ISSUE 623

                         DECEMBER, 2008



Meito Kansho

Examination of important swords


Classification: katana

Blade type: shinogi zukuri


Mei: Tsuda Echizen no kami Sukehiro

        Enpo 9 nen 8 gatsuhi

       (owner: NBTHK)



Nagasa (length): slightly over 2 shaku 5 sun 2 bu (76.3 cm)

Sori (curvature): 5 bu 2 rin(1.6 cm)

Motohaba (width at the machi): 1 sun 4 rin (3.16 cm)

Sakihaba (width at the point): 7 bu 6 rin (2.3 cm)

Motokasane (thickness at the machi) : slightly less than 2 bu 5 rin (0.75 cm)

Sakikasane (thickness at the point): 1bu 5 rin (0.46 cm)

Kissaki length (length of the point): 1.4 sun (4.4 cm)

Nakago (tang) length: slightly over 8 sun (24.3 cm)

Nakago sori (curvature of the tang): very slight


This is a shinogi zukuri style blade with an iorimune, and the angle of the top of the mune is sharp. There ia a wide mihaba, high shinogi, thick kasane, and the width between the moto and saki are different, so there is fumbari. The sori is somewhat large, and the chu-kisaki is long.   The jihada is a tight ko-itame, and there is a fine jihada with thick jinie, frequent fine chikei, and beautiful bright jihada.  The hamon has a short yakidashi, a wide yakiba which is a large midare mixed with notare, o-gunome, gunome, and  there is a square–like appearance in some of the gunome. The hamon is a toranba, and has frequent short thick ashi, with some ball-shaped tobiyaki, dense nioi, frequent konie, and a bright and clear nioi guchi. The horimono on the omote and ura  are both bo-hi with marudome. The nakago is ubu, the tip is saki-iriyamagata, the yasurime on the omote and ura are both o-sujichiagai. There are kesho yasuri, and one mekugiana.

    The nidai Sukehiro was born on Kanei 14th (1637) which was the year of the Shimabara rebellion, and the year Honami Koetsu passed way. Sukehiro was originally called Jin-no-jo, and received the Echizen-no-kami title on Meireki 3(1657). However, some evidence suggests that he received the title on Meireki 2. On Kanbun 7 (1667) the Osaka castle lord Aoyama Inba-no-kami Munetoshi ( who was the lord from Kambun 2 (1662) to Empo 1(1673)) awarded him 10 fuchi (about 9 liter) of rice a day. This was enough to feed about 10 people a day. Sukehiro passed way on Tenwa 2 (1682), at the age of 46 years. The creation of toran-ba made Sukehiro very famous, however, it was not easy, and Sukehiro tried using many techniques, and his final results appeared to be an expression of Kamigata culture (from the Kyoto and Osaka areas).  Sukehiro began this style around Kanbun 4 when it first appeared  to look  like an o-gunome midare, and around Kanbun 6 he had almost fully established the style. This is a sword from the peak of Sukehirofs career. Before Enpo 1, his  swords are called kaku (square) Tsuda, and after Feb of Enpo 2, his swords called maru (round) Tsuda. Compared with his Juyo bunkazai sword (Enpo7, 2 gatsu hi) and his Juyo Bijutsuhin swords ( Enpo1, 3, 5,and 7), this sword is excellent, although it does not have any title or ranking. This blade comes from the collection of Mr. Fujiwara Otoyasu, and was donated by Mr. Fujisawa Genyu and Fujisawa Kazuyuki.  


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


Correction and apology: In the last issue (No.622) on the Meito Kansho page, the Yoshikane katana nakago length was listed as 7 sun 5.5 bu, however, the correct length is 6 sun 6 bu (slightly over 20 cm), and we apologize for this error.



Shijo Kantei To No.623


*NOTE: For Shijo Kantei To No. 622 (in the November issue), the answer is

an Osafune Tsuguyuki (Kosori school) tachi


Deadline for the submission of answers for the No. 623 issue is January 5, 2009 


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 January 5, 2009.

