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Saihai

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An 18th c. saihai associated with the Tsugaru clan, today in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Japanese: 采配、再拝、采幣、or 采牌 (saihai)

Saihai were signaling batons used by samurai commanders on the battlefield both as signs of rank, and in order to convey commands to one's armies. They are typically composed of a short rod, with a thick grouping of paper or leather strips at one end.

There are a number of ways of writing the word; all are ateji.

The saihai is closely related to similar instruments, called zai, which were used for signalling in falconry and in dog hunts. The use of the saihai on the battlefield became common particularly in the 16th century, in order to signal to one's warriors both near and far. Due to its resemblance to the staff of paper shide waved by Shinto priests in purification rituals, the saihai also came to be associated with being a prayer to the gods of war when it was waved. During the Sengoku period and through the Edo period, saihai also came to be symbols of one's authority, power, and/or military successes, and were thus prestigious gifts to present to one's lord.

References

  • "Saihai." Sekai daihyakka jiten 世界大百科事典. Hitachi Solutions, 2012.
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