Court Sword (Kazaridachi)

  • Dated: Edo Period
  • Maker: Masatoshi
  • Medium: steel, wood, lacquered and decorated with mother-of pearl, enamels and gilt bronze fittings
  • Measurements: width: 959 mm, blade width: 664 mm; blade length: 66.5 cm blade; overal length: 96.2 cm
  • 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. Kiku mon; Tenwa Ni nen Rokugatsu Tsuitachi 2nd year of Tenwa, 6 month, 1st day (1682)

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.

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.

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