TOKEN BIJUTSU NO.619
AUGUST, 2008 ISSUE
Examination of important swords
Classification: Tokubetu Juyo Token
Blade type: Katana
Mei: Bitchu Kuni ju Osafune Yososaemon-no-jo Sukesada saku
Tenbun 4 nen 8 gatsu kichijitsu (1536)
Nagasa (length): 2 shaku, 3 sun, 4 bu (70.8 cm)
Sori (curvature): slightly less than 8 bu
Motohaba (width at the machi): 9 bu, 5 rin (2.89 cm)
Sakihaba (width at the point): 6 bu, 4 rin (1.95 cm)
Motokasane (thickness at the machi) : 2 bu ,1 rin (0.64 cm)
Sakikasane (thickness at the point): 1bu, 5 rin (0.46 cm)
Kissaki length (length of the point): 1 sun, 1bu, 3 rin (3.43 cm)
Nakago (tang) length: slightly less than 5 sun, 5bu (16.6 cm)
Nakago sori (curvature of the tang): very slight
This sword is a shinogi-zukuri blade, with an ihorimune, a slightly wide mihaba, a thick kasane (the blade is thick). The blade looks heavy, and the style of the point area with its saki-sori actually means it is longer than a similar torii sori style blade with the same nagasa (measured length). This is an uchigatana shape which creates a strong appearance. The jihada is a tight ko-mokume; there are dense ji-nie, chikei, and a light midare utsuri. The hamon is composed of gunome mixed with open choji, and there is a lot of variation in the hamon. There are ashi, yo, and around monouchi, there are tobiyaki and dense ko-nie. A tight nioiguchi is bright and clear. The boshi is midare komi; the omote tip shows a little hakikake and the ura has a pointed tip. Both sides of the boshi have a long kaeri or return. The nakago is ubu, has a saki-ha-agari kuri-jiri (tip), the yasurime are katte-sagari, and there are 4 mekugi-ana. On the omote side from the 2nd mekugiana close to shinogi, there is a large size long mei made with a large tagane (chisel). On the ura side, also from the 2nd mekugi-ana, there is a date.
From the end of the Muromachi era in Bizen, there are many swords signed Sukesada with all kinds of second names. Among the Sukesada sword smiths, the best smith who left very good swords is Yososaemon Sukesada. There is one tanto dated Tenbun 6 (1537), stating the smith is 71 years old (this tanto is the 14th blade to be designated Juyo Token). Judging from this, Sukesada was born in Bunsho 1 (1466) or Onin 1 (1467), and this Tenbun 4 sword was made when he was 69 years old. There are 2 generations of smiths who have this same name, and this is shodaifs (first generationfs) sword.
Around this time, Bizen swords changed
from the previous era and went from a more
dominantly nioi type hamon with strong utsuri to this type of sword in
which the ji and ha have nie, and in many of these later swords the utsuri in
the ji is very light and inconspicuous. This sword is longer than Sukesadafs
usual work, and looks like a tachi style blade, and the hamon is similar to Oe
Bizen style work which has open choji with open bottoms toward the ha (but the
choji on this blade are higher
choji than Oe Bizen choji) and shows a distinctive style. Sukesada hamon show all
kinds of styles: for example open bottom choji, suguha, and hitatsura. Sukesada
is known as a highly skilled smith, and he has made Juyo Bijutsuhin swords
which are dated Tensho 18 and Tenbun 4. There is also as sword dated Tenbun
7. He produced many great swords,
and this is one of his characteristic ones showing his characteristic style. Previously,
at the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period, this sword was owned by Tani
This explanation was provided by Hiyama Masanori, and the oshigata was provided by Ishii Akira.
*NOTE: For Shijo Kantei To No.618 (in the July issue), the answer is a katana by Minamoto Masao
Deadline for the submission of answers for the No. 619 issue is September 5th.
Instructions for submitting an answer:
Please submit only one answer for the maker of this sword, and include your name and address. Send answers to the NBTKH Shijo Kantei. You can use the Shijo Kantei card which is attached in this issue. We will accept cards with answers for this issuefs kantei which are postmarked on or before September 5th.
