A few months ago I was roaming around the internet looking for some interesting stuff and by accident I landed on the facebook page of a gentleman that hand makes tsuba – mainly for bokuto, but also for shinai. I love this sort of handmade product and posted a link on the kenshi 24/7 page. Immediately people began to like the link so I knew that I was not alone in enjoying such craftsmanship.
Fast forward a couple of months and I found myself looking at the page a few more times and getting more intrigued by the tsuba. I wanted one for myself! I got directly in touch with the craftsman – Tom Bengston – and inquired more into his work. After some chat, Tom kindly sent me a couple of his kendo leather tsuba for review – one in antique tan, and another in dark brown.
Review (kendo tsuba)
When I placed my order I asked for just a plain shinai tsuba – if you have a look on the website you can see that you can customise tsuba with either kamon or writing. The only other information I supplied was the diameter of the hole. Less than 10 days later the tsuba arrived safely here in Osaka.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the package was the thickness of the tsuba and the gorgeous colour of both… especially of the antique tan one. I realised that in 20 years of kendo practise I’d never set my eyes on a “beautiful” tsuba before!! These leather tsuba really are quite unique.
Despite the thickness mentioned above (required for durability), the tsuba are quite light. I’ve only been using them for a few days now, but I suspect that the tsuba will easily last a long time… in fact, I can’t imagine them breaking, ripping, tearing, or otherwise being damaged during kendo practise.
One concern that immediately came to mind was if it was illegal to use this type of tsuba in shiai. I’m not sure of the answer, but I can’t imagine they would be disallowed. Even if that were the case, there would be absolutely nothing to stop you from using them in your daily keiko.
For me this is a no-brainer: if you want a durable and unique tsuba for your shinai, these are great. I think they make awesome gifts as well, perhaps as a thank you to a sensei or a grading congratulations for friends. Everyone I’ve shown them to here in Japan love them.
More than anything, however, there is something personally satisfying in having and using a unique handcrafted product.
(I haven’t seen the bokuto tsuba but I assume that they are finished the same high standard.)
Check out and order Leather Tsuba’s work at the following places:
Note that the shop closes Dec 18th and re-opens January the 2nd.