Project Description

This sixteenth century steel tsuba was crafted for a katana, or what is commonly referred to as a samurai sword. The tsuba is of the Genshu Suruga style and very plain in its overall design. Each tsuba shape has its own name, the simple circular shape being known as Maru Gata. Katanas and other Japanese blades had numerous dedicated craftsmen for their components, and there were dynasties of craftsmen whose workshops made only tsubas. This tsuba was created during either the Muromachi or Momoyama periods of Japanese history, both having been known for their feudal kingdoms. Tsubas prevent a warrior’s hand from slipping onto the blade, and tsubas created during these periods were often more functional than decorative. This tsuba is one of sixteen within a collection presented to Berea College as a gift of Frank Gunsalus in 1978. The sixteen tsubas are each decorated in different ways, some are very simple, while others show very elaborate decoration. They are kept as a collection in a lacquer box and captivate connoisseurs of East Asian metal work. The tsubas, as well as other pieces of East Asian art from the Berea College collection are included in the ASIANetwork database, an online compilation to be used for educational purposes. Numerous liberal arts institutions participate in the Network, allowing for a diverse array of Asian artwork to be shared. (

-Charla Hamilton, Class of 2015

Object Details

16th C.
3 3/8" x 3 1/4"
Metal Work
Gift of Frank Gunsaulus