Meito Kansho

Examination of important swords


Classification: Juyo Bunkazai (Important Cultural Property)

Blade type: tachi


Mei: Nagamitsu


Comment: A paper accompanies this sword and is dated Kanbun 9 nen (1669) and signed by Honami Mitsutsune. It says the value of this sword is 350 kan, and that this sword belonged to the Uemura family.




Nagasa (length): 2 shaku 5 sun 5 bu (77.3 cm)

Sori (curvature): slightly less than 6 bu (1.8 cm)

Motohaba (width at the machi): slightly less than 9 bu 7 rin (2.93 cm)

Sakihaba (width at the point): 5 bu 9 rin (1.79 cm)

Motokasane (thickness at the machi) : slightly less than 2 bu 6 rin (0.78 cm)

Sakikasane (thickness at the point): slightly more than1bu (0.42 cm)

Kissaki length (length of the point): 9 bu 6 rin (2.9 cm)

Nakago (tang) length: 7 bu 5.5 rin (22.9 cm)

Nakago sori (curvature of the tang): slightly less than1bu (0.3 cm)


  This sword is a shinogi zukuri blade with an iorimune. At the moto and saki, the width is only slightly different. The kasane is thick, and with the hiramiku, the blade appears have a large volume or be massive. The sori is shallow and is koshizori. There is a chu-kisaki, and the jihada is koitame mixed with tight ko-mokume. The somewhat strong hada has fine jinie and chikei, and around the koshimoto there is a straight utsuri which changes to midare utsuri. The hamon is a shallow notare, and ko-gunome are mixed with round top gunome. There are ko-ashi, yo, ko-nie, and a tight bright nioiguchi. The boshi is straight and contains a slight curve, and ends in komaru and shallow return (kaeri). The horimono on the tachi-omote around the koshimoto of kanji characters for  Hachiman Daibosatsu. The nakago is ubu, and slightly machi okuri. The kurijiri is sakiha-agari, the yasurime are katte sagari, and there are two mekugi ana and one is filled.      

  Osafune Nagamitsu is a mid- to late Kamakura sword smith and many of his swords remain today, and every one of them is very well made. Nagamitsu was very highly skilled and was a great sword smith, and his father Mitsutada founded the Osafune school and became very well known for his work, and made he Osafune School very famous as well. Nagamitsu made swords in all kinds of styles, and his early work is similar to that of his father Mitsutada. These have choji hamon mixed with kawazuko choji, and the yakihaba varies and shows wide and shallow areas, and have a very exuberant appearance. Later work shows a very distinctive and unique hamon which are composed of either choji or gunome, with distinctive round tops mixed with gunome, and old books or commentaries describe these unique round topped choji hamon. In addition, Nagamitsu also made suguha hamon  and suguha with ashi. This sword shows his usual shape and the hamon is suguha mixed ko-gunome and ko-ashi, and the result is a gentle elegant yakiba. The jihada is ko-itame mixed with tight ko-mokume, and the jigane appears soft, and  from these characteristics, this sword appears to be his later work.  The paper which accompanies this sword, and the Shintei Kansei Jushushokafu No.5 (an old book) say that in the autumn of Genki 3 (1572), Uesugi Kenshin visited the Toshogu shrine, and prayed for his familyfs health and prosperity and donated a Bizen Nagamitsu sword and a Yamabushi style gusoku (armor) to the shrine. From these records, it appears that Nagamitsu made swords for the Uesugi family too. This swordfs hamon is a continuous ko-gunome, which appears like a row of uniform small beans (or azuki beans) lined up to compose the hamon, and because of this, this sword has been nicknamed Azuki Nagamitsu.  


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



Shijo Kantei To No.621


*NOTE: For Shijo Kantei To No.620 (in the September issue), the answer is a wakizashi by Omiya Morikage (Teiji 3)


Deadline for the submission of answers for the No. 621 issue is November 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 November 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 there are several generations for this smith, please indicate a specific generation.


