The NBTHK Journal of Swords

                                         July, 2009



           Meitou Kanshou

Examination of Important Swords


classification: Tokubetsu Juyo Token


Style: Tachi

Mei: mumei 

Maker: Awataguchi Kunitomo


Length: 2 shaku 5 sun 2 bu (76.6 cm)

Sori: 8 bu 6 rin (2.6 cm)

Motohaba: 8 bu 6 rin ( 2.6 cm)

Sakihaba: slightly over  5 bu ( 1.53 cm)

Motokasane: slightly over 1 bu 7 rin (0.53 cm) 

Sakikasane: slightly over 1 bu 2 rin (0.31 cm)

Kissaki length: slightly less than 8 bu (2.4c m)

Nakago length: slightly less than 6 sun 2 bu (18.6 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight (0.2cm)



This is a shinogi zukuri sword with an ihorimune, high koshizori, funbari, a small kissaki, and an elegant tachi shape. The jihada is a tight ko-itame which is mixed with itame, oitame and nagare-hada an places. There are fine jinie and frequent chikei. The hamon is ko-midare, mixed with ko-gunome, ko-choji, and there are koashi, frequent konie, and fine kinsuji. The boshi is straight and has a komaru return. The nakago is ubu, the tip is cut (saki-kiri), and the yasurime are katte-sagari, and there are 2 mekugiana. The sword is Mumei. Awataguchi in the Yamashiro region is one of the seven entrances to Kyoto, and another one is Sanjo-guchi, which is in the Seirenin area. In the Kamakura to Muromachi eras, this area was called Shirakawa from the riverfs name. In the efUjishui-monogatarih(a series of stories written in the Kamakura period), in the first book (of  a total of 15), the fifteenth story states that a big child stole frog and a sword smith lives in Awatagachi. The Awataguchi school was active from the end of the Heian period to end of the Kamakura era, and belonged to the Fujiwara family, and an historical book says that the school name was Fujibayashi, but this is notcertain.  Kuniie is supposed to have been the founder of the school, but we never seen any of his swords today. His six sons, Kunitomo, Hisakuni, Kuniyasu, Kunikiyo, Arikuni, and Kunitsuna are all master smiths. The oldest son Kunitomo has great master level students working after him:  Norikuni, Kuniyoshi, Kunimitsu and Yoshimitsu, and these smiths made the school name more famous. Kunitomo has very few signed swords, and one is in the Atsuta shrine and is a Juyo Bunkazai tachi, and another tachi is shown in the 11th issue of the Tokubetsu Juyo Token tachi, and there are only two signed swords left by him. These swords are similar to this one, with a narrow shape, a small kissaki, a tip which has little sori, and an elegant tachi shape. The jihada is a tight itame with frequent jinie, and the hamon is a suguha style mixed with komidare, and has ashi and frequent konie, and the nioiguchi looks soft. This sword is mumei, but is judge as a Kunitomo sword, and its style is the same as the other ones. The inside of the ha is not soft, and the ji and hamon are healthy, and this sword has a very classic elegant feeling.


(Explanation by Hiyama Masanori, oshigata by Ishii Akira)


Shijo-Kanteitou No.630


*In the No.629 issue (June) the answer is a Saito Kiyondo sword dated Ansei 4.


The dead line for the No. 630 issue is Augut 5th.  

   Each person can  submit one vote for the maker. Write your name address with your vote and send it to the NBTKH Shijo-Kantei. You can use the Shijo-Kantei card which is attached in this issue of the journal. Cards must be postmarked on or before August 5th.

   If sword smiths with the same name worked in different schools, please write the school or prefecture, and if the sword smith has more than one generation, please write a specific generation.





Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 4.5 bu (71.05 cm)

Sori: 6.5 bu (1.97 cm)

Motohaba: slightly less than 1 sun (3.0 cm)

Sakihaba: 6 bu 3 rin (1.9 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 5 rin (0.75 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 7 rin (0.5 cm)

Kissaki length: 1 sun 1 bu 6 rin ( 3.5 cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 2.5 bu (21.97 cm)

Nakago sori: 6 rin 6 mou (0.2 cm)


The sword is shinogi-zukuri, with an ihorimune, a slightly wide mihaba, and the width between the moto and saki are not different. There is a thick kasane for the mihaba, a narrow shinogi-haba, a slightly deep sori, and a chu-kissaki. The jihada is ko-itame mixed with some nagarehada, and a tight hada which is almost mu-hada and has jinie. The hamon and boshi have long ashi, dense nioi, thick nie, and is bright and clear. There are kinsuji and sunagashi. On the omote and the ura there are smooth bo-hi. The nakago is ubu, the tip is kurigiri, the yasurime are osuji-chigai, there are kesho yasuri, two mekugiana, and on the omote, along the nakagofs center is a long inscription with the ownerfs name, and on the nakago ura, in a slightly low location is a date.    



