Original Japanese Late Edo Period Women's Kaiken Dagger with Lacquered Scabbard - Handmade Blade
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 several refits. As it is unsigned, this blade is considered 無名 (mumei), or "anonymous".
The blade is old, we are told ancient, due to a few tell tale characteristics that are:
- The two holes in the tang (meguki-ana) are 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.
- Fully Visible temper line ("hamon") running full length of blade cutting edge.
- 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 is in excellent condition, and shows only very tiny traces of oxidation and scuffing. 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 8 1/4" and overall length 13". It has a futsu 普通 (regular) Nakago with Kuri-jiri (rounded) nakago-jiri
The blade has a vibrant visible hamon (temper line), which looks to be a SUGUHA (straight) type, with a bit of MIDARE irregularity. There are multiple lamination lines along the blade, and there are clear NIE crystals along the temper line, and the correct NIOI cloudiness. The blade shows MOKUME (wood burl) hada (grain) on the body, and it has a OOMARU boshi, which goes almost halfway down the spine of the blade. Really a great blade here!
The Tsuka (handle) looks to be a more recent replacement, and has what look to be cricket or cicada menuki attached to the stingray skin grip (SaMe). The blade collar (habaki) is brass, and has a nice "rain" pattern embossed on it. The handle is a bit loose, and could probably benefit from a larger mekugi-ana for a better fit to the tang. The handle is held on by a single recent production mekugi (Peg), and the saya (scabbard) is a simple black lacquered type, correct for a kaiken.
A very nice Kaiken Dagger from the late edo period, in great polish and ready to display!
Blade Length: 8 1/4"
Blade Style: "Hira Zukuri" tanto
Overall length: 13“
Scabbard Length: 9 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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