Original Japanese Late Edo Period Women's Kaiken Dagger with Lacquered Handle & Scabbard - Handmade Blade

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Purchased at a recent military show, this is a very nice Japanese Kaiken (懐剣), which translates to "pocket sword". Very similar to the Tanto (短刀 - short sword), these were often worn by women, and were used strictly for combat and self-defense purposes. Typically measuring 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long with a single edged blade, these were usually housed in a plain mount with minimal ornamental fittings.

These were once carried by both men and women of the samurai class in Japan. It was useful for self-defense in indoor spaces where the long blade katana and intermediate sword wakizashi were inconvenient. Women carried them in their kimono either in a pocket-like space (懐 - futokoro) or in the sleeve pouch (tamoto) for self-defense and for ritual suicide by slashing the veins in the left side of the neck. When a samurai woman married, she was expected to carry a kaiken with her when she moved in with her husband.

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 later 18th century portion. The tang on this blade definitely shows advanced age, and possibly several refits. As it is unsigned, this blade is considered 無名 (mumei), or "anonymous".

The blade is old, possibly several centuries, 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.
- Hada or Grain is visible throughout the blade surface.
- Ware and Kizu (blade wounds) from lamination artifacts, only possible on handmade blades.

Offered in very nice condition, the blade of this example is in the typical "Hira Zukuri" shape also used on larger tanto, which means it is a blade without a shinogi, or ridge typical of longer blades. The polish on the blade unfortunately is worn, so most of the aspects of the blade are not visible. There is staining, as well as some more advanced oxidation near the blade collar. 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 7 1/8" and overall length 10 3/8". It has a futsu 普通 (regular) Nakago with Haagari (asymmetrical rounded) nakago-jiri (tang tip).

Due to the condition of the blade, we cannot make out the shape of the hamon, though under the handle we can definitely see that it does have one, probably a SUGU (straight) type. We can also see that it has some ITAME (wood) pattern hada grain in the body of the blade. WARE lamination lines are visible under the handle as well as on the exposed parts of the blade, and there are some FUKURE carbon pits visible as well.

The TSUKA (handle) is a simple black lacquered example, with a nice composite KASHIRA end cap. There is a simple brass HABAKI blade collar on the blade, with no spacers or other components. It is held on by a single peg, which is a recent replacement. The SAYA (scabbard) is black lacquer and matches the handle well. It has a KURIKATA knob with a small brass SHITODOME fitting, and has a SAGEO sword cord threaded through it.

A very nice Kaiken Dagger from the late edo period, ready to display!

Blade Length: 7 1/8"
Blade Style: "Hira Zukuri" tanto
Overall length: 10 3/8
Scabbard Length: 8 1/2"

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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