Tsurugi Sword – Glass Cutter Sword

Name:  Tsurugi Sword
Blade Length: 90 to 100 cm
Handle Length: 20 cm
Weight: .60 kg
Used By: Sword of the gods in Japanese mythology
Place of Origin: Japan
Date Produced: Edo Period
Special Features: Similar to the Jian Chinese sword; One of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan

Historical Legend of the Tsurugi Sword

Japanese tsurugi is a legendary sword. Tsurugi is one of three Imperial Regalia of Japan. This sword was originally known as Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi or Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven. Later on the name was changed into the more popular Kusanagi-no- Tsurugi or glass cutting sword. The history of the Tsurugi sword extends into legend. According to Japan’s account of ancient matters or Kujiki, the god Susanoo encountered a grieving family headed by Ashinazuchi.  When he inquired, Ashinazuchi said that his family was attack by a fearsome eight headed serpent of Koshi.  This serpent ate eight of his daughters. His only surviving daughter was in danger of being eaten as well. The girl was Kushinada-hime.  Susanoo promised to help in exchange for marrying Kushinada-hime. He instructed the preparation of eight vats of sake or rice wine. This was the bait that he prepared for the monster. Since the monster was destructed he was able to slew the beast. He chopped the beast head and end up cutting its tail. As he chopped its head, he found a great sword in the fourth tail inside of the snake’s body.  He gifted this sword to the goddess Amaterasu to settle an old grievance.

After several generations during the reign of the twelfth Emperor Keiko, Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi was given to the great warrior Yamato Takeru. This act was said to be an attempt of his aunt to protect him during times of peril. This gift served its purpose when Yamato was attacked by a treacherous warlord. He was lured into grassland during a hunting expedition. The warlord throws fiery arrows to set the grass on fire. The purpose was to burn him to death. He killed the warrior’s horse to prevent its escape. In desperation Yamato used the sword to cut the grass and quench the fire. He discovered that he can control the wind. He discovered that he was able to drive the wind with each swing of Samurai Tsurugi. He used this magic to his advantage. He was able to enlarge the scoop of the fire towards the direction of the warlord and his men. With the aid of the winds he set the grass on fire. He was victorious and because of this he renamed the sword as the Grass Cutter Sword. Later on he married and fell in another battle with a monster. He failed to take the sword on this particular battle refusing to listen to his wife.

According to Folklore

Tsurugi was mentioned in the Kojiki. It was only in the Nihonshoki were the Tsurugi sword was mention. Nihonshoki also contains mythological stores that are not treated as official historical records. Only certain sections of the Nihonshoki were considered historical though. According to this journal, this sword was removed from the Imperial Palace in 688 because it was said to be the reason why Emperor Temmu was ill. With the jewel and mirror that comprises the three Imperial Regalia of Japan; Samurai Tsurugi was moved to the Atsuta shrine. Tsurugi represents the virtue of valor. This sword was not displayed to the public. Thus, its existence cannot be confirmed. It was a Shinto priest who was performing repairs and upkeep of Atsuta Shrine that saw the sword. He was replacing the wooden box housing the sword. The priest said that he saw a blade that resembled a calamus leaf. The grip of the sword resembles that of a fish spine. This sword was in white metallic color and was well preserved. After witnessing the sword, the grand priest was banished and later on other priests died from undetermined diseases. The priest who found the Tsurugi survived.

Other Tales to Tell

In a collection of oral stories it was retold that Tsurugi has a replica used for rituals in the Royal Palace. The original piece remains in Atsuta Shrine.  Going back to the replica, it was lost at sea when the Heike clan was defeated in the Battle of Dan-no-ura. It was in this battle that the child Emperor Antoku was defeated. Upon hearing this, his grandmother led the Emperor and his entourage to commit suicide by drowning in the waters of the strait. She took with her two of the three Imperial Regalia. This was the sacred jewel and the sword. The sacred jewel was found in a casket floating on the waves. The sword was lost at sea forever. Other stories mention that the sword was stolen again in the sixth century by a monk from Silla. His ship sank at sea which left the sword on the sea. It was found wash ashore by Shinto priests.

Due to the continued refusal of Shinto priest in showing the sword, nobody can confirm the existence of the sword. However, when Emperor Akihito ascended the throne the sword was shown in 1989 or 1993. The sword, Emperor Seal and the State seal were shrouded in packages. Today, some manufacturers created their version of the Tsurugi. The shape and size was tweaked. The resulting sword has a more aggressive blade in popular sizes that fit into tight crotches without causing damage to whoever carries this sword. Modern tsurugi was lighter and was considered as a big saw. There are no handle screws, nuts or other hardware that can keep it together. A comfortable 2 part rubber grip held together by integration with a full tang blade. A unique aluminum scabbard holds a curve sword that can be attached to the belt or leg. It will depend on the owner where he wants to carry this sword. Because of the history surrounding it, this sword is dubbed as the unseen sword.