Juyo Toushingu


Kikukamon tsuba (chrysanthemum pattern)


mei: Joei saku


Joei was a tsuba maker who lived in Ise Kameyama, and he is known for using a very original technique call sunabari-zougan. In the same school as him are Shouei, and Nyomei,and they also used the sunabari-zougan technique, and signed ghazamah with just one kanji, and so we call them Kameyama-tuba or Hazama-tsuba.  Also, Joei has a tsuba signed gKunitomoh, and from this, we are guessing that this group comes from the Kunitomo gun smiths. The sunabari  technique for zougan (inlay) uses a bronze type of alloy, mixed with copper, tin, and zinc, and in historical times this is seen among the old Shosoin treasures. After Muromachi times, this technique was used for tea ceremony tools such as  kensui (containers to dispose of water) and mizusashi (water containers). This tsuba uses Joeifs favorite sunabari-zogan technique. On the omote side the polished iron has a kiku pattern, and on the ura side there is a sasatake (bamboo) with a snake and dragon. The shape is round and the niku (thickness of  tsuba) decreases  gently down towards mimi (rim), and the middle of  tsuba is low, and this kind shape is seen  often for Joeifs tsuba.This is a large tsuba and the composition of the pattern has a volume,  and these details show characteristics of the schoolfs style.  Also, some part of the tsuba seem to be missing the sunabari alloy, and this is a distinctive characteristic of the schoolfs style, and this can be done on purpose. The appearance of the tsuba is very natural and the mixed iron and sunabari colors fit together well, and help to produce an elegant appearance.    

(Explanation by Iida Toshihisa)    




Teirei Kansho Kai ForJune


The swords discussed below were shown in the June 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 June 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 Hinohara Dai.




Kantei To No.1: tachi


Mei: Kuniyasu

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 5.5 bu       

Sori: 8.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: oitame, mixed with itame, mokume, nagarehada, and the entire hada is visible and has jinie, frequent chikei, pale nie utsure, and the jihada looks dark.  

Hamon: ko-choji midare mixed with komidare, kogunome; the yakigashira has yubashiri, and nijuba; there are frequent ashi and yo, and ko-nie, part of the hamon appears soft, and there are kinsuji and sunagashi.

Boshi: the omote at the yokote is yakikome, the ura is straight, and both sides have a  komaru shape and hakikake.

Horimono: omote and ura have two suji-hi with marudome.


Awaguchi Kuniyasu has two tyle of  jitetsu, one is a typical Awataguchi  nashiji hada, and the other one is an itame mixed with mokume, nagarehada, and the entire hada pattern is large and visible, and chikei stands out slightly. This sword has a Juyo Bijutsu Hin classification, and the hada is very visible and dark, and from this, many people voted for Ko-hoki. Usually Ko-hoki has jifu utsuri, but this sword has some pale nie utsuri. Also, in this era, Ko-hoki swords have strong ha-nie compared the other schools, and this tachi has fine ko-nie, and on the inside of the ha, the hataraki consisting of ashi and yo are elegant. From these characteristics and the yubashiri and nijuba appearing on the top of the

yakigashira, one can judge that this is a Kyoto smith. From the inside of the ha one can recognize some softness, and the Awataguchi Kuniyasu and Ayanokoji Sadatoshi names come out as candidates. Sadatoshifs boshi often have  a kaen style, but this is a gentle komaru boshi, and from this, one can decide that Kunitoshifs name is correct.


Kantei To No.2: katana


Mei: orikaeshi mei: Norifusa

Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 7.5 bu

Sori: slightly over 5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, frequent jinie, fine chikei, pale midare utsuri is visible.

Hamon: low yakiba with choji midare; above the monouchi it becomefs a suguha style and there are frequent ashi and yo; some parts show a saka-choji hamon; there are nie, and the hamon is bright and clear.

Boshi: omote and ura are shallow midare-komi,and  komaru, and there are hakikake.


