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Help with Japanese sword terminology - 刀の柄の玉

Cala

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In a fantasy book I've come across:

刀の柄の玉を右に傾けてつけてる意味 を、わたしは 知ってるんだよ。

The 玉 is giving me trouble in this context. According to me whatever it is (jewel, butt of the sword?) is here somehow twisted/slanted.

This sentence should be something like:
I know what having (a jewel stuck crookedly to the sword hilt/ the butt of the sword on crookedly) to the right means.

Does anyone have any insight into this?
Thanks
 

Toritoribe

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Is there any explanation/description about 玉?
 

Cala

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No further descritpion, just later the same 刀の柄の玉 appears in a different sentence, explaining its role.

仕事は五人一組ぐらいでやるらしいが 、けっこう大きな組織で 、たがいに顔を知らないやつも多いから 、仕事のじゃまをされたり 、おなじ獲物を奪いあわないように 、さらった獲物を運ぶあいだは 、仕事中だっていう合図に 、刀の柄の玉をわざと傾けてつけるんだとさ 。

It's some kind of signal a human trafficking organisation uses to identify each other as members. Their swords were described like this previously:

彼らが手にしているのは 、肉厚の反り身の刀で 、ふりおろしたとき 、もっとも威力を発揮する 。もともとは騎馬戦用の刀だ 。刀身は 、さほど長くなく 、攻撃の間合もみじかい 。

A picture from the book shows one such sword on someone's back, but I don't think it's very helpful. I'll attach it just in case:
Screenshot%202016-08-25%2016.11.42.png
 

Majestic

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Its not really a sword-related question, I think, because jewels are not part of Japanese sword fittings. Your original interpretation was correct,so there is nothing more any of us can say. In the fictional world of the book you are reading, the orientation (the tilt) of the jewel on the hilt is important, and the speaker in the first post is saying he knows about this significance.
 

Majestic

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In real life, Japanese swords have little metal decorations on the hilt, called menuki. Menuki are hand-crafted items usually made of a gold-copper alloy. Maybe the author is suggesting that this "jewel" is sort of similar in function to menuki.
 

Cala

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I wanted to know for sure if it was just a jewel or not. Thanks
 

Toritoribe

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I agree with Majestic-san. I'm a native Japanese speaker, but can't imagine what 刀の柄の玉 refers to at all just from those descriptions, even whether 玉 is a jewel or not. As for the picture in the book, it's indeed not helpful, or more likely useless since it's not accurate. The text says the sword is a curved sword "反り身" but the one in the picture is to all appearances a straight sword "直刀" (or, it could be a spear, not a sword).
 

Cala

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Yeah the woman standing up is holding a spear. The guy lying in front of her has a sword on his back. It looks curved to me... But either way not enough detail to see a 'jewel' or anything else for me at least.
 

Toritoribe

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Ah, I see. I didn't realize the sword on the lying man's back. Yeah, it is not helpful to know what 刀の柄の玉 is, anyway.
 
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