Issue Number 622



Meito Kansho

Examination of important swords


Classification: Juyo Bijutsu Hin

Blade type: tachi


Mei: Yoshikane





Nagasa (length): 2 shaku 2 sun 6.5 bu( slightly over 68 cm)

Sori (curvature): 8 bu 6.5rin (2.62 cm)

Motohaba (width at the machi): 6.5 bu (2.0 cm)

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

Motokasane (thickness at the machi) : slightly less than 1 bu 9 rin (0.59cm)

Sakikasane (thickness at the point): slightly over1bu 3 rin (0.41 cm)

Kissaki length (length of the point): 8 bu 9rin (2.69 cm)

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

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


   This sword is shinogi zukuri, with an iorimune, a narrow mihaba, and shinogihaba, and the width at the  moto and saki are different. The blade is suriage but there is some koshizori left, and the sori is slightly large. There is a small kissaki, and the jihada is itame and o-itame, and there are scattered areas with nagare-hada.The ji has thick ji-nie, fine chikei, and pale utsuri. The hamon is a wide shallow notare, with ko-gunome, gunome mixed with choji, frequent short wide ashi, and inside of the ha there are nie. There are coarse nie (ara-nie), sunagashi, frequent fine kinsuji,  and a worn down (faint) nioi-guchi. The boshi is komaru with a shallow return. The horimono on the omote and ura are smooth bo-hi with marudome. The nakago is suriage, and sakikiri, and some yasurime are new katte-sagarei, while the old yasurimei are shallow kattesagari. There are three mekugiana.

   Yoshikane is a Ko-Bizen smith, and some of the meikan list him as an Ichimonji smith. His signature shows two styles, one with small kanji, and one with large kanji. The large style signature is sometimes niji-mei (two kanji) and sometimes also include the kanji for gsakuhtoo. His jihada  is usually clearly visible, and sometimes shows a tight kitae. His hamon is usually suguha, or ko-midare mixed with ko-gunome, and this is an elegant old style, which shows a tight or dense nioiguchi in suguha mixed with ashi and yo. The (an old reference)  stated that Yoshikanefs tachi shape is thin and long, with a high sori; that the shinogi-ji is a little narrow; the top of mune is sharp; the kissaki is small; the color of the ji (the ji-iro) is black, and that the color of ha looks blue; ther eis a well made midareba; and the hamon at the koshimoto is komidare; the middle is o-midare with deep ashi; the area above the monouchi hamon is narrow and has ko-ashi and nie; shape is similar to Kunitoshifs; and inside of the kissaki the boshi is suguha with a slight degree of midareba and a very slight return (kaeri). This commentary  states that besides the shape, Yoshikanefs yakiba are similar to Kunitoshifs, and this means that when compared to other Kobizen smiths, this blade has thick nie ashi. This sword has an old fashioned appearance, and the itame hada is clearly visible, and the inside of the ha has abundant thick nie ashi,       

frequent nie, and the nioiguchi is worn down, This blade is very characteristic of Yoshikanefs style. The yakihaba is very wide, and this sword is similar to the Juyo Bunkazai Yoshikane sword in the Tokyo national Museum.


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



Shijo Kantei To No.622


*NOTE: For Shijo Kantei To No.621 (in the October issue), the answer is Osafune Motoshige


Deadline for the submission of answers for the No. 622 issue is December 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 December 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. 622:


Blade type: tachi



Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 6 bu (68 .5cm)

Sori: 7 bu (2.12 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu  2rin (2.8 cm)

Sakihaba: 6 bu 9 rin (2.1cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 8 rin (0.85 cm)

Sakikasane: 2 bu 1rin (0.65 cm)

Kisaki Length: 1sun 1bu 9 rin(3.6 cm)

Nakago length: 6 sun 5.5 bu (19.85 cm)

Nakago sori: 3 rin (0.1 cm)


This sword is shinogi tsukuri with an iorimune, a usual mihaba, and the width at the  moto and saki areas are not different. The blade is suriage, has  a high koshizori, and the tip has sori. For the mihaba, the  kasane  on this blade is thick; and the chu-kissai is slightly long. The jitetsu is itame and mokume mixed with nagare masame hada, and the hada is clearly visible. There are ji-nie and some chikei, along with some occaasional thick chikei. There are jifu and and a faint or pale midare utsuri. The hamon and boshi both have ko-ashi, yo, some strong nioi and konie The hamon is narrow for the mihaba, and there are kinsuji and sunagashi. On both sides, there are horimono consisting of bo-hi, and the omote has marudome, while the ura has a straight finish. The nakago is suriage, and the tip is a shallow kurijiri (originally it was kurijiri). The original yasurime are kattesagari, while the new yasurimei are sujichigai. There are two mekugiana, and the tachi-omote nakago in the shinogi ji area has a long signature (This smithfs giyaku tagane work is not seen often).  


