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The Samurai Sword Tsuba or sword hand guard is used for protecting the sword user's hand from being cut by another sword or sliding up and off the handle (tsuka). The Tsuba transitioned from functional equipment to functional art. There are two main categories of tsuba: Sukashi and Kinko. Sukashi tsuba have carved appetures in the plate that can present a design in the negative or positive silouette. Kinko tsuba include the use of soft metals in its manufacture, including at times the base plate metal (for example tsuba made of copper). The Tsuba like all other samurai sword fittings displays aristry and skill. Most Samurai sword fittings through their design convey meanings, ideas and/or tales of Japanese society. For meanings of designs please read the section on Japanese symbolism.

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item #descriptionFront PictureBack Picture
Tsuba 1
This is one of the most important and sentimental tsuba in my collection because this is where the Mantis dude started. The tsuba depicts a Mantis and broken wheels w/vines. When purchased, the description said, that perhaps it is a mantis breaking out of the cage. Implying perhaps that the warrior is breaking out from within. I liked the explanation even though that probably isn't it. Later on, I got an even larger tsuba that was similar to this one. The mantis and wheel are done almost identically. While the other one is Mito and this is most likely a Aizu Shoami copy. It just demonstrates how good the Aizu could be at copying pieces and/or could be evidence that tsuba makers traveled (Aizu & Mito are close). I would say this piece is Mid-late Edo. Size is 8.1cmx8.5x3 at seppa, 5mm at mimi. Plate is Iron.
Tsuba 2
This is an unusual piece made out of "mountain" copper which is an unrefined copper plate. The plate has little dots going around the entire piece. It has an applied mimi. From the seller "The wear and patina make me think it is pre 1800, also the rim has seen action and I wonder if it is not something added after the tsuba was made (meaning the tsuba is older)." It is from an unknown school, however, there is a thread on the NMB board where many have posted tsuba with the exact same configuration (same punch patterns, mimi etc). Overall it looks like an Akasaka design from the 18th-19th century. Size is 6.5cmx7x.5.
Tsuba 3
Tsuba done in sukashi style with a design of a praying mantis and a wheel. Good dark patina with very slight imbedded gold highlights. There are fine carving on the wings and body of the mantis which show attention to detail (line from seller). Late Edo period 1800"s. Main School work of Akasaka. Since Akasaka school didn't use gold inlay, I don't think so. Other choices are Shoami or Choshu. Yet another to research. Size width 7.5cm (3 inches) X height 8.1cm (3 3/16 inches) X nakaga ana .6cm, mimi(rim) .5cm
Tsuba 4
This Mantis tsuba was sold as a presentation piece from the 1920's. Sold seperately on ebay were the fuchi/kashira, the kozuka, and the kogai (see respective headings for pieces). I didn't buy the kogai sjnce it didn't have a mantis. However, I have been told this set is more likely 17th or 18th century (love to hear that!). It is copper from the Mino School with a mantis , kiku and other autumn fowers. Size is width 6.9 cm X height 6.5 X thickness .4 cm.
Tsuba 5
This is an Akasaka sukashi Iron tsuba. It dates to the fifth or sixth generation master (circa mid 1700s). This attribution was done by Mr. Robert Haynes (one of the top and most respected American collectors). The heavy iron plate has been exceptionally well carved into a praying mantis shape and a portion of a spider web (I think it might be a wheel). This tsuba is in excellent condition and measures 2 7/8 inches round. I have seen several variations of this design. There is even a few reproductions out there, but you can tell that the iron is much poorer and not antique.