Hints for Quiz No. 621:


Blade type: tachi



Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 5bu (71.21cm)

Sori: 7.5 bu (2.27 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 2 rin (2.8 cm)

Sakihaba: 6 bu 4 rin(1.95 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 3 rin (0.7cm)

Sakihaba: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm)

Kisaki Length: 9 bu 9 rin (0.3 cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 8.5bu (23.79 cm)

Nakago sori: 1bu (0.3cm)


  This sword is shinogi zukuri and has an iorimune. The mihaba is average, and the width at the moto and saki are not much different. The blade is suriage, with a high koshisori, the tip has sori and a chu-kisaki. The jitetsu is itame and mokume, and in places is mixed mixed with nagare-hada. The hada is easy to see, and the ji shows ji-nie, chikei, jifu, and has midare utsuri. The hamon and boshi have ashi, yo, and the hamon is basicly a saka (slanted) type hamon, with a bright nioi guchi, ko-nie, and a little kinsuji and sunagashi. The  horimono on this sword on both the omote and ura are smooth bo-hi. The nakago is suriage and saki-kiri (and was originally kurijiri). The yasurime are sujichigai, There are 4 mekugiana (which includes the original), and 2 were filled. On the tachi omote side of the nakago, near the mune there is a long mei (this sword smithfs mei has no gyakutagane or chisel strokes inscribed in a direction opposite to the brush writing direction).


Juyo Toshingu


Mei: Nanakunka-zu mitokoro-mono (3 piece set)

Kozuka mei: Tounsha Ishou Nakagawa Katsuhiro (kao)

Kogai mei: Shinobuga oka fumoto Otonashi gawa-beri Ishou Nakagawa Katsuhiro (kao)   Menuki warikiwa-hashi mei: Nakagawa Ishou. Noakagawa Ishou    


  Nakagawa Ishou was born in Bunsei 11(1828) as the second son and 10th generation of the Nakagawa family in Tsuyama. Originally his name was Nakagawa Katsuhiro, and usually during his early career, he was called Naojiro, and later was called Gohei. The Nakagawa family had been working for the Mimasaka province Tsuyama fief Matsudaira daimyo as gold carvers, and Ishou learned his craft from his father from the time he was 12 to 13 years old. At the age of 21 years, he became a student of the Goto-Ichijo family in Kyoto in response to his lordfs order, and at the age of 25 years, his master gave him a permission to use the kanji gIchih and he re-named himself Ishou, In Kaei 4 (1851),  his master Ichijo went to Edo in response to the shogunfs order, and Ishou followed him and moved to Edo. In the Ansei era (1854-1859), he returned to Tsuyama and installed his youngest brother as the 11th generation Nakagawa family master, and returned Edo to live and work in the Tsuyama fief Edo mansion. In Bunkyu 2(1862), he changed the gshouh kanji in his name for a gshouh written with a different kanji (with the same pronounciation of gshouh) which means a master of  a craft, so his name still was pronounced as Ishou. He passed away in Meiji 9 (1876).  Ishou was one of best carvers in the Ichijo school, and this mitokoromono (3 piece) set was made in Meiji 3. At this time, Ishou was s 42 years old, and his technique follows the Ichijo schoolfs famous style of work with traditional iebori  and has a very sophisticated  and refined look. The box which contains these 3 pieces  has a hakogaki (ink inscription) on it, and the title or name of the work is Nana Kunka (seven perfumed flowers). Ishou wrote a memo himself and said that he made these to the ownerfs order. These show the Ichijo schoolfs excellent sketching technique and very delicate refined tagane zukai (chisel work), and judging from the quality of this work, this could be a gift for the emperorfs family. The Nana Kunka are: the omote menuki has ume (plum); the ura menuki has kusunoki (camphor); the kogai has  matsurika, and kuchinashi (gardenia); and the kozuka has ran (orchid), yuri (lilly), and suisen (daffodil). The kanka kanji also has the same reading as kunka (virtues lead to good effects or benefits for people) and people think that these elegant perfumed flowers which are pictured provide guidance for virtuous people.


Explanation provided by Kobayashi Terumasa    


Teirei Kansho Kai For September


The swords discussed below were shown in the September 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 September 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.




Kantei To No.1:


Mei: Sukemune saku (Shimada school)

Length: slightly shorter than 8 sun 1bu

Sori: slightly uschisori

Style: hiratsukuri,

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: itamehada with ji-nie

Ha: gunome mixed with chojiba and togariba, muneyaki, tobiyaki, nioi type, konie, has sunagashi 

Boshi: midarekomi, komaru, continued to muneyaki


This is a lively tanto. Usually, hitatsura tantos are from Soshu by Hiromitsu and Akihiro, and from Kyoto by Hasebe Kunishige and Kuninobu who were Nanboku-cho era sword smiths. This tanto is narrow and sunnobi, with nioi deki, and a tight habuchi, and these characteristics are different from Nanboku-cho era work. This is a Sunshu Shimada school Sukemune tanto.  After the Nanboku-cho and Muromachi eras, hitatsura style tanto were made by many sword smiths: the Shimada school, sue-Soshu, Jakushu Fuyuhiro, Hakushu Koga, and sue-Bizen smiths, and these smiths made very lively blades. This tantofs tip is long and has a midare-hamon and the boshi is continued to form muneyaki. In places in the midare hamon there are large areas where it almost  looks like there is no yakiba. These are characteristic Muromachi time hitatsura blades, and this tanto has less nie when compared with Nanbokucho work and contains more nioi. This blade has many pronounced togariba, and these big togariba curve from the left to the right, and these are characteristic of Shimada school work.


