Japanese Swords in the Collection of the Tachibana Family

In the Edo period, the Tachibana family possessed many swords, all of which were suitable for the status of feudal lords. Each sword holds its own significant meaning and unique story that reflects the family’s history.

By Tachibana Museum

Portrait of Bekki Dousetsu (1624) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Swords Owned by Bekki Dousetsu, the Founder of the Tachibana Family

Wakizashi sword, named Raikirimaru (13th-16th century, Kamakura~Muromachi period) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Raikirimaru_19E85
00:00

Wakizashi sword named "Raikirimaru"

Raikiri is a legendary sword of Bekki Dōsetsu, the first head of the Tachibana family. It was originally a long tachi sword named “Chidori,” but then was recut into a medium length wakizashi sword. One day, when Dōsetsu was taking a nap under a big tree, a thunderbolt suddenly struck him. He rapidly withdrew his sword Chidori and slashed at the lightning. Thereafter, its name was changed from “Chidori” to “Raikiri” which means the lightning cutter.

Naginata, signed ‘Taira-no-Iemori’, Taira Iemori, 1553-03-13, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

【 Naginata, signed Taira-no-Iemori】

 According to the inscription on the font side of the tang, this naginata (halberd), was made in 1553 by Taira-no-Iemori. Whilst the inscription on the back side says that this was Dōsetsu’s favorite sword.

Black lacquered naginata mounting, Unknown, 16th century, Momoyama period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

【Black lacquered naginata mounting】                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This sword mounting was created for Dōsetsu’s naginata (halberd) . Out of all the existing mountings for Japanese halberds, this is one of the oldest ones and important example to trace the history of sword mountings for halberds.

Scabbard with maki-e design of the Tachibana family crests (19th century, Edo period) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Swords Featuring the Tachibana Family Crests

"Gionmamori" and "Gyōyō" Crests

Portrait of Tachibana Akitora, Unknown, 18th century, Edo period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

【Portrait of Tachibana Akitora】

This is a portrait of the 3rd lord of the Yanagawa domain. The sword depicted on his right is decorated with lots of gold fittings and applied with a gold maki-e design of family crest. This sumptuous ornament reflects the affluence of the Genroku era (1688-1704).

Hoso-dachi sword mounting with maki-e design of Gyoyo crest, Unknown, 17th-19th century, Edo period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

Hoso-dachi sword mounting with maki-e design of Gyōyō crest】


Hoso-dachi means a slender sword. This type of sword was utilized for ceremonies but not for functional purposes. The scabbard of this example is decorated with a gold maki-e design of Gyōyō crest over the nashiji (pear skin pattern) finish surface.

White ray-skin hilt with Gyoyo crest ornaments, Unknown, 17th-19th century, Edo period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

【White ray-skin hilt with Gyōyō crest ornaments】

This hilt was made of wood and wrapped with white ray skin. The granular pattern on the surface plays a role of slip-stop. Additionally, this is also the aesthetic part. The two gold ornament pieces portray the alternate crest ‘Gyoyo’ of the Tachibana family.

Ribbed scabbard with maki-e design of Gionmamori crest, Unknown, 17th century, Edo period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

【Ribbed scabbard with maki-e design of Gionmamori crest】

This ribbed scabbard is coated with lacquer of gold nashiji (pear skin pattern). On the lacquer finish, the Tachibana family crest and arabesque pattern are depicted in gold and silver with sprinkled powder. It seems to be virtually impossible to apply such a delicate design on the groove-lined base.

Scabbard with maki-e design of the Tachibana family crests, Unknown, 19th century, Edo period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

【Scabbard with maki-e design of the Tachibana family crests】

This is a scabbard for chiisagatana (a short sword and the only sword that feudal lords were permitted to wear at the shogun’s court). It is decorated in many styles of the Tachibana family crest in high-relief maki-e design. Each crest was individually used by the successor in the Edo period (1600-1868).

