Meito Kansho

Examination of important swords


Classification: Katana


Kinzogan mei: Masamune suriage

   Honami  Kao (Koshitsu)


Owned by Okura Shukokan



Nagasa (length): 2 shaku 3 sun 2 bu (70.3 cm)

Sori (curvature): 8 bu (2.4 cm)

Motohaba (width at the machi): 9 bu 2rin (2.79 cm)

Sakihaba (width at the point): 5 bu 9rin (1.78 cm)

Motokasane (thickness at the machi) : slightly over 2 bu 1rin (0.65cm)

Sakikasane (thickness at the point): 1.5 bu (0.46 cm)

Kissaki length (length of the point): 3 bu 9 rin (3.02 cm)

Nakago (tang) length: 5 sun 8 bu (17.6 cm)

Nakago sori (curvature of the tang): 3rin (0.1cm)


The oshigata:

This blade has a shinogi-zukuri condstruction with an iorimune, average mihaba, and the moto and saki haba are are slightly different (so there is little fumbari or tapering in the shape of the blade from the base to the point). The shinogi-ji is narrow with  a high shinogi. The blade is thick and has hira-niku, and appears heavy. There is a deep-sori and there are signs that the blade was originally koshi-sori. The point is chu-kissaki. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, mixed with itame, mokume, and larger itame with thick dense ji-nie, and frequent small chikei, light jifu with nie-utsuri. The hada gives an appearance of suggesting that it is wet or has moisture on it (i.e. it is uruoi). The jigane appears blue and clear. The hamon is a shallow notare mixed with ko-gunome, ko-midare, ko-choji, togariba, and square gunome, with a lot of variation. There are ashi, yo, fine sunagashi, kinsuji, and around the monouchi the hamon becomes slightly wider and is mixed with togariba. There is a bright and clear nioiguchi. The boshi is straight with a komaru, and on the omote and ura the tip of the boshi is sharp with a kaeri. The nakago is osuriage, the tip is a narrow ken-gyo, the yasurime are sujichigai, there is one mekugiana, and on the omote in the center, slightly under the mekugiana  there is a kinzogan mei, Masamune, and above the shinogi near the mei is  a character for gsuriageh. On the ura side in the center of the nakago, slightly under the mekugiana, there is a kenzogan (inscribed in gold inlay) Honami mei and kao (for Honami Koshitu).



Masamune used the name Goro-nyudo, and he worked in and helped to establish the  Soshu Den style of sword making which was started by Shintogo Kunimitsu. In the book Koto-meizukushi Taizen which was published at the end of the Edo period, it was said that Masamune died in Koei  2 (1343) at the age of 81, and although this is uncertain, we are guessing that he was active at the end of  the Kamakura period to the early Nanbokucho period. We have seen that some of his characteristics resemble ko-Hoki and ko-Bizen work which is also seen in the work of Norishige. In Masamunefs own original style, the hamon are mainly notare-ba and midare-ba with crumbled appearing nie,  tight nie, frequent kinsuji, and in the jihada, the nie become yubashiri, there are characteristic chikei, and there are frequent variations in these details. There are a few tanto with his signature, and among his tachi, there is one signed Kinoshita Masamune (classified as Juyo Bijutsuhin), and another sword is a ko-tachi with an ubu-nakago ( in the 4th issue of this magazine which is classified a, Tokubetsu Juyo Bijutsuhin). This blade was signed by Mitsutsune in red ink, and these are the only swords on which we have seen this signature. This sword was polished by Honami Koshitsu (10th generation), and he decided it was a Masamune sword, and he signed his name in kinzogan style (gold inlay signature). The shape of the mihaba and kissaki is similar to the Meibutsu swords Joizumi and Ishida, and style of this gentle hamon is similar to the Meibutsu Suruga Masamune, and the sharp boshi is similar to the Meibutsu Kanze Masamune. With the good balance in the hiraniku, the shape is graceful in spite of its suriage condition, and the inside of the ha has a lot of activity. This sword displays abundant beauty and energy. It is a surprising thing, that until now, this sword has had no title, but we can say that this is Okura-Shukokanfs secret treasure. This sword was donated by Maeda Toshitsune as a memorial for Honami Koshitsufs parents to Shonakayama –hokekyo Ji Gojunoto (a temple constructed in Genna 8) in Chiba prefecture in Ichikawa City in Nakayama which was Koshitsufs parent temple.         


