Motif on sword mount

We have received a question from a customer that about the mitif of sword mount. The subjct is too complicated to explain clearly. But, anyhow, we will try to explain. We hope the information in this page will help you to study sword mounts.

There are various styles of mount, and several grades of them. Those depends with the usage, the grade of the owner, the spirit of owner, ages, and etc.
In rough saying, before 16th century, each fittings are not made using various metals. The total taste is more important than the small details.
We will introduce several mounts from

Tachi mount of nobilities in 12th century
A decorative sword
The style of the nobilities sword has not changed much for 1000 years. It is straight or a small curvature. They keep the old style that learned from China.

Tachi mount of samurai
On most of tachi mount, the motif is one unified pattern. It is not always put on all the fittings of the mount. Some tachi has decorative patterns only on some of the parts, and some has no patterns at all. A tachi mount made with simple fittings is not rare. Such mount still has neat curvature from the top of handle to the bottom of scabbard.

Tachi mount in 13th century

Tachi mount in 14th century
A tachi mount used by NAMBU Masanaga

Tachi mount in 15th century
A gold poulownia tachi mount

Katana mount
There is not a typical style of Katana mount before 16th century. Most of them are simple and small decoration. The taste should be the same to the simple tachi mount, but high rank samurai didn't use katana in this age. So we don't find high grade katana mount then. Tanto and wakizashi are used by high rank samurai, so there are mounts that accord with such grade.
Wakizashi mount in 14th century
A peony motif mount

There is one typical style of mount in 16th century, that is called Tensho style. The style appears around the Tensho era (1573-1592). It is the time high rank samurai start to use katana instead of tachi. The scabbard is simple black painted and so is the ray skin on the handle. Most of fittings also are simple. Only the menuki, kozuka, and kogai have some motif on them. These three pieces can be unified. Usually fuchi and kashira are not made as a set. One unique point comparing to the mount before age is the handle shape. The middle of handle is narrow while the fuchi and kashira is thick. This handle shape is necessary to call it the Tensho style. This mount can be used for both life time and battle field. The tsuba Tosho style and Katchushi style can match for the Tensho.
Tensho style
A katana mount of Hiro

A little later of the Tensho style, another typical style appeared. It is Momoyama style. The mount is colouful, and the fuchi and tsuba have some decoration. It is ornate, but still has samurai spirit. The ray skin on the handle is lacquered for water proof. The tsuba Owari style, Nobuie, Kaneie can match for this mount.
Momoyama style
A red and gold daisho mount used by TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi
A red katana mount of Motoshige

After 17th century, there was no big war in Japan, until the samurai age ending in the end of 19th century. It was a peaceful age for over 200 years. Swords became ornate according with people forgetting battle field. The fashion appeared not only on the mount, but also on the blade. That is a reason why we distinguish blades between Koto and Shinto. In this Shinto age, people's interest onto the mount became the details more than the total taste. Some of the fittings were really excellent as metal art.
In this age, there is a formal mount that is used as a part of the formal wear. The scabbard is black painted. The handle is wrapped with white ray skin and black or dark coloured silk cord. The fittings are made of shakudo or buffalo horn. The motif is only the family mark.
Formal mount, in castle and for normal ceremonies
A black katana mount of Unsho

In the 18th century, the mount is an art rather than weapon. It is an accumulation of art and crafts. Most of the mount we find today is from this age. There are various kinds of fittings in the motifs and the metals. A mount is constructed picking up the fittings by sophisticated sense. Usually fuchi and kashira are made as a set. It is not rare of the raw white ray skin on handle. People compeatd their sword mount as an art and a symbol of their status. Especially big marchants were so.
Even in this age, there are simple and powerful taste mounts. Usually the mount suggests the finantial situation of the owner, but not always. Some samurai were prepairing for battle field even in the peaceful days.
Most of antique metal fittings we find today are also from this age.

Some examples of matching fittings
1) A katana mount in classical style => koshirae of Naohiro10
2) Momoyama style => fuchi fittings9. What tsuba is suitable?
The menuki (Memuki4) is the same age, but we don't think it match to the others. Something exept for plants is better. But it is just our sense.
3) Sample of Sword Mount 1. The fuchi and kashira set and the menuki are very matching. The tsuga is just a geometric design, but we think its elegant feeling can match with other fittings.
4) Fittings11. What fittings are suitable for this fuchi/kashira? How about the tsuba "Shigenari"?
The menuki should be made of shakudo or gold. A menuki made of various metals may be not suitable, because the fuchi/kashira is simple colour. The menuki should be simple colour too. The motif shouldn't be other fishes. If there are various fishes on a sword, it seems like a fish shop.
5) The tsuba of radiate design should match with simple design fittings. Thinking matching fittings is a pleasure of mount designing.

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