Japanese swords generally consist of many parts, such as tsuka (handle), tsuba (hand protector), saya (blade cover), menuki (ornaments on the tsuka) and so on. Because Japan is very humid and the blades can be easily damaged if they get rusty or dusty, Japanese swords must be cleaned up regularly and thoroughly. That is why the swords are made to be disassembled easily piece by piece. This characteristic has also made it easy to change the design of the mountings of swords.
Therefore, it was natural that decorative mountings of Japanese swords were developed very much during the Edo period. The same sword can look very different depending on the occasions, such as when a samurai goes to his master’s castle and when he meets a beautiful lady in a hidden restaurant. It is like a businessman nowadays can wear the same suit with different coats, shirts, neckties, bags and shoes depending on the occasions.
The same sword can be very different depending on the owners as well, because rich or high-class samurais chose very expensive parts, and some colors and precious materials were allowed only for samurais at a certain class or higher. Therefore, it is believed that even the ordinary people could tell who was high-class from his sword even when he wore very simple clothes.
Now, you can enjoy appreciating not only the blades but also the mountings, which helps you imagine what the life of samurais was like.