Chōunsai Koretoshi1895), Japan, 1855
iron, metal, wood, silk,
The Mesdag Collection, The Hague
This samurai sword was made in one of the best workshops in Japan. Such swords were often worn together with a shorter sword. This combination of weapons was reserved to the samurai class: the military elite that ruled Japan for almost 700 years, until power changed hands in 1868.
Visible among the plaited silk decoration on the hilt is a metal ornament representing a small crab. It is a reference to an ancient legend about the death of samurai warriors during a sea battle in 1185. Even today, people still believe that the crabs in that area are reincarnations of the warriors who drowned in the battle.