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Stirrups (abumi)

Stirrups

Stirrups (abumi), by Iijima Seizaemon. Japan; Hino, Goshu province. Edo period (1615–1868). Iron with silver inlay and lacquer. Gift by transfer from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, B69M51.

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What is the purpose of these objects?
Stirrups like these were used to support the rider’s feet while seated on horseback. During warfare, they allowed mounted samurai to stabilize position and control the horse while firing a weapon or brandishing a sword. Curving up and back in the front, they bring the loop for the leather connecting-strap over the instep, providing superior balance.

What materials were used to make these stirrups?
The stirrups are made of iron inlaid with silver linked hexagons, each containing a floral motif. The interior is red lacquer. They bear the signature of a specific artisan, one Iijima Seizaemon of Hino in Goshu (present-day Shiga Prefecture).

Who would have owned these objects?
Only high-ranking samurai could ride horses in the Edo period. Elegantly decorated stirrups were a sign of the owner’s privileged position.

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