsuka (hilt). Hilt: made of wood, skin (ray), metal, braided textile. Menuki: designs of bows and arrows. Fuchi-kashira: made of shibuichi with coloured metal inlaid chrysanthemums.
e) Tsuba (sword guard). Story of Shuten-doji; pierced and carved; demons and yamabushi in mountainous landscape, with details in coloured metal inlay. Made of iron, gold, copper, shakudo overlaid nigurome. Signed.
- Production date
Length: 60.30 centimetres (cutting edge)
Curvature: 1 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Harris 2005
This blade is 'shinogi zukuri' narrowing evenly towards the point, with the shallow curve of a Kambun-era 'shinto', and has a medium 'kissaki'. The unmodified tang has one hole and the file marks are 'higaki'. The tang tip is 'kurijiri'. The grain is a whitish 'koitame', with 'masame' on the 'shinogi ji'. The 'hamon' is an ordered, pointed 'gunome' with a tight 'nioiguchi' in 'nioi' and 'sunagashi'. The 'boshi' is 'komaru' with 'midare komi' and 'haki'.
Although the sword is not particularly elegant and there are a number of cracks and blisters in the surface steel, it is nevertheless well made and would be an effective weapon. This Kambun-era 'shinto' smith worked in Ogaki in Mino Province.
The scabbard is luridly decorated with blossoms, 'hanabishi' lozenges and long-tailed birds, all in a thick gold 'makie' lacquer that might have been added at a later period. The 'fuchi' and 'kashira' are made of 'shibuichi' with coloured metal inlaid chrysanthemums, and the 'menuki' have designs of bows and arrows. The 'kozuka' has 'shishi' and peonies in gold pinned onto the 'shakudo nanako' ground. The iron 'tsuba' is pierced and carved with 'shojo', demons and 'yamabushi' in a mountainous landscape, with details in coloured metal inlay, and is signed 'Soheishi nyudo Soten sei' (made by monk Soheishi Soten).
Dressed to Impress label text by Victor Harris
The kogai was first used as a hair dressing implement with the lip for cleaning the ears, and was used by men and women alike. During the Muromachi period it began to be carried in a small pocket in the scabbard, necessitating the provision of an aperture in the tsuba through which it could be drawn for use.
The kogai was thus carried on the sashi-omote of the sword, and was sometimes referred to as an 'omote-zashi'.
When a kozuka ( short for Kogatanazuka) or utility knife was also carried a further aperture was made on the 'sashi-ura'. or inside as the sword was worn.
From around the middle of the Muromachi period the wakizashi, or uchigatana, of cutting length around 60cm, became widely used especially among the ranks of 'ashigaru ' ( literally 'light-foot') - low rank soldiers of non-samurai class.
From the sixteenth century onwards the Samurai came to carry a pair of swords, the 'daisho' (large and small) , and these might have matching metal fittings. Matching fittings were mandatory for formal use and when in residence in Edo during the Edo period.
The 'menuki', decorative pieces under the silk braid binding, often matched the designs on the
kozuka and kogai. They were usually depicted with elements of 'yang' on the omote, and 'Yin' on the ura. Thus if the design was of animals that on the omote representing the male principle would have an open mouth, and that on the ura representing the female principle would have a closed mouth.
The kogai was genrally placed on the sashi-ura, and the kozuka on the sashi-omote of the long sword of the pair. In such a case the wakizashi would usually have a single kozuka on the sashi-ura. A wakizashi made for a merchant would probably have both wakizashi and kozuka. However these were not hard and fast rules.
The 'chonin', or merchants, were the lowest in the four classes Samurai, farmer, artisan, and merchant defined under the Tokugawa system. But by the latter part of the 17th century they were becoming the more rich powerful, whereas the majority of the samurai were effectively impoverished.
The merchant class were entitled to wear a single wakizashi, whereas the samurai were required to wear a long sword (katana) and a wakizashi. There were length restrictions defined in the Bukke Shohatto, but it is not clear to what extent the merchants adhered to those regulations.
From around the Genroku era onwards the majority of luxurious sword mountings were made for the merchants, and the sword smiths themselves concentrated on making short blades for their wakizashi.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2014 June-Aug, London, British Museum, Asahi Shimbun display, Dressed to impress: Netsuke and Japanese men’s fashion.
2016-17 9 Dec-21 May, Durham University Oriental Museum, Dressed to impress: netsuke and Japanese men’s fashion
2017 30 May-29 Oct, Dorman Museum, Dressed to impress: netsuke and Japanese men’s fashion
2017-2018 4 Nov-22 Apr, Museum of East Asian Art, Dressed to impress: netsuke and Japanese men’s fashion
2018 28 Apr-18 Aug, Worthing Museum, Dressed to impress: netsuke and Japanese men’s fashion
- Acquisition date
- Registration number