James Lancel McElhinney. Symbols of Status and Artistry: Asian Export Sword Guards and Nanban Tsuba
Among Asian arms traditions, that of Japan is distinctive in its appreciation of sword fittings as works of art. Sword guards, or tsuba, produced both in Japan and across Asia, were collected, exchanged as gifts and preserved as works of art and appear to have played a role in international trade and diplomacy as tsumaranai mono, modest gifts
expressing great esteem, also revealing connections between Tokugawa Japan, Europe, China and Monsoon Asia, through maritime trade, commerce and art.