Fukoka Ichimonji Yoshifusa signed swords are possesed by the Shimazu familyfs kokuho tachi,  the Okayama museum kokuho tachi, the Okadagiri kokuho sword, and small sized swords. These have all kinds of hamon, from gorgeous big choji hamon to low yakiba suguha styles, and people think that these have the same Yoshifusa name, but possibly are several different sword smiths. From the same Ichimonji school, the popular smith Norifusa has swords owned by the Tokugawa shoguns which are kokuho tachi, this Juyo bunkazai katana, and there are a couple of signed swords showing different kinds of chisel strokes, and these swords also show different styles, so people think that the Norifusa name was used by several different smiths. This swordfs choji hamon is a little small for Norifusa, and above the monouchi it becomes a suguha hamon, and because of these details, some people voted for the late Kamakura Bizen swordsmith Nagamitsu. If you look at the hamon carefully, the choji hamon is not mixed with gunome, which is a late Kamakura Bizen style, and between the choji, the hamon is tight, and the yakiba is high and low, and these kinds of hamon are seen in mid-Kamakura Bizen swords. In addition, the mihaba and size are smaller, the width between the moto and saki are not much different, and the kissaki is an inokubi style, and these characteristics are seen in mid-Kamakura Ichimonji school tachi. Also the jitetsu has thick jinie, frequent chikei, and part of the choji hamon becomes saka-ashi choji, and there are frequent hatarki consisting of fine ashi and yo, and the hamon is bright and clear, and this is a characteristic Norifusa sword. Many people voted for mid-Kamakura Ichimonji school smiths. If they voted for that school and a  good smithfs name, the answer is considered adequqate.  



Kantei To No 3: katana


Mei: mumei, Aoe

Length: 2 shaku  3 sun 3.5 bu

Sori: 6 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri,

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with mokume, and the hada is visible, there are jinie, frequent chikei, and midare utsuri.

Hamon: notare style mixed with saka-choji, and with frequent ashi, yo, and nie, the hamon is and bright and clear, and there are frequent kinsuji and sunagashi. 

Boshi: midarekomi,on the omote, the tip is sharp, and there is a komaru and return, the ura has a slightly square shape, and  both the omote and ura have kinsuji and hakikake.


This is an early Nanbokucho era sword: an Aoe osuriage mumei and osuriage sword. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, the entire jihada is fine and visible. There is a chirimen-hada appearance, and the color of the jihada is a clear dark blue, there are frequent chikei. This kind of jihada is often seen in  Aoe work , and on a saka-choji sword like this, the utsuri becomes a midare utsuri instead of dan utsuri which often seen on suguha. The saka-choji hamon has a lot of  hataraki, and the white habuchi on the ha is clear. This type of  characteristic hamon is seen on suguha swords also, and this is a characteristic Aoe school hamon.Also, saka-choji Aoe boshi are often midarekomi and the tip is sharp, and this swordfs omote side shows this style. Many people voted for Yoshitsugu, and Naotsugu, and some voted for Tsuguyoshi and Tsugunao. This is an osuriage sword, and all of the names just mentioned  are almost correct answers. But if this is  a peak period Nambokucho Aoe sword, the shape and kissaki are bigger than this, and the saka-choji hamon has more up an ddown activity and a gorgeous hamon, and the hamon become a more nioiguchi type hamon. This hamon has a more gentle shape, and the yakigashira of saka-choji hamon do not have a violent shape, and there is a lot of ha-nie,  and these characteristics are judged as early Nanbokucho Aoe work.      



Kantei To No. 4: wakezashi


Mei: Hasebe Kunishige       

Length: 1 shaku 7.5 bu

Sori: 1 bu

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume, the ha and mune surfaces have a masame type nagare-hada, the entire hada is visible, and there are jinie and chikei.

Hamon: narrow suguha; contains a little bit of notare, and the entire habuchi has hotsure, there are ko-ashi, frequent nie, kinsuji and sunagashi.

Boshi: omote and ura are straight with komaru; the tip is round with a return, and there are kinsuji and hakikake, and the return is a deep yakisage.

Horimono: the omote has a suken, and the ura has gomabashi


This is a Hasebe Kunishige suguha wakizashi and some people immediately recognized this rare style from him, and voted for the correct answer. However, other people voted for Nobukuni. This blade has a wide mihaba, and is an Enbun-Joji type hira-wakizashi, and has a very thin kasane, and this is a  characteristic Hasebe school style. An itame and mokume jihada is visible, and if you look at carefully at the ha and mune surfaces masamehada is visible. The suguha hamon has fine hotsure because of  masame hada, and the hamon has the same width between the moto and saki. Also, the tip of the boshifs circle (the omaru area) is big, but less than usual, and the return comes down continusly, and from these details, you can judge this as as Hasebe school work.  Some Nanbokucho Yamashiro smithfs wakizashi, such as Hasebe, Rai Kunisane, Kuninaga (who moved to Settsu) have   jitetsu which have itame and masame, and the hada is visible. Nobukunifs jitetsu, on the ha-side has some masame, but his jitetsu is a tight itame and the hada is bright and clear. Also, usually, we never see such a wakizashi with such a thin kasane, or such a clear elegant boshi with a komaru and such a deep return


Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: Nagayuki oite Settsu kuni saku kore

Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 8 bu

Sori: slightly over 5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, with fine jinie, chikei, and midare utsuri

Hamon: o-choji mixed with kawazoko type choji, togariba, open bottom gunome, and occasional tobiyaki, ashi, and yo, there is a tight nioiguchi, nioi, ko-nie, the ha is bright and clear, and there are sunagashi. 