If the suggested sword smith has a name which appears in more than one school, please write the school or province your sword smith comes from, and if the sword smith has many generations, please indicate a specific generation.
Hints for Quiz No. 619:
Length: 2 shaku, 2 sun, 2 bu (67.27 cm)
Sori: 8 bu, 3 rin (2.5 cm)
Motohaba: 8 bu, 3rin (2.5 cm)
Sakihaba: 5 bu, 3rin (1.6 cm)
Motokasane: 2 bu (0.6 cm)
Sakihaba:1 bu 3rin (0.4 cm)
Kissaki length: 8 bu, 6rin (2.6 cm)
Nakago length: 6 sun, 7 bu (20.3 cm)
Nakago sori: 1bu, 3rin (0.4 cm)
The sword is shinogi-zukuri with an ihorimune, a narrow mihaba, a high koshisori, and has fumbari. The sword also shows some sori on the tip, and has a small kissaki. The jitetsu is itame hada mixed with mokume hada and o-itame nagarehada. There are dense ji-nie and chikei. From the moto area, mizukage-like utsuri starts and continues to the upper part of the blade, and becomes jifu utsuri (jifu utsuri means a thumbprint shaped patch of utsuri). The jitetsu has a bright appearance. The hamon and boshi have hotsure, uchinoke, and yubashiri on the edge of the ha. There are frequent ashi and yo, dense nioi, thick bright ha-nie, kinsuji, and sunagashi. The nakago is slightly suriage, with a sakikiri jiri (originally kurijiri). The yasurime are not clear (but originally were katte sagari). There are five mekugi-ana, and on the top of the omote at the 2nd mekugi-ana (the original mekugi-ana) close to the mune edge, there is a niji-mei or 2 character signature This sword smithfs schoolfs characteristic jihada is a tight ko-itame with thick dense ji-nie, and small chikei. However, this sword shows an itame-mokume hada, and is very wide, and there are strong ha-nie. In addition, very few this smithfs swords have survived till now.
Yumiya Hachman un wa ten ni ari moji tsuba
(this line describes the inscriptions on the tsuba)
Nobuie, who lived in Owari, was known as an excellent tsuba maker along with Kaneie who lived in Kyoto Fushimi. Nobuie has existing ita (solid) tsuba and sukashi (pierced) tsuba, and both of these types display excellent iron forging on the surface, and have all kinds of kanji chased (chiseled) into the surface. In historical times, people used to say that these tsuba were suitable for uchigatana. His tsuba have flower kebori (chiseled lines), kebori with Hachiman Daibosatsufs (the god of war) name, Nanmiyou-horen-kekyo prayers, and kebori containing words describing a sword wielderfs secrets and thoughts from that era. These themes are characteristic of Nobuie tsuba. Most of his mei are niji-mei (2 character signatures) and show many types of characters, but primarily there are two types of mei: one is hanare mei (the two kanji are well separated), and the other is futoji-mei (written with a large chisel). This is a futoji-tsumari-mei (written with heavy strokes and with compressed looking kanji) and the thick long round shape looks majestic. From a square thick koniku mimi (rim) to the seppadai, the nikuoki (main surface) is low in the center, and this work is sophisticated. The kitae or forging is well done and there is a beautiful dense rust color and elegant appearance. The omote side is inscribed with the kanji for Yumiya Hachiman, and also a proverb which says gonly when people ask will you answer, otherwise say nothingh. The ura side displays kanji for gun wa ten ni arih which means gyour fate belongs to heavenh. These inscriptions show the open mind and original ideas held by the philosophic bushi in the Sengoku era.
Explanation provided by Kobayashi Terumasa
The swords discussed below were shown in the July meeting at the NBTHK headquarters building. This discussion presents answers concerning the makers of these blades.
