Under construction and translation

Tōsō and Tōsōgu

About Tōsō and Tōsōgu

The exterior for carrying a sword is called Tōsō. And its parts are called Tōsōgu. These are a culmination of advanced techniques of sword artisans in each field.


Koshirae is a form of Tōsō. There are Tachi koshirae and Uchigatana koshirae, but there is a difference in how to wear around waist belt, and even the same part of the Tōsō, the names are conveniently differentiated by period and type.

Tachi Koshirae

① Kazaari tachi koshirae

② Sayajiri (Ishitsuki) ③ Nanatsukane ④ Obitori ⑤ Yamagatagane ⑥ Karatsuba ⑦ Fuchikanamono ⑧ Tsuka (Shirasame) ⑨ Kabutogane ⑩ Temekio ⑪ Tawarabyō ⑫Menuki ⑬ Kuchikanamono ⑭ Nagakazari

⑮ Hyōgokusari tachi

⑯ Semegane ⑰ Fukurin ⑱ Yaguragane ⑲ Hyōgokusari ⑳Tsuba ㉑ Tawarabyō ㉒ Tsuka (Shirasame) ㉓ Kabutogane (Tsukagashira) ㉔ Menuki ㉕ Fuchikanamono ㉖Kuchikanamono ㉗ Harubi ㉘ Sayajri (Ishitsuki)

㉙ Itomaki tachi koshirae

㉚ Saya ㉛ Ninoashi ㉜ Obitori ㉝ Ichinoashi ㉞ Tsuka ㉟Kabutogane (Tsukagashira) ㊱ Sarute ㊲ Tsukamaki ㊳Menuki ㊴ Tsuba ㊵ Sayakuchi (Kuchikanamono) ㊶Harubigane ㊷ Watarimaki ㊸ Kōragane ㊹Semegane ㊺Sayajiri (Ishitsuki)

Uchigatana koshirae


There are two types of Tsuba: One for Tachi, and other one for Uchigatana and Yōtō. The upper and lower positions of the Nakagohitsu (center hole of Tsuba to put a sword) are reversed in both cases. Many Tachi tsuba were made before the Muromachi period, when Tachi koshirae were often used. There are leather Tsuba with thickly laminated layers of Nerikawa (treated leather which remains solid and light in weight) and Fukurin (rim cover of a tsuba), others are made of gilt-bronze or iron plate, large and thinly built or with thick Fukurin, or with Ōseppa (large washers). Depending on the shape, material, type, etc., there are Neri Tsuba, Aoi Tsuba, Mokkō Tsuba, and Kurumasukashi Tsuba.

Since the Momoyama Period, they were mainly Uchigatana tsuba, and Tachi tsuba was limited to ceremonial usage such as Itomaki tachigoshirae (with top of saya wrapped with thread). Uchigatana tsuba was made with various artistries depending on the region, school, creator, etc. Especially since the mid-Edo period, numerous metal Tsuba and props were made using various colored metals and metal engraving techniques, and many master craftsmen were produced.


The handle part of sword. Since the early modern period, exclusively the magnolia obovata has been wrapped with white shagreen and wrapped with a wrapping technique called Hishi-itomaki. In past times, Yuzu and hardwood were used, and in ancient times, rhinoceros horn, rosewood, aloes wood, black persimmon, zelkova, bishopwood, and shagreen, etc. were used. Kuge tachi and Gijō tachi were not wrapped with Hishimaki technique, and Nameshigawa maki (tanned leather wrapping).

Itomaki (thread wrapping) were for samurai warrior class. Since the Sengoku period, the shark skin wrapped with Itomaki pattern has become a common custom. Sharkskin was often coated with black lacquer to withstand the rain and dew, and in addition to Nameshigawa and Hiragumi ito (flat braided thread), baleen and hemp thread wraps were also used.


When wearing a sword, it is put in a Saya (scabbard), but in the old periods, there were some scabbards made of cowhide or bamboo, and later, more and more were made of magnolia obovat, and structured thinly.