Tsuba 6
Mantis with 3 wheels, circa 1750. The tsuba plate is Shakudo with terrific Nanako. The kogai ana is shakudo filled. The wheels are shakudo and gold. It was labeled Goto but almost exact design is pictured in the Kaga Kinko taikan. In fact this looks a little better than book example. Whatever the school, it is a fine example and one of the better tsuba in the collection. Size is 6.6cm width X 7.3cm ht, seppa dai thickness is 5.5mm
Tsuba 7
A Kaga piece is always something to hold! One of these in your hands really gives one a nice feeling of heavy shakudo. The mantis is done really uniquely in gold and the back has a patch of large grass. width is 67mm (2 21/32 inches), Height 70mm (2 25/32 in), at nakaga-ana 5mm (3/16 in), and at mimi 4.5mm (5.5/32 in). Comes with Green papers from the N.B.T.H.K. dated March 25th, 1974 (showa 48). Paper also says mumei shakudo mantis tsuba, kaga school, maru shape with flat inlay. The paper's basically the equivalent of Hozon today. Input from a viewer:
    I must say the mantis tsuba is beautiful and I don't give away compliments easily. The use of the fine kuchibeni is beautiful (copper inserts in nakagoana). Those were used by the early Bizen Suruga, Akasaka Tadashige, and in late Edo by the Tanaka school to name a few.
Tsuba 8
Tsuba has a green paper for Tokubetsu Kicho Kodogu (特別貴重小道具) issued by NBTHK at Mar. 2nd, 1963. Aki kusa mushi zu tsuba (秋草虫図鐔): tsuba with pic. of autumnal grasses and insects. Tetsu-ji (鉄地), maru-gata (丸形), niku-bori (肉彫), ji-sukashi (地透): iron ground, round shape, relief, openwork Mumei (無銘), attributed to Hagi (萩) Size is 70mm (2 24/32 in) X 74 mm (2 24/32 in) X 4cm (5/32 in). Insects include bee, dragonfly, Mantis, unknown bug, butterfly, snail, & wasp. Hagi is one of Choshu sub-schools.
Tsuba 9
Mantis looking at moon. Iron plate. Shakudo leaves, silver moon, gold mantis. 65mm (2 18/32) X 70mm (2 24/32) X 5mm (6/32), Nicely done. Edo iron tsuba Hamano SCHOOL AKI DESIGN NBTHK PAPERS. Has green papers, need to be translated. A nice tsuba and not often I see a Hamano attribution.
Tsuba 10
Tsuba from Mino or Mino-Goto. Shakudo Mid Edo. Dragon on rim of Sword Guard. From the 18th/19th century, quatrefoil form, copper with mixed-metal inlay of insects and flowers. This style is very popular and demonstrates a lot of quality metal work. A quality Mino piece will have nice depth to its cutouts and one of the points to look at for determining the quality of a piece. This style is one in which the chinese have tried to copy it, but when you compare the real work versus the repro, it is easy to tell.
Tsuba 11
Tsuba Likely Heianjo school with brass inlay of mantis, flowers and plants. Heavy iron looks like has bones. Early Edo or maybe even Momoyama period. However, it is possible the tsuba is a revival piece where the old characteristics were copied in a later period. Size 2 26/32 inches (70.5mm) X 2 27.5/32 in (73mm) outer 4/32 in (4mm) inner 3.5/32 in (3.5mm). Shakudo filled kozuka-ana.
Tsuba 12
Iron mokko gata tsuba with mantis design. Very nice early edo tsuba with a wonderful dark patina. Possibly Shoami or Choshu School
Tsuba 13
Ita sukashi tsuba 16th or 17th century Mantis with birds. It is much rarer to find a sukashi tsuba in negative silhouette. Negative silhouette is created by cutting away the metal leaving the empty space to represent the figure you are creating. It must have been very hard to remove metal to create the tsuba. Most sukashi tsuba are done in positive silhouette.
Tsuba 14
A brass tsuba Nara School, 19th century Of oval form, carved in takabori and inlaid with a broken waterwheel, mantis and creeper, details inlaid with gilt metal, copper and shibuichi takazogan, signed Yasuchika. Yasuchika is a well known and influential smith who has a big following. I have seen similar designs from the shoani school. Since they are all from the same area, you can see the influence neighboring provinces have on one another.

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