Dagger with relief decoration of a crane hunt
onbekend, Suzuki Kōsai, Japan, second half 19th century
ivory, brass, steel,
The Mesdag Collection, The Hague
The ivory hilt of this Japanese dagger is carved with cranes being pursued by dogs. Some have been caught and some have escaped by taking flight. The detailed carving is the work of Suzuki Kōsai: his signature is on the end of the hilt. Most Japanese daggers have a small decorative knife or a hairpin in the hilt: in this case, it is a knife.
Only the samurai class had the right to hunt cranes. Samurai carried a long sword, a short sword, and sometimes a dagger like this one. Cranes were eaten by the elite; their flesh was thought to have medicinal properties.