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




Correction and apology: In the last issue (No. 619) The Meito Kantei sword by Yosazaemon Sukesada has a Juyo-bijutsuhin title. We apologize there was no title listed.




Shijo Kantei To No.620


*NOTE: For Shijo Kantei To No.619 (in the August issue), the answer is a tachi by

Awataguchi Kunitsuna


Deadline for the submission of answers for the No. 620 issue is October 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 October 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. 620:


Blade type: Wakizashi



Length: 1shaku 2 bu (30.91 cm)

Sori: 1bu (0.3 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 6 rin (2.9 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 1 rin (0.65 cm)

Nakago length: 3 sun 1bu (9.39 cm)

Nakago sori: very little


This sword is hira-tsukuri, has a wide mihaba, is large (sunnobi), has a thin kasane, and has shallow sori.

The jitetsu is itame mixed with mokume and nagare-hada. There are jinie, chikei, jifu, and a light midare-utsuri. The hamon and boshi display a square type midare as seen in the oshigata. The edge of the hamon shows fine hotsure,  yubashiri, ko-ashi, yo, and the quiet nioi-guchi has nie, kinsuji, and sunagashi. There are horimono on the omote and ura. They are smooth katana-hi and trace of ren-hi is seen. The nakago is ubu, the nakago jiri is kurijiri, the yasurime is kattesagari,  there are 2 mekugi-ana, and one is filled. Under the first mekugi ana (the original) on the omote and ura , below the center, there are long mei with the very distinctive style of this schoolfs tagane-tukai (the syle in which this school used a chisel), and the ura has a date. 


Juyo Toshingu


Okina sanbaso-zu fuchi kashira

A fuchi-kashira with an image of an old man performing Noh


Mei: Ozaki Naomasa (Kao)


The okina (old man) at the Nohgaku (Noh performance) means a very special play since Zeamifs time in the Momoyama period. This was intended to be a strong ceremonial program then, and today for celebrations, people use special occasions, such as New Years, to put on this play. This kashirafs okina (the dancer performing the Noh play) wears a white mask and is dancing to pray for a peaceful world. The fuchi okina wears a black mask, and on his hand he has a bell and is dancing to pray for a rich harvest, and these are scenes from the Sanbaso. Ozaki Naomasa was an apprentice of the Goto, and is known for his excellent workmanship. He was born in Kyoho7 (1722) and died in Tenmei 2 (1783).

  In early Edo times, the Ozaki family worked for the Shogun Ieyasu, and they received the special title of okakae-kinko, the same title which was awarded to the  Hirata and Yoshioka families, and they used to work under the Gotofs supervision. This fuchi and kashirafs carving technique is typical Goto style, as you can immediately recognize, with a shakudo-nanako ji, and takabori shikie, and is well made and very sophisticated. Noda Noriaki author of the Kinko-kantei-hiketsu, listed Ozaki Nobumasa as being among the best 28 kinko craftman , along with Toshikazu, and Somin. Also, Tanaka Ichigasai, author of the Kinko-tanki, listed Naomasa is being among the 44 best craftsmen.

Ozaki Naomasa has very few works signed, and this is considered to be his masterpiece.    


