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Tsuba (sword guard) with openwork lobster design
Copper, wrought and carved
Centimetres: 6.7 (length), 6 (width)
mid 19th century
Early Modern; Edo Period
Area of Origin: Japan
Area of Use: Japan; Asia
Prince Takamado Gallery of Japan

Description: With the emergence of the warrior class during the Heian period (794 - 1192), the sword served as both the promise and delivery of the samurai's spirit as a warrior. By the 11th century, the long, characteristically curved, single-edged blades familiar today had become the norm. After the start of the Momoyama period (1573 - 1603) swords were reserved for the exclusive use of the samurai class. Upper rank samurai commissioned elaborate mounts and fittings for their treasured blades. This tsuba in its entire carved surface, except for the seppa-dai with tang hole, represents the spiney lobster (Ise ebi, Panulirus japonicus). There is also a half-moon kozuka hitsu-ana, and a trefoil k gai hitsu-ana. The lobster's body on the lower half (appears as upper half in the image) extends over the rim, while the rim of the upper half is attenuated from the lobster's head and is scored to represent antenna. Other antennae comprise the openwork upper half.

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