NBTHK TOKEN BIJUTSU JOURNAL
ISSUE NUMBER 628
Examination of Important Swords
Blade classification: Juyo Bunkazai
Blade type: ken
Mei: Shigeyoshi nyudo saku
bonji: Ganko 4, shogatsu (January) 7
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
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)
*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 smith’s 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.
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 flower’s movement is very well done. Natsuo is excellent sketch artist, and he is known to be especially good at portraying moment. This tsuba’s 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)
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 smith’s 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.
Bizen Osafune smiths, working at the end of the Nanbokucho period (after the Eiwa
era) to the early Oei era, Kanemitsu, Nagayoshi,
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
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 Morimitsu’s and Yasumitsu’s 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
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 Hizen’s long ashi and choji midare, and sometimes we see this style. The nidai Tadahiro’s 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) Tadayoshi’s 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
Length: 1shaku 1sun 3.5 bu
Sori: slightly over 1bu
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.
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 Sadamune’s 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 Nobukuni’s 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 boshi’s 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 Daishinbou’s (a very
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
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
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
Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.