MAY, 2009



Meito Kansho

Examination of Important Swords


Blade classification: Juyo Bunkazai

Blade type: ken

 Mei: Shigeyoshi nyudo saku

          bonji: Ganko 4,  shogatsu (January) 7  

          Ajari Yorinobu

          with sanko-gara (pattern)           

Length: 8 sun (slightly over 24.2 cm)

Motohaba: 7 bu 4 rin (2.24 cm) 

Nakago length: 3 sun 1bu (9.39 cm)



This is a ken in a ryo-shinogi (both side) zukuri style. The mihaba is wide, the tip is not so wide, there is no yokote, and there is hiraniku. The jihada is itame mixed with masame, and has fine ji-nie and dense chikei. The hamon is suguha style, and has dense ko-nie, fine sunagashi, hotsure, kuichigaiba, and nijuba, and at the moto, thre is a slight yakiotoshi. The boshi is yakitsume on the shinogiji. Horimono on both the omote and ura are smooth shinogi-hi. The nakago is kengyo, and the  tip is a sotoba (stupa) shape; the yasurime are a shallow kattesagari, and there are two mekugi ana.

  The shape of  the ken style blades has not changed much since the Seido era. Because of this, it is hard to judge an exact date for this work, and this particular shape which does not have a wide tip, is typical for the end of the Heian period and the Kamakura periodfs classic shape. Shigeyoshi is known to be a Yamato Senjuin school smith, working in the late Kamakura era, and we never seen any other sword by him except this single work.  His nakago-saki is very unique. If you look at other side, the shape is sotoba. Under the futo bonji, there is a Genko 4 (1324) date, and we can not find who Ajari Yorinobu is. Ajari is a Sanskrit word and it means a role model, and the title means he is a instructor and a good model for his students, and in Japan, he would have a high rank gKanjoh title in the Shingon and Tendai Mitkyo sects.Today,to become an ajari, a person would have to have 1000 days of training at Enryaku-ji (temple) on Mount Hiei. Staying on the mountain for a total of 12 years and endure1000 days of climbing the mountains during this time and lodging in small rooms at the temple, which appears to be impossibly hard training. For this type of training, a candidate must experience an ascetic life style, wear a lotus leaf shape higasa (hat), a white kimono with waraji (straw shoes), and wear a ho-ken ( a treasured ken) and rope around his waist. In addition, if a candidate can not achieve his goals during this training, he has to die.  The training is unbelievably hard, and for one to three years, he has to walk 100 days and pray on Mt Hiei. During the fourth and fifth years, he has to continue to walk for another 400 days. Then after finishing this training, he must stay in a small room without any food for 9 days, and keep reading sutras without any sleep or rest. If he accomplishes this, he will become the same as fudo-myoou. If the candidate finishes all of these requirements, and is still alive, and comes out the room after his 9 day fast, he can receive the gajarih title.

   The ken is a very well made, and the nakago inscription is very important, and the entire ken expresses the ideas of Japanese Sangaku Shinkou (mountain religion), Shinto, and Buddhism, and we respect this very much.        




 (Explanation by Hiyama Masanori, and oshigata by Ishii Akira)


Shijo-Kantei To No.628


*NOTE: For the April issue No.627, the answer is a sword by Hojoji Yoshitugu.


Deadline for the No. 628 kantei to is June 5th. 

Each person can vote for one smith. Write your name address with your answer and send it to NBTKH Shijo-Kantei. You can use the Shijo-Kantei card which is attached in this issue. Votes will be accepted which are postmarked on or before June 5, 2009.

If the sword smithfs name appears in different schools, please write the specific school, or prefecture where he worked, and if the sword smith has more than one generation, please indicate which generation you are voting for.




