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Gotō School

Sword (tachi) and scabbard 1700 - 1800

Steel, copper alloy, lacquered wood, shakudō, silk, leather | 7.9 cm (Width) x 7.0 cm (Depth); 100.0 cm (Length) (whole object) | RCIN 72787

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  • Before 1400, many swords were mounted in rugged and practical leather mountings which were ideally suited to long periods of campaigning. Around this time, however, a new and distinctive form of mounting was introduced. This was the itō-maki no tachi (cord-wrapped tachi), where the area of the lacquered scabbard between the two suspension fittings was wrapped in silk braiding to prevent the expensive lacquer from rubbing and abrading against armour.

    The scabbard for this sword is of fine gold-sprinkled (makie) lacquer decorated with two mon. The stylised flower under an unidentified structure may be the crest of the Itō clan; the flower with three petals separated by stylised Buddhist sword blades (ken) remains unidentified. The silk cords which protect the scabbard and secure the sword when worn are woven in the hexagonal pattern known as turtleshell (kikkō).

    The metal fittings are an alloy of copper and gold known as shakudō, which patinates to a rich purple-black. The warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537–98) once likened the colour of shakudō to that of ‘raindrops on a crow’s wing’. The sword guard (tsuba) is of the typical tachi-style four-lobed mokko shape with the intersections in the form known as boar’s-eye (inome).

    The unsigned blade dates from the period 1700–1800. It has an elegant tempering pattern (hamon) of the shape known as notare and has slight, though quite visible, metal crystalline structures emanating from the edge in the effect known as sunagashi (‘drifting sand’).

    Text adapted from Japan: Courts and Culture (2020)


    First recorded in the reign of HM Queen Elizabeth II

  • Medium and techniques

    Steel, copper alloy, lacquered wood, shakudō, silk, leather


    7.9 cm (Width) x 7.0 cm (Depth); 100.0 cm (Length) (whole object)

  • Category