An Ainu Makiri knife
Ainu people,Northern Japan, Hokkaido – Mid to late 19th century
Materials: Wood, Steel, Brass, Ivory
The Ainu (アイヌ) or Aino people of Northern Japan (Hokkaido) were a large indigenous group of hunters and gatherers who originally descend from Eastern Russia and Europe. The Ainu were considered an ethnic minority by the Japanese government even til present day. The Ainu people lived in small tribes and are known for their belief in ‘Kamuy‘ which are gods related to nature and can be seen in objects, animals or natural powers.
The Ainu are very ceremonial and spend their time harvesting nature and defending their property from foreign attacks. In the Meiji period, the Japanese government forced the Ainu to act and live the Japanese life. Including forced marriage with Japanese to prevent the original Ainu people to thrive.
When it comes to weaponry, the Ainu hardly produced their own sword blades and most swords and knives were imported from trade. The fittings were typical made in own local fashion and carved of wood, decorated in different symbols. Where sword were called ‘Emush‘ the knives were called ‘Makiri‘ and were carved and presented by the Ainu man to their bride to be. If the woman accepted the knife, she accepted their marriage.
These attributed, amongst other object were considered sacred and filled with a god like spirit and helped to protect the owner against evil.
‘Makiri‘ daggers from this region are considered extremely rare and are hardly seen on today’s art market. The daggers started to be traded from the early 20th century being regarded as souvenirs from traders, but were crudely decorated. Our example listed shows a fine patina and complicated carved design of peony’s and a coin shaped cutting pattern, which indicates it was made earlier and supposingly for their own culture. Quality and patina wise, I would confidently date this example in the 19th century. The brass chain prevents the dagger from being lost during labor and holds a tooth which was cut in half. The blade shows a laminated pattern and can be compared with the Japanese ‘tanto‘ dagger which is similar in shape, yet no ‘hamon‘ can be found, but the hardened cutting edge is obviously shown on the surface.
Condition: Excellent condition, a very tiny chip on the scabbard, further good.
Blade length: 13.3cm
Total length: 28cm
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