Type of sword: tachi

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 2 bu (70.3 cm)

Sori: 7 bu (2.12 cm)

Motohaba: 8 bu 6 rin(2.6 cm)

Sakihaba: 5 bu 3 rin(1.6 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 1 rin(0.65 cm)

Sakikasane: 8 rin (0.25 cm)

Kissaki length: 7 bu 9 rin (2.4 cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 2.5 bu (21.97 cm)

Nakago sori: 1bu (0.3 cm)


The is a shinogi-zukuri sword with an ihori mune, narrow mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are different. The sword is suriage, has a high koshizori, and the tip is slightly uchisori. There is a narrow shinogi-haba, hiraniku, and a small kissaki. The jitetsu is o-itame mixed with mokume, and the hada is visible. There are dense ji-nie and chikei. The entire jigane appears dark, and there are jifu, and jifu-utsuri. The hamon and boshi have ashi, frequent yo, a slightly worn down nioi-guchi, frequent ko-nie, and some parts of the hada are visible, and there are kinsuji and sunagashi. The nakago is suriage, the tip is kuri-jiri (but originally was a shallow ha-agari-kurigiri), the yasurime are sujichigai, there are three mekugi ana, and the omote side towards the mune edge has a four character mei.    


Juyo Toushingu


Kazefuki botan zu tsuba:

A tsuba with an image of  a peony in the wind


mei: Natsuo( kao)


This is a Natsuo tsuba, and the name is kazefuki botan (peony in the wind).

Natsuo has several tsuba in which the main theme is botan (peony). They are similar to this one, and all of them are iron. Natsuo mixed usuniku-bori (low relief) and takaniku-bori (high relief) together, and used some inlay. On these botan themed tsuba, one shows a large flower in a gentle wind,  one shows a flower which is just opening at the moment, and one shows a botan with a butterfly. These are slightly different themes, and each flowerfs movement is very well done. Natsuo is excellent sketch artist, and he is known to be especially good at portraying moment.  This tsubafs theme is a botan under a strong wind, and the whole flower is moving to one side which captures the movement of the botan in the wind. Natsuo has an excellent carving technique, and his themes look very realistic. On the ura side, there is a small snail escaping from the rain under a leaf. This is a first class observation or portrayal by Natsuo, and shows his poetic image of the world.

(Explanation by Iida Toshihisa)    



Teirei Kansho Kai For Feburary

The swords discussed below were shown in the January 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 Ishii Akira.




Kantei To No.1: tachi


Mei: Bishu Osafune Moromitsu

         Eiwa 2 nen 6 gatsu

Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 1.5 bu

Sori: 6.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihori mune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume and nagare hada, and occasional o-hada is visible; there are fine ji-nie, chikei, straight utsuri, and around the monouchi there is white utsuri.  

Hamon: gunome mixed with ko-notare, and a square type hamon. In places, the botton of the hamon is open. There are ko-ashi, yo, and the hamon is primarily nioi, but there are some ko-nie, There are fine kinsuji, sunagashi, and small tobiyaki around the habuchi.

Boshi: midare-komi. The omote is a sharp togari, and the ura is komaru. Both the omote and ura have along return, and the tip has hakikake.

Horimono: The omote and ura have bo-hi, and the omote hi is cut through the nakago, and the ura hi has a smooth finish.


Among the Bizen Osafune smiths, working at the end of  the Nanbokucho period (after the Eiwa era) to the early Oei era, Kanemitsu, Nagayoshi, Omiya smiths, Motoshige, and the Yoshii school are not Kosori group smiths. The Kosori school and its styles is unique. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume and nagarehada, and in places this is mixed with o-hada. The hada is slightly unbalance, and visible. The hamon is mixed with all kinds of  hamon patterns, and there is an irregular midare hamon. The yakiba is low, and the small size of the hamon is characteristic for Kosori. This is a Moromitsu tachi, and he is a typical kosori smith, and there is an Eiwa date, and this work has all of the Kosori charateristics.  Most of the people voted for Kosori smiths, and Masamitsu, Hidemitsu, and Nariie, were voted for in the first vote. Because of the shape with the wide mihaba, some people voted for Omiya Morikage and Nagayoshi, but their swords are gsoden-bizenh style,  and have stronger nie, which shows a more Soshu den style. During the Kosori smithsf active period, their mihaba became narrow when compared with mid-Nanbokucho era work.  On this sword, for the mihaba, the kasane is thick, and the signature became smaller to fit on the shinogi-ji. But this is early Moromitsu work (an earlier work made 8 years before this sword is dated Oei one), and for the Kosori school, has an exceptionally wide mihaba, and deep bo-hi carved  through the nakago, and on the flat nakago-ji there is a large signature, and these features are distinctive.



