ISSUE 626

                         MARCH, 2009

Meito Kansho




 Mei: Bitchu kuni ju Tsugunao saku

          Bunwa 2 nen 8 gatsu hi 


Length: slightly over 9 sun 9 bu  (30 cm)

Sori : slightly less than 7rin (0.2 cm)

Motohaba: slightly less than 8 bu 3 rin (2.5 cm) 

Motokasane: 1bu 4rin (0.42 cm) 

Nakago length: 2 sun 8 bu (slightly over 8.5 cm)  

Nakago sori: slightly over 6 rin (slightly less than 0.2 cm)



This tanto is hira-zukuri and mitsumune. The mihaba is wide, the kasane is thin, and it is sunnobe with a shallow sori.  The jihada is a tight itame hada with jifu, and there is a fine visible hada, and a mixture of suji utsuri and midare utsuri which appear like bo-utsuri . The hamon is chu suguha, and displays saka-ashi, yo, a tight nioiguchi, and ko-nie. The nioiguchi is bright and clear. The boshi is straight and the tip is komaru. The horimono on the omote is koshi-hi, and on the ura, the koshimoto has a smooth gomabashi. The nakago is ubu, the tip is sakiha-agari kurijiri, and there are two mekugi-ana.

 We look at Bitchu Aoe school swords by their era, and from the end of the Heian period to the mid-Kamakura era, we call them Ko-aoe swords. These have are mostly niodeki and a worn down nioiguchi, the jihada is a large mokume hada of  a type called chirimen-hada. At the end of the Kamakura era, the swords changed, and the yakiba become a nioi type, and in the Nanbokucho era, they become nioideki, and the hamon have a clear nioiguchi. In addition, as we see on many of these swords, the hada becomes a tight ko-itame. In the Nanbokucho era, in the neighboring next province, the Bizen Osafune smiths changed to gunome, kataochi gunome, and notare hamon, and instead of a primarily choji hamon, they called their style  Soden-Bizen ( Shoshu Den Bizen style), and the hamon are mainly niedeki. But the Aoe school was different, and they preferred nioi-deki choji hamon, and this is a interesting fact. In the Nanbokucho era, Tsugunao is a representative  Aoe school smith, and other famous well known smiths were Tsuguyoshi, and Moritsugu, and their characteristic swords are nioiguchi with a bright clear saka-choji midare hamon. Among them, it may be that Tsugunao was the leader of the Aoe school smiths, and his active period was around the Jowa, Bunwa, and Enbun eras, and he had two styles, one is an elegant saka-choji midare hamon, and the other is a tight nioiguchi suguha with saka-ashi hamon, and we have seen more saka-choji hamon than suguha hamon in Tsugunao swords, and this is the opposite from Tsuguyoshi. Among Tsugunao swords, this is a very fine suguha, and the ji and ha are well done, and although there is no classification for this sword, this is one of  his masterpieces. According to the Owari Tokugawa familyfs record, at one time they owned this sword, and it was a a gift from Tokugawa Ieyasu, and is listed in the Kozan-oshigata, and this has georgious kinnoshi (thin gold paste) kizami-saya aikuchi koshirae from the Momoyama era, and this makes it even more special.                

( Explanation by Hiyama Masanori, oshigata by Ishii Akira)


Shijo Kantei To No.626


*The answer for Shijo Kantei To No.625 (in the February issue), is a katana by Hojoji Masahiro.


Deadline for answers for the No. 626 quiz is April 5th. 

Each person can submit one vote for the maker. Please write your name and address and send it to the NBTHK Shijo Kantei. You can use the Shijo Kantei card which is attached in this magazine. We will accept any card which is postmarked no later than April 5th.

If the sword smith has same name as smiths in different schools, please write the name of the school or prefecture, and if the sword smithfs name was used for more than one generation, please write which generation made this sword.


