Toran Kei Tsuba


This style of tsuba is known a Toran Kei (Toran meaning egg shaped) and are some of the earliest known works of Japanese tsubako. The eight trapezoidal sukashi cut into the plate are a typical design seen on this style of tsuba.  

This tsuba was made from unfolded coarse, but relatively soft iron. The plate is heavy and quite uniform in thickness, showing a minimal amount of deterioration.   Most of these examples were excavated from ancient burial grounds during the Kofun period (c. 6th century), making this tsuba around 1500 years old.  

The first time I held this tsuba I was surprised by it's weight and it's size of 9.7 x 8.5 x 0.5 cm.  As well, the nakago ana seemed huge at 3.81 x 2.54 cm, however as I was to discover, these tsuba did not fit directly over the nakago as seen on later swords, but actually fit over a collar in front of the tsuka, hence the large diameter. 

These tsuba were made for the style of sword known as Chukoto or straight sword. These early swords were a long (36"+), straight, triangular or wedge shaped blade which predates the curved Japanese sword as we know it today. 

Exhibited in the "Samurai" exhibit held at the Frazier Museum in Louisville, Kentucky 2012.

Kofun Period, ca. 500AD

Tsuba 9.7 x 8.5 x 0.5 cm

Nakago Ana 3.81 x 2.54 cm