Kantei To No. 2: wakizashi


Mei: Bishu Osafune Sanemitsu

          Oei 16 nen 5 gatsu hi (May)

Length: slightly over 1shaku 9 sun 1 bu

Sori: 4.5 bu

Design: shinogi-zukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume; there is a smooth hada, and the hada is visible; there are ji-nie, and chikei. There is a type of conspicuous chikei-like dark jigane, and midare utsuri.

Hamon: mainly open bottom gunome mixed with a choji type of  hamon, togariba, square gunome, and there are ashi, yo, formed in nioiguchi.  

Boshi: midarekomi, with a komaru and return.


The Bizen group which was active around the Oei era, and the next generation of  the No.1 kantei to smith above, are called Oei Bizen smiths, and Sanemitsu is one of the most characteristic or typical of these. For its mihaba, the length is long, the jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and  a chikei-like dark jigane is present, and the hamon shows an open bottom gunome midare mixed with a choji type of hamon, and from these characteristics, it is not difficult judge this as Oei Bizen work. Sanemitsu has very few swords with a signature, and there are two swords dated Oei 14 and 20, which are gassaku work with Morimitsu, and Yasumitsu, so there must have been a very close relationship between them. This sword is as good as Morimitsufs and Yasumitsufs work, so, many people voted for Morimitsu. The choji hamon from the middle to the bottom of the blade are rounded, and from this, it is understandable to vote for Morimitsu. Other votes were for the later Bizen smiths (sue Bizen) Sukesada, and Katsumitsu.But these smiths, in their hamon, have open bottom gunome like Sanemitsu, but the top of their gunome have many breaks and these are called fukushiki-gunome. They also have ko-nie,  more high and low hamon variability, and  more regular midare, and the ji utsuri is slightly lighter, and these characteristics are different from Oei Bizen work.


Kantei To No 3: katana


Mei: Hizen kuni ju Omi daijo Fujiwara Tadahiro shin kitae

Length: 2 shaku 5.5 sun

Sori: 6 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame hada, with dense ji-nie, fine chikei, and a clear hada

Hamon: choji midare mixed with a square type hamon, togariba, yahazu style choji, and ko-gunome. The entire hamon looks small, and has frequent long ashi and yo, frequent ko-nie, and the top of the hamon shows some small tobiyaki. 

Boshi: both omote and ura ha are almost straight with ashi, komaru and have a return.


This is a Hizen nidai Omi daijo Tadahiro sword. He has suguha swords which are Hizen smiths favorite style, a Shizu style hitatsura , and a konotekashiwa work which means the omote and ura have different hamon. This work shows Hizenfs long ashi and choji midare, and sometimes we see this style. The nidai Tadahirofs long ashi choji midare characteristics usually include round top choji which continue very regularly, and do not show much alteration. But this hamon is different from his usual one, and is mainly choji mixed with many types of hamon patterns such as square type gunome, yahazu style, and ko-gunome. There is a large amount of variation, and some parts of the hamon become small and have small tobiyaki at the top of  the hamon. This kind of midare hamon is more typical of the sandai (third generation) Tadayoshifs favorite style of hamon, and it is possible that the sandai made daisaku swords for the nidai. This sword is 2 shaku 5 sun long, and has a wide mihaba, and a tight fine ko-itamehada. The sandai made the finest jihada among the three generations, and from these characteristics, this is a possible sandai Tadayoshi sword. Because of these details, more people voted for the sandai than the nidai, and this is treated as a correct answer. Some others considered this fine tight ko-itame hada to be muhada and voted for shinshinto Bizen smiths. But in shishinto times, a midare hamon is usually a more nioi type hamon, and has a tight nioi guchi and a uniformly repeated rhythmic hamon.  