Type: Katana


Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 5 bu (74.24 cm)

Sori: slightly less than 7 bu (2.0 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 7 rin (2.95 cm)

Sakihaba: 7 bu 6 rin (2.3 cm)

Motokasane: 3 bu 1rin (0.95 cm)

Sakikasane: 2 bu (0. 6cm)

Kissaki length: 1sun 4 bu 2 rin (4.3 cm)

Nakago length: 6 sun 2.5 bu (18.94 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight


The sword is a shinogi-zukuri sword with a mitsumune, and a wide mihaba; the width at the moto and saki are almost same. This is a long sword with a thick kasane,  very deep saki-sori, and a long chukissaki. The jitetsu is itame mixed with mokume, and the hada is visible; there is ji-nie and fine chikei. The hamon and boshi have ashi, yo, tobiyaki, and muneyaki, and this becomes a hitatsura hamon The nioiguchi has slightly worn down nie, kinsuji and fine sunagashi. Horimono on the omote and ura are smooth bo-hi. The nakago is ubu, the tip is narrow, and is kurijiri, and the ha side is slightly slanted; the yasurime are kiri; there is one mekugiana, and on the omote side in the center, under the mekugi ana is a long mei.    


Tokubetsu Juyo Toshingu


Ume ni taka zu mitokoromono( three piece set with plum and hawk theme)

kozuka and kogai mei: Ishiguro Masayoshi (kao)

menuki: mumei Ishiguro Masayoshi


This is very elegant Ishiguro school work, and they were known for using flower and bird themes,  and this is a mitokoromono set by Masayoshi. The Ishiguro school was founded by Masatsune, who worked in the Edo kinko Yokoya and Yanagawa schools, and this school produced many famous masters, such as Masayoshi, Masaaki, Masahiro, and Masachika, and they were active during the Bunka and Bunsei eras. At that time, Edo culture was at its peak of maturity, and at the same time many foreign ships appeared around Japan, and the bakufu (shogunate government) passed a law insisting that foreign ships must go back to their home port. Also at this time, the bushi (samurai) had strong feelings about their original bushi culture. Shinshinto sword smiths appeared at this same time. From Ishiguro school work, we can see this erafs feelings and culture. This is a flower and bird takabori curving, and uses all kinds of colored metals. They made hawk carvings which signifies the bushi culture.  When the Ishiguro school used other animals, their eyes are always sharp, and very detailed, and this makes them look virile and robust. They made very flashy and elegant work which shows the maturity of the culture, and at the same time they show the strong tenacious bushi culture. This is the Ishiguro schoolfs favorite flowersf and birdsf, and has a carved hawkfs straight shape made with a very refined  dynamic tagane tukai (chisel technique). Also, in this work, a plum and hawk are used together, whereas a plum and uguisu (warbler) are usually combined, and this is a notable and unique feature of this schoolfs work .      

(Explanation by Iida Toshihisa)    



Teirei Kansho Kai For Feburary

The swords discussed below were shown in the February 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 February 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 smithfs name. This lecture and the explanations were given by Ooi Gaku.




Kantei To No.1: Tachi


Mei: Kagemitsu

Length: slightly over 2 shaku 2 sun 4 bu

Sori: 7 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihori mune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, thick dense ji-nie, clear utsuri, and the jihada is bright and clear  

Hamon: suguha style hamon mixed with ko-gunome, and ko-choji, and the bottom half of the hamon midare with saka style, with ashi, saka ashi, and in nioi.

Boshi: small midarekomi, with komaru return


This is a suriage sword, but still has a high koshizori. It is a narrow sword, and the width at the moto and saki is different. this shape contains a small kissaki, and the first impression is that it looks like an early Kamakura tachi.  But the sori at the top of the sword near the kissaki is not an old style curvature which can resemble uchisori, but has more sori at the tip, which is a contrast with the older style, and this kind of narrow tachi shape is in the late Kamakura era. In particular, Kagemitsu is known to have prroduced many swords with this kind of narrow tachi shape. The jitetsu is a tight ko-itame, and has beautiful dense thick ji-nie, and the utsuri is very clear. The hamon is mainly suguha mixed with ko-gunome, ko-choji, and there are ashi. The midare hamon is slanted, and mixed with saka-ashi, and become nioideki. These features of the ji and ha are very characteristic of Kagemitsufs work.  Many people voted for an almost correct answer with Nagamitsu and Chikakage. Both of these smiths made narrow tachi, but Nagamitsufs swords do not often have a slanted type of hamon and saka-ashi, and Chikakagefs hada are visible, and have more ha-nie. Others voted for Sanenaga. Sanenaga has many narrow and tight kitae swords, but his swords have a midare hamon mixed with ko-notare, a tighter nioiguchi, and many of his boshi are typical sankaku boshi. Many of Kagemitsufs boshi are not sansaku boshi. Beside these almost correct answers, many people voted for Ko-aoe, and Aoe and Kamakura period work. These swords have many chirimen-hada, and the hamon have nie. Also some Osafune smiths, such as Motoshige, has swords which have masame hada, and many of his midare hamon are mixed with a square tyle of hamon elements and kataochi gunome; the tip of the boshi is sharp, and these characteristics are different from Kagemitsufs. 