Juyo Toshingu


Dainichi Nyoraizu Tsuba


Mei: Iwamoto Konkan


   Dainichi Nyorai is the primary buddha for the Shingon Mikkyo sect, he hopes that the light of his torch will enlighten the world. Another name for this Buddha is Hensho-Nyorai. There are two kinds of buddha, and the symbol of wisdom is the kongokai. This Buddha is sitting on a rock with a shape of a lotus flower (rengaza), and his elbows are wide apart, and his hands are held in the chikenin style (with the fingers crossed), and from these characteristics, one can judge that this is a kongoukai dainichi nyorai.

   The artist is Iwamoto Konkan who worked in the Edo kinkou Iwamoto school as the 6th generation. The Iwamoto family was part of the Yokoya school where the most renown artist was Somin. Konkan used this schools technique plus techniques from Yasuchikafs Nara school, and created a very original chic Edo style art.  

   This tsubafs omote and ura have large empty spaces, which shows the Dainichi Nyoraifs dignity, and this is excellent work. He has a childfs face and a thick neck, his appearance conveys a rich look, and his thighs are large and show a good volume: these are characteristics of the Shingon Mikkyo Buddha. The ura side of the tsuba has a straight bold three stage water fall, and the the carving (sukesage-bori) shows the fallfs depth and water volume. The edge of the rocks display deep diagonal chisel marks (natabori), and these continued triangular chisel marks imply power, just like the sounds from a rough or rugged  water fall can be heard all over the mountain. This is a chic distinctive style of Konkan, and he did not use only gold for the Dainichi Nyorai:  he used rougin which consists of mixed metals (silver and copper) for the entire Buddha, and used tears of gold which produces an old elegant effect. Also, as we look at both, the omote and ura, the half empty spaces may suggest that Konkan wants to imply the presence of Kobou Daishi who was a founder of the Shingon Mikkyo sect.    


Explanation provided by Kobayashi Terumasa    




Teirei Kansho Kai For October


The swords discussed below were shown in the October 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 October 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 the correct sword smithfs name. This lecture and the explanations were given by Hiyama Masanori.




Kantei To No. 1


Mei: Mumei Ko-Aoe katana

Length: 2 shaku 5 sun 4 bu

Sori: 1sun 0.5rin

Design: shinogi tsukuri

Mune: iorimune

Jihada: ko-itame mixed with ko-mokume. The hada is clearly visible, and there are ji-nie, chikei, and jifu. The color of the iron is a dark blue, and almost black in places.

Hamon: suguha style ko-choji midare mixed with ko-midare, frequent ashi and yo, and the nioiguchi is worn down, and shows nie, and some sunagashi.

Boshi: straight with komaru


This is an o-suriage mumei sword, and is a typical ko-Aoe blade classified as Juyo Token. There is one mekugi-ana, and this was opened for an uchigatana koshirae.  Considering the mekugi-ana, the nakago shape, the habaki-moto fumbari, and entire sori, this is an o-suriage blade, whose length is 2 shaku 5 sun 4 bu, and originally the blade was a tachi with a length of over 2 shaku 8 sun 5 bu.  In the late Heian era and the beginning of the Kamakura era, all schools made tachi which were usually narrow, and the width at the moto and saki were different, there was a high koshizori, and the tip did not have much sori. Because this sword has a slighter wider mihaba, and the sori was not only koshi-sori, but also present at the tip, many people voted for Unrui and others which are late Kamakura era swords. In this era, this kind of tachi shape is rare, but seen in work from Ko-Aoe and  Ko-Bizen, and among other Ko-Aoe examples are a Toshitsugu tachi which is classified as Tokubetsu Juyo Token, and the Kitsunegasaki Tanetsugu tachi which is classified as  kokuho. If you aware of this, and notice that the jitetsu is a clearly visible ko-itame with a chirimen style kitae, and that the hamon is an old fashioned suguha style ko-choji, mixed with ko-midare with thick nie which we do not see at the end of the Kamakura era, one can judge that this is an early Kamakura era sword.