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. 623:


Blade type: katana



Length: 1shaku 3 sun 5bu (71.2cm)

Sori: slightly over 7bu (2.2 cm)

Motohaba: 1sun 2 rin (3.1cm)

Sakihaba: 6 bu 6rin (2.0 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 3 rin (0.7 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 5 rin(0.45 cm)

Kisaki Length: 1sun 9 rin(3.3  cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 5 rin(21.36 cm)

Nakago sori: none


This is shinogi zukuri sword with an ihorimune, a standard mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are different. There is a slightly large sori, and a short chu-kissaki. The jitetsu is itame hada, and in places it flows like masame hada. There are ji-nie, chikei, midare utsuri, and the shinogi ji shows masame hada. The hamon has ashi, yo, tobiyaki, and the entire hamon is small and is a gyaku (reverse) type hamon. In the nioiguchi, there are ko-nie, kinsuji and sunagashi. The nakago is ubu, the tip is saki-kurijiri, the yasurime are kattesagari, there is one mekugi-ana, and on the omote side under the mekugiana and close to the mune side there is a long signature(this smithfs nakago-jiri or nakago tips are primarily shallow iri-yamagata)   



Tokubetsu Juyo Toshingu


Yanagi (willow) shirasagi (egret) zu tsuba


Mei: Koshinkishu Natsuo


This tsuba was made by the last machibori master,  Kano Natsuo, and was made in Manen 3, when he was 33years old. The is his favorite mokko shape (the four corners of the tsuba have indents). On the omote side, there are three different egrets resting under a willow tree, and the top and bottom areas have small branches, and show a little ground. On the ura side there is a large empty volume and the branches continue from the omote over the mimi (rim), and part way onto the ura. On the bottom, fine kebori work shows movement of the river. The ground shows  an original fine tagane (chisel work) framing the area, and the effect is very elegant. All of the willowfs leaves are gone, and the tips of the branches are sharp; the large empty spaces on the omote and ura bring a feeling of a very cold winter scene. Surrounded by quiet spaces, the egrets look very noble. The clear black colored shakudo ground , along with the gold, silver and copper accents, produces an elegant and beautiful effect,  and the contrast with  silver egrets is excellent. This is a Maruyama Shijo school picture, which is a very rich lyrical, realistic scene, and Natsuo is the only master who created this kind of simple and elegant beauty.


Explanation provided by Kobayashi Terumasa    




Teirei Kansho Kai For November


The swords discussed below were shown on November 8th during the 43rd NBTHK annual meeting at the Keio plaza hotel.  Many people submitted ballots to identify makers, and five people were awarded prizes. This discussion presents the answers for 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 November 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 decide on the correct sword smithfs name.   




Kantei To No.1: tachi


Mei: Kuniyoshi (Enju)

Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 9.5 bu

Sori: 7 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight itame, mixed with mokume. The hada appears flowing. There are jifu, thick jinie, fine chikei, and some white utsuri.

Hamon: suguha, but the bottom half shows small notare, and the valleys of the notare have nijuba. There are ko-midare, ko-gunome, ko-ashi, frequent konie, scattered strong nie, a little bit of hotsure, mixed with kuichigai-ha, and some parts of the hamon appear soft.

Boshi: straight, and the omote is round, and the urashows a small return (kaeri) with yakizume

Horimono: the omote and ura both have smooth bohi


This tachi has some fumbari at the koshimoto, and looks like it is suriage, but still has a wasori (naka-sori)shape, and has a graceful tachi shape. The jihada is a tight itame, and has thick jinie, the hamon is suguha and has frequent konie. Because of these characteristics, some people voted for the Rai school, and from the narrow shape and small kitsaki, some people voted for this as being Rai Kunitoshi work. This jihada is different from the usual Enju schoolfs masame hada, and  also the ji and ha are more clear than usual for this school, and so it looks like Rai school work. But one cannot see the Rai schoolfs characteristic nie utsuri, and this blade has white utsuri. Part of nioiguchi has strong nie, and some parts appear soft and it is not uniform. From these characteristics, you can judge this as Enju school work which is a branch of the Rai school. The notare hamon on the bottom half of the hamon, around the valleys has a distinctive nijuba, jihada has jifu, and the boshi has shallow kaeri, and these are characteristics of the Enju school.  Based on these characteristics, many people voted for Enju school smiths. This school does not have many distinctive smiths, and if you voted for Enju, that would be fine. Some people voted for Kunimura and Kuniyasu. Kunimura blades are long, and the width between the moto and saki are different, the sakihaba are narrower, and the small kissaki, have a classic shape. Kuniyasu blades have frequent konie, and sometimes have strong rough nie. If you understand these two smiths characters, and voted as Enju, it is an acceptable answer (explanation by Kubo).