Kantei To No.2:


Mei: Ozaki nagatono-kami Fujiwara Suketaka 

        Kansei 12, 2 gatsu hi

Length: 1shaku 6 sun 7 bu

Sori: 3 bu

Construction: shinogi zukuri, iorimune

Jihada: tight koitame, slightly mu-hada, dense thick ji-nie, and the jigane is clear

Ha: straight yakidashi, and above the yakidashi is o-gunome midare, which becomes toranba, with deep nioi, frequent nie, and a bright and clear nioiguchi.

Boshi: straight with komaru


This is a lively toran-midare wakizashi. People have said that this kind of toran-midare was created by Tsuda echizen no kami Sukehiro in Osaka during the Kambun shinto era. There are sword smiths who made a similar type of midare hamon among the Osaka Shinto smiths such as the nidai Echizen no kami Kanesada, Omi no kami Sukenao, and Ikanshi Tadatsuna who were working same time or slightly later than Sukehiro. Shinshinto smiths who worked in this style are Suishinshi Masahide, Kato Tsunahide and the Tsunatoshi brothers, Tegarayama Masashige, Ozaki Suketaka, and Ichige Tokurin.This blade has a wide mihabe (width), the kitsaki is long, there is very slight hiraniku, and a very tight jihada which contains mu-hada kitae. From these characteristics, this is Shinshinto era blade. Among the Shinshinto smiths who made toran-midare hamon, the Suketakafs toranba have a strong slant in the wave shape, and suggest big rough waves which are moving. Other Shinshinto smiths have different kinds of hamon, and their toranba are round topped o-guome, and become a more smooth midareba. In many of Sukehirofs toran midare, the bottom or troughs in the waves form square shape and this blade shows this shape well. The Tsunahide and Tsunatoshi brothers toran-midare are also have similar midare and valleys as Suketaka, but their nioiguchi is not deep or thick as Suketakafs.            


Kantei To No 3:


Mei: dosaku  kono hori Nakasone Kotetsu nyudo Okisato

Kinzougan mei: konkaidan mitsudou futatsudo saidan kore sonota tokoro dokoro

                   Yamano kaemonjou Nagahisa(Kao)

Length: slightly longer than 2 shaku 3 sun 5 bu

Sori: 4 bu

Construction: shinogi zukuri, iomune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, mixed with o-hada, with thick ji-nie

Hamon: straight yakidashi. Above the yakidashi the hamon becomes o-gunome and ko-notare, mixed with togari type gunome. There is a slightly thick band of nioi, ko-nie, sunagashi, and a bright clear nioiguchi.

Boshi: straight with komaru

Horimono: omote has bo-hi with marudome (round ends). Under this there are bonji and gomabashi. The ura has two bo-hi with marudome, and under this are bonji and rendai (a base for lotus flowers)


This is a hanetora mei Kotetsu sword. Kotetsu has two different styles, and these show differences in the tora kanji: an early period Tora (hanetora), and a later period Tora (hakotora). His early blades are more ko-gunome with low and high areas of the yakiba, and the inside of the ha has large and small gunome which appear like a profile of a gourd, called gHyotanbah, and this is a Kotetsufs original unique hamon, and many of his blades blades have this form somewhere .  His later hamon are called gJuzubah, in which the yakiba does not have much variation, and the top of the hamon is very even. This blade is a good example of a Hanetora time midare-ba which is mixed with hyotanba. Kotetsu is an Edo Shinto smith, and many of his swords have a yakidashi. His yakidashi are different from Sukehirofs where the hamon become wider in the upper part of the yakidashi.  Kotetsufs yakidashi show an even width from the bae to the upper part of the yakidashi, and this blade shows his characristic hamon and yakidashi. In the lower part of the jigane, some o-hada are seen, and this kind of jigane is seen many of his swords, and around the koshimoto it is called tekogane which means  that a border between the shingane and kawagane can be seen. Because this sword  does not show Kotetsufs characteristic hamon which has deep yakikomi around the yokote, some people voted for the Osaka shinto smiths Sukenao and Kanesada, and for the Edo smith Yamatono no kami Yasusada.  Sukenao and Kanesada yakidashi are different from this, and their upper part of the yakidashi areas became wider, and both smiths made yakihaba which were wider than those seen on hanetora period Kotetsu blades. Yasusada es midare hamon have a  top and valley are more square shaped when compared with Kotestufs  work. Also all of these smiths yakiba have nioiguchi which are not as clear as Kotetsufs.     




