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Jean

Katana Tsuba size

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I have come across Daisho tsuba and it seems that there is no rules about the size of a Tsuba to be mounted on Katana though we consider katana size tsuba > 3 inches.

 

ex : http://www.finesword.co.jp/sale/kodougu/htm/k073.htm

 

I have also often seen small size tsubas mounted on Katana.

 

Is there any rule about katana size tsuba?

 

It is certain that from an aesthetic point of view an 8 cm tsuba on a 63 cmm katana looks odd.

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I like small tsubas on katana personnaly (no more than 3" or smaller) but problem is, the nakago ana usualy get smaller on smaller tsuba.. as far as i know (little), there doesnt seem to be any rule other than aesthetic rule that apply here, but i might be wrong.

 

regards,

Remy

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The size of the tsuba used is related to the era the koshirae was made or is being made to represent in relation to the sword being used.

IOW -- a shorter katana or wakizashi used in the late Muromachi jidai for single hand use will have a correspondingly smaller tsuba as opposed to a bigger, longer, uncut Shinto katana's tsuba. The form follows the function.

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Then, can we state that there is no limit size for Katana tsuba and that the 3 inches which seems to be the border line between wak/katana tsuba is purely theoriticall and has no real foundation?

 

From where come these 3 inches? Is this a western invention?

 

In France, it is considered that, at 7,5 cm, a tsuba becomes katana size.

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Hi Jean -- I must admit to ignorance in the matter of where this started but I would imagine it is based on an average found by 'collectors'. If a tsuba was being chosen for use it would be up to the swordsman to determine and could run the gamut of size and shape. The reality is that it is a functional implement and must fall into synchronicity with all the variables factoring into it's utilization. Therefore, I feel this 'average' is simply based on convention.

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Dear Jean

 

Very little research has been done regarding the size of tsuba for Japanese swords. Gunsaulus was one of the first when, in a footnote on p. 33 of her Japanese Sword-Mounts in the Collection of Field Museum, she stated that ‘an average size for katana tsuba is 7.5 X 8 cm: for wakizashi tsuba 6.2 X 6.6 cm; for tanto tsuba 4.5 X 6 cm’. These figures are open to serious criticism however, and my own publication, The Namban Group of Japanese Sword Guards; a Reappraisal, has on pp. 27-38 some further work on these figures.

 

In summary, I believe that one can say that the size of tsuba depends upon a number of factors, which include the size of the sword upon which it is mounted; the current fashion of the school and period in which it was made; and finally, the personal preference of the wearer. The only dogmatic statement that can be made is that ‘katana tsuba were bigger than wakizashi tsuba were bigger than tanto tsuba’.

 

Clearly, a lot more work needs to be done on this subject.

 

Regards, John L.

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Dear John,

 

Thanks a lot for this good answer which gives another angle for collecting Katana Tsubas. Depending on the blade nagasa, a 62cm katana can support a 7,2 cm Tsuba.

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See this is why i love you guys.. I was just sitting here, looking at a tsuba i have, and looking at a wakizashi i am having restored, and thinking to myself, "gee, will these two look right together?" .  Fantastic! A bump to the thread; have there been any further revelations on this subject?

 

Kurt K.

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Surely whether a tsuba was intended for a katana or not might be judged from the size of the seppa-dai? which is itself derived from the size of the blade the handle was intended to accommodate.

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Interesting subject!

I have found that Western collectors have a tendency to apply their respective 'logic' to this subject which seems to suggest that longer swords should have larger TSUBA.

As said above, their size is more related to fashions of fencing schools and time-related requirements. To name a special case, swords of the MUROMACHI JIDAI were often equipped with rather large TSUBA of the KO-TOSHO and KO-KACHUSHI type. Many of these had more than 80 mm in diameter, some even up to 100 mm.      

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i once had a complete original koshirae on a 28+" katana and the tsuba was tanto size. It was made that way and originally carried like that. So i think no hard and fast rule, depends on period, school of sword fighting etc

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A sword is a weapon, or at least it was in the past, and most of the changes are period related. Until the beginning of the Edo period the use on the battlefield affected all aspects of nihonto and efficiency was more important then aesthetic. After Tokugawa unified Japan the lack of open field battles left sword and kodogu makers more room to exercise their artistic skills. To craft today a new, let's say, buke zukuri katana koshirae with tanto kodogu it seems a bit weird to me but, for how strange it might look, if an old koshirae is original in all its parts it deserves to stay that way.

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