Original Japanese Edo Period Tanto Short Sword with Traditional Handmade Blade & Decorative Lacquered Scabbard
Original Item: Only One Available. Purchased at a recent military show, this is a very nice Japanese Tanto (短刀), which literally means short sword. These could be in any number of different shapes, depending on the requests of the person who ordered it. The blade length of a tanto is typically between 15 and 30 cm (5.9 to 11.8 inches), or 1 Japanese shaku, an ancient measurement. The blade of this example is in the typical "Hira Zukuri" shape, which means it is a blade without a shinogi, or ridge typical of longer blades. It comes as a complete set with lacquered decorative scabbard, a lovely handle (tsuka), and a very nice ornate crossguard (tsuba).
This example dates from the Edo period (江戸時代, Edo jidai) or Tokugawa period (徳川時代, Tokugawa jidai) of Japanese history. This is the period between 1603 and 1867, when Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional daimyo. We estimate it was from the late 18th century portion.
The tang of the blade definitely shows some age, but does not look to have been refit many times. As it is unsigned, this blade is considered 無名 (mumei), or "anonymous".
The blade is old, which we can tell due to a few tell tale characteristics that are:
- The hole in the tang (meguki-ana) is punched, and not drilled.
- Folded steel blade - fold lines are evident on the body and spine of blade, as well as grain typical of folded steel.
- Faintly Visible temper line ("hamon") running full length of blade cutting edge.
- Hada or Grain is visible throughout the blade surface.
- Ware Kizu (blade wounds) from lamination artifacts, only possible on handmade blades.
Offered in very good condition, the blade of this example is in very nice condition, though it has definitely seen use and cleaning since its last polishing. This has resulted in the aspects of the blade being quite faint, only really visible in the light. The edge is still quite sharp, so care is needed, and there are no nicks or other damage we can see. Blade length is approximately 9 3/8" and overall length 14". It has a futsu 普通 (regular) Nakago with a Haagari (asymmetrically rounded) nakago-jiri (tang tip).
The blade still shows a faint SUGUHA (直刃 or straight) temper line (刃文 - HAMON), which is only visible by holding the blade in the light. The condition of the polish makes it impossible to see any crystallization, though we can still see faint ITAME (wood grain) hada (grain) on the body, and there are also blade wounds including WARE (lamination lines), only possible on traditionally made blades. The boshi (tip temper line) is not visible.
It is fitted with a fantastic iron TSUBA (cross guard), which is a MOKKO GATA (quince) shape, and features some beautiful brass ornamentation. There are flowers and foliage on one side, with some grass on the other, and it looks to be quite old, possibly older than the blade. It has a HITSU-ANA accessory slot cut into one side. It is surrounded by four seppa, and there is a nice plated copper HABAKI around the blade, typical of the Edo Period.
The TSUKA (handle) has a nice iron FUCHI (grip collar) with with what looks like a silver "mask" on one side, with brass "strings" around embossed human ears. The other side shows hair pulled back in a top knot. It is wrapped with a very nice stingray Sa-Me Skin grip, which is covered with a nice deep navy blue ITO (cloth binding). This holds the two MENUKI (grip ornaments) in place, which look to fruit of some type, with gilt highlights on the leaves. The KASHIRA (end cap) is iron with embossed designs, and is properly secured with the wrapping. The handle is held on with one wooden securing peg, which is a recent replacement. Definitely some great fittings on this tanto!
The Scabbard (saya) is in very good condition, covered with a lovely textured black lacquer finish, which has some scattered flower designs on the surface. The Kurikata (scabbard knob) is still present, though it looks to have been enlarged to hole a larger sword cord. There is an accessory slot for a kogatana knife, which matches the cut outs in the cross guard and spacers. The bottom of the scabbard has an iron Kojiri (scabbard tip) which shows some lovely floral brass inlay work. There is a purple cord wrapped around the scabbard, which looks to be for decoration only.
A very nice edo period tanto with some great fittings, ready to add to your Japanese collection!
Blade Length: 9 3/8"
Blade Style: "Hira Zukuri" tanto
Overall length: 14“
Scabbard Length: 10 3/4"
It has been over one thousand years ago that the art of making swords appeared in Japan. The swordsmiths of the time may not have known it but they were creating a legendary sword. The Samurai sword has seen combat in many battlefields. From the early days of the Samurai warrior to the fierce battles in the South Pacific during WWII.
Each hand-made Samurai sword is unique because it is forged from steel stock. A tremendous amount of work is dedicated to creating these pieces. They were an instrument of war as much as a beautiful artifact to adorn a room.
The Samurai sword has grown to be one of the most highly desired military antiques.
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