Japanese Art from the Floating World
Woodblock Prints

"Fate is in Heaven, the armor is on the breast, success is with the legs. Go to the battlefield firmly confident of victory, and you will come home with no wounds whatever. Engage in combat fully determined to die and you will be alive; wish to survive in the battle and you will meet death When you leave the house determined not to see it again you will come home safely; when you have any thought of returning you will not return. You may not be in the wrong to think that the world is always subject to change, but the arrior must not entertain this way of thinking, for his fate is always determined."
- Uesugi Kenshin (known as Dragon of Echigo, God of War) (1530-78)

The earliest tsuba, or sword guards, are identified by the hole for the hilt, or handle, of the steel blades and sometimes a dagger and tool.  The tsuba was made of rather brittle cast iron and other soft metals, added for decoration, such as gold, silver, copper, and brass.

The variety of forms and decoration applied made the tsuba a collector’s favorite for at least two centuries after the samurai sword saw real action in battle. Throughout the Edo Period (1615–1868), the tsuba became more and more elaborately decorative.

Selections from the exhibition:


To view additional tsuba and explore the role of armor visit the exhibition at the Ball State University Museum of Art.
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