Kantei To No.2: Katana


Mei: Izumi no kami Fujiwara Kaneshige

Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 1bu

Sori: slightly less than 6 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: ko-itame, a slightly whitish rough surface, with thick jinie. The shinogi-ji has a noticeable masame hada.

Hamon: angled yakidashi from the koshimoto, a shallow notare mixed with many regular continuous gunome, ashi, dense nioiguchi, thick ko-nie, and a bright nioiguchi. 

Boshi: deep yakiba, straight with a komaru and return.


Izumi no kami Kaneshige has swords dated during the Kanei and Shoho eras, and he was an active smith before the Kanbun period Edo smiths. His swordfs width at the moto and saki are different, and his chukissaki show a compressed shape which is the same as Kanbun shinto swords, but his swords have a deep sori, and have funbari around the koshimoto, and these characteristics are different from Kanbun shinto, and these features are seen in this sword. In addition, the jihada is ko-itame, the hamon is mainly notare mixed with regular gunome, and the boshi is straight with a komaru and return. Kaneshigefs characteristics are seen in this sword. Izumi no kami Kaneshige is a good skillful smith, but he has few swords left, and is not too familiar, so people do not remember his work, but some people voted for this as being his work.  Other, almost correct answers, from the dense nioiguchi and continuous  gunome which looks like like juzuba (string of beads), which  many people voted for was Kotetsu and Kazusa no suke Kaneshige. This hamon has gunome inside of notare, and has clear ashi, but the top of  both smithfs juzuba hamon are straight lines, and their habuchi look like a continuous shallow notare, and they have a dense nioiguchi, and the valleys of the midare hamon have thick nie, thick long ashi and and form large gunome, and these characteristics are different from Kaneshigefs swords. Many of  Kotetsufs swords has a different type of hagane which is called tekogane (the shingane is visible) around the koshimoto, and his yakidashi are straight,  and the boshi at the yokote has gunome which is called a Kotetsu boshi. Kozuke no suke Kaneshige swords have continuous gumome with regular repeated pattern with a 1-2 rhythm, and these characteristics  are different from this sword. Another answers which many voted for was the Hojouji school. This school produced mainly suguha mixed with continuous ko-gunome midare, and has a small hamon. The habuchi sometimes has a yubashiri type hamon and a nijuba type hamon. Also, the yakiba is low among the Edo Shinto sniths.      



Kantei To No 3: Katana


Mei: Bitchu no kami Tachibana Yasuhiro (kikumon)

Length: 2 shaku 1 sun 4 bu

Sori: 2 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihori mune

Jihada: ko-itame hada: a fine hada is visible, with slightly prounced strong jinie, and there is midare utsuri

Hamon: angled yakidashi from the koshimoto; the width of hamon becomes wider towards the top; choji midare; the hamon displays a small narrow range of changes along itfs length;  the hamon features are slightly slanted and there are ashi, and nioi; the nioiguchi is tight and clear.  

Boshi: a slightly deep yakiba; the omote is straight with komaru; the ura is straight and the tip has some hakikake, and is sharp; both sides have a long return (kaeri).


