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Sword guard

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    1750-1820 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Patinated copper, with nanako ground and relief decoration in gilt, shakudo and copper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125, Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case 3

Object Type
The main function of the tsuba is to prevent the warrior's hand from sliding up on to the blade of the sword during combat. It also balances the weight of the blade and protects the hand from an opponent's blade. This tsuba is of patinated copper with a nanako (fish-roe) type of ground with a design in relief of flowers and grasses, some of which are gilt-decorated.

This tsuba is in the style of the Goto school of metalworkers, the official makers of sword-fittings for the shogun's court. Following the dissolution of the samurai in 1876 and the prohibition of the wearing of swords, many former samurai sold their swords and sword fittings. Many of these objects reached Europe, where they were eagerly collected. This piece formed part of a group of 92 tsuba sold to the V&A in 1888 by H. Virtue Tebbs.This purchase more than doubled the Museum's collection of such items.

This unsigned tsuba was made in the early 19th century. By the late 19th century tsuba had become redundant in Japan, but were avidly collected by westerners fascinated by a new art form that lent itself to the Victorian passion for collecting and cataloguing objects of interest.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


1750-1820 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Patinated copper, with nanako ground and relief decoration in gilt, shakudo and copper


Height: 7.4 cm, Width: 6.6 cm, Depth: 0.5 cm

Object history note

Made in Japan

Descriptive line

Quatrefoil tsuba

Labels and date

British Galleries:

The Japanese samurai (warrior) was a figure of great interest in Victorian Britain. When the military class was abolished in Japan in 1876, many former samurai were forced to sell their swords and sword fittings. Large numbers of these objects reached Britain where they were enthusiastically collected. [27/03/2003]


Metalwork; Arms & Armour


East Asia Collection

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