Sword and scabbard
- Place of origin:
- Credit Line:
Given by the late Sir A. H. Church KCVO and Sir Henry Howarth KCIE, FRS, through The Art Fund
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Japan, Room 45, The Toshiba Gallery, case 1 
This Japanese court sword (‘kazaridachi’) has a wooden scabbard decorated in lacquer of the type known as ‘nashiji’, meaning ‘pear-skin appearance’, with mother-of-pearl inlay of pairs of mythical Ho-o birds (a type of phoenix). The metal fittings are of copper-gilt filigree work inlaid with turquoise enamels. The decoration also incorporates a design of paulownia leaves - the plant associated with the ruling Tokugawa shoguns of the Edo period (1600-1868) - and the triple hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa family.
From the Heian period (794-1185) the kazaridachi was the most common form of mounting for swords worn at the imperial court and this style remained in use until the 19th century. Intended purely for ceremonial occasions and worn by courtiers rather than warriors, the kazaridachi rarely held a well-forged steel blade. This mounting holds a poorly constructed blade signed by Etchu-no-kami Fujiwara no Masatoshi and inscribed ‘made to the order of Lord Tsunemitsu of shonii rank’ and dated equivalent to 1682.
During the Edo period, such mountings were sometimes worn not only by imperial courtiers but also by the shogun and other members of the military aristocracy. The use of the triple hollyhock crest reinforces the suggestion that this kazaridachi was worn by a member of the military aristocracy rather than by imperial aristocracy. The decoration of Ho-o birds coupled with the paulownia leaf symbolises the benevolence of the ruling Tokugawa shoguns.
Kazaridachi (court sword); signed by Masatoshi; lacquer scabbard of nashiji lacquer with mother-of-pearl inlay.
Place of Origin
Marks and inscriptions
I Shonii Tsunemitsu (or Nobumitsu) Ko Mei, Etchu No Kami Fujiwara Masatoshi tsukuru kore
Ordered (commisioned) by Lord Tsunemitsu (or Nobumitsu) Isho second rank; Fujiwara Masatoshi honorary lord of Etchu province (modern-day Toyama Prefecture) made this.
Japanese; outer face (omote) of the blade
Kiku mon; Tenwa Ni nen Rokugatsu Tsuitachi
2nd year of Tenwa, 6 month, 1st day (1682)
Japanese; inner face (ura) of the blade
Width: 959 mm, Width: 664 mm Blade
sword (tachi), Met, Japan, swords and daggers
Met, Japan, swords and daggers
Labels and date
Court sword (kazaridachi)
Blade dated 1682; scabbard and fittings 1800–60
Elaborately mounted swords of this kind were used from the 10th century until the late 19th century. They served purely ceremonial purposes, rather than being used in combat. They were worn both by imperial courtiers and high-ranking samurai. The blade of this sword has a signature that refers to a specific imperial court rank.
Steel blade; lacquered wood scabbard with mother-of-pearl inlay; wood and rayskin hilt; gilded fittings with enamel inlay
Given by Sir A.H. Church and Sir Henry Howarth through the Art Fund
Museum no. M.144-1915
Etchu was the old province name for modern-day Toyama prefecture
Arms & Armour
East Asia Collection