Tsuba Terms

Aka kin red gold, gold alloyed with copper

Ao kin pale gold, gold alloyed with silver

Amida yasuri lines cut in the tsuba radiating out from the center

Ana hole, opening in the tsuba; see hitsu ana, nakago ana, udenuki ana, etc.

Aoi hollyhock

Bori surface carving

Botan peony

Chidori plover, a kind of bird often used in tsuba design

Chu medium sized, middle

Dai large, katana tsuba

Danbira the width of a tsuba

Dote mimi a raised rim on a tsuba

Fuchi the often ornamented collar on the sword handle next to the tsuba

Fukurin a rim cover added to a tsuba, usually, but not always, a soft metal

Gata shape

Gin silver, also called shirogane

Goishi shaped like a go stone; thinner toward the edge

Gumbai a war fan

Ha the cutting edge of a sword, a group or "school" of makers

Hagane edge metal, steel

Hira flat, also the flat part of the tsuba plate

Hiraji surface of the tsuba

Hira zogan inlay that is flush with the surface of the tsuba

Hitsu ana the openings in the tsuba for the kozuka and or kogai

Inaka mono work of a country artist

Inome looks like a heart to us, but it was a boar's eye to the old Japanese

Iri mokko gata a mokko shape with deep cuts to the lobes

Iroe colored picture, referring to designs in various color metals

Irogane colored metal, refers to various soft metals

Ishime a punched plate finish texture that resembles stone

Ita plate

Ito fine or thread, ito sukashi, ito bori, etc.

Ito fukurin a very thin style of fukurin

Ito sukashi very thin, thread like openwork

Ji the ground or plate of a tsuba, (with a different kanji refers to a written character)

Jigane the metal the plate is made of

Jingasa a Japanese soldier's hat

Ji sukashi positive design openwork

Juzu beads, and the style of rim that resembles them

Kabuto a Japanese armor helmet

Kagamishi a mirror maker, believed to have made cast bronze tsuba

Kaga zogan a style of flush, colored metal inlay used in Kaga on fittings and stirrups

Kaji sword maker, blacksmith

Kakihan a stamped or carved artist's seal

Kaku square, kaku gata: square shaped, kaku mimi: square rim

Kaku mimi koniku a square rim with slight rounding, or "meat" to it

Kanagu metal parts of the sword mounting not considered kodogu (seppa, habaki)

Kane metal (same kanji pronounced kin means gold)

Kao an artist's monogram, usually carved or inlaid, in the form of a stylized kanji

Karakuri inlay attached to the plate with a pin

Karakusa an arabesque design motif of vines or branches

Kashira the often ornamented cap on the end of the handle of the sword

Katakiribori a style of carving with a variety of line thickness and depth

Katchushi armor maker

Kawagane a thin layer of different (usually harder) iron on the outside surface of a tsuba

Kebori fine line engraving or carving

Kenjo a generic heavily decorated style of tsuba made for giving as a gift

Kiku chrysanthemum. Kikugata chrysanthemum shaped

Kin gold

Kinko metal worker, commonly refers to fancy soft metal tsuba

Kittate very straight walled sukashi

Ko old or small, depending on the kanji used

Koban an old Japanese gold coin, used to describe a shape of seppa dai

Kodogu the small metal fittings of a sword mounting

Kogai hitsu the opening in the tsuba for the kogai (hair arranging tool)

Kokuin a hot stamped surface design

Koshirae the whole mounting of a sword

Kozuka hitsu the opening in the tusba for the kozuka (utility knife)

Kuchibeni the small bits of soft metal added to the nakago ana to fit the tsuba to a sword

Kuni the old provinces of Japan, country

Kusarakashi a surface treatment produced by intentional corrosion or etching

Maru round, maru gata: round shaped, maru mimi: round rim

Matsukawabishi a linked diamond shaped pattern, representing pine bark/tree

Mei signature

Migaki ji smooth surface finish on a tsuba

Mimi the rim of the tsuba. (the dictionary definition is ear, which sort of makes sense)

Mokko the lobed shape

Mokume ji the steel is etched to bring out the pattern of the folding

Mumei unsigned

Mune the back edge of the sword

Nagegaku gata a rounded off, slightly oval, square shape

Nagamaru gata oval shaped

Nakabiku tsuba with the seppa dai lower (thinner) than the mimi

Nakadaka tsuba with the seppa dai higher (thicker) than the mimi

Nakago ana the opening for the nakago (sword tang) to pass through

Nanako a punched pattern of raised dots, usually on soft metal fittings

Nawa mimi a rope pattern edge

Nerikawa tsuba a guard made out of leather

Niku meat, usually refers to thickness, swelling or rounding of the metal

Nikuoki a pleasing variation in the surface hammering and forging

Nunome the surface of the tsuba is cut with a cross hatch pattern and metal is pressed in

Odawara fukurin a style of rim cover with a row of raised bumps

Okigane soldered on inlay

Omote the front side

Ototsu irregular thickness

Rogin an alloy of copper and silver, also see shibuichi

Sahari an alloy of tin, lead and copper, used as inlay on Hazama tsuba

Sakura cherry, a common flower in sukashi tsuba designs

Sekigane the small bits of soft metal added to the nakago ana to fit the tsuba to a sword

Sendai yasuri vertical file marks, tsuba with these are always attributed to Sendai

Sentoku an alloy of copper, lead and zinc

Sen zogan line inlay

Seppa the "washers" used on either side of the tsuba in a sword mounting

Seppa dai the "table" or area on the tsuba covered by the seppa, usually has no decoration

Shakudo and alloy of copper and 3-6% gold; blue-black color

Shibuichi a 4 to 1 alloy of copper and silver; gray-silver color

Shigure yasuri vertical file marks made to look like falling rain

Shinchu brass, yellow metal; old Japanese/Chinese brass looks different from modern

Shino yasuri diagonal file marks made to look like driving rain

Shippo cloisonné

Shiremono mass produced work

Shishiaibori low relief carving below the level of the tsuba surface

Sho small, wakizashi tsuba

Suaka pure copper

Suemon inlay of slightly raised metal covering a large area of the plate

Sukashi (sukashibori) cut out open work

Sukidashi (sukibori) a carving technique that leaves the design raised rather than cut in

Suritukezogan metal inlayed by pressing into a thin carved line

Tachikanaguchi a tachi fitting maker

Takabori (takanikubori) high relief "3 D" carving

Takanikuzogan high relief inlay

Tekkotsu iron bones: lumps of high carbon material visible on the tsuba, usually in the rim

Ten zogan dot inlay

Tetsu iron

Toban an old term for tsuba

Tosho sword maker

Tsubaka tsuba lover

Tsubako tsuba maker

Tsuchime hammer marks

Tsuchime ji tsuba with the surface finished in visible hammer marks

Ubuzukashi round carving, also called maru bori

Uchikaeshi mimi a dote (raised) mimi (rim) hammered from the plate and turned back

Udenuki ana two small holes by the lower rim of some tsuba representing sun and moon

Ume plum, a common flower depicted on sukashi tsuba

Ura the back side

Uttori attachment of inlay around its edges only

Yakite shitate a melted surface finish

Yamagane unrefined copper, also called nigurome

Yanone Japanese arrow head

Yasuri file marks or lines cut in the plate of the tsuba

Zogan inlayed metal

Copyright 1996, 1999 Jim Gilbert

Also see Harry Watson's glossary of sword terms

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