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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.

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Image for Kozuka with a Moon in Clouds

Kozuka with a Moon in Clouds

18th-19th century (Edo)
51.719
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Image for Kozuka with Figures on Boats

Kozuka with Figures on Boats

18th-19th century (Edo)
51.1254.4
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Image for Kashira with Millet and a Straw Hat

Kashira with Millet and a Straw Hat

18th-19th century
51.1105
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Image for Fuchi with Landscape and Figures

Fuchi with Landscape and Figures

18th century (Edo)
51.926
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Image for Fuchi with a Man Fishing

Fuchi with a Man Fishing

18th century (?) (Edo)
51.994
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Image for Tsuba with Quail, Sparrow and Millet

Tsuba with Quail, Sparrow and Millet

18th-19th century
51.290
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Image for Kozuka with a Kingfisher in Reeds

Kozuka with a Kingfisher in Reeds

18th-19th centuries (?) (Edo)
51.692
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Image for Fuchi with Dragon

Fuchi with Dragon

18th-19th century (Edo)
51.1255.3A
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Image for Fuchi with Demon

Fuchi with Demon

18th-19th century
51.1126
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Image for Kozuka with Cranes and Reeds

Kozuka with Cranes and Reeds

18th century (?)
51.716
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Image for Tsuba with Insects in Autumn Grass

Tsuba with Insects in Autumn Grass

18th century (Edo)
51.403
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Image for Kozuka with a Lily

Kozuka with a Lily

18th-19th centuries (Edo)
51.687
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Image for Fuchi with Landscape with a Bridge

Fuchi with Landscape with a Bridge

Naoyoshi (Japanese) Metalworker
18th century (Edo)
51.909
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Image for Tsuba with Clouds

Tsuba with Clouds

18th-19th century (Edo)
51.1255.2
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Image for Kozuka with Seagulls

Kozuka with Seagulls

18th century (?) (Edo)
51.834
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Image for Fuchi with Demon

Fuchi with Demon

1701-1761 (Edo)
51.1253.3A
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Image for Fuchi with Fish and Bamboo

Fuchi with Fish and Bamboo

18th century (?) (Edo)
51.1124
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Image for Fuchi with Autumn Flowers

Fuchi with Autumn Flowers

18th-19th century (Edo)
51.1217.3A
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Image for Fuchi with Two Samurai

Fuchi with Two Samurai

18th-19th century (Edo)
51.1254.3A
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Image for Tsuba Four Lobes and Cross Shaped Pattern

Tsuba Four Lobes and Cross Shaped Pattern

18th-19th century (Edo-Meiji)
51.1189.2
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Image for Kozuka with New Year's Dancing

Kozuka with New Year's Dancing

18th century (?)
51.743
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Image for Kashira with Mountain Landscape and Waterfall

Kashira with Mountain Landscape and Waterfall

18th century (Edo)
51.927
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Image for Kashira with Three Yamabushi

Kashira with Three Yamabushi

18th century (?)
51.1059
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Image for Kozuka with a Performing Monkey

Kozuka with a Performing Monkey

18th-19th century (Edo)
51.895
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Image for Kashira with Samurai Armor

Kashira with Samurai Armor

18th-19th century (Edo)
51.1121
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Image for Tsuba with Chrysanthemums

Tsuba with Chrysanthemums

18th-19th century (Edo)
51.1217.2
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Image for Tsuba with a Bird in a Tree

Tsuba with a Bird in a Tree

18th-19th century (?) (Edo)
51.353
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Image for Fuchi with Sword and Dragon

Fuchi with Sword and Dragon

18th-19th century (Edo)
51.1268.3A
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Image for Kozuka with Carp and Water Milfoil

Kozuka with Carp and Water Milfoil

18th century (Edo)
51.885
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Image for Tsuba with the Legendary Chinese ruler Shinnô

Tsuba with the Legendary Chinese ruler Shinnô

1701-1761 (mid Edo)
51.369
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Image for Kashira with Kinkô Riding a Carp

Kashira with Kinkô Riding a Carp

18th century (Edo)
51.953
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Image for Tsuba with Chinese Generals Kanyu, Gentoku and Chohi

Tsuba with Chinese Generals Kanyu, Gentoku and Chohi

18th century (Edo)
51.340
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