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Sword Guard (tsuba)

Location

JAPAN, YAMAGUCHI PREFECTURE, HAGI
Tomotsune

Era

Edo period (1615-1868)

Title

Sword Guard (tsuba)

Date

18th c.

Materials

Iron

Dimensions

7.4 cm (diam.)

Credits

Gift of Miss Mabel Molson, inv. 1932.Dm.24

Collection

Archeology and World Cultures

Made to protect the hand, the sword guard (tsuba) was said to represent the living soul of the samurai. A short sword and a long sword, jointly known as the daisho, were worn together and used in battle at times of war. During the Edo period, the samurai adhered to the famous chivalric cult of the warrior known as bushido, which became an idealized code of behaviour based on the unquestioned loyalty to one’s lord and the fierce defence of one’s own status and honour. But during this relatively peaceful time, the samurai had little to fight for. Yet they continued to wear fine armor and accessories to affirm their social status and moral principles. As with so many Japanese functional objects, the sword guard became a medium for artistic expression and ultimately more decorative than functional.

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