What is a menuki on a katana hilt?
Menuki are an important part of the hilt of Japanese swords. It is tied to the hilt, not only for decoration but also to prevent slipping, making it a small item that combines practicality and aesthetics. with one side facing forward and the other backward. It is then tightly wrapped with a hilt rope, sometimes exposed on the outside, which is related to the Tsukamaki type.
Menuki are made of a variety of materials, including gold and silver for the most expensive ones, copper and iron for the most common ones, and a few biological materials such as various kinds of horns. Basically, the copper and iron menuki are treated with other materials, such as gold and silver plating, in order to obtain a rich and varied artistic effect.
Generally speaking, most of the menuki are made in a very delicate manner, with motifs such as birds and animals, flowers and plants, landscapes, gods and goddesses, etc. Most of them are the same on both sides, but there are some, especially those made by famous artists, that are not the same on both sides, but they are quite rare. It is also important to note that if the menuki is of a deity, bird or animal, the head of the deity, bird or animal must be pointing towards the tip of the sword when the menuki is mounted; if the menuki is of flowers or plants, the menuki must be of a different shape. If the "Menuki" is in the form of a flower or plant, the root of the flower or plant must point toward the tip of the blade. If they are mounted in the wrong direction, the megane may come loose when the sword is used.
There are also some masters who made "Menuki" with mei attached, called "Menuki-mei"; those engraved on the front side are called "Kibatamei", and those engraved on the bottom are called "anzakumei", and those engraved on the bottom are called "Anzakumei". Kibatamei" on the front side and "anzakumei" on the bottom.