Explanation provided by Kobayashi Terumasa    



Shijo Kantei No 618 (July, 2008 issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

Number 618 (July, 2008 issue)


In the July issue, the answer for the Shijo Kantei is Minamoto Masao (dated Manen 1)


This sword has a wide mihaba, with a moto and saki which are not much different, a shallow sori, okissaki, and a thin kasane, and from this characteristic shape, one can guess a Shinshinto period sword. The jitetsu shows itame hada mixed with nagare hada, thee are ji-nie and chikei, and the hamon is composed mainly of round topped gunome with  midare-ba, long ashi, a bright nioiguchi with frequent nie, and in some part places is mixed with bright rough nie, kinsuji, and sunagashi. The boshi is midare-komi and the tip is sharp. From these details almost everybody voted for the Kiyomaro school. Minamoto Masaofs name Masao took a kanji, Masa, from his teacher Kiyomarofs early name Masayukifs, and from this fact, he is supposed to be Kiyomarofs oldest student. It is thought that around Kaei 6 (1853) he became an independent sword smith and lived Edo (Tokyo) in Shitaya Okachimachi. Around Kaei 6, many things happened to the Kiyomaro school. In the same school, Kurihara Nobuhide started making own swords in Kaei5 (1852), and in the same year the 2nd generation student Saito Kiyondo became a student. In Kaei 6, Masao became an independent smith, and in Kaei 7(1854) Kiyomaro passed away.

Around the Tenpo, Koka, and Kaei eras (1830–1853), Masaofs teacher Kiyomaro always made strong Shidzu-style Soshu Den swords. During the Tenpo and Koka eras (1830 – 1847), many of his hamon were gunome-midare mixed with choji, The midare hamon have a short distance between the midare peaks and have frequent kinsuji and sunagashi. During the Kaei era (1848 – 1853), the hamon are midare, but the choji are inconspicuous, and the hamon are primarily large gunome midare with kinsuji and sunagashi and become more gentle. These three of Kiyomarofs students became independent around the Kaei era, and Masao and Kiyondo adopted Kiyomarofs Kaei period style. Kiyondo has similar hamon to Kiyomaro, but the ji and ha are clear, and kinsuji and sunagashi inside the ha are more gentle, the boshi kaeri has many bright almost kinsuji style hakikake, which people describe as being like the strokes of a comb. Masaofs hamon are mainly low gunome (the distance from the top of the gunome to the valley is small), with round topped gunome and usually his midare hamon do not have high and low variations, which are characteristics of  his style. Also, his and Kiyondofs swords have a clear ha, the kinsuji, and the sunagashi are more gentle when compared to his teacher Kiyomaro. His boshi are mainly midare-komi with a sharp tip, and sometimes we can see a midare-komi ko-maru boshi. Masao does not have many horimono, but sometimes we can see well carved waka (tanka poetry) on his swords.His nakago tip is kurijiri, and most of the time the yasurime is suji-chigai. His signatures show all kinds of layouts, but mainly on the omote in the center, between the mekugi-ana he signed Minamoto Masao. Usually on the ura side, in the same location or slightly higher, he signed the date with a large thick tagane (chisel) in a sosho (grass-like) style. From Ansei 5 (1858) to Manen 1(1860) for three years, he stayed in Hokkaido at the Hakodatekan, and made swords using Hakodate satetsu, and he signed with long mei such as goite Hakodate sanroku motte satetsu tukuruh ; hoite Ezo Hakodate sanroku motte shirikishinai satetsu tukuru koreff. After he returned to Edo, he would sometimes use Hokkaido satetsu and sign with a long mei. Most of the people voted for Masao, and few people voted Kurihara Nobuhide which is almost correct. Nobuhide is from the same school, and their styles are similar, but his hamon have square large gunome, mixed with  ko-gunome, ko-choji, ko-togariba (small), and between the gunome he put choji and sometimes a more complex square type of hamon. Around the Kaei era, his early work with square gunome was not distinguished, and the low yakiba and the gunome are smaller, and gentle looking. Also, his signatures are in the kaisho style, and never seen with the large thick sosho style strokes, so people should keep this in mind.                


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.