Sword and scabbard

1590-1615 (made)


[Blade] Length: 70.5 cm [shirasaya] Length: 89.2 cm overall

M.356:1 to 3-1940 EAS

Japanese sword (katana) by Tsunahiro of Soshu province (modern-day Ibaraki Prefecture)

This Japanese sword (‘katana’) is signed by Tsunahiro of Soshu province (modern-day Ibaraki Prefecture). Although an inscription on the scabbard attributes the blade to the first generation Tsunahiro, the characteristics of the sword indicate that it was most probably made by Tsunahiro III, who worked from about 1590 to 1615. The blade displays the distinctive broad, slightly wavy tempered edge (‘hamon’) of the Soshu school of swordsmiths. It has been shortened at the hilt end (for reasons of personal taste or simply to rebalance the blade) and would have originally had a more distinctive curvature. As fashions and styles of fighting changed, so good early blades could be shortened and remounted in more contemporary styles. This sword, however, is simply mounted in a plain wooden scabbard known in Japanese as a ‘shirasaya’. This is traditionally how a sword blade would be kept when not being worn for battle or ceremonial use. The scabbard bears some interesting inscriptions which, in addition to attributing, dating and giving the measurements of the sword blade, state that Japanese Infantry Major Fukano Usushige gave the sword to British Infantry Major Somerville in 1906. Britain had military observers in East Asia during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Precisely what Somerville was doing in Japan at this time is at present unclear, but he later became British military attaché in Tokyo.

Location: In Storage

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