After that, they got to be made thicker, and with leather wrapped scabbards and lacquered scabbards were often used. For the highly decorative Tachi koshirae of the Middle Ages, gilt bronze or silver etc. were used, and there were also Nishiki tsutsumi scabbards (wrapped with brocade cloth), Hirumaki scabbards (decorated with spiral bands of metals such as silver-plated copper, etc.), and Tōmaki scabbards (wrapped with calameae) and so on. As the material of the scabbard, leather wooden scabbards were used for ceremonial events, also Ikakeji, Raden, or Makie (all three are the technique of lacquerwork) were also used.

鶴足皮包葵紋散鞘殿中鐺打刀拵 (Tsuru ashi kawa tsutsumi aoi mon chirashi saya denchū kojiri uchigatana koshirae)

Lacquered scabbards were used exclusively for Uchigatana, Wakizashi, and Tantō in the modern era, but there were Black Roiro lacquered scabbards as Daisyō (a pair of the large and small ones) of the formal Samurai style. Additionally, engraved scabbards were used to prevent the slipping of the scabbards. Since the middle of the Edo period, engraving of metal fitting of Tōshō has become popular. Due to the influence of the townspeople’s culture, various types of Kawarinuri scabbards were developed in order to change the coating of Saya.

There were Togidashisame nuri, Kairagizame nuri, Aomijingai nuri, Isokusa nuri, Botanmon nuri, Mushikui nuri, Shuroke nuri, Take nuri, Ishime nuri, Rankaku nuri, etc., and Makie nuri was often used at the end of the Edo period.

The above scabbards were made using advanced lacquer painting techniques, and were highly artistic. The most common way in order to carefully store these Koshirae scabbards and to preserve the swords kept unused for long periods of time, is storing sword in a Shirasaya.


Shirasaya (plain wood storage scabbard) has a name Shiraki no saya (bare wood scabbard), and is also called Yasume Saya or Abura Saya. It is important for a correct fitting saya as a scabbard out of alignment or the blade touches the scabbard, it will causes rust on the blade. The inside of the scabbard can also be damaged causing splinters which can scratch the blade. It’s also difficult to do Warizaya (splitting the scabbard) in order to remove the rust from the inside if it’s a lacquered scabbard or attached with any Tōsōgu, and the blade can be damaged. For this reason, separately a Shirasaya was developed for easier Warizaya and cleaning of the inside of the scabbard.

This was used in the early modern period, and in the early days, only Saya was replaced with another Shirasaya together with Tsuka of Koshirae and stored, but after modern times, it has started to be put in Shirasaya together with Tsuka and Saya. Shirasaya is made exclusively of magnolia obovata. Magnolia obovata is low in oil, and its wood quality is relatively uniform, soft and easy to process. The heart wood of the big tree is said to be the best.


Habaki is the meaning of the waistcoat for the blade, and is also called Sayabashiridome or 腰巾金. It is located between the blade and Nakago (tang), and when combined with the Koi-kuchi part of Saya, the blade floats inside Saya and serves to support the blade from hitting the wood part of Saya.

There are Tachi habaki and Katana habaki. Some very old Tachi habaki are inserted from Kissaki and fixed at Tsuba, however, later, they have been all fitted from Nakakojiri and stopped there. Originally, it was made of iron by blacksmiths, and later on, copper, silver, gold, etc. were used.

Tetsu (iron) habaki is the original one and is highly valued as Tomohabaki. Tachi habaki does not have a Nomikuchi (ridge) of Mune (spine), and Katana habaki does have a Nomikuchi and there are single and double habaki. Kotō (old swords) often have double Habaki, and Shintō (new swords) single Habaki. In the Edo period, there are usually many copper-made Habaki without patterns, and silver and gold Habaki were used for Daimyo family swords and famous swords.

Since the modern era, exclusively gold Habaki has increasingly been used due to its gorgeous color and appeal. Since colored gold other than iron is used, Habaki was mainly made by artisans called Shiroganeshi. There are with gold layered Kinkise habaki and with silver layered Ginkise habaki, Mon habaki carved with family crests and patterns, as well as the ones with various types of processing such as Yūjō yasuri or Higaki yasuri, etc.

About materials and techniques of Tōshōgu

Various metal materials are used for sword fittings, depending on the social class of their user. Gold, silver and gilded metals are often used for ceremonial swords and swords for high ranking samurai families. Most of the samurai swords are made of iron and copper, and they are also lacquered for aesthetics and rust prevention.