Kantei To No. 4:


Mei: Nagamitsu

Length: 2 shaku 3 bu 4 sun

Sori: 9.5 bu

Construction: shinogizukuri with an iomune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with mokume, dense ji-nie, midare utsuri, and in some places the utsuri becomes straight

Hamon: choji gunome, mixed with ko-notare. Around the tachi-ura koshimoto, the hamon contains a large koshi-ba. The hamon shows a gorgeous midare, and strong nioi and ko-nie.

Boshi: shallow notare with komaru and kaeri



  This swordfs  straight utsuri starts around the machi, and this blade appears to be ubu or very close to ubu. There is a deep sori which is koshizori, and around the tip there is little sori. Judging from this tachi shape, this is a mid- to late-Kamakura blade. In places there are midare utsuri, and the primarily choji hamon is mixed with gunome and ko-notare, and this blade shows a very lively midare hamon. Again, from these characteristics, this sword is a mid- to late-Kamakura Bizen sword, and these are similar to  Ichimonji and Hatakeyama school work, or the Osafune schoolfs Mitsutada and Nagamitsu. This is a Nagamitsu tachi. Nagamitsu made lively choji hamon which were similar  to his father Mitsutadafs hamon, and Nagamitsu also made hamon with tight nioiguchi  and simple suguha. He worked in all kinds of styles, and this is a good example of a lively choji hamon. People voted for other sword smiths beside Nagamitsu, but this swordfs yakiba around monouchi is low and gentle, and this is a characteristic hamon of the Osafune school, and this top of this bladefs midare-ba is round, and this is typical of Nagamitsufs work. Other smiths do not show too many gunome inside of  the hamon, and the midare hamon become more lively with o-choji and kawazuko-choji. Also Ichimonji and Hatakeyama school hada are more strong or pronounced, and usually Mitsutada has a tighter jihada than Nagamitsu. The boshi has a slight curve, so is not perfectly straight. This is a sansaku-boshi style. This type of boshi shape is not seen in the work of other smiths, except (in the Osafune-school) in the work of Nagamitsu, Sanenaga, Kagemitsu, and Chikakage. 



Kantei To No. 5:


Mei: Rai Kunitoshi

Length: 2 shaku 1sun 1bu

Sori: 6.5 bu

Construction: shinogizukuri with an iorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame,  mixed with occasional o-hada, thick dense ji-nie, nie-utsuri  

Hamon: chu-suguha, slightly thick band of nioi, the habuchi is tight, there are ko-nie and few ko-ashi

Boshi: straight with komaru


This sword does not have fumbari, and is suriage. The sori shape is wazori (circular). The jihada is a tight ko-itame, there is ji utsuri, the hamon is chu-suguha, and the upper part of the mune has muneyaki. The boshi is a gentle komaru with a return (kaeri). These are typical Yamashiro Rai shool characteristics, and many people voted for Rai Kunitoshi, Rai Kuniyuki, Niji Kunitoshi, and Ryokai, and for Enju in Kyushu which is  also close to the Rai school.

  This is a Rai Kunitoshi tachi.Because part of the nie utsuri looks white, some people voted for Ryokai and Enju, but if you look at it carefully, there ia a weak jihada. The reason the hada appears white, is that part of the original nie utsuri became visible in the weak jigane later and this makes the hada appear white. This is a narrow elegantly shaped tachi, If you look at it as being from the Rai school, this type of shape is seen in early work from Rai Kunitoshi and Rai Kunimitsu, but not from Ryokai. From the gentle suguha hamon seen from both smiths, and the shape, ji and ha,  it is hard judging in favor of one of these two smiths, and a vote for either one of these two smiths is acceptable at this time. Rai Kunitoshi has many narrow shaped swords, and Rai Kuniyuki hamon are contain ko-choji, ko-midare, and ko-ashi, and among his swords, it is rare to see a suguha style hamon like this sword.       




Shijo Kantei No 619 (August issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

Number 619 (August, 2008 issue)



  In the August issue, the answer for the Shijo Kantei is a tachi by Awataguchi Kunitsuna.