   From the ji and ha, we can guess at Ko-Aoe and Ko-Bizen swords, but the important point is the dark sections of the jifu utsuri: the dark areas show all kinds of large and small shapes, and here and there, one sees what appears to be sumihada (dark colored but clear hada). This kind of jifu utsuri is seen on Ko-Aoe swords, and from this element, this could be judged to be from the Ko-Aoe school.  



Kantei  To No. 2


Mei:  shu Osafune ju Motoshige 

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 1bu

Sori: 7.5 bu

Design: shinogi tsukuri

Mune: iorimune

Jihada: tight itame hada mixed with masame hade. the hada is clear, and there are ji-nie, chikei, jifu and midare utsuri.

Hamon: gunome midare, and inside of the ha there is a square type of gunome, mixed with ko-choji, ko-midare, with frequent ashi and yo. The entire hamon pattern is slanted, and there are dense nioi, frequent nie, and kinsuji and sunagashi.  

Boshi: above the yokote there is a shallow notare, the tip has a sharp return, and there are fine hakikake.


This is a tachi by Motoshige, and the amount of hataraki consisting of ashi and yo is higher than usual for Motoshigefs work.There is abundant nie inside of the ha, along with kinsuji and sunagashi. From these characteristics, many people voted for a Ko-Bizen sword, the opposite of the No.1 kantei to. This sword has deep nie, and the nie is on the ha side of the nioiguchi, and this acquires the appearance of an old style nioiguchi. If you look at the top of the bo-hi (grooves), and at the ko-shinogi line, the sword appears to have been polished many times, and the yokote line moved a little bit lower than it was originally. In addition, the nioiguchi was probably more tight or dense originally. The jitetsu is itame mixed with masame hada, and hada iseasily visible, and there are jifu, and this is typical for Motoshige swords. If you look at the hamon line carefully, the square gunome top is long in the lengthwise direction, and the valleys of the yakiba are mixed with sharp togariba, and these are characteristics of Motoshiges style, so this can be judged as his work.

   If a sword is Ko-Bizen work, the hamon is primarily an old style ko-midare and ko-choji, which is  just like the No.1 kantei to. This sword is a suguha style mixed with square gunome, and the entire hamon is slanted, and for Bizen swords this kind of hamon is suppose to be from the end of the Kamakura era.


Kantei To No 3


Mei: Masanori

         Oei 3ƒÎ nen

Length:  2shaku 3 sun 7 bu

Sori: 4 bu

Design: shinogi-tsukuri

Mune: iorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, mixed here and there with nagare masame hada; there are fine ji-nie, chikei and midare utsuri.

Hamon: the entire hamon is continuous ko-gunome, with ko-ashi, frequent nie, some places have hotsure, kinsuji and sunagashi.

Boshi: the omote and ura are both midare-komi, and the omote side is a togari (sharp or pointed shape) while the ura is ko-maru, and both sides have hakikake.


Some of the Bizen Yoshii school smiths moved to Izumo-kuni, and these smiths are called the Unshu-Michinaga school. Masanori worked in this school, and an Oei 30 nen dated  signature is very rare for the school. Michinagafs swords are almost the same style as his hometown Yoshii schoolfs work, this sword has a regular continuous ko-gunome hamon, and has utsuri with almost the same shape as the hamon, and this is characteristic of the Yoshii school. This is an early Muromachi period sword, and when compared with the common examples of Yoshii swords, it has strong ha-nie, the inside of the ha has characteristic hataraki, and it appears like old style Yoshii school work. Many people voted for some of the Yoshii school smiths. If people voted for the Yoshii school, even though this sword is suriage, the mihaba is  normal , and the mihaba between the moto and saki is different.  For this swordfs mihaba, the kasane is thick, and the upper half of the sword has sakizori. Thus, if you judged this as an early Muromachi sword, it is a good answer.  


Kantei To No. 4


Mei: Nakasone Okimasa

        Enpo 3 nen Usangatsu (March) 28 nichi

        Sunagawa Ibei Hisashige (kao)

        Futatsudo setsudan

Length: slightly less than 2 shaku 3 sun 7 bu

Sori: 4.5 bu

Design: shinogi tsukuri

Mune: iorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, dense ji-nie, fine frequent chikei; the shinogi-ji has masame hada  

Hamon: straight yakidashi; above this is gunome midare, and the yakiba has high and low sections, and has the appearance of  a string of beads, mixed here and there with togariba; there are ashi, yo, dense nioi, frequent nie, kinsuji, sunagashi and a bright nioiguchi.