Early modern Uchigatana and Wakizashi are often decorated with metal engraving techniques. In addition to iron, copper is made from Yamagane (unrefined copper) and Nigurome (copper alloy), and is further gilded. Often used is Yakigane (high-purity gold), Aokin (gold with silver alloyed) and Kobankin, and silverwork is also called the Nanryō.

Also alloy materials are used in the Edo period, such as Shakudō (red copper), Udō (copper and gold alloy), Shibuichi (silver and copper alloy), Rōgin (copper and silver alloy), and Shinchū (brass = alloy of copper and zinc), and so on. Shakudō is a metal material that has been used exclusively by the Goto family for props since the Muromachi period. The Nanakoji patterned plate carved the patterns on with Takanikubori technique, and a technique for representing gold and others in colored pictures is the features of their family carving.

Techniques vary depending on the shape of the Tsuba, props, etc., but there are several types of molding, including forging and Uchidashi carving. And as decoration techniques, there are Sukashibori, Keribori, Katakiribori, Nanakouchi, Takanikubori, Shishiaibori, Sukibori, Zōgan, Nunomezōgan, Hirazōgan, and so on.

Techniques for applying gold color include Kinkeshi mekki, Utsutori, Fukurokise, Kinkise, Kinzōgan, Kin nunomezōgan, Fukumikin, and they are called Kiniroe (gold-colored painting).

In addition to the Tsuba, the metal fittings used for Tōsōgu since the modern era include Fuchi, Kashira, Menuki, Kozuka, Kōgai, Habaki, Seppa, Kuchigane, Kurikata, Seme, Kojiri, etc. The fittings engraved decorations include Tsuba, Fuchi, Kashira, Menuki, Kozuka, and Kōgai, etc. Kozuka, Kōgai, and Menuki are called Mikoromono, and two types of metal fittings are called Futatokoromono and it was customary to separate them from the Tōsō koshirae in order to appreciate them. As a result, metal-carving techniques were developed as an art form and became one of the features of Edo art. Since the middle of the Edo period, many of these goldsmiths were produced, and each of them competed for the skills to make masterpieces, and holding appraisals had begun.

Appraisals and the Gotō family

During the Muromachi period, the paintings of the Tang dynasty were appraised by the Dōhō shū (the aides of Shogun and Daimyo, people who engaged in entertainment and civil service) of the shogunate.

The swords were appraised by the Honami family, and during the Keicho period, Honami Kōtoku appraised and Honami Kōshitsu issued Origami.

Appraisal of the fittings started with the works appraisal by the Goto family. The Goto family was descended from Gotō Yūjō, who served under Ashikaga Shogun Yoshimasa, and his descendants continued to lead the family to the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. Yūjō, Sōjō, and Jōshin‘s are Mumei (without sign carved), and it is said that they didn’t carved until the 4th generation Kōjō, but the existing works with Kōjō‘s signs are the ones with Kiwame-mei (Attribution by later generation) of the Goto family. Goto‘s appraisal Origami was issued for the first time since the 5th generation Tokujō. It is noteworthy that Tokujō was the first in the Goto family to make a Tsuba and to start using the ingot Shakudō for the first time. Some of the Mumei objects from the old eras after Yūjō were carved with Kiwame-mei by Kakujō, Teijō Mitsumasa, Enjō Mitsutaka, and Jujō Mitsumasa after the 7th Kenjo, and also the Origami were issued.

