Just like their inspirations protected swordsmen’s hands, these coasters will guard your kitchen table’s varnish.
Japanese hobby and novelty item company Kotobukiya primarily specializes in figures from popular anime, movie, and video game franchises. But sift through its product catalogue of gender-bent horror movie icons and suggestive sniper game bosses, and you’ll also find some offerings with a historical slant, such as its line of samurai sword chopsticks.
Their battlefield prowess and tactical minds notwithstanding, samurai were also rather attuned to aesthetics, and the most famous of Japan’s warriors had distinctive, customized arms and armor. While you probably don’t have much need for a full set of lamellar in your modern, non-Sengoku period lifestyle, you can at least bring a little bushido to your tabletop with Kotobukiya’s new series of katana handguard coasters.
Officially called the Samurai Dining Ware Tsuba Coasters (tsuba being the Japanese word for “handguard”), the lineup represents four of the most famous figures of the feudal era. First is Oda Nobunaga, the ambitious general who nearly untied all of Japan before being betrayed and killed by one of his subordinates.
▼ Oda’s coaster bears an inscription of the victory prayer of his home fief’s Atsuta Shrine.
The crest of Oda’s de-facto successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, is recreated on his coaster.
▼ The Toyotomi crest can be seen at the bottom right.
But whereas Oda and Toyotomi were only able to hold on to their power for a brief period, their contemporary and ally Tokugawa Ieyasu would go on to start a shogunate that would last for more than 250 years.
▼ The design of the Tokugawa coaster is based on that of the handguard of his personal katana.
Finally, although Sanada Yukimura’s historical exploits don’t compare to those of Japan’s three great unifiers, he’s easily a match for them in marketability, thanks to his frequent depiction as a handsome young man in anime and video games.
All four designs are identically priced at 500 yen (US$4.50) and officially go on sale in August, although preorders can be made through Kotobukiya’s website now (follow these links for Oda, Toyotomi, Tokugawa, or Sanada). Aesthetically, it’d probably be best to order the same design for each member of your household, but if you and your family members happen to have conflicting samurai loyalties and insist on different coasters, at least you’ll be able to keep the negotiating table free of water stains during peace talks.
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