Tokyo’s Japanese Sword Museum is a small museum dedicated to the art of Japanese swordmaking. It aims to preserve and display important swords and samurai artifacts, documenting the roughly 1,000 years of Japanese swords and their history.
The museum is operated by Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK), also known as The Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords.
Overlooking the tranquil Former Yasuda Garden museum contains about 190 items of battle, including swords, hilts, sheaths, and armor, many of which are designated National Treasure and Important Cultural Properties.
Along with the swords themselves, the museum has a collection of historical documents and archives about swords and swordmaking.
History of the Japanese Sword Museum
Also known as the Tōken Hakubutsukan the museum was established in 1948 and is operated by the Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK), also known as The Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords.
The museum was originally located in the Yoyogi neighborhood of Tokyo and was moved to its current location in Ryogoku in 2018. The new location is situated on the site of the historic Ryōgoku Village Hall, which was demolished a few years prior. The new building was designed by architect Kengo Kuma and features a modern design that blends in with the surrounding area.
Over the years, the museum has collected and preserved over 1,000 swords, including many that are designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties by the Japanese government. The museum also has a collection of historical documents and archives about swords and swordmaking, making it an important resource for researchers and scholars.
The museum aims to preserve and exhibit important swords and artifacts, documenting the roughly 1,000 years of Japanese swords and their history. Also on display is an impressive collection of historical documents and archives about swords and swordmaking, providing visitors with a rare experience to see swords up close and appreciating the beautiful temper pattern etched on each blade.
The museum presents exhibitions of both modern and antique blades and related cultural artifacts. One of the exhibitions in 2023 is “The Origin of Tamahagane – Tatara and Japanese Swords,” which runs from March 4 to May 21, 2023. This exhibition explores the history of tamahagane, the high-quality steel used to make Japanese swords. Visitors can learn about the traditional tatara method of steelmaking and the importance of tamahagane in Japanese swordmaking.
In addition to the main exhibitions, the museum also has a changing exhibition period for New Year holidays. Visitors are recommended to check the museum’s website for current and upcoming exhibitions.
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The Japanese Sword Museum is home to a collection of approximately 190 swords, including katana, as well as tosogu (mountings), yoroi (armor), and documents related to metalworking and metalwork materials. The museum’s collection includes several swords that have been designated as national treasures, important cultural properties, and important art objects by the Japanese government.
One of the most notable swords in the collection is the Tachi sword of Emperor Go-Toba, which is designated as a National Treasure. The sword was made in the 13th century and is considered one of the finest examples of Japanese sword-making. It is said that the sword was used by the emperor during the Jokyu War in 1221.
Another highlight of the museum’s collection is the O-Kanehira sword, which is also designated as a National Treasure. The sword was made in the 13th century by the famous swordsmith Kanehira. The sword is considered one of the finest examples of the Soshu tradition of sword-making, which was developed in the Kamakura period.
In addition to the swords, the museum’s collection of tosogu (sword fittings) is also noteworthy. The collection includes several examples of tsuba (sword guards), kozuka (small knives), and menuki (ornaments), which were used to decorate the swords. The collection also includes several examples of fuchi-kashira (sleeves and pommels) and saya (scabbards).
The museum’s collection of armor, or yoroi, is also impressive. The collection includes several examples of armor worn by samurai during the Edo period, as well as examples of armor worn by the imperial family. The museum also has a collection of helmets, or kabuto, which were worn by samurai during battle.
Visiting the Japanese Sword Museum
The museum is located in the Sumida Ward and is easily accessible by public transportation.
The admission fee for the museum is 1000 yen for adults, 700 yen for members, 500 yen for students, and free for children under 15 years old and those with disabilities. The museum is closed on Mondays, except when a national holiday falls on Monday, in which case the museum is open on Monday and closed the following day.
Upon arrival, visitors can purchase tickets at the entrance and explore the museum at their own pace. The museum features a variety of exhibits showcasing the history and craftsmanship of Japanese swords, including ancient swords, modern swords, and sword fittings.
The Sum Up
The Japanese Sword Museum in Tokyo is a unique and fascinating attraction for anyone interested in Japanese history, culture, and craftsmanship. With its impressive collection of swords, historical documents, and artifacts, the museum provides visitors with a rare opportunity to learn about the history and art of Japanese swordmaking.
The museum is near other popular attractions such as the Edo-Tokyo Museum (Cureently closed for renivation), the Sumo Museum, and Kyu-Yasuda Teien, making it easy to combine a visit to the museum with other activities.
It’s also near the sumo stables so makes a great place to visit after watching the mourning sumo training sessions.