Set of sword fittings with Gionmamori crest design, Unknown, 17th century, Edo period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

【Set of sword fittings with Gionmamori crest design】

This set of sword fittings has a unified design of the Tachibana family crest. It consists of kogai and menuki. Kogai is a rod which was carried in a slot of a scabbard. On the rods, the crest is represented in high-relief carving. Menuki is an ornament pieces placed on either side of a hilt. The pieces are carved out in the shape of the crest.

Urumi lacquered sword carrying case with Gionmamori crest, Unknown, 19th century, Edo period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

Urumi lacquered sword carrying case with Gionmamori crest】                                                                                                                                                                      When feudal lords travel, their swords were stored in strong cases with elaborate decorations. This sword case is coated with glossy, reddish-brown lacquer called ‘urumi’ and decorated with the Tachibana family crest in gold maki-e design.

Portrait of Tachibana Muneshige (1654) by Unknown, inscription by Rankei SoueiTachibana Museum

The Swords Owned by Tachibana Muneshige, the First Lord of the Yanagawa Domain

Katana sword, attributed to Kanemitsu, attributed to Kanemitsu, 14th century, Nanbokucho period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

Katana sword, attributed to Kanemitsu】

The blade shows an abrupt undulation pattern which was introduced by Kanemitsu’s father, Kagemitsu, and continued by Kanemitsu of the Osafune school, a renowned swordsmith group.
According to the document of the Tachibana family, Muneshige received this sword from his foster father, Dōsetsu, and always carried it in battle.

Wakizashi sword, signed Sadamune, Unknown, 14th-16th century, Muromachi period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

Wakizashi sword, signed Sadamune】

According to a document of the Tachibana family, Muneshige was equipped with following three swords in the Invasion of Korea: ken sword ‘Nagamitsu’, katana sword ‘Kanemitsu’ and this wakizashi sword ‘Sadamune’.

Tanto sword, signed Yasuyoshi, Sa-no-Yasuyoshi, 14th century, Nanbokucho period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

Tantō sword, signed Yasuyoshi】
 
As stated by a document of the Tachibana family, this sword had been handed down from the first Lord Muneshige to the second and third lords as a weapon. Subsequently, the third lord gave it to his son as a talisman, hoping the sword could protect him.

Ken sword, signed Nagamitsu (13th century, Kamakura period) by Osafune NagamitsuTachibana Museum

E87_長光
00:00

【Important Cultural Property】  Ken sword, signed Nagamitsu

On the day Muneshige was adopted by Dōsetsu at the age of 15, this sword was given to him from his father with the words-”if we should ever fight on opposite sides, you should be the head of the army that would kill me, or otherwise you should commit suicide bravely with this sword.”
 
Nagamitsu, was an outstanding swordsmith in the 13th century.

Tanto sword, signed Yoshimitsu (13th century, Kamakura period) by Awataguchi YoshimitsuTachibana Museum

E86_吉光
00:00

【National Treasure】Tantō sword, signed Yoshimitsu

It is believed that the Ashikaga shogun bestowed this tantō (dagger) on an ancestor of the Tachibana family in 1336.
Yoshimitsu, commonly known as ‘Toshiro,’ was an expert in making tantō. Over 700 years have passed, and this refined sword remains as if it were made yesterday.

Aikuchi-style mounting, Unknown, 17th century, Edo period, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

Aikuchi-style mounting】 
                                                              This sword mounting was made for a tantō sword ‘Yoshimitsu’. This mounting style with no hand guard between the hilt and scabbard is called ‘aikuchi’ (lit. fitting mouth). Swords in this style were worn by the upper-class samurai on ceremonial occasions. The scabbard is coated with black lacquer while the hilt is wrapped in ray fish skin.      

Credits: Story

Tachibana Foundation TACHIBANA MUSEUM


Curated by
UENO Kaori (TACHIBANA MUSEUM)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps