Place of Origin: Japanese, Edo Period
Date: 19th Century
Overall Length: 520mm
A very fine and richly decorated example of a Japanese Tanegashima (matchlock musket), this short version is called a bajou- zutsu (horse pistol) of 4 monme calibre and was designed for use from horseback. The lavishly decorated iron barrel is held in a plain Kashi (red oak) stock by two bamboo mekugi (pegs) and a dougane (stock ring), it has a udenuki-ana (rectangular slot for a sling) lined with silver. The Jiita (lock plate), hibasami (serpentine), dougane (stock ring) and hizara (pan tray) are all highly decorated with scrolling karakusa (arabesques) inlaid in silver.
The iron barrel is similarly decorated in the Kaga style with gold and silver nunome (overlays) depicting a rain dragon writhing amongst clouds, it is signed by the artist in gold along the top of the barrel 'Kaga ju Ietsugu tsukuru' meaning it was decorated by Ietsugu living in the province of Kaga (modern day Ishikawa Prefecture).
The Japanese tanegashima was based on the snap matchlocks that were produced in the armoury of Goa in Portuguese India. The first documented introduction of the matchlock to Japan which became known as tanegashima was through Portuguese traders who took shelter from a storm in 1543. The name tanegashima came from the island where the Portuguese first landed, the lord of the Japanese island Tanegashima Tokitaka (1528–1579) purchased two matchlock muskets from the Portuguese and put a swordsmith to work copying the barrel and firing mechanism. Within 6 months he had reputedly produced 600 copies. Within a few years the use of the tanegashima revolutionised warfare in feudal Japan, culminating most notably at the battle of Nagashino in 1575 when Oda Nobunaga used 3000 gunners in his devastating victory over Takeda Katsuyori.