Tsuba – Japanese Sword Hand Guard

One of the most important parts of the Katana has got to be the Tsuba. This Katana part protects the hand of the sword owner from sliding into the blade. There are actually different kinds of tsuba that potential owners can choose from especially if they purchase made to order Katana. Katana Tsuba is artworks and because of this it is widely valued and collected by those who love Japanese swords. There is even a school for artists that design these. There are generally two kinds of material use for this Katana part: iron or tetsu and soft metal or kinko. Kinko can be made of blue black colored copper gold alloy ( shaduko), brown colored copper lead zinc alloy ( sentoku), brass, copper and gray colored copper silver alloy ( sukashi). For those who are not familiar with how to preserve the patina of the sword avoids removing this because this will destroy the beauty and value of the sword. There may be good reproductions of this part however, these are just used for mounting swords and is not a collectible item for those who are into serious Japanese sword collecting.

Getting to Know Katana Tsuba

The history of the Tsuba can be trace back to the earliest swords. Removable tsubas can be found on burial mounds from as far as 300 to 400 A.D. These are better known as Hoju or Toran Kei. Hoju means jewel while Toran Kei means upside down egg shape. These are the earliest designs of the tsuba that came after. Tachi were worn by Samurais while Uchigatana were worn by foot soldiers. There are remarkable differences between these two tsuba used by different people from different levels of Japanese society. Tsuba is not merely a part of the blade but, is an art form.

Katana Tsuba Shapes

• Round or Maru gata
• Rounded square or kaku gata
• Four lobed or mokko gata
• Aoi Gata
• Aori Gata
• Kiku gata
• Juji gata
• Tate ito gata
• Yuko Ito gata
• Kobushi gata

Different Kinds of Katana Tsuba

• Horse
• Ant
• Arrow tip
• Bamboo and Pine
• Bat and Moon
• Battle Axe
• Battle Fans
• Boar’s Eyes
• Buddhist Prayer
• Cherry Blossoms
• Cherry Branch Tanto
• Cherry Tree and Moon
• Crashing Waters
• Crescent Moon
• Cross Hawk
• Double Leaf
Tsuba can be rated by using this scale:
• Meijin- Super Master
• Meiko- Great Master
• Joko- Excellent Artist
• Ryoko- Good Artist

During the late Edo, Meiji and Showa period in Japan there are many cast copies made of Tsuba for the export market. These are not originals like those found on early designs. Cast copies have casting flanges on the inner edges of the hitsu-ana and sukashi regions. Some say that old versions include kettle caster or antique cast iron however, debates still run until today if this exists at one point of history or not. However, genuine copies are rare.