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 Kozuka with Carp and Water Milfoil

Kozuka with Carp and Water Milfoil

1860-1919 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.886
View Details
Image for Tsuba with a Carp Leaping Out of Water

Tsuba with a Carp Leaping Out of Water

1860 (late Edo)
51.397
View Details
Image for Tsuba with a Snake and a Monkey on a Pine Branch

Tsuba with a Snake and a Monkey on a Pine Branch

late 19th-early 20th century
51.246
View Details
Image for Tsuba with a Snake and a Rat

Tsuba with a Snake and a Rat

1860 (late Edo)
51.327
View Details
Image for Tsuba with a Peony Blossom

Tsuba with a Peony Blossom

1860-1917 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.167
View Details
Image for Kozuka with Cherry Blossoms, Moon and Poem

Kozuka with Cherry Blossoms, Moon and Poem

1863-1876 (late Edo)
51.888
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Kôsagi, a Paragon of Filial Piety

Tsuba with Kôsagi, a Paragon of Filial Piety

ca. 1875 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.373
View Details
Image for Kozuka with a Man Gathering Autumn Grasses

Kozuka with a Man Gathering Autumn Grasses

ca. 1875 (Meiji)
51.639
View Details
Image for Kashira with a Nightingale on a Plum Tree Branch

Kashira with a Nightingale on a Plum Tree Branch

ca. 1875 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.1087
On view
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Geese and Autumn Reeds

Tsuba with Geese and Autumn Reeds

ca. 1875 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.108
View Details
Image for Kogai with Autumn Flowers

Kogai with Autumn Flowers

ca. 1875 (Meiji)
51.1234.4
View Details
Image for Kozuka with Autumn Flowers

Kozuka with Autumn Flowers

ca. 1875 (Meiji)
51.1234.3
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Fukurokuju in the Moon

Tsuba with Fukurokuju in the Moon

ca. 1875 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.374
View Details
Image for Fuchi with Mandarin Ducks

Fuchi with Mandarin Ducks

ca. 1875 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.1086
View Details
Image for Kozuka with Herons and Reeds

Kozuka with Herons and Reeds

1864 (late Edo)
51.1183.3
View Details
Image for Kozuka with Daruma in a Boat

Kozuka with Daruma in a Boat

1864 (late Edo)
51.659
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Stone Rabbit with a Blossoming Plum Branch

Tsuba with Stone Rabbit with a Blossoming Plum Branch

1864 (late Edo)
51.371
View Details
Image for Tsuba with the Four Gentlemen: Orchid, Bamboo, Plum, and Chrysanthemum

Tsuba with the Four Gentlemen: Orchid, Bamboo, Plum, and Chrysanthemum

1864-ca.1885 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.345
View Details
Image for Tsuba with the Samurai Watanabe no Tsuna

Tsuba with the Samurai Watanabe no Tsuna

1865 (late Edo)
51.110
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Sacred Jewels ("Tama")

Tsuba with Sacred Jewels ("Tama")

1865 (Edo-Meiji)
51.106
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Cranes and Peach Trees

Tsuba with Cranes and Peach Trees

1866 (late Edo)
51.278
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Fireflies in Bamboo

Tsuba with Fireflies in Bamboo

1866 (Edo)
51.231
View Details
Image for Tsuba Referring to the Noh Play "Kayoi Komachi"

Tsuba Referring to the Noh Play "Kayoi Komachi"

1866 (Edo)
51.385
View Details
Image for Tsuba with a Spider on a Gourd Vine Trellis

Tsuba with a Spider on a Gourd Vine Trellis

1866 (late Edo)
51.332
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Clouds

Tsuba with Clouds

Japanese Artist
1868-1912 (?) (Meiji)
51.1188.2
View Details
Image for Fuchi with Clouds

Fuchi with Clouds

Japanese Artist
1868-1912 (?) (Meiji)
51.1188.3a
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Dragon

Tsuba with Dragon

Japanese Artist
1868-1912 (Meiji)
51.1214.2
View Details
Image for Tsuka with Dragons and Tigers

Tsuka with Dragons and Tigers

Japanese Artist
1868-1912 (Meiji)
51.1214.3B
View Details
Image for Tsuka with Clouds and Chinese Immortals

Tsuka with Clouds and Chinese Immortals

Japanese Artist
1868-1912 (?) (Meiji)
51.1188.3b
View Details
Image for Tsuba with Urashima Taro Leaving the Palace of the Dragon King

Tsuba with Urashima Taro Leaving the Palace of the Dragon King

1870-1896 (late Edo-Meiji)
51.139
View Details
Image for Tsuba with a Horse Among Cherry Blossoms

Tsuba with a Horse Among Cherry Blossoms

1870 (Meiji)
51.189
View Details
Image for Short Sword with Black Lacquer Saya

Short Sword with Black Lacquer Saya

1871-1873 (Meiji-Nambokucho)
51.1261
View Details
arrow_forward_ios
arrow_forward_ios