Kantei To No. 4: wakizashi


Mei: Nobukuni       

Length: 1shaku 1sun 3.5 bu

Sori: slightly over 1bu

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume and nagare hada; the hada is slightly visible, has thick fine ji-nie, frequent chikei, and nie utsuri.

Hamon: the bottom half is mainly notare mixed with ko-gunome, and the upper half is a narrow gunome and a somewhat small notare, with thick ko-nie, sunagashi, and kinsuji. The bottom half of the hamon has yubashiri.  

Boshi: the omote is almost a suguha style, and the ura is a small midare komi hamon. Both sides have a long komaru and return and there hakikake.

Horimono: both the omote and ura have smooth katana hi, and the bottom half of the ura has a trace of soehi.


People have said that the shodai Nobukuni was the son or grandson of Ryo Hisanobu, and Hisanobu was the son of Ryokai. He made two types of swords: one type is with a classic Rai school traditional suguha hamon, and other type is based on a  Soshu style notare hamon. Nobukuni was one of  Soshu Sadamunefs santetsu (three great students), along with Osafune Motoshige and Tanshu Hojoji Kunimitsu. This sword has a wide mihaba and is sunnobi, and has a thin kasane, from these characteristics, it is clearly a mid-Nanbokucho blade. The jihada is itame, and has thick dense ji-nie, frequent chikei, and nie utsuri, and the hamon is notare and has strong ha-nie, and kinsuji and sunagashi mixed with yubashiri. The boshi is komaru with a return and the tip has hakikake. These characteristics clearly show Nobukunifs style. On the ura, the bottom half jihada is mixed with a distinctive nagare hada near the ha, and this is also a characteristic of Nobukuni. Because this blade has been polished many times, the kasane is too thin, and some people voted for other smiths active in the same era, such as the Hasebe school. As a guess it is fine, but the Hasebe school jihada has nagarehada on both the ha side and the mune side, and mokume hada is mixed with these nagarehada, and there are more tobiyaki and yubashiri, and usually the boshifs curve is bigger and the return continues along the mune and becomes muneyaki. This muneyaki can continue to the area around machi. The shodai Nobukuni was a good horimono artist who learned from Daishinboufs (a very famous Kamakura era horimono artist) style, and he has almost no swords without horimono, and simple ones have katana hi just like this sword, or futasuji-hi (two hi), soken, and some of them have kurikara and hatahoko inside of a hitsu (frame).    


Kantei To No. 5: tachi


Mei: Bizen kuni Kageyasu

Length: slightly less than 2 shaku 6 sun 6 bu

Sori: 7.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with mokume, nagare hada, the hada is visible, there are fine ji-nie, frequent chikei, and the bottom half has a pale jifu utsuri.

Hamon: mainly chu-suguha, the bottom half is mixed with a square type hamon; there are gunome, and the the hamon is komidare; there are ashi, frequent yo, and the top of the nioi guchi has some rough thick nie, and there are some sunagashi and kinsuji. 

Boshi: straight, komaru, and with a small return.

Horimono: omote and ura have smooth bo hi.


The shape shows a high koshisori, the moto shows funbari, the tip is slightly uchisori, and the entire sword has a narrow and graceful tachi shape. From these features, we can judge that the date is no later than the early Kamakura era. The jihada shows a smooth surface, and is itame mixed with mokume. There is ji-nie and fine chikei, and on the bottom half there is an irregular pale jifu utsuri. The hamon is mainly suguha, and this is mixed with a small midare hamon and there are nie. From these characteristics, we can judge this to be a Ko-bizen sword. This is a Ko-bizen Kageyasu tachi. Many people voted for Kobizen Tomorari, and Masatsune, and these are good judgements, but if you look at carefully, on the ura sidefs bottom half, the hamon is mixed with a square type of hamon which is Kageyasufs distinctive style, from this feature, among the Kobizen smiths, it is possible, to narrow this work down to Kageyasu. Other people voted for Ko-aoe, and the era, class, and style are similar to this sword, so this was treated as an almost correct answer. Kobizen and Ko-aoe work are similar, and sometimes it is difficult to judge, but the Ko-aoe jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and the hada shows a visible chirimen-hada,  and a jifu type of  sumihada ( avery clear hada), and most of  these swords have nioiguchi which are more worn down than on this sword. Today, there some Kageyasu swords are seen, and he has two types of signature, one is ni-jimei (two characters), and the other one has Bizen kuni just like on this sword, which is go-ji mei (5 characters). The go-ji mei work is older than the  ni-ji mei work, and the older swords have a more classic appearance.



