This iron tsuba (sword guard) is circular in shape, and each side features a raised-relief image. One side depicts two figures looking at each other beneath pine trees; the figure on the right is standing on a stone stairway and is dressed in feudal clothing while the figure on the left seems to be pointing a stick at the other figure and is standing on a wavy platform (possibly water). The opposite side depicts a landscape design with pine trees and waves. The long central cut-out, called the nakago-ana, would hold the sword blade. The other, rounded cut-out, called the kozuka hitsu-ana, is decorative and would have been plugged with other metals, such as gold, copper, and so forth. The tsuba is attached to a cardboard mount.
A tsuba is a traditional Japanese sword guard. Typically round or squarish, tsuba are positioned at the juncture between the blade and the handle in order to protect the sword bearer's hand when thrusting. Because of the era of peace known as the "Pax Tokugawa" during the Edo period (1600-1868), tsuba became more ornamental than functional, and usually featured intricate designs and embellishments; they were often exchanged as gifts.