Boshi: omote and ura are both midarekomi, with a sharp tip and return.

Horimono: omote and ura have bohi with marudome.


Nagayukifs hamon is high on the average between the moto and saki, and on most of them, each choji cluster competes with the others, and form a gorgeous midare hamon. This sword has a little up and down hamon variation, and usually Nagayukifs swords have a very tight nioiguchi, but this has a dense thick nioiguchi, and from this, a lot of people voted for Mitsuhira and Tsunemitsu who are Edo Ishido smiths.

This sword has some different characteristics from Nagayukifs usual work, but here and there along the hamon, there are open bottom midare waves, and this is Nagayoshifs distinctive style. The midarekomi sharp tipped boshi is his characteristic style too. Among the Edo Ishido smiths there are some togariba hamon swords, but their usual hamon have a small round topped type of choji, and small bottomed choji, and their boshi are straight with a komaru, a shallow notare komi, and the tip is a small komaru, and even in their midarekomi boshi, often the tip is either a komaru or a sharp komaru.   



Shijo Kantei No 628 (May issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To Number 628 (May, 2009 issue).

 The answer is an Ohara Sanemori tachi.


The mihaba is narrow, and widths at the moto and saki are different, the blade is suriage, has a high koshizori, the tip has a slight sori, and there is a small kissaki. From this characteristics, we can judge this as work from the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period. Among the sword smith schools in this era, Ko-hoki  has many narrow shinogi-haba swords, and the hiraniku has a volume, and these are known their characteristics. At that time, all schools in Japan made suguha style komidare hamon swords, and there are some local styles too. This swordfs jitetsu is o-itame mixed with  mokume, the entire hada is visible, and there are thick jinie, chikei, and the steelfs color is a little dark, and there are jifu, and jifu utsuri. This blade displays a  a very strong local style. Also, the komidare hamon with thick nie mixed with distinctive shaped ko-gunome, and the hamonfs worn nioiguchi, and the visible hada in places inside of the hamon, lets one judge this as a ko-Hoki sword. Sanemori is known as Yasutsunafs son and he made swords similar to Yasutsunafs, but his hamon are smaller than Yasutsugufs, and this is characteristic of his style. Most of the Ko-hoki smiths signed with 2 kanji, but Sanemori who has fewer swords than Yasutsugu, signed in many ways, such as gHoki Ohara Sanemorih, g Ohara Sanemorih and gSanemorih. His ubu nakago shapes are shallow ha-agari-kurijiri, and the yasurime are sujichigai. Also, most swords from the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period are narrow, and the width at the moto and saki are different, the tips have a slight sori, and the kissaki are small. But a meibutsu O-kanehira sword, the Sanetsune in the Kunozan Toshogu shrine, the Kitsunegasaki sword made by Tametsugu, and the Ogasawra family Juyo Bunkazai sword by Masatsune (owned by the NBTHK), have wide mihaba, and the width between the moto and saki are not much different. They have high koshizori, and the tips have sori, the kissaki have a larger tachi shape and this is striking. It is understandable that there is an opinion that these swords were made a little later than the early Kamakura period, so the mihaba is wide, but according to Dr. Honma Junjifs book gShinban Nihonto koza (New Japanese sword lectures) kenkyu soukatsuhenh, more narrow tachi are seen today from the Heian and early Kamakura eras, but originally there were many wide and long tachi, and possibly most of them were used and gradually had their shape changed. So, it is possible think that in late Heian to early Kamakura eras, there were wide mihaba tachi made, and at the same time, narrow tachi were made. If these wide tachi were used by bushi class (just as the Kitsunegasaki Tamesugu sword was), and the narrow tachi were used by the noble families who followed the emperor on trips, then the narrow nodachi may have been carried along during  excursions and hunting trips and the wide tachi possibly were used and worn down and disappeared in the battle fields, just as tanto size uchigatana, which the lower class soldiers used at that same time, are not seen today. And because it is possible that the noble family tachi were not used, we see more of them today. At this time, most people gave a correct answer.  


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.