Boshi: Both the omote and ura are shallow midare-komi with a komaru, frequent nie and some parts become nie kugure (the shape of the hamon is hidden or obscured in places because of the dense nie).


This nakagofs ura side has a kinzogan mei dated Enpo 3 nen, and from the omote mei we can judge this to be an early Nakasone Okimasa sword. Okimasa has a few dated signatures which were in the Kanbun, Empo, Tenwa, and Genroku eras, and his active period was from the the Kanbun and Empo eras to the Teikyo and Genroku eras.  

That is why, he has two types of style: one is Shinto during the Teikyo and Genroku eras, and other style is Kanbun shinto just like this sword. This sword does not show his usual style which has ha-nie and a rough jitetsu with tobiyaki, and muneyaki. Also, because this swordfs nioiguchi is bright, many people voted for Kotetsu.  If you look at the hamon carefully, the top of this string of beads hamon has more high and low parts, and this is a characteristic Okimasa hadori. Also his nie is more rough than his teacherfs and inside of ha two gunome can come together, and this is his distinctive style, and from these features one can guess at a work by Okimasa. Kotetsu has many kinzogan saidanmei, and the person doing this testing is almost always Yamano Kaemon Nagahisa and Kanjuro Hisahide. There are very few Okimasa saidanmei, and the person doing the testing, besides Kanjuro Hisahide was Sunagwa Ibei. This sword has a tameshigiri result by Sunagwa Ibei.



Kantei To No.  5


Mei: Taikei Naotane with mikazuki mon

         Bunka 8 nen, in mid-autumn

Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 1bu

Sori: 4.5 bu

Design: shinogi tsukuri

Mune: iorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, mu-ji hada style, ji-nie, midare utsuri

Hamon: open bottom gunome, slanted square gunome, togariba, mixed with yahazu style choji; there are ashi, yo, ko-nie, and the habaki-moto area has a soft hamon.

Boshi: midare-komi ji-zo style, hakikake


Taikei Naotanefs Bizen-den style swords show mainly slanted square gunome, and kataochi style gunome which are in the style of Osafune Kagemitsu, and Kanemitsu. This sword is has primarily a midare hamon with gaps of breaks in the line of gunome, and the boshi is shaped like the head of a Japanese candle and flame, so this is an Oei-bizen utsushimono. This type of style is known as his work, however, very few swords like this are seen. Because of this, many people voted for Hioki Mitsuoki, Tatara Nagayuki, Bitchu no kami Yasuhiro, and the shinshinto Ishido school smiths. Looking  at the jitetsu, this shows Naotanefs muji-hada style seen in Bizen-den swords from the Suishinshi school, and the hamonfs yakigashira (top or nioiguchi)) merges with the line of utsuri. Also part of the utsuri becomes strong or pronounced and appears almost  like tobiyaki, and this is seen in work by Masahide and Naotane, and this is a distinctive type of utsuri for shinshinto swords. The hamon is an interrupted midare, and the yakigashira is mixed with yahazu style choji, and under the mono-uchi are slanted square gunome and a yahazu style hamon. These features are seen in Naotanefs usual Bizen-den style work. Also, the habakimoto hamon becomes somewhat weak, and this is a characteristic of Suishinshi school swords. The Ishido school smithfs jitetsu are tight ko-itame, and they do not have not muji-hada style as seen in this sword, and they do not have utsuri mixed with firm tobiyaki. Also their hamon are primarily choji-midare, and Nagayuki has open bottom midare, but his hamon are not square as in this sword. The nakagofs mikazuki mon and the mekugi-ana together look like the moon and sun, and this type of nakago is seen often during the Bunka era in Edo times.   





