Title: Umetada-style, Take Tora Zu
According to the Mei (銘, engraved inscription), we believe this Tsuba is categorized as the Umetada (埋忠) school’s Tsuba. Narinobu (就信) lived in the Edo (江戸, today’s Tokyo prefecture) and worked actively in the late Edo period. Several Umetada school metalworkers had the same “就” character in their name. Therefore, we estimate Narinobu learned under one of these senior craftsmen and was given this common letter from him.
The first Umetada: Umetada Myouju (埋忠 明寿), was born in Yamashiro-no Kuni (山城国, today’s Kyoto prefecture) as the Shigetaka (重隆) ‘s second son. The Umetada family was a distinguished family who produced excellent swordsmiths, and Myouju succeeded to the household headship. He firstly served under Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭, 1537-1597, the 15th Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate), and later his works were admired by famous Samurai such as Oda Nobunaga (織田信長, 1534-1582), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉, 1537-1598), and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康, 1543-1616).
The Umetada family was a prestigious school of metalworks in Kyoto. They produced both Japanese swords and sword mountings. This school was involved in a wide range of areas related to Japanese swords, such as remaking famous old swords, inlaying gold inlays with the name of the sword maker, making metal fittings, and recording famous swords. It is thought that the entire studio was engaged in these various tasks.
About the design, you would find the figure of a tiger climbing on a rock. There is a thick tree trunk around the tiger, and many small bamboo leaves are growing. The combination of tiger and bamboo; it is a classical theme called the Take Tora Zu (竹虎図) in Japanese. The tiger seems to be aiming for something to prey on, conveying a sense of tension. The tiger is a brave animal. A theory says people considered the tiger pattern would protect people from evil spirits. Therefore, its design has been treated as a talisman. The tiger motif has also been regarded as the symbol of life activity when “tiger” is written by a Japanese Kanji character (漢字, a kind of Japanese letter) based on its meaning. It is said people wished for boys’ healthy growth by using the tiger pattern.
The Take (竹, bamboo) pattern has also been treated as an auspicious motif. This plant is an element of a classical design called the Shou-Chiku-Bai (松竹梅, a combination of pine tree, bamboo, and Japanese apricot blossom). Bamboos grow neatly towards the sky, and it is vital so that bamboo design represents nobility and strength. In addition, the bamboo breaks straight, but its content is hollow; people thought it showed innocence. According to a foreign legend, the Houhou (鳳凰, Fenghuang) eats bamboo fruits; therefore, bamboo is considered a sacred plant. Also, as it keeps its green color even in cold winter, people thought the bamboo pattern showed eternity and longevity.
The trunk of a tree is depicted as if it were rough waves, and the tiger’s supple body is fit in this oval-shaped screen. These are unique factors that add a touch of charm to this work.
*As this item is an antique, please check each photo and ensure its condition.
What is Tsuba?
Tsuba is the hand-guard of the Japanese sword. High-class Samurai wore his Katana sword with its beautiful sword mountings such as Tsuba. Tsuba’s front design tends to be more decorative as this part was often seen by other Samurais when he was walking on the streets.
Why is it that the sword mounting was important for Samurai?
The sword mountings of the Japanese sword have many kinds of decorations such as handguards (Tsuba), sword hilt (Menuki), pommel (Fuchi Kashira). The Japanese sword worked as a weapon and as an object to show who he was. For example, it shows their personalities and beliefs. You could say that it is like decorations for smartphones today. We recommend you zoom in on the pictures of the sword fittings. When you do so, you can see the skill of Japanese metal engraving techniques. They are mainly made of iron and copper with inlays of gold, silver, and bronze. When it comes to handguard (Tsuba), each one has a different outline and weight. These sword fittings that have lived with Japanese swords of the same age might be worth as much as the Japanese swords. They are inconspicuous parts of the Japanese sword. Nevertheless, if you are knowledgeable or particular about it, you will become a connoisseur of the Samurai.
Samurai Museum is located in Tokyo, Japan, exhibiting antique artifacts related to the Samurai history. Samurai Museum Shop is the place for those who are interested in Japanese culture and craftsmanship. We deal with antique Samurai swords/armor, traditional crafts made in Japan and so on.
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【How to make sure the condition】
Please keep in mind that what you are going to purchase is an antique item. We uploaded high resolution photos for you to check its condition thoroughly. If you like to see more photos with different angles, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to send them to you so that you can make informed decision.
It is essential for us to know that you are happy with your choice of Tsuba and we are prepared to use the best of our ability to serve you.
【How to appreciate Tsuba】
While Tsuba is a small component of Japanese sword mountings, we would say it is one of the most conspicuous parts. Also, unlike the blade itself, Tsuba has a low risk of handling. Furthermore, it does not require a large space for storage. Thus, Tsuba is relatively easy to collect. Here we would like to propose a few ways to enrich your Tsuba experience after purchasing your favorite Tsuba.
Inspect and feel the artistry of Tsuba. You will be amazed by the maker’s work quality to make it look a great work.
-Find the right place to display
Tsuba would look great when displayed in the best way. Find the best place in your house, your office, or anywhere you like, so that Tsuba would be appreciated as much as you like.
※These photos are the example of Tsuba stand and how to place the Tsuba.
-Learn the details
Tsuba reflects quite a lot of detailed features of its maker. Sometimes you can find the maker’s signature on Tsuba. Tsuba makers tried adding elaborate artistry to Tsuba. Many techniques were invented to achieve this goal, such as openwork, engravings, and gold/silver inlays. There were many schools that trained Tsuba makers, and each of them has different characteristics. You would enjoy knowing these differences and find your beloved style.
-Arrange in modern style
We want to propose the way that you could enjoy the Tsuba as jewelry. By stringing a cord into the center hole of the Tsuba, it could be worn as a necklace. This modern way would show you a new charm of Tsuba. Here are the examples of neckless.
【Give the Tsuba as a special gift】
Are you looking for a special gift for a person who is interested in Japanese culture? We recommend you to give an antique Tsuba as a present for your significant other. Tsuba is an integral part of the Samurai sword, which was once a primary weapon for Samurai. Each Tsuba is a unique item and has a different design. We hope it would be a memorable gift. Now it is time for you to share the beauty of a piece of Samurai history with your family members or friends, for instance. Also, gift wrapping is available for Tsuba; it is for free. Here is an example of wrapping. For more information, please feel free to contact us. It is always our pleasure to serve you.
Would you like see some more Tsuba for sale? Please check the link below. We hope you can find your favorite Tsuba.