Tosogu and Fittings Terminology

Iron Schools – Tsuba 鐔
Aizu shoami会津正阿弥
Akita shoami秋田正阿弥
Bizen shoami備前正阿弥
Heianjo Zogan平安城象嵌
Hikone Bori Soten彦根彫宗典
Kyo Sukashi京透
Myochin明珍 明弥
Myochin Ki明弥 紀
Onin応仁 (應仁)
Owari sukashi尾張 透
Tachi Kanagu-shi太刀金具師
Tosa Myochin土佐明珍
Kinko Schools – 金工
Goto 後藤
Hagiya 萩谷
Higo Kinko肥後金工
Shoami- Akita正阿弥秋田
Koshirae – 拵
 Aikuchi合口sword without tsuba
 Banzashi-Daisho番差大小pair of swords worn during castle duty
 Chiisagatana小さ刀tanto with tsuba and tsukamaki
 Daisho大小paired swords, usually katana and wakizashi
 Dashizame出し鮫same-covered sword handle without wrapping
 Efu-Tachi衛府太刀used by imperial guards and high ranking officials of the shogunate
 Fuchikashira縁頭fittings at the tip (kashira) and mouth (fuchi) of the handle
Futatokoromonoニ所物2 items, usually kogai and kozuka
Gangi-makileather strip handle wrap, may be lacquered over
 Gyakute逆手reversed grip (menuki)
 Haichimonji-Tsuka刃一文字柄type of handle shape
 Hamidashi喰出しtanto with very small tsuba
 Hamon刃紋pattern of the temper line of a blade
 Han-dachi半太刀literal- half tachi, a katana mounted like a tachi without the hangers, worn edge up
 Higo-Koshirae肥後拵koshirae from the higo province
 Hirazukuri平造flat blade – no shinogi
 Honoki朴ノ木magnolia wood
 Horimono彫物carvings on the blade of the sword
 Hoso-Tachi細太刀literal – narrow tachi
 Hyogo-Kusari-Tachi兵庫鎖太刀tachi with chain-hangers
 Imogata-Tsuka芋形柄handle shape
 Itomaki no Tachi糸巻太刀tachi with cord wrapping on the tsuka and upper part of the saya
 Jin-dachi陣太刀tachi for combat
 Kaeri返りhook on the scabbard to prevent it from slipping upwards
 Kaeri-zuno返り角kaeri made of horn
 Kaiken懐剣tanto for women
 Kakemaki掛巻tsukaito crossed over the kashira
 Kanagu金具metal fittings of the koshirae; other terms are → tosogu or → kodogu
 Kanto韓刀curved sword of korean origin
 Kashiracap of handle
 Katakiriha片切刃chisel-edge blade
 Katanalong sword (over 2 shaku) worn edge up
 Katate-Uchigatana片手打刀katana for single-handed use
 Kawazutsumi-Tachi皮包太刀tachi with a leather cover
 Kazari-Tachi飾太刀literal- decorative tachi
 Kenukigata-Tachi毛抜形太刀literal – hair tweezer tachi, cutout in nakago resembles such
 Kinko金工soft / precious metal work
 Kodachi小太刀tachi shorter than 2 shaku
 Kodogu小道具small fittings
 Kogaismall knife in a pocket of the saya
 Kogai-Hitsu笄櫃slot in the tsuba for the kogai
 Kogatana小刀small knife for the kozuka
 Koiguchi鯉口the opening of the scabbard
 Kojirifitting at the tip of the scabbard
 Koshigatana腰刀literal – hip sword, tanto
 Koshiraemountings of the japanese sword
 Kozuka小柄the handle of a small knife in a pocket of the saya
 Kozuka-Hitsu小柄櫃slot in the tsuba for the kozuka
 Kurigata栗形“chestnut shape”, stopper on the side of the scabbard through which the sageo goes
 Kurourushi-Tachi黒漆太刀black lacquered tachi
 Meiinscribed signature of the maker
 Mekugi目釘fastening pin for the sword handle
 Menuki目貫ornamental fittings on the handle
 Mitokoromono三所物literal – things of 3 places: Usually menuki, kozuka and kogai
 Monouchi物打striking part, upper 1/3 of the blade
 Morozori-Tsuka諸反り柄handle shape
 Munespine of a blade
 Muzori無反りblade without curvature
 Nanako七子fish roe pattern on fittings
 Nodachi野太刀literal – field tachi; very long tachi, odachi
 Nurizaya塗り鞘lacquered scabbard