Shijo Kantei No 620 (September, 2008 issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

Number 620 (September, 2008 issue)


Answer: A wakizashi by Osafune Morikage (Omiya Morikage), dated Joji 3 nen




This sword has a wide mihaba, is long (sunnobi), has a thin kasane, and a shallow sori, and from these details, we can guess at a golden age Nanboku-cho blade.  Morikagefs signatures which are seen today have early dates from Koan 2 (1362), and later ones from Oei 1(1394), and previously it was thought that this was the same name used by three generations of smiths. However, today there is a strong opinion that there was one sword smith, and he changed his style from time to time. Morikage was active during the golden age of the Nanboku-cho period to the early Muromachi period, and his swords are long with a wide mihaba, and there is not much difference in the width of the blade between the moto and saki. There are o-kissaki tachi, with wide mihaba,  and small wakizashi and tanto which have an Enbun and Joji style shape. Around the Eiwa (1375-79) era which is after the golden age of the Nanbokucho era, Morikagefs tachi shapes become a little narrower, and the difference in the width between the moto and saki is smaller, and the kissaki is a little smaller, and typical Eiwa era shapes can be seen. At the end of the Nanboukcho period, his swords changed to have an average mihaba, and there is a difference in the width between the saki and moto areas; the kissaki are chu-kissaki; and the swords are koshisori; the tip has sori which is seen on kosori school type swords. Morikage is not a mainstream Nanbokucho Bizen sword smith, and his jitetsu show a strong itame hada mixed here and there with there with o-hada; they have different colored jifu, and the utsuri is pale or faint. Morikage made all kinds of swords, and this swordfs hamon is predominantly a Kanemitsu style notare hamon (but his midare hamon are not as smooth as Kanemitsufs hamon and show a more square appearing pattern). Other swords of Motoshige have a square style gunome hamon, Aoe style suguha hamon, and choji hamon mixed with gunome or a midareba hamon. Morikage has few swords from the end of  the Nanbokucho period, and typically, from this time swords show shallow ko-notare and ko-gunome mixed with ko-togariba, and the entire hamon appears small or narrow, as is seen on kosori swords. Most of Morikagefs swords have ashi and yo, and the nioiguchi is toned down and has mura nie. Morikagefs boshi are midare-komi, and his swordsf boshi are mostly midare-komi, and with a sharp tip. Swords with suguha hamon have straight boshi with a komaru. Among the Nanbokucho Bizen smiths, he was not a mainstream smith, and these smiths sometimes show rustic ji and ha, and this is also characteristic of Morikage swords in his various styles. His horimono include bo-hi, soe-hi, futasuji-hi, bonji, sankoken,  haramiryu style kurikara, and Hachiman-daibosatsu kanji. Morikagefs nakago are kurijiri, and his yasurime are kattesagari. The signature on this sword (which is a hiratskuri wakizashi) and tanto are mainly on the center of the omote under the mekugi, and have long mei saying Bishu Osafune Morikage and Bishu Osafune ju Morikage, and the date is on the ura side. Morikage also has many gyaku tagane signatures, and this is a characteristic style of his. At one time, people thought the sword smiths who signed Bizen Osafune Morikge were from the Omiya school, and were a father and son Kunimori, and Sukemori, who used live in Yamashiro-kuni Ikumadaigu and then moved to Bizen, and Osafune Morikage was a later generation descended from these two. However, recent opinions are that the Omiya school Kagemitsu who came from Yamashiro-kuni, who was called Omiya Morikage and Osafune Morikage were different persons, and that Osafune Morikage was one of the famous Osafune smiths who followed Chikakage, and he belonged to the same school as Yoshishige, and Mitsukage. These smiths used to write a distinctive gyaku-tagane mei, and this sword shows the same feature, and we have to consider this problem in the future.

   Many people voted for Morikage, and some voted for Nagayoshi. Among the famous  Nanbokucho Osafune smiths, the ji and ha are different from the work of Kanemitsu, but his remaining tanto consist of 7 to 8 short blades, and his mihaba are wide and thin, and have shallow sori, so these tanto shapes appear to be a smaller version or shape of Enbun and Joji style tanto and wakizashi. Nagayoshifs active period was Jowa 6 (1350) to Koreki 2 (1380), and we see this kind of large tanto and hira tsukuri wakizashi. His tanto and hira tsukuri wakizashi hamon are a midare style mixed with gunome, his midare hamon have peaks and valleys, and inside of the ha one sees a distinctive pattern of two gunome fused together which is called a Nagamitsu ear shape hamon. The nioiguchi are worn down, has there are thick nie, the boshi is midarekomi, and goes up sharply, and the tip is sharp with a long or deep kaeri. Also, Nagayoshi and the smiths in his school have signatures which do not have the distinctive tagane tsukai, and you have to watch for this characteristic.          


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.