Kantei To No. 2: tanto


Mei: Ichi Nobukane saku

Length:7 sun 9 bu

Sori: very slight uchizori

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with masame, and a flowing  hada. The hada is clear and has chikei, ji-nie, and some white utsuri.

Hamon: continuous ko-gunome, frequent ko-nie, and the bottom half of the hamon appears slightly soft. There are kinsuji and sunagashi.

Boshi: midarekomi. The omote is ko-maru, and the ura has a sharp return (kaeri).


  This is a narrow and slightly uchizori blade, and at the first impression, looks like a Kamakura era tanto. However, this tanto is long for its mihaba, and the kasane is thick for such  a narrow blade, and one sees this kind of tanto shape in the early Muromachi era, so we  can judge that this is an early or laterOei era blade. Also, the hada is mixed with a flowing  hada and is clear, and there is white utsuri. From these characteristics, this is not a mainstream school blade.

   Nobuyasufs tanto were made around the Oei era. The Bingo Hoke Ichijo school is different from the Mihara school, they were both active from the Nanbokucho to Muromachi eras, and Ichijo Kaneyasu, and Nobukane are well known smiths. Their jihada are itame mixed with a flowing hada, and the hada are clearly visible. Many of their swords have white utsuri, and the hamon are narrow with a gentle suguha or suguha style continued with ko-gunome midare.  A Yamato style and country-like appearance are characteristic for this school. This blade has a typical type of hada and utsuri, and the hamon is narrow and forms a continuous ko-gunome, and has a quiet appearance. These are characteristic features of the Hoke school. Some people voted for the  Bizen Yoshii school and the Yamato Shikake school and these choices are understandable. But the Yoshii school has distinctive utsuri along with guome hamon, and the Shikake school has strong masame hada, and the boshi have hakikake which are more characteristic of the Yamato style

(explanation by Iida).   



Kantei To No. 3: wakizashi


Mei: Musashi Daijo Fujiwara Tadahiro

         Kanei 6 Nigatsu kichijitsu

Kippumei (additional information): Rakuyo sanjo ju Sadatsune

Length: 1shaku 7 bu

Sori: slightly less than 2 bu

Design: katakiriha zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, dense jinie, fine chikei

Hamon: round choji gunome, mixed with ko-notare. There are ashi, yo, dense nioi, thick nie, kinsuji, and sunagashi

Boshi: the omote and ura are both midarekomi, the tips are sharp with  a long deep return, there are dense nie.

Horimono: the omote has a sanko-ken, and the ura has a smooth bohi and soehi.


The shodai Tadayoshi experimented with many kinds of styles in his work during the early part of his career when he signed with a 5 character mei: the Tadayoshi kanji, and the junin Tadayoshi kanji. Later, when  he had the title Musashi Daijo Tadahiro,he established the distinctive Hizen style, in which the hamon are defined by a belt-like band of nioi. This is seen in suguha and also in midareba mixed with round top choji and gunome, and later these details became the Hizen smithfs traditional style. This is a typical midareba sword, and has a tight ko-itame hada, and the hada becomes komenuka-hada (a fine surface which appears like rice powder). The hamon is primarily round choji and gunome, and has horsefly eye shaped yo, the valleys in the yakiba have thick nie, and these are characteristic of his swords. This is a typical Keicho shinto shape, and most of people voted for the correct era. Maybe because of the fact that this is katakiriha style and has horimono, some people voted for the Shodai Yasutsugu and Umetada Myoju. Yasutsugu jihada are itame, have  a clear hada, and a black colored iron called Echizen gane, and unless the blade is an utushimono, his hamon are notare, and inside of the ha is mixed with gunome. There are frequent nie, and some parts show rough nie. Myoju tanto have a much wider mihaba for their length, and many of them are hocho style, and have notare hamon which do not have distinctive gumone and hotsure. Myojufs hamon have a kaisho type (with more square like elements) nioi guchi, and are different from this sword which has a midare hamon with choji and gunome (explanation provided by Hinohara).  



Kantei To No. 4: wakizashi


Mei: Heianjo ju Kunimichi

        Keicho14 nen 2 gatsu kichijitsu

Length: slightly over 1shaku

Sori: very slight

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada:   Mixed itame and mokume with flowing hada; the ura side of top half  has a strong nagare hada and appears masame; the hada is clear and rough, and has thick ji-nie, and frequent chikei.