 Obitori帯執the hangers of the tachi
 odachi大太刀very long tachi → nodachi
 O-Wakizashi大脇差very long wakizashi
 Ryugo-Tsuka立鼓柄handle shape
 Sageo下緒silk (typically) band that goes through the kurigata
 Sakizori先反りcurvature is deepest toward the tip of the blade
 Samegawa鮫皮ray skin
 Samenuri鮫塗polished same with lacquered interstices
 Sentoku宣徳alloy of copper, lead and zinc
 Seoi-Nodachi背負野太刀nodachi worn on the back
 Seppa切羽spacers / washers for the tsuba
 Shibuichi四分一silver and copper
 Shikomizue仕込杖sword hidden in a walking stick
 Shinogi-zukuri鎬造blade with a ridge on both sides
 Shirasya白鞘plain wooden storage scabbard
 Shiri-zaya尻鞘fur cover for the scabbard
 Shobuzukuri菖蒲造“iris leaf shaped” sword blade
 Shogun将軍supreme military commander
 Sunnobi-Tanto寸延短刀tanto a little longer than 1 shaku
 Susudakeすす竹smoked, seasoned bamboo
 Tensho-Koshirae天正拵koshirae of the tensho period
 Tetsuiron / steel
 Toppei-Koshirae突兵拵koshirae worn with western cloths and military uniform
 Tosogu刀装具sword fittings
 Tsubahand guard
 Tsukaito柄糸lace used for hilt binding
 Tsukamaki柄巻hilt wrapping
 Tsurugidifferent pronounciation for ken
 Uchizori-Tsuka内反り柄type of handle shape
 Yagyu-Koshirae柳生拵a type of koshirae named after the yagyu family
Motif / Theme – 題
Romanji KanjiDescription
Shikunshi四君子the four nobles, plum, orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum
Akigusa秋草autumn grasses.
Akimushi秋虫autumn insects
Akitsu秋津dragonfly – old word
Aki no nanakusa秋の七草seven flowers of autumn
Amime網目a net
Asagaomorning glory
Bambootake (Japanese)
Baichiku梅竹plum and bamboo, Chinese pronunciation
Baika梅花plum blossom
Chashaku茶杓a bamboo tea spoon used in the japanese tea ceremony
Chasen茶筅tea whisk. used in the tea ceremony
Chidori千鳥plover bird
Chigai taka no ha違い鷹の羽crossed hawk feathers
Daikon大根a white radish
Ebi海老a prawn (shrimp) or lobster
Ebôshi烏帽子a nobles court head gear
Enkenshô遠見松distant pines
Ensan遠山distant mountains
Fuji富士mount fuji
Fujimaru Mon藤丸紋round wisteria mon
Funea boat
Gunma群馬a group of horses
Haiku俳句Japanese poem
Hagi 萩bush glover
Hasuha蓮葉lotus leaf
Hato波濤waves or a rough sea
Hebia snake
Hôô鳳凰a pheonix
Inome猪の目a boars eye. this has the appearance of a heart
Ito Maki糸巻きa spool for silk
Jôkaku城郭a castle
Kacho-ga花鳥画bird and flower
Kaizukushi貝尽しa collection of sea shells
Karigane雁金wild geese
Kuchinashi山梔子gardinia flower
Minoa straw rain coat
Mokuren木蓮, 木蘭magnolia
Myoga茗荷Japanese ginger
Ougifolding fan
Obana尾花another word for autumn grass
Paulowniaa tree native to china, however in Japan for over 1000 years. used for shirasaya and fittings boxes.
Raimon雷文a pattern describing zigzag, usually refers to lightning.
SakuraCherry tree
Shibazakura芝桜cherry grass
Shishi獅子classic Chinese lion, also referred to as a lion dog
Sho-Chiku-Bai松竹梅Pine, Bamboo & Plum, Chinese pronunciation
Sugegasa菅笠a straw hat
Tonbobutterfly – modern word
Tsukashi 透し鍔cut-out motif positive or negative
Uguisubush warbler
Waka和歌Japanese poem
YanagiWillow tree
Yatsuhashi八橋a classic theme of 8 bridges under which, iris are growing
 Kin (Kane)gold / softer metals
 Shakudo赤銅alloy of copper and gold
Shibuichi四分一copper / silver alloy
 Suaka素銅vinegar red copper
 Yamagane山金literal – mountain metal, unrefined copper
Zôgan象嵌Inlay. Mostly brass or copper.