During these meetings, five swords are displayed for examination. The blades can be examined, but the nakago are covered and cannot be seen (they are left in the shira saya tsuka). After examining the 5 swords, the meeting attendees must decide who they think made the 5 swords which were available for examination, and submit a paper ballot with these names. The 5 swords seen in the July meeting are described below, and the correct names of the makers are presented, along with an explanation of important details which should lead a person to pick the correct sword smithfs name. This lecture and the explanations were given by Hiyama Masanori.
No.1 Kantei To: katana
Mei: Bushu Shitahara-ju Terushige
Length: slightly more than 2 shaku, 3 sun, 5 bu
Sori: 5 bu
Jihada: Strong itame mixed with mokume hada. There are ji-nie and chikei, and the entire ji looks dark. Below the machi there is mizukage.
Ha: shallow gunome and ko-notare mixed with ko-gunome. There are ko-nie and some sunagashi. The nioiguchi is quiet and not too bright.
Boshi: Straight with a round return
Horimono: On the koshimoto of the omote side, there is a shin no kurikara, and on the ura side is there is a smooth gomabashi.
The most notable thing on this blade is the jitetsu, which is itame mixed with mokume (nyorinmokume), and a strong dark ji which is very characteristic of this school and is called Shitahara-hada. The hamon is composed of round top gunome and ko-notare, and the omote and ura yakiba are almost the same, and show and a quiet nioiguchi. Below the machi, but not next to the machi there is mizukage and this is also a characteristic style of this school. A conclusive factor is the omote side koshimoto area kurikara horimono. The horimono is deep, and the dragonfs upper jaw is long and has charming unique look. The tip of tail moves up, and these characteristics are different from other schools. Thus many people voted for Terushige, Yasushige, and Chikashige. However, this kind of kurikara horimono is seen on many of Terushigefs swords, and if a person has decided that this is a shitahara sword, it would have been better to vote for Terushige. Some of other votes were for Echizen Yasutsugu, but his hamon is basically large notare, and the nioiguchi is rough, the boshi is a shallow notare with a komaru return, and has deep yakiba.
No.2 Kantei To: Katana
Length: 2 shaku, 1sun, 2bu
Sori: slightly more than 6 bu
Construction: Shinogi tsukuri with iorimune
Jihada: strong ko-itame hada and masame hada, ji-nie, midare utsuri
Ha: Choji midare mixed with ko-gunome, small togariba, scattered small midare. The upper part has a high yakiba, with ashi, yo, and is in nioi. The lower part has sunagashi.
Boshi: yokote yakikomi (at the yokote, the yakiba is wide), straight, with komaru
distinctive thing about this sword is the variation of the choji midare hamon
and ji-utsuri. The sword has a deep sori, but is not koshisori because this is
a different shape from
Kantei To No 3: Tachi
Length: 2 shaku, 4 sun, 8.5 bu
Sori: slightly less than 9 bu
Construction: Shinogi-tsukuri with an ihorimune
Jihada: itame and oitame mixed with mokume, with occasional jifu. There are ji-nie, light jifu utsuri, and a dark jigane.
Hamon: yaki otoshi at the moto. The upper part is ko-gunome mixed with ko-notare, and the area around the monouchi shows ko-midare, frequent nie, and sunagashi and kinsuji.
Boshi: low yakiba which becomes straight.
This blade has a high koshizori and
fumbari, thus the motohaba and sakihaba show different widths. There is a small
kisski, very graceful tachi shape, a dark ji with occasional light jifu utsuri,
and some of the utsuri extend over the shinogi. From these characteristics, we
can guess the sword was made at the end of the Heian period to the early
The jitetsu has a large itame hada, an unclear dark ji, and the yakiba is narrow, and composed mainly of ko-gunome and ko-notare. There are dense nie, sunagashi and kinsuji, and the blade is very graceful and old fashioned appearing. There is yaki-otoshi above the machi, and the upper part of the blade does not have much sori. There is also more hira-niku than would be expected for a sword from this era. If you recognize these characteristics, you can guess that this is an old Hoki sword, or Shochu Yasutsuna. Among similar appearing similar swords, some people voted for Ohara Sanemori, but his swordfs yakiba are smaller and show less activity when compared with Yasutsuna, and the shape of Sanemorifs swords are narrow.
