National TreasureDecorative Sword Mounting

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  • 梨地螺鈿金荘餝劔
  • 1 piece
  • Total length: 103.3 Hilt length: 20.8 Sheath length: 81.1 Handguard: 7.8×5.2 
  • Heian period/12th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • F-356

Swords with decorative mountings (J. kazaritachi) were carried by high-ranking nobles at official court ceremonies and could only be used with special permission from the Emperor. These mountings are characterized by rayskin-covered hilts, Chinese-style sword guards (J. karatsuba), and long metal fittings on the scabbard (J. saya) and hilt (J. tsuka).

The metal fittings on this mounting are decorated with a detailed chrysanthemum pattern in gilt openwork carved in high relief over a silver ground. The two fittings closer to the scabbard's mouth have raised sections on to which hanging straps are fitted. In view of their distinctive profile, these are known as "mountain-shaped fittings" (J. yamagata kanamono). The areas on the scabbard between the metal fittings are decorated with long-tailed birds in mother-of-pearl inlay (J. raden) on lacquer "pear-skin" ground (J. nashiji). The slight but graceful curve of the overall form is a Japanese departure from the straightness of earlier examples that adhere more closely to Chinese prototypes.

This mounting was handed down in the Hirohashi family, descendants of the northern branch of the aristocratic Fujiwara clan, and is reputed to have been owned by the Nara-period (710-794) government official Fujiwara Matate.