Hamon: gunome midare mixed with ko-notare, ko-gunome, and round top gunome, and togari; some parts show saka (slanted) hamon features. There are frequent ashi, dense nioi, strong thick nie, and occasional rough nie , kinsuji, frequent long sunagashi, some yubashiri style small tobiyaki, and a worn down nioiguchi.

Boshi: shallow notare, the tip is jizo style. The omote is a sharp nioi kuzure, the ura has round return, and both sides have frequent hakikake which become kaen style.

Horimono: the omote has gomabashi, the ura has 2 suji-hi, and grooves on both sides have marudome ends.

  This blade has a wide mihaba, a sunnobi size, and a shallow sori. This type of hirazukuri wakizashi could be judged as being from an old era such as Nanbokucho, as  a Shinto, or as  a Shinshinto. There is a thin kasane, and when compared to other Kunimichi swords, the hamon seems somewhat old fashioned, so some people voted for older era smiths,  such as Rai Kunitsugu, Hasebe Kunishige, Nobukuni, Kaneuji, Kanetomo, and Kanenobu. But the most important thing in judging is the jitetsu. This blade has itame mixed with mokume,  a slightly rough Horikawa style unique hada, and some parts mixed with nagare hada and a masame appearance, and these characteristics are found in Kunimichifs jitetsu. Also, when you look at the hamon, the half bottom part of the omote side has a saka-ashi hamon, and this is his characteristic style. The omote side boshi can not be said to be a perfect Mishina boshi, but it is a shallow notare and has a sharp tip, and this is characteristic of the Mishina style boshi, and also a characteristic of Kunimichifs style. Kunimichi tried to make swords in styles similar to the Soshu swordsmiths Shidzu and O-Sa (the early generations of Sa), and most of his sword are well made in the Shidzu style, and this is his favorite style. Many people voted for almost the correct answer, such as Iga no kami Kinmichi and Echu no kami Masatoshi who are Mishina school smiths. The Mishina school smithfs jitetsu are usually a flowing hada, and Kinmichifs favorite style is also Shidzu, but his hamon have a square type gunome. Masatoshi has only a few swords in which the hamon have this much variation or activity, and usually his hamon are more gentle, and the spaces between the tops of the adjacent midare in the yakiba are small, and the inside of the ha has round shima-ba (or islands), and the nie are sometimes strong and sometimes weak, and most of his swordsf nioi guchi are bright and clear. This signature dated Keicho 14 nen ni-gatsu kichijitsu is the second oldest one we have by him, and in the same year he has two swords signed Heianjo Kunimichi,which use different kanji for the michi character ( ) , and there is one signed Keicho 14 kichijitsu, and anther one signed in the same year dated 3 gatsu kichijitsu.  On Keicho 14, Kunimichi had two different signatures in which he used different kanji for michi. We believe that the signatures containing 2 gatsu and 8 gatsu are the same year, and he used different kanji for michi ( ) on Keicho14, 3 gatsu, and this was the actual date on which he changed his signature. From these facts, we can guess, that the time he changed the kanji in his signature for michi was on Keicho 14 after March and before August (explanation by Kubo).         


Kantei To No. 5:katana


Mei: Hankei

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 2 bu

Sori: slightly over 5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: o-itame, itame hada mixed with mokume hada, and the hada is a bit rough. There are dense thick ji-nie, fine chikei, and muneyaki.

Hamon: Around the machi there is a narrow yakidashi, notare and o-notare, mixed with gunome, has fine sunagashi, kinsuji, frequent ko-nie, dense and thick nioi, and the entire whole hamon has a worn down nioiguchi.

Boshi: the omote isa  straight yakizume, and the ura is straight with an omaru style, and both tips have fine hakikake.


