Back to All Categories

Japanese Military Armor

Most of the Japanese military objects William and Henry Walters collected were made during the Edo (1615-1867) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods. During these years, Japan was largely at peace. There was still a military class (the samurai), but they rarely engaged in active battle. Arms and armor became an outward symbol of status among the military class. Once Westerners were able to freely enter Japan after 1854, swords and sword fittings became popular items to collect. Some of the fittings in the Walters collection were made specifically for sale to Westerners and were never mounted on swords.

One of the most popular sword fittings among collectors was the “tsuba” or sword guard. Tsubas are placed at the end of the sword handle, or “tsuka,” to protect the bearer’s hand from being cut. Adjacent to the tsuba is a small decorated ring called the “fuchi.” This surrounds the opening on the handle and is usually paired with a “kashira” that covers the pommel end of the handle. On either side of the handle were “menuki.” These were originally developed because they helped the bearer maintain his grip on the handle, but later became strictly decorative adornments. The scabbard covering the blade is called the “saya.” In addition to shielding the sword, it often has openings along the outside to hold a utility knife and a hairpin, chopsticks or a tool designed to spur a horse. The decorated handle of the utility knife is called the “kozuka.” The other items are called “kogai,” warikogai” and “umabari.” In some cases all of these fittings were made as a set by one artist, but more frequently three or four different artists would make the pieces used in one mounting.

Special Thanks

The study and photography of the Japanese Arms and Armor collection was made possible through a generous grant provided by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.

Showing 809 results
Sort by:
Items per page:
Image for Tsuba with a Long-lived Tortoise (Minogame) with a Tail of Seaweed

Tsuba with a Long-lived Tortoise (Minogame) with a Tail of Seaweed

ca. 1830 (late Edo)
51.384
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Cranes and Blossoming Plum at Water's Edge

Tsuba with Cranes and Blossoming Plum at Water's Edge

1818-1892 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.293
View Details
Image for Kozuka with a Spade and Orchids

Kozuka with a Spade and Orchids

1818-1882 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.720
View Details
Image for Kozuka with a Temple Guardian (Niō)

Kozuka with a Temple Guardian (Niō)

1819 (late Edo)
51.818
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Shôki the Demon Queller Chasing Demons

Tsuba with Shôki the Demon Queller Chasing Demons

1819-1880 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.96
View Details
Image for Kozuka with Chinese Immortal and Bamboo

Kozuka with Chinese Immortal and Bamboo

1819-1887 (late Edo)
51.670
View Details
Image for Fuchi with Hen and Chicks under Pine

Fuchi with Hen and Chicks under Pine

ca. 1832-ca. 1887 (late Edo)
51.1180.3A
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Autumn Flora

Tsuba with Autumn Flora

1824 (late Edo)
51.309
View Details
Image for Tsuka with Dragons

Tsuka with Dragons

1824-1876 (Edo-Meiji)
51.1211.3B
View Details
Image for Kozuka with Blossoming Plums and a Hut

Kozuka with Blossoming Plums and a Hut

1824-1863 (Edo)
51.669
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Stag, Crane, Rock, and Fungus

Tsuba with Stag, Crane, Rock, and Fungus

1824-1859 (late Edo)
51.329
View Details
Image for Tsuba with a Lotus Pond

Tsuba with a Lotus Pond

1824-1862 (late Edo)
51.176
View Details
Image for Kozuka with Kanzan and Jittoku

Kozuka with Kanzan and Jittoku

1824-1862 (Edo-Meiji)
51.686
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Dragon in Clouds

Tsuba with Dragon in Clouds

1824-1876 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.1211.2
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Banana Trees, Snail and Mushroom

Tsuba with Banana Trees, Snail and Mushroom

1824-1863 (late Edo)
51.279
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Saigyô Gazing at Mt. Fuji

Tsuba with Saigyô Gazing at Mt. Fuji

mid 19th century (Edo)
51.136
View Details
Image for Kozuka with a Crane

Kozuka with a Crane

mid 19th century (late Edo-Meiji)
51.755
View Details
Image for Fuchi with Cherry Blossoms Floating on Waves

Fuchi with Cherry Blossoms Floating on Waves

mid 19th century (Edo-Meiji)
51.907
View Details
Image for Tsuba with a Carp

Tsuba with a Carp

mid 19th century (Edo-Meiji)
51.197
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Kikujidô (the Chrysanthemum Boy) Writing on Leaves

Tsuba with Kikujidô (the Chrysanthemum Boy) Writing on Leaves

1825-1891 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.220
View Details
Image for Fuchi with Bush Clover

Fuchi with Bush Clover

mid 19th century (Edo-Meiji)
51.1010
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Shôki the Demon Queller

Tsuba with Shôki the Demon Queller

mid 19th century (late Edo)
51.292
View Details
Image for Kashira with Weaving Maiden (Jp. "Orihime") and the Shepard (Jp. "Hikoboshi")

Kashira with Weaving Maiden (Jp. "Orihime") and the Shepard (Jp. "Hikoboshi")

mid 19th century (late Edo)
51.1091
View Details
Image for Fuchi with Rock and Waves

Fuchi with Rock and Waves

mid 19th century (late Edo- Meiji)
51.1214.3A
View Details
Image for Tsuba with a Crow and a Heron on a Pine Branch in Rain

Tsuba with a Crow and a Heron on a Pine Branch in Rain

mid 19th century (Edo-Meiji)
51.203
View Details
Image for Helmet with Phoenix and Battle-Axe Ornaments

Helmet with Phoenix and Battle-Axe Ornaments

Myochin Artist
1825-1875 (late Edo)
51.609
View Details
Image for Fuchi with Bush Clover

Fuchi with Bush Clover

mid 19th century (late Edo)
51.1270.2A
View Details
Image for Kashira with Jingô Kôgô, Takeuchi no Sukune, and Emperor Ôjin

Kashira with Jingô Kôgô, Takeuchi no Sukune, and Emperor Ôjin

mid 19th century (late Edo)
51.1085
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Egrets at a Riverside

Tsuba with Egrets at a Riverside

mid 19th century (late Edo)
51.171
View Details
Image for Fuchi with Tiger and Bamboo

Fuchi with Tiger and Bamboo

mid 19th century (late Edo-Meiji)
51.1042
View Details
Image for Tsuba with a Hanging Bouquet ("Kusudama")

Tsuba with a Hanging Bouquet ("Kusudama")

mid 19th century (late Edo)
51.129
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Cock and Peonies

Tsuba with Cock and Peonies

mid-19th century (late Edo)
51.383
View Details
arrow_forward_ios
arrow_forward_ios