Japanese tsuba
Height & width

65 x 60mm




86 grams


Probably Japanese-made.


Iron, silver, gold, copper.


18th or 19th century.


Has been mounted


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An interesting little sword guard, of fairly simple form with designs carved in shallow relief. On the front facing side (left) is a dragon around a peaked rock. Such rocks also feature on Chinese robes, and represent earth.

The overall shape of this tsuba is thought by some to be a subtle hint to a Christian cross. I find it hard to confirm or reject, but we do know there was an underground Christian movement in Japan and more outspoken Christian guards are known to exist.

The reverse is a mystery to me, and a large part of its appeal. It depicts what almost look like the scaly tails of fish at the top and bottom, but sprouting from it are all kinds of shapes that remind of vines, clouds, and possibly flames.

The shape of the dragon’s claws and rendering of the clouds and waves on this piece is typically Japanese, which is probably where it was made. It does copy the rectangular seppa-dai from Chinese guards, something often seen on Japanese-made versions even though their handles were oval in cross-section. It is possibly to honor the source of their inspiration.

A rather unusual piece.

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Products of Asian maritime trade in the 17th-18th centuries.


A beautiful signed Japanese ferrule and pommel plate.


A large circular Asian export sword guard with elaborate decor carved in relief on both sides.


A chiseled iron sword guard depicting a Dutch ship with a figure on its stern.


This guard, at first sight, appears very


A robust Chinese or Vietnamese sword guard of rare form, probably imported into Japan by Dutch or Chinese merchants.

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