tsuba (sword guard)

tsuba, Japan, ca. 1700, Iron, brass, copper alloy (sentoku).
Courtesy of Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

The Meiji Restoration began with a radical decluttering. Everything that belonged to the old, feudal order was taken out of circulation. This included samurai armor or swords, including their often richly decorated sword guards (tsuba). Or netsuke. These small figures made of ivory or wood had served to attach pouches and other things to the kimono belt.
The decluttering was more than convenient for Western collectors. They were delighted by the quality of Japanese craftsmanship. Brinckmann alone acquired about 300 such discarded objects at the Vienna World Exhibition (1873).