What is Japanese tsuba?

Tsuba is between the holder and the body of the sword, and it is a name of the part

or piece which protects the hand.


  • Japanese swords tsuba

The origin of Japanese tsuba date back to at least ancient tomb era.

Afterwards, as Japanese original swords’ form is established, the tsuba develops

as an important part of sword.

In Japanese equipment of swors, not tachi but uchigatana, the sword to “pick”,

got tsuba from nanbokucho era to muromachi era.

Then, even low class such as ashigaru got their tsuba on their sword at the era of Osaka no jin.

According to documents or relics of temples, in azuchi momoyama era,

low class sword equipment as consumable goods had no tsuba, or even if it had,

the tsuba seems to be small.


Still, in Japanese sword, the objective of sword is to rather not let the hand slide

to the body when you pick somebody, rather than to protect the hand,

and it is secondary to protect the hand from enemy’s sword.

The important role of tsuba is to be convenient to cut koikuchi or to take balance

between the body of the sword.


  • Form and material

In the style which was established as Japanese sword equipment, a hole (nakagoana)

is opened in the middle of tsuba, put it between a pair of two metal plate called seppa

and put inside “nakago” of the body, put the mekugi inside “nakagoana” opened in nakago

and fix to the holder and joint the body and the holder.

There are various forme of tsuba like round form or sqauare form.                                                                                                                      


As for the material, iron, copper, gold, silver, brass or their mixture were used.

Gold and silver were mainly used as material of tokin, and in momoyama era,

pure gold was used as material of tsuba.

Also, from Heian era to sengoku era, “nerikawa”, which is cut leather covered with lacquer or glue,

was used mainly in tachi, and short sword or broad sword which don’t have tsuba

were mostly made of horn (cow horn) for “garahuchi”.


After that the swords’ style changes from tachi style to uchigatana style,

which is convenient for nukiuchi (to draw sword and cut at the same movement),

kotousyou tsuba, whose iron was forged thin and  kokacchushi tsuba,

which is an simple iron tsuba were made.

This is because uchigatana was used by low-class people, so tousyou and kacchushi tsuba

were made to meet the needs.


Then, Zeami group of Douhousyu, who served to Muromachi General designed an image

called “kozeami” which was superior in its design, and launched jisukashitsuba without ji,

and created many artistic masterpieces of his originality. 

Furthermore, Kyosuke has no name but known to be delicate, Owari includes

the severe spirit of samurai, Mino sculptured deeply kinzan tsuba and syakudouji,

Ounin used brass to iron ji, etc. Various tsuba were made in all Japan.

Miyamoto Musashi, who is known as a great swordsman also designed many tsuba

and made by himself. The design of sayuu namakosukashi which is called “musashi tsuba” is famous.

Many Japanese swords (they are for trying or trying in iaido) which are practical for fencing

or iaido nowadays, or swords for practicing have tsuba which imitates or uses famous old tsuba design, and they use modern alloy such as stainless or alminium as material.


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