Kantei To 4: Katana
Mei: Hoyotoko Sa Yukihide, tame Chakushi Ikuma
Meiji 3, 2 gatsu kichijitsu
Gyonen 58 sai (years) tsukuri kore
Length: 2 shaku, 1sun, 5.5 bu
Sori: 3 bu
Construction: Shinogi zukuri with an iorimune
Jihada: tight ko-itame hada with dense, fine ji-nie
Hamon: Mixed square and pointed gunone midare and choji. There are frequent long ashi, dense nioi, dense nie, fine sunagashi, some kinsuji, and a clear nioiguchi. The hamon is chu-suguha overall.
Boshi: midare-komi, ko-maru return, with hakikake on the tip
This sword has an okissaki, and the motohaba and sakihaba are not much different. There is a shallow sori, and the length is 2shaku 1sun, which is somewhat short. The shinogi-ji is not thick, and this is not a heavy sword, and with this shape, it is difficult to judge the era in which it was made. The jitetsu is very tight, there are long ashi near the hasaki, and the hamon is of uniform width from the motoha to sakiha and appears like a newly made healthy hamon. From these characteristics, one can decide that this is a shin-shin-to. This sword is the work of Sa Hideyuki, and usually most of his swords are similar to the work of Inoue Shinkai and the Go style, which means suguha with a shallow notare. Yukihide does not have too many gunome swords, but sometimes he did make gunome swords, and we should remember that this is one of the styles he worked in.
During the first vote, there were very few correct answers, and many people voted for Soshu den smiths, especially from the Kiyomaro school, Naotane, and Unju Korekazu. Kiyomaro swords are itame hada, have thick ji-nie, strong jihada, square gunome hamon, rough occasional ha-nie, and the inside of the ha has many thick kinsuji, and there are areas which are niju-ba. Kiyondofs swords have many continuous gunome, and a strong nioi-guchi defining the hamon. Nobuhidefs swords have square gunome mixed with togariba at the tip of the hamon, producing a complex hamon with square gunome. However, the Kiyomaro schoolfs characteristic styles have a thin or narrow blade along the fukura and this makes them look sharp. Naotanefs Soshu-den swords have itame mixed with uzumaki-hada (similar to mokume but with many circle like patterns. This is Naotanefs own style (which was originally mokume), and the hamon are mainly notare, while Korekazu swords do not have this kind of dynamic shape, and the hamon are mainly formed with choji.
If you look at this Yukihide sword carefully, the ko-itame-hada changes into a longer type of hada (like masame), and the nioi is dense, wide and thick, and there are ha-nie. Both the ji and ha are bright and clear, and these characteristics are the same as those seen in his suguha swords. Thus this sword suggests Yukihide, and in the end most of the people voted for Yukihide.
Kantei To 5: Wakizashi
Mei: Hashu ju nin Gassan Chikanori
Eicho 9 nen 2 gastu kichijitsu
Length: slightly more than 1shaku, 9 sun, 2 bu
Sori: slightly more than 5 bu
Construction: Shinogi-tsukuri with a marumune
Jihada: itame mixed with mokume, with occasional ayasugi hada. The ji is well forged, and has ji-nie, chikei, and some whitish utsuri.
Hamon: hoso-suguna (narrow suguha), mixed with a few ko-gunome, ko-ashi, nioi with ko-nie, and places which have nijuba.
Boshi: low or narrow yakiba; straight with omaru return (kaeri); nijuba in places.
