Samurai Sword Parts
Parts of the Samurai Sword - Original Japanese descriptions
The Japanese samurai carried two swords in his girdle. They are spoken of collectively as dai-sh'b (long and small), and separately as katana (the long sword) and wakizashi (the companion sword, that is to say, the short sword). There were four other kinds of sword ; namely, (1) the tachi (called also jintachi, or " war" tachi), a long curved blade carried by samurai of high rank; (2) the tsurugi, a straight, double-edged sword used in ancient times (the katana, the wakizashi, and the tachi were all one-edged) ; (3) the aikuchi, a dagger (without guard), used originally for stabbing or decapitating a prostrate foe, and subsequently worn by the samurai when the dai-sho were removed (as on entering a friend's house); and (4) the kaiken (lit. bosom sword), a dagger (without guard) worn by women.
The furniture of the samurai sword, — that is to say, of the katana and the wakizashi, — commencing from the top of the hilt, consists of —
kashira (tip) — a metal cap placed upon the top of the hilt (kashira literally means " head," and in this case is an abbreviation of tsuka-gashira, or the " head of the hilt ").
menuki (rivet) — a piece of metal placed under the frapping of the hilt to improve the grasp. The origin of the menuki will be explained presently. A menuki being placed on either side of the hilt, these ornaments always occur in pairs and have decoration en suite.
fuchi — a metal ring encircling the hilt immediately above the guard. The ornamentation of the fuchi and that of the kashira is always en suite.
tsuba — the guard.
seppa — a small plate through which the haft of the sword passes before entering the guard.
habaki — two flanges (forming a single piece), which grasp the sides of the blade immediately below the seppa. The seppa and the habaki never carry decorative designs of any kind, but are mentioned here for the sake of completeness.
kozuka — a knife inserted in the scabbard of the " companion sword "(wakizashi). The tip of the knife's hilt lies opposite an opening in the guard through which it is drawn when required for use. It is generally supposed that the term kozuka applies to the hilt only of the knife or dagger, the whole being called the kogatana (little sword). But by kozuka the Japanese understand the knife attached to the scabbard of a sword, and by kogatana any knife, such as that used by a wood-carver, for example.
kogai— a skewer inserted in the scabbard of the "companion sword" (wakizashi), on the side opposite to the kozukd. The kogai, like the kozuka, is drawn through an opening in the guard. It thus results that the guard of the " companion sword " has always two oval holes, whereas the guard of the katana is either without these holes, or has them filled with removable plates. The kogai served the samurai as a kind of hair-pin for fastening on his official cap (kammuri). In time of war it was put to a different use, being thrust into the head of a slain adversary for purposes of subsequent identification so that the victor might claim the honour due to his prowess. The kogai sometimes takes the form of a pair of skewers.
Kurigata — an oval knob fastened on one side of the scabbard, and having a hole through which the pendent cord (sage-o) is passed. The sage-o, which is always a strong braid of silk, is twisted round the scabbard like a sword-knot, but its chief use is to tie back the long sleeves of the surcoat during a fight. In the case of the curved sword (tachi), however, the sage-o served to fasten the scabbard to the girdle.
soritsuno — a piece of metal fixed on the scabbard of the " companion sword " below the kurigata to prevent the scabbard from slipping (sori) in the girdle.
kojiri—a metal cap sometimes placed on the end of the scabbard.
The furniture of the curved sword (tachi} has a different nomenclature from the above. Its various parts are as follows : —
Kabuto-gane (lit. helmet-metal)—the cap on the hilt, corresponding to the kashira of the ordinary sword.
Musubi-gane (lit. knot-metal) — a ring attached to the cap for the purpose of receiving a small knot.
Tsuka-ai (lit. hilt-companions) — corresponding to the menuki of the ordinary sword.
Ichi-no-ashi and ni-no-ashi (lit. the first foot and second foot) — two bands with rings encircling the scabbard to receive the sword-knot (sage-o).
Shiba-biki — the lowest ring on the scabbard.
Ishi-zuki — the " boot" of the scabbard.