This swordfs width at the moto and saki is very different; there is a very shallow sori, which become a bo(stick)-sori, and there is a slightly compressed chu kissaki, and this is a typical Kanbun shinto shape. The jihada is ko-itame, a fine hada is visible, and there is  clear midare utsuri, and the hamon is  nioideki, and shows an Ichimonji school type of choji midare. From these characteristics, it is easy to recognized this as an Ishido school sword, and many people voted for the correct answer on the first vote. This sword has a yakidashi at the koshimoto, and above it, the ha-haba (the width of the hamon from the ha to the boundary of the hamon) is very wide, but the choji midare hamon show bunched choji which are narrow and small, and there is very little up and down variation in the hamon yakihaba (width of hamon pttern) is narrow, and this is distinctive style of  the Ishido school. Also, the entire hamon is slightly slanted, and boshi has  a somewhat deep yakiba, is straight, has a ko-maru and a long return, and under this are muneyaki, and these are characteristics of the Kishu Ishido school. Many people voted  for Bitchu no kami Yasuhiro who was the main smith at the Kishu Ishido school. In the Kishu Ishido and Osaka Ishido schoolsfhistory, sword smith generations and movements are not clear, and many of their works are similar, and it is difficult to point out an individual smithfs work. Thus at this time, we considered both schools to be a correct answer. But the Ishido schoolfs Tatara Nagayoshifs swords do not have much yakidashi, and the wide yakiba has choji midare, mixed with togariba and a Sue Bizen style wide hamon at the bottom part of the hamon, and the boshi is midarekomi, the tip is sharp and has a long return, and among the shool, his ji and ha are the brightest and clearest, and there is a tight nioiguchi, and apart from these differences, his name is an almost correct answer.      




Kantei To No. 4: Katana


Mei: tame Murakami Shigekuni Ishido Unju Korekazu seitan tsukuru kore

         Kaei 7 nen kinoetora toshi 2 gatsu hi       

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 4.5 bu

Sori: 7 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, and the upper part becomes muji-tetsu (no visible hada), some dense ji-nie

Hamon: mainly choji mixed with gunome choji, gunome, notare, and togariba, and there are frequent thick long ashi, a dense nioiguchi, thick nie, sunagashi, and a bright nioiguchi. 

Boshi: strong notarekomi, with komaru return

Horimono: both omote and ura have smooth bo-hi.


This swordfs mihaba is not wide, and the width at the  moto and saki are different; there is a  deep sori, which shows a koshizori shape. There is a chu-kissaki, and the shape is a copy of an old tachi, so some people voted for a Kamakura era sword. But the kasane is thick for the mihaba, and it feels heavy, and ji and ha are healthy. There is also a narrow shinogi haba, a thin hiraniku, and not much fukura, and these are characteristics of Shinshinto work. Also, there is mu-jitetsu type jihada, and thick long ashi close to the hasaki, and these details are important too. Comparing this with work from Shinshinto smiths, this sword has a dense nioiguchi, thick nie, and a bright choji hamon and shows skillful work, and from these characteristics, Unju Korekazu name appears to be a possibility. His Bizen Den hamon has thick bunches of choji, which is seen in the upper part of this sword, and a primarily round topped large gunome type of choji hamon, which becomes an irregular midare hamon, and this is characteristic of his style.  The bottom part of the habuchi has shapes which are gunome, notare, and togariba, and is a midare hamon. But if you look at it carefully, each valley has clear long ashi, and you can recognize a continuous choji style hamon. A Chounsai Tsunatoshi answer is almost correct, but his swords have yakidashi at the moto, a tight nioiguchi, and nioideki choji midare hamon, and repeat same space between the elements of the hamon which is same as Koyama Munetsugu, and we should pay attention to these points. Beside almost correct answers, many people voted for Suishinshi Masahide, but his Bizen Den hamon has less up and down activity, and show a small type of nioiguchi choji midare. If this was work for Naotane, the sword would have  utsuri, a midare kataochi gunome hamon, and at the koshimoto, the hamon would appear to be be soft, the same as  for Masahide.




Kantei To No. 5: Tanto


Mei: Kanetomo

Length: slightly under 9 sun 3 bu

Sori: slightly under1bu

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada; close to the hamon, the hada becomes a strong flowing masame hada; the hada is visible, and there are chikei.

Hamon: notare hamon mixed with round gunome, some areas have a square type shape, and the nioiguchi is somewhat dense, and there are frequent ko-nie; the entire blade has fine sunagashi, and some kinsuji. 

Boshi: straight; tip on the omote has hakikake and is sharp; the ura side shows some nie kuzure; both sidess are komaru, and both sides have a long return.

Horimono: omote and ura have katana-hi and smooth ren-hi.


