East Asia, Japan, Edo Period, ca. late 17th century CE. A beautiful wakizashi with a single-edged blade, a scabbard (saya) made of lacquered (urushi) wood with a wooden cap (kojiri), and a handle (tsuka) wrapped with stingray skin (same) and cotton straps (tsuka-ito) topped with a brass cap (kashira) with shakudo butterflies. Two ornaments (menuki) within the handle wrappings depict a mythological creature called a kirin. The lobed iron hand guard (mokko tsuba) rests between brass outer rings and a brass blade cap (seppa). The shinogi-zukuri steel blade has a higher ridge line than the shobu-zukuri design, a diamond-shaped (iori-mune) profile, and a lightly curved (chu-kissaki) tip. An uneven, wavy (doranba) temper pattern formed by the tight-grained hammer-folding process (itame-hada) runs the length of the blade. Size (w/ sheath): 22.125" L x 2.5" W x 29.2" H (56.2 cm x 6.4 cm x 74.2 cm)
This traditional Japanese sword was both a weapon and a symbol of authority and social status. The wakizashi paired with the longer katana sword marked the wearer as a samurai. The shorter sword was seen as an auxiliary weapon, also used for fighting in close quarters. Wakizashi could also be worn by non-samurai if worn alone, and members of the merchant class (chonin) wore them because of the frequency of encountering bandits when traveling between Japan's cities.
Over the centuries that katana and wakizashi were made, the process of their manufacture became heavily regulated. For example, in 1683, the Tokugawa Shogunate made laws concerning the maximum size of katana and wakizashi. Meanwhile, once a samurai took ownership of his new weapon, he had to wear it in a highly regulated manner. Wakizashi and katana in this period were not only deadly weapons but also signs of prestige. The craftsmanship of this piece is evident and reflects hundreds of hours of work.
Blade is unsigned but includes an NBTHK Hozon paper attributed as "Hachimanyama Kiyohira," submitted on June 29, 2007.
Provenance: private J. Jones collection, Boulder, Colorado, USA, acquired in August 2019; ex-private Sacramento, California, USA collection
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