Original Japanese Matchlock Tanegashima Musket circa 1750-1850 - Decorated and Inlaid

Item Description

Original Item: One of a Kind. This is an extremely interesting weapon, both for historical as well as artistic/aesthetic reasons. It was crafted probably in the late 1700s or early 1800s as a matchlock firearm using black powder and a very primitive ignition system, far behind the rest of the world. This type of gun is often referred to as a Tanegashima (種子島), after the island where a Chinese junk with Portuguese adventurers on board was driven to anchor by a storm in 1543. The local lord purchased two matchlocks from the Portuguese, and then had his swordsmith copy the weapon. Some parts of the process were problematic, so a Portuguese blacksmith was brought over to assist, and the guns were completed, with much success.

These were also often called in Japanese and sometimes in English hinawajū (火縄銃), or "matchlock gun", and they were used by the samurai class and their foot soldiers (ashigaru). Within a few years the introduction of the Tanegashima in battle changed the way war was fought in Japan forever.

Subsequently, Japan returned to being essentially a closed society, essentially blocking contact with the outside world. Due to this, advances in metallurgy and firearms ignition systems never reached the artisans in Japan. In a country that venerated tradition, the use of the Tanegashima continued for over 300 years, until the 1870s and early 1880s with the coming of the MEIJI era in 1868. This was the beginning of the modernization of Japan, however the old Shogun War Lords wishing to maintain the old way rebelled in the SATSUMA REBELLION of 1878.

This Tanegashima is a rather up-market example, dating very probably to around 1750-1850, and it is a weapon of beauty. It has a smooth bore barrel of 39" with a flared muzzle with an overall length of 51". The wood stock is extensively inlaid with engraved brass panels and decorated plaques. It even appears to have a family "MON" on the underside of the butt, though we could not identify the design.

The escutcheons for the barrel pins are cherry blossoms, and there are inlaid cloud, wave, and floral designs as well. There are large brass flowers on the butt stock, surrounding holes in the stock, which apparently were used to direct the excess match lock wick through the stock and out of the user's way.

The matchlock action is all brass, complete with pan cover and serpentine hammer or fuse holder. The trigger is also brass of button form protected by a simple brass bow trigger guard. The barrel is exquisitely inlaid with Brass, Copper, and Silver (now darkened) in the design of a dragon. A truly impressive display of inlay work over 14 inches long.

A handsome Japanese Tanegashima Musket, worthy of any collection. Ready to display.


Years of Manufacture: circa 1750-1850
Caliber: about .50 in
Ammunition Type: Lead Ball & Powder
Barrel Length: 39 inches
Overall Length: 51 inches
Action: Matchlock
Feed System: Muzzle-Loaded

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