Naoe Shidzu Kanetsugu has a sword dated Kanou 1(1350), and because of this, we can guess this schoolfs active period. This tanto show shows characteristics from this active period: the mihaba is wide, the blade is sunnobi, the kasane is thin, there is a shallow sori, and this is a distinctive mid-Nanbokucho shape. The jihada is a strong flowing itame hada, and the hada is visible; there are frequent chikei; and the hamon is a notare mixed with round gunome, and the nioiguchi is very visible along the hamon. There are frequent ko-nie, abundant sunagashi, and the ji and ha show distinctive Mino Den characteristics which are a mix of  Yamato Den and Soshu Den.  Also, the midare hamon moves up and down relative to the ha, but there are not many ashi and yo: this type of hamon becomes the Seki style later, and is seen in work by smiths such as Kanehiro, and Ujifusa. Many people voted for this as an old Mino sword, and they voted for Kaneuji (Shidzu), and the Naoe Shidzu school. But Kaneuji does not appear to have made this kind of large tanto, and his tanto are smaller which is like a reduction in size of  Enbun Joji style tanto, and those have jihada which is not visible when compared to this work. Kaneuji also has strong ha-nie, frequent kinsuji, and his style is closer to Soshu Den work. Many of his boshi are large and round, and have a strong round shape and short return, and this is  a big difference from this Shidzu school boshi where the  tip has hakikae, a sharp shape, and a long return. In the Naoe Shidzu school, some people voted for Kanetsugu and Kanenobu, and because these smiths do not have many swords left, this was treated as an almost correct answer. Other vote were for Sue-Seki, and Muramasa, but if this was work from the end of the Muraomachi era, with a wide mihaba tanto which is seen in that period, the tanto would have a thick kasane and sakisori.     



Shijo Kantei To No. 624 (January issue)


            Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

                  Number 624 (New Yearfs 2009 issue).

    This blade is a Tsushima no kami Tsunemitsu wakizashi


The jihada has midare utsuri, and the hamon is a gorgeous choji midare, but the blade has a normal mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are only slightly different. There is a  shallow sori, and a chukissaki. This is Kanbun shinto shape, and the shinogiji has a masame hada, and from these characteristics, during the voting,  almost no one missed voting for the  Ishido school. Ishido school smiths worked in many areas, and each smith has a strong character, and was skillful, and among these smiths, the ones who make this kind of sword with a choji midare hamon in which the yakiba has pronounced high and low areas, all kinds of choji shapes, and a gorgeous hamon are Edo Ishido Dewa no kami Mitsuhira, and Tsushima no kami Tsunemitsu. Another point is that the whole hamon area is slightly small, from this characteristic, ther is a strong possibility for this work being by Tsunemitu. Many of the Edo Ishido school boshi are straight with komaru, or a shallow notarekomi and small komaru return, but Tsunemitsu swords have midarekomi boshi like this sword, and the midarekomi tip is komaru, or the tip is sharp with  a komaru and return. Also, Tsunemitsu and Mitsuhira have two types of hamon, one shows large bunches or groups of choji and a gorgeous midare which looks like Kobizen Ichimonji style work, and the other style has sharp tips on the choji hamon, and consists of  a mainly togariba hamon in which the choji appear sharp. Many of Tsunemitsufs  nakago have a shallow kurijiri, and the yasurime is kattesagari. Tsunemitsu also has many kinds of patterns in his signatures, but most of them are long and inscribed along the center of the nakago, just like this sword.  Some of his mei have dates inscribed on the ura side. Most people voted for Tsunemitsu, and some people for Mitsuhira. Among the Edo Ishido school smiths, Mitsuhirafs style is very similar to Tsunemitsufs, and it is difficult to judge their differences, so the Mitsuhira name was treated as an almost correct answer. But Mitsuhirafs hamon are sometimes mixed with bag shaped choji, and have a more gorgeous midare, and many of  his boshi are straight with komaru or a shallow notarekomi, and the tip is a small komaru with a retur. His nakago have a ha-agari (slanted towards the ha side) kurijiri. Some people voted  for another almost correct answer: Fukuoka Ishido Korekazu. Among the same Ishido school smiths, his boshi are midarekomi and that is probably the reason some people voted for him. But most of his swords have a high sori, and his itame hada has strong flowing appearance,  and take on the  appearance of a masame type of hada.  In addition, his choji midare hamon is slanted, and mixed with distinctive saka choji called ika no atama (the head of  a squid), and the inside of the ha has a round ball-like look and areas in which the yakiba is almost not visible. Also, his boshi have a more more pronounced return, and the nakago tip is kurijiri, and his signature is usually on the mune side of the nakago.


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.