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Heart symbol in Japanese blades


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I've been looking into a lot of less commonly known Japanese blade styles and I keep seeing heart motifs incorporated into the work. Especially in umabari (horse bleeding blades) and some buddhist ken. Here is an awesome example:

 

Sword1.jpg

 

So is this basically a buddhist symbol? The all encompassing love and compassion of the Buddha? Any ideas?

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Well first, we have to remember that the heart symbol does not resemble an actual heart all that closely. So where did the heart symbol come from in the first place? Secondly, different cultures associate different meanings with the heart. The symbolism of the heart changes with different cultures, and in some cultures (i.e. ancient Egyptian) it's not held in much esteem at all.

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Thanks Ty... I guess it did occur to me that it might not have anything to do with a 'heart' at all... although I wonder where our own heart symbol came from??

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I've been looking into a lot of less commonly known Japanese blade styles and I keep seeing heart motifs incorporated into the work. Especially in umabari (horse bleeding blades) and some buddhist ken. Here is an awesome example:

 

Sword1.jpg

 

So is this basically a buddhist symbol? The all encompassing love and compassion of the Buddha? Any ideas?

 

Scott,

 

I am sure there are better informed folks out there that can give you a more in-depth answer, but I will offer you what little I know.

 

The symbol in question has nothing to do with what most Westerners see as a Greek-influenced "heart" symbol. The symbol is quite Japanese, and quite old. It is called Inome. It is a stylized (as all Japanese things--poetic?) representation of a boar's eye. It is culturally relevant to the Japanese as it represents, in the most basic sense, aggression. However, it is a very positive symbol and connotates positive aggression, as in being pro-active and ready to spring into action.

 

Japanese people born under the boar zodiac symbol are called Inoshishi--boar-people. They are highly regarded--their traits are honesty, composure, strength and, especially, bravery. The wild-boar itself is tied to the Japanese god of fighting. The Buddhists adopted the symbol early in Japanese history (as all invading religions do, to win over the people), making it an popular symbol for use on weapons, especially the weapon you posted, since it is not a weapon at all, rather an esoteric ken used in Buddhist rituals. The fullers are called gomabashi and are Buddha's two servants on either side of the ridgeline, and are the ones that will offer salvation through the ceremony--the sword itself representing Buddha's eternal light. The symbol on the omote is Sanskrit and, although I don't read Sanskrit, probably represents "protective" powers, as it is on the obverse of the "servants". It's "got their backs", so the speak.

 

So, if you see this symbol on nihonto mountings, it definitely means the owner has a strong conviction to be brave and uphold his mandates, serve loyally, and "spring" into action quickly and decisively, if needed. He would be very pro-active and ready to act whenever necessary. And those symbols let any would-be foes understand just what he is about BEFORE they interact with him. In this sense, they are warnings that the owner is not afraid to fight and be aggressive for what he feels convicted about.

 

And I am Christian, not Buddhist, so I could be wrong on some of the above, but that is my shallow understanding of the symbol in question.

 

Of course, this is just my humble opinion. I am sure there are others more informed.

 

Hope that helps,

 

Shannon

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Hi Scott,

 

In old japan this symble is called "Inome", it looks like a heart to us, but it was a boar's eye to the old Japanese.

 

And as Shannon said above.

 

It is a very common symble on tsuba, and other Sword fittings.

 

Mark

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Thanks a lot Shannon... I've been looking into Japanese symbology all over the internet for this and just haven't found it. This explanation really draws me to the whole thing.. very interesting. Now that I think about it.... what is the explanation for the heart symbols you find in tomahawks???

 

(I guess this also explains why a boar is the God of War in the Malazan books I'm reading)

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Very Interesting Shannon, actually explains alot about myself since I was born in may of 71 which falls in the boar years as well as the element of metal. Though it has took me 36 years to realize I liked working with metal and 4 years to do something about it.

Edited by WmHorus
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