Hankei It is known that Hankei studied Soshu den work, especially Norishigefs. From this influence, his jihada contains o-itame mixed with itame hada, up to and over the shinogi ji, and there are many ji-nie and frequent chikei. His unique jihada is called hijiki-hada, and the mune angle is sharp, the same as Norishigefs, and these are characteristics for Hankeifs swords. However, many of his jihada show jiware and small kizu, and these are not considered faults, but a part of his characteristic work. Sometimes, his swords appear  to look like old swords, and are difficult to judge. Because of this, some people voted for Norinaga. The most important thing is the shape however. This swordfs width has little difference between the moto and saki, there is some funbari, not much sori, and is  a typical katana shape. Some people also voted for Horikawa school smiths such as Kunihiro, Kunimichi, and Nanki Kunishige, and for Satsuma smiths such as Masakiyo and Masafusa. Because of similarities in the schools and techniques, these are not bad answers, but their ji ha and tsukurikomi (style) are different. Kunihirofs swords have the same nioi deki, and notare hamon, but this kind of intense nie and sunagashi are very rare, and the boshi are longer, and they have okissaki. Kunimichi hamon have more up and down variations, his gunome are a saka-ashi type, and boshi are Mishina style, and these characteristics are different from Hankeifs. Nanki SHigekuni boshi have frequent hakikake, and the shinogi-ji are higher, and the angle of the mune is not sharp as Hankeifs, and the jihada are mixed with a flowing hada. The Satsuma smiths, Masakio and Masafusa, have many intense and active nioideki hamon, the same as Hankeifs, but their hamon are ko-notare, with big and small gunome mixed with togariba, and they have rough nie, and usually the nie is mixed with nioi but there appears to be only nie, and long sugashi which look like potato vine (imo tsuru). Also, Hankei is a Keicho shinto smith, but he has rare o-kissaki, and most of them are commonly shaped kissaki (explanation by Hiyama).


Shijo Kantei No. 621 (October issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

Number 621 (October, 2008 issue)


The answer for this kantei quiz is an Osafune Motoshige tachi.


This sword has a normal mihaba, and the width between the moto and saki are not much different. The blade is suriage but has a high koshisori, and has sori at the tip, and the kissaki is a chu-kissaki. From these characteristics, we can guess this work probably dates to the end of the Kamakura period to the early Nanbokucho period. Motoshige is known for a unique hamon, in which the yaki-gashira (the tip of the hamon) are composed of very wide square gunome, and the valleys of the yakiba has a tusk-shaped type of togariba, but sometimes we have also seen mainstream Osafune style hamon, just like this sword, with a suguha type hamon mixed with ko-choji, ko-gunome, and square style ko-gumone, and there are ashi, and yo, and whole hamon is a saka-ashi type hamon. However Motoshigefs jihada are itame mixed with mokume, there is a flowing hada, and the hada isclearly visible, and there are jifu, and these characteristics are from branch schools, and different from the mainstream jihada which are tight itame and have a bright clear kitae.    

  Many of Motoshigefs boshi are midarekomi, and the tips are sharp, just like this sword. His nakago-saki are kurijiri, the yasurime are sujichigai, and on the omote there are long mei on the mune side of the nakago. These are characteristics for these swords. There are Motoshige swords dated from the end of the Kamakura period, and in the Showa period to the mid-Nanbokusho period in Joji, and from the signature, this sword is thought to have been made around the Kanou era. Motoshigefs active sword making was Showa to Joji for 50 years, and around Kanou era, his signature becomes smaller, and from this fact, there are some opinions, that during the 50 year period, there was a changed to a second generation or ni-dai smith.

However, when a sword smith signs a shinogi-zukuri sword, he tries to avoid signing on the shinogi-suji line (the shinogi line), and to sign inside of the shinogi-ji, and often, when Nanbokucho smiths like Motoshige signed on the narrow shinogi-ji, the signatures had to become small to fit onto the small space. In addition, after the Kanou era, his Tanto and Hirazukuri blade signatures did not change much, so from these observations, there are questions about the existence of a second generation smith, and this will likely be pursued in future studies. Most of the people voted for Motoshige, and some people voted for Chikakage. There are Chikakage hadori similar to Motoshigefs, but his jihada are ko-itame and the hada are seenvery clearly and sometimes mixed with o-hada, and have pale utsuri, and these features are similar to this sword, so it is understandable to vote for Chikakage. However Chikakagefs boshi (original, or frequently polished) go up over the yokote, and become midarekomi which is the sansaku boshi style, and even if the tip of boshi becomes sharp, it usually is never seen to become midarekome like this sword. Also, many of Chikakagefs signatures use gyaku-tagane strokes, and this is different from the hints provided for this sword (explanation by Hinohara Dai).