Shijo Kantei No 626 (March, 2009 issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

Number 626 (in the March 2009 issue).


The answer is a Soshu Tsunahiro sword


The mihaba is wide, and the width at the moto and saki are not much different. This is a long sword with a thick kasane, deep saki-sori, chu-kissaki , and from these characteristics, we can judge this as a work from the end of the Muromachi period. The different generations of Soshu Tsunahiro and their active periods are not clear and need more study. However, from the end of the Muromachi period to the early Edo period, the Tsunahiro smithsf favorite style was hitatsura, just like this sword. In many of  these swords, the jitetsu is itame mixed with mokume, the hada is visible, and there is ji-nie and fine chikei. The hamon are primarily gunome and gunome mixed with choji, yahazu style choji, some tobiyaki, some muneyaki, and these can become hitatsura. The upper part of the hamon becomes wider, and there are frequent midare, and there are nie, kinsuji and sunagashi. It is not present on this sword, but sometimes there are many triangle shaped tobiyaki.Tsunahirofs hamon besides hitatsura, are suguha mixed with ko-gunome, and a Seki style gunome choji. Tsunahiro boshi are straight with a komaru, a midarekomi komaru, and ichimai. This sword has bo-hi, and Tsunahiro has many horimono, such as so-no ( glass style) kurikara, sankogara ken, bonji, gomabashi, rendai, and either horimono are in the center of the shinogi ji and close to the koshimoto. His nakago tips are narrow, and slightly ha-agari kurigiri, and the yasurime are a shallow kattesagari. Most of signatures are on the omote under the mekugi ana, and on the mune side, and are the 5 kanji signature gSoshu ju Tsunahiroh. However, this sword has bo hi extended almost to the nakagosaki, so the signature is under the mekugiana and in the center of the nakago. Most people voted for Tsunahiro. Many people mentioned a  specific efdaiffor generation which includes the shodai, nidai, and sandai. Usually, at the shijo kantei, we ask for the dai or generation, but Tsunahirofs dai are still require more study, and from the end of the Muromachi period to the early Edo period, each of the Tsunahiro smiths made his favorite hitatsura style. At this time it is difficult to judge the Tsunahiro dai, so we treated all these answers as correct. But a few people voted for Ise daijo Tsunahiro. Accouding to todayfs studies, he is 5th generation, and was active around  the Kanbun and Empo eras, and he worked in Kanbun Shinto styles, and his hamon is a type of of gunome midare hamon, and this can also appear as a juzuba style hamon. He has dense nioi, frequent nie, and worked in a manner similar to Kanbun Edo shinto style, and this kind of work would be different from this sword. We did not treat this as correct answer, so please try to understand this. There are nearly correct answers, such as Hiromasa and Yasuharu. Hiromasa is a Soshu smith, but he was an early Muromachi smith, and his swords are shorter, 2 shaku to 2 shaku 2 sun, and the mihaba is normal.  He has smaller tachi and swords, and his hitatsura hamon show a more choji type hamon, and the entire hamon looks small. Yasuharu and Fusamune are Odawara Soshu smiths, and they do not have typical hitatsura swords, and their hamon are usually gumome midare mixed with notare, and inside of the ha, have a prominent square type hamon. These hamon are nioi and have nie. Shimada school hitatsura hamon are seen on tanto and wakizashi, and many of these have a distinctively shaped large togariba inside of  the ha, and often a long kaeri in the boshi, and these kaeri can have prominent togariba.                  


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.