  This sword has a narrow mihaba, a different width at the moto and saki, a high koshizori, fumbari, and a small kisaki. From these details, we can guess an early Kamakura era sword. But at the tip of the sword, the sori does not become smaller: it has more sori, and this characteristic is different from the usual swords from this time. Kunitsuna has very few swords existing now, and his active time is unknown today, so it is difficult to judge the swordfs date. He was the youngest son of six Awataguchi brothers, and was working in Kamakura, and ordered to work there by the Hojo regime. An old sword book records that the date was the Kencho period (1249-59), and judging from these facts, Kunitsunafs active period slightly after the early Kamakura period. Kunitsunafs tachi not only has high koshizori, but also a sori shape which is different from usual early Kamakura work, and maybe the shape depended on the period when he was working. He made the Onimaru Kunitsuna which is a gyobutsu work (belonging  to the emperor), and the mihaba of that sword is wider than this sword, and the kissaki is a chu-kissaki. The Awataguchi school jihada is a tight ko-itame, the jigane has a deep blue tint, and there are thick fragmented ji-nie and fine chikei, and the features are known as a nashi-ji-hada,. But this swordfs hada is large itame and mokume, and the hada is clearly visible, and there are thick ji-nie with a strong kitae. The Awaguchi school hamon is usually a suguha style ko-choji-midare, mixed with komidare, and Kunitsugufs  hamon is wider than others, and hamon width shows variations, and the ha-nie is much stronger. His boshi is straight with ko-maru, and slightly midarekomi, with a round tip large return (kaeri). Also, around the hamachi there is mizukage utsuri which continues to the higher utsuri along the blade, and this is typical for his swords. The gyobutsu sword Onimaru Kunitsuna  shows this part very clearly, and described as gkoshibah. The Kokon-meizukushi (a historical book about swords) said that his koshiba is 1sun above the habaki, and around the habaki area, part of the ha is a narrow yaki-otoshi, and this narrow part continues to the koshiba (large area of the yakiba). It can look almost like smoke comes out suddenly at the base of the ha and moves higher up the sword.  Compared with early Kamakura Awataguchi school work, Kunitsunafs swords have a high koshizori, a different sori shape, a bigger itame mokume hada, a strong itame, are wider, and the ha has more variation, and there is a strong ha-nie hamon. Among Awataguchi swords, these swords show a stronger ji and ha and a lively spirit, and these are characteristics of his swords. After looking at the usual Awataguchi school swords,  Kunitsuna tachi, of which only  a few are left, look unusual: partly because of the mizukage around  the koshimoto. Possibly because of this mizukaze,  there were suggestions that the Onimaru Kunitsugu could be a saiha (retempered) sword.  Kunitsugufs nakago were originally kurijiri, the yasurime is katte sagari, the mei is tachi mei,  and above the ubu ana on the mune side is a  ni-ji (2 kanji) mei.  Most people voted for Kunitsugu, and some people voted for the Awataguchi school smiths Hisakuni and Kuniyasu, and other than these, people voted for Ko-bizen and Ko-hoki. Hisakuni is a second son and Kuniyasu is a third son among the six Awataguchi brothers, and Hisakuni is known as the most highly skilled smith, and his kitae typically have nashi-jihada, the hamon is suguha ko-choji midare mixed with ko-midare, have ko-ashi, yo and bright strong thick ha-nie, and usually he does not have large itame and mokume hada. The hamon does not have this much variation, and looks more elegant and gentle. Kuniyasu has a strong itame and mokume hada, and most of his hamons have narrow ko-choji midare mixed with ko-midare, and between the midare there is more space, the top of the yakiba has small yubashiri in places, and the nioi guchi is more soft appearing. Ko-bizen swords have large itame and mokume, and jifu utsuri, and  these characters are similar to Kunitsunafs swords, and they have many bright nioi guchi hamon, but nothing like this sword which has bright thick ha-nie, and a unique hada. Kohoki has large itame and mokume, and ha-nie is strong, the habuchi has hotsure, and there are has yubashiri. These characteristics are similar Kunitsunafs swords, and Kohoki swords often have mizukage utsuri around the koshimoto.  Some people looked at this feature as indicating  yaki-otoshi which is seen often in this school, and voted for Kohoki. In the Kohoki jitetsu, the colors are darker, there is a strong hada containing jifu, the hamon nioi guchi contains nie, and the inside of the ha has some visible hada, and often the nioi guchi appears more soft, and the swords appear less sophisticated.


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.