Meito Kansho

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 shodaifs (first generationfs) 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 Sukesadafs 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 Senjo from Kochi, who was a military officer and who was the 2nd generation to be a Gakushuin (university) president, and it was also owned by Shinohara Sanzenro who was president of the Tokyu railroad,



This explanation was provided by Hiyama Masanori, and the oshigata was provided by Ishii Akira.



Shijo Kantei To No.619


*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 issuefs 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 smithfs schoolfs  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 smithfs swords have survived till now.


Juyo Toshingu


Yumiya Hachman un wa ten ni  ari  moji tsuba

(this line describes the inscriptions on the tsuba)


Mei: Nobuie 


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 Daibosatsufs (the god of war) name, Nanmiyou-horen-kekyo prayers, and kebori containing words describing a sword wielderfs 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 nothingh. The ura side displays kanji for gun wa ten ni arih which means gyour fate belongs to heavenh. These inscriptions show the open mind and original ideas held by the philosophic bushi in the Sengoku era.     


Explanation provided by Kobayashi Terumasa    



Teirei Kansho Kai For July


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 smithfs 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

Style: shinogi-tsukuri,

Mune: Iorimune

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 dragonfs 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 Terushigefs 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


Mei: Korekazu


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


The most 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 Kamakura period tachi. The tight nioiguchi inside of the ha does not have much hataraki, and from these characteristics, one can judge this is a Shinto Bizen-den sword, especially likely to be from the Ishido school. By the  Keicho period, the Bizen-den style  was dying out, but the Ishido school revived it, and this school was active in Edo, Osaka, Kishu, Fukuoka, etc. This sword is an example of the Edo Ishido school, and is the shodai Musashi daijo Korekazufs sword. The shodai Korekazufs jihada is all masame and the hamon is choji midare. This is his original style, and is different from the traditional style. His saka-ashi are not seen often, but the yakiba is small or narrow, and around the monouchi area the yakiba becomes high or wide, another charactestic of Korekazufs style. Most people voted for Korekazu, but because of the deep sori and partly because of the wide hamon, some people voted for the Fukuoka Ishido smiths Koretsugu, and Moritsugu. Both smiths are Korekazufs students and made similar style swords, but their yakiba are bigger or wider, and in places over the sword, a high yakiba can go into the shinogi-ji, producing a contrast with the high and low yakiba. These smiths also produced a peculiar diamond shaped choji or gunome hamon in some places, and the boshi is always midare komi. A boshi which is straight with a round return or kaeri, or with a shallow notare is a characteristic of  Edo Ishido. Another vote was for Edo Ishidofs Mitsuhira, but he never produced a jihada which was completely masame, and his yakiba have more variation in their width, also suggesting old style work. Also, this sword has a niji-mei and no Musashi-daijo title, and so the mei is different from his usual one. Thus, this is a very rare sword which he made before receiving his musashi daijo title. 



Kantei To No 3: Tachi


Mei: Yasutsuna


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 Kamakura period.

  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 swordfs  yakiba are smaller and show less activity  when compared with Yasutsuna,  and the shape of Sanemorifs 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. Kiyondofs swords have many continuous gunome, and a strong nioi-guchi defining the hamon. Nobuhidefs swords have square gunome mixed with togariba at the tip of the hamon, producing a complex hamon with square gunome. However, the Kiyomaro schoolfs characteristic styles have a thin or narrow blade along the fukura and this makes them look sharp. Naotanefs Soshu-den swords have itame mixed with uzumaki-hada (similar to mokume but with many circle like patterns. This is Naotanefs 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 smithfs 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.

Oshu Gassan sword smiths used to live at foot of Gassan mountain which is one of  the Dewa-sanzan (i.e. one of Dewafs 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 schoolfs 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 swordfs marumune, one can guess it was made by a Kyushu sword smith, especially from Satsuma Naminohira, and half of the people voted for sue-Naminohira or Gassan. Another opinion derived from the marumune and style, is a Nanbokucho era Aoe blade, but Aoe swords have a different shape, and the ji-utsuri is dan-utsuri, not whitish utsuri, and the ji and ha are more clear.

This sword was owned by Tani Senjo who was a high ranking military official from Tosa (Kochi), and who was active from the Bakumatsu period (the end of the Edo period) to the Meiji period.          



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.

  Yoshimitufs 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, Yoshimitsufs 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. Yoshimitsufs 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.

  Yoshimitsufs blades have no date, and his active period is thought to be around the mid-Kamakura period.  Kuniyoshi, who is supposed to be Yoshimitsufs 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 Yoshimitsufs active period was around Koan to Shoou (1278-1293), and some people think that Yoshimitsu is not Kuniyoshifs 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 Nagamitsufs 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 Kamakura period, there are many tanto made by famous smiths. For example, by Shintogo Kunimitsu in Einin gannen (1293), ( this could be same person as Kunitoshi, because the 2 character mei Kunitoshi on tanto has not been found in this period), Rai Kunitoshi in Shoou 2 (1289), and Osafune Kagemitsu in Kagen 4 (1306). This era is the same as Yoshimitsufs active period, and Yoshimitsu made many tanto,  and we suppose that this is because the later Kamakura era demanded them. Most of the people voted for the correct smith.  


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.