Chikanori is one of the important Gassan school smiths, and some people say he was a student of Hikobeinojo Sukesada in Bizen, and his forging work is better than the usual Gassan smithfs work. His suguha swords look like Sue-Bizen swords, and some of them are sophisticated. His nakago shapes do not narrow towards the tip, which means that they appear the same as Sue-Bizen nakago. From these characteristics, he is not a typical Gassan school smith, so this is a difficult sword to identify as a kantei-to.
sword smiths used to live at foot of Gassan mountain which is one of the Dewa-sanzan (i.e. one of Dewafs three
mountains), and people say that possibly they were ascetics and communicated with other
ascetics who were moving all the time, from one mountain to others following
religious habits. There seems to have been a wide range of interchanges among these people. One of
this schoolfs smiths, Hiroyasu, has a sword signed Hyuga-ju (Kyushu), and some
of Gassan smiths moved to Hyuga or Satsuma which faces the ocean on the west,
and one should consider possible connections between the Gassan school and
Naminohira because these swords have some similarities. This sword is less than
2 shaku long, which is short for a sword, and has sakizori. From the shape we
can judge that this was made in the latter Muromachi period. The jihada is
itame, and some parts show a little bit of ayasugi hada, and the whole blade
produces a soft appearance. In the hamon, nijuba stands out, and this style has
a wide shinogi-ji and high shinogi- suji (line), and you can see a Yamato
character in many places. Also, from the swordfs marumune, one can guess it was
made by a
This sword was
owned by Tani Senjo who was a high ranking military official from Tosa (
Shijo Kantei No 617 (June issue)
Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To
Number 617 (June issue)
In the June issue, the answer for the Shijo Kantei is a tanto byAwataguchi Yoshimitsu.
This sword has good balance of mihaba and kasane, is a little on small side, and shows uchizori towards the tip. From these details and the refined shape, we can judge this to be a mid-Kamakura period blade.
Yoshimitufs jitetsu are sometimes a distinctive Awataguchi nashiji-hada, but this tanto shows slightly large itame and mokume hada when compared compared to nashiji work, and there are always fine dense ji-nie, fine chikei, and bo-utsuri. Sometimes, Yoshimitsufs hamon are a shallow notare, with ko-choji and ko-gunome with some variations, but most of the time his basic hamon is suguha, and this is sometimes mixed with ko-gunome, (his ko-gunome hamon continues to the koshimoto, and sometimes continue from the motoha to the sakiha). There are ko-ashi, yo, frequent ko-nie over nioi, and fine kinsuji and sunagashi. On many of his swords, around the fukura, the hamon becomes narrow, as you can see in the oshigata, and the nie in the boshi is strong, and sometimes resembles a thread-like shape, and these are characteristics of his swords. In work by Yoshimitsu and Hisakuni who are representative of the Awataguchi school, in both the ji and ha, the nie is strong, the ji and ha are bright and clear, and the inside of ha has more variation, compared with Rai school work which came from the same region. These were the hints for this sword. Yoshimitsufs nakago is kuri-jiri, the yasurime is katte-sagari, on the omote under the mekugi ana in the center, Yoshimitsu usually signed a mei with the 2 characters Yoshimitsu, with hoso-tagane strokes (thin fine chisel strokes), and with a fluent style.
The Awataguchi school has fewer swords considering their famous name, and in the mid-Kamakura era, Kuniyoshi, and supposedly his son Yoshimitsu, left many tanto and not many tachi. Yoshimitsu has 38 signed tantos, including ken, which now have Kokuho and Juyo Token titles.
Yoshimitsufs blades have no date, and his active period is thought to be around the mid-Kamakura period. Kuniyoshi, who is supposed to be Yoshimitsufs father, has a sword dated in the Koan period (1283), and old sword reference book oshigata show swords dated on Kenji 4 (1278) and Koan 6 (1283). In addition, Kunimitsu, who is supposed to be his uncle, has a sword signed Koan 11(1288).
Today, we are guessing that Yoshimitsufs active period was around Koan to Shoou (1278-1293), and some people think that Yoshimitsu is not Kuniyoshifs son, but his student, and that the two were of similar ages. This opinion results from the fact that their active dates and their styles are similar. The Koan to Shoou eras were in the first half of Osafune Nagamitsufs career, and Yoshimitsu is supposed to have made swords around the mid- to late-Kamakura era.
Shintogo Kunimitsu is another famous
master tanto smith along with Yoshimitsu, and he also has few tachi and many
tanto. People think that they did not prefer to make tanto, but that during
that time there was a large demand for tanto. During the later
Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.