Gunbai Uchiwa

Iron war fan decorated with a rising sun

Early Edo period, 17th century

Lenght: 49 cm

Signature: Iga no kami Minamoto Kanemichi



The gunbai uchiwa was a type of fixed fan used by generals and daimyō to signal orders during battles. It was frequently decorated with a large red sun in the center, in this case painted in red lacquer on a gold background, but some were also adorned with moon or planets designs as well as with kanji or bonji characters. During the Edo period, the gunbai came to be viewed as a symbol of power and status, as only high- ranking samurai would carry one during public ceremonies and parades. Hosokawa Tsunatoshi (1615–1868), for instance, owned a fan nearly identical to this one, now housed at the Eisei- Bunko Museum. 

Gunbai uchiwa were typically made from materials such as leather or wood, but in the early Edo period, swordsmiths from the Hidari Mutsu school in Settsu province (Osaka) produced a number of them made entirely of iron. These have a sharp, geometric shape, as opposed to the typical rounded form, and could be used as weapons. The handle was actually designed like a katana-tsuka, with silk lacing over rayskin and metal fittings. The present one includes fine fuchi-kashira finished in shakudo- nanako, a surface treatment that simulates hard roe, and bears a family crest of tsuta (ivy) design, which was used by the Matsudaira family during the Edo period. 

Most of these iron gunbai have a signature chiseled in the tang (nakago). The present one is signed by Kanemichi, while another exhibited at Osaka Castle in 2007 is signed by his master, Kaneyasu (second generation). In fact, Kanemichi, who was originally from Yamato province, moved to Settsu during the Kanbun era (1661–1673) to work for Kaneyasu, who was already a renowned sword maker at that time. For his achievement in sword making, Kanemichi received the title of “Iga no kami” from the imperial court. 

Price: 17,500 €

Inventory Nr: 1783

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