Language: Ainu
Source: John Batchelor; An Ainu-English-Japanese dictionary. 1905.

Description

Makiri is the Ainu word for knife. They typically have curved, single-edged blades with a sharp point. The edge has a single bevel, on the right side. The hilt follows the same curve as the blade.

The hilt and scabbards are made of wood, usually carved with decorative motifs. Scabbards can be made of a single piece, or two pieces and with strips of cherry bark to reinforce them. 

Ainu Makiri knives

Three makiri.
Mandarin Mansion inventory 2022.

 

Makiri knife marks

Markings on the blades.

 

 

Use

The Ainu men used their makiri for woodcarving and for preparing food. Women carried a slightly smaller version called menoko-makiri which they used for food, and for the gathering of fruits and bark.

"The knife in cutting is frequently, perhaps generally, drawn toward the cutter."

-Frederick Starr; The Ainu group at the Saint Louis exposition.
Chicago, The Open Court Publishing Company, 1904. Page 106.

 

Ainu hunters with bow and makiri knife

Ainu hunters. The one on the left carrying his makiri.
19th century painting. Anonymous.
Brooklyn Museum accession number X1085.

 

Notable examples

The Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden has two makiri that were collected by Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold, who must have acquired it before 1826, which makes them the earliest provenanced makiri known to me. Both were purchased by the museum in 1837. Accession numbers RV-1-4108 and RV-1-3695.

A drawing of the latter appears in Siebold's Nippon, Leiden, C.C. van der Hork. 1832:

Ainu items in Siebold's Nippon

Illustration of Ainu items from the Nippon Atlas.


The British Museum has an Ainu knife that was brought back by Dr. John Andersen and donated to the museum in 1885. Accession number As1885,1219.3.a-b.

 

Glossary of terms

Makiri overview

#

English

 

Ainu

1 Knife blade     makiri-ibe / ibehe
2 Knife handle     makiri-nip
3 Knife sheath     makiri-saya
4 Back of knife     mekkashike
5 Edge     notak
6 Point of knife     kanetuhu / etuhu
       
       

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Its scabbard with 12 pockets, with 10 of the items remaining.

€475,-

Carbon dated to 1175-1275 A.D. with 95,4% certainty, the height of the Mongol conquest period.

Price on request

Rare double-edged shortsword of the Ifugao of northern Luzon.

€1100,-

Nice and complete example with talisman basket. Probably 20th century.

€1350,-

A peculiar type of knife worn in the north of Nias.

€1350,-

An old Korean hornbow from the 50s or 60s with string and arrows.

€800,-