EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Excellent Ibrahiim!!! I had overlooked that letter of 1619 and its content, which of course mentions Hasekura 'shopping' (the letter now in Sendai Museum) and is on display with the kris and Ceylonese 'dagger' (actually a kastane). While we assume these were acquired in the Philippines, there is as yet no supporting narrative to accurately provide that provenance.
We note the curious blade of the kastane and the mythical beast feature and its remarkable similarity to Chinese weapons and such features. While we remain compelled to consider the acquisition point of this kastane to be the Philippines, that would seem to favor those regions with the strong trade presence of China there. Naturally many other regions are represented there as well.
The hilt style does seem to correspond to those of the kastane of course, but the blade is remarkably atypical. The scabbards on many forms of edged weapons in these regions seem less than durable in most cases, and these arms are often refurbished with new scabbards many times in their working lives. The fact that this one does not come with a scabbard en suite would suggest to me that it is less than a 'presentation' weapon, and far more likely to have been 'acquired'.
If the kastane and the kris were sent back to Japan prior to Hasekura's return and with a letter to his son, perhaps these items were at that point simply novelties meant for his son or his own keeping. The portrait of the Pope does not seem included in that transport back to Japan precluding his return, so it would seem that was specifically intended for Date Masemune
These edged weapons on the other hand, acquisitions seemingly less than presentation grade, were perhaps included as second thought to Date along with the portrait.
These circumstances might better facilitate the idea that perhaps Hasekura might indeed have adopted a heraldic arms in European style to reflect his status as a baptized Christian, which was of course powerfully important to him . It remains unclear whether these stamped devices on the blade may have been applied in this regard, but the possibility is interesting .
Returning to the broader scope of our discussion, one of the reasons for such interest in the 'Hasekura' kastane is to establish a provenance example of the kastane form hilt has been to establish a time frame for the development of the hilt style.
While there has been considerable discussion on what zoomorphic creatures are depicted in the decorative motif on these hilts, the very nature of these depictions remain quite subjective and notably debated . Naturally since the artistic license inherent in depictions of mythical creatures as well as stylistic renderings of actual ones is often profound, it is difficult to accurately analyze these figures . It does have certain importance in the possible reasons for variation or exactly what creature is represented however.
For example, and treading carefully into sensitive matters, is it possible that the lionhead (Sinha) is indeed represented on all distinctly Sinhalese examples of the kastane, and that the variants might be provenanced from other ethnic origins? Naturally I implore complete objectivity here, and offer the suggestion only as a possible accounting for the variations in style.
I do not believe that the styling of these zoomorphic hilts was directly resultant from European collaboration, however it is known that beautifully carved ivory hits were produced in Ceylon for European markets as early as 16th century. The work of these artisans certainly had considerable bearing on Europeans fascinated with the exotica of these faraway places, and I believe there was likely considerable cross diffusion in place through the colonial periods.