NBTHK Journal of Swords

                              October, 2009




                 Meito Kanshou

     Appreciation of Important Swords




Classification: Juyo Token


Type: Katana

Mumei  : den Sadamune

Owner: Inuyama-jo Hakuteibunko, a non-profit organization


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 4 bu (71.0 cm)

Sori: slightly over 5 bu  (1.6 cm)

Motohaba: slightly over 1 sun ( 3.1 cm)

Sakihaba: 7 bu 4 rin ( 2.25 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 2 rin (0.68 cm) 

Sakikasane: 1 bu 5 rin (0.46 cm)

Kissaki length: 1 sun 6.5 bu (5.0 cm)

Nakago length: 5 sun 6 bu 8 rin ( 17.2 cm)

Nakago sori: none




This is a shinogi zukuri sword with a mitsumune, wide mihaba, a slightly thick kasane, a deep sori, and an o-kissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with  mokume, ohada, and a fine hada is visible  over the entire blade. There are thick ji-nie and frequent fine chikei. The hamon is a shallow notare  mixed with gunome; there are ashi, frequent ko-nie, some sunagashi, and occasional tobiyaki and yubashiri.  The boshi is midarekomi with a komaru and return, and the tip has hakikake. The horimono on the omote and ura are bo-hi, but the omote has a smooth finished end while the ura hi is carved through to the nakago. The nakago is osuriage with a sakikiri, and the yasurime is katte-sagari, one mekugiana and the blade is mumei. Sadamune has tantou and kowakizashi and this is an osuriage mumei sword. There is a kinzogan mei attributing this work to Sadamune, but Sadamune has no ubu long sword in existence today, so same people doubt the  existence of Sadamune, just as for Masamune. But in the Shinsatu Oorai, a book from the Nanbokucho period (the writer was suppose to be Sogan-hoshi, and hoshi means a priest) it is stated that recently working master sword smiths were Rai Kunitoshi, Kuniyuki, Shintogo (Kunimitsu), Tosaburou (Yukimitsu), Goronyudo(Masamune), and Masamunefs son Hikoshirou (Sadamune). In an early Muromachi book the Shakuso Oorai, the  same comment is present. Also the book Sogo Daisoshi, written in Taiei 8 ( 1528), which was supposedly written by Ise Sadayori Sogo, Masamune and Sadamunefs names are listed, and later the book Tensho-hon and many other sword books listed these names. Sadamune was the successor to Masamunefs style, and his technique was as good as Masamunefs. His active period was at the end of the Kamakura period to the Nanbokucho period, and according to the Koto-meizukushi Taizen, Sadamune died in Teiji 5. He does have some katakiriha-zukuri swords, a style which is never seen in the work of Masamune,  an osuriage katana (Meibutsu:Yasutaku Sadamune), and an important cultural property sword (Kiriha Sadamune), and a wakizashi ( also a Meibutsu Kiriha Sadamune). His katana have both, ihorimune and mitsumune, and all of his wakizashi and tanto are mitsumune. His basic hamon is a shallow notare, and is mixed with ko-midare and gunone, and his hamon are not violent like Masamunefs, and many of them have a more gentle appearance. There is a rare hamon such as that on the Meibutsu Tokuzenin Sadamune, where some parts are choji and chu-suguha, which we have not seen in the old books, and this is a Juyo Bijutsuhin sword. Also, we have not seen many horimono, although Sadamune has many horimono, and his influence is seen in the work of his student the Shodai Nobukuni. This sword is more gentle looking compared with Masamune, and in good condition. It has a wide mihaba, and the okissaki is a distinctive style, the ji and ha are both bright and clear, and this is a well made sword. This formerly belonged to the Owari Tokugawa general Naruse and was a family treasure.  


 ( Explanation by Hiyama Masanori, oshigata by Ishii Akira)



Shijo Kantei To No.633


*For Shijo Kantei To No.632 (in the September issue) the answer is a Nakasone Okimasa wakizashi.


Deadline for answers for the No. 633 issue is November 5th. 

Each person can vote for one smith. Votes should have your name and address and be sent to the NBTKH Shijo Kantei. You can use the Shijo Kantei card which is attached in this magazine. We will accept cards which are postmarked on or before November 5th.

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


Sword type: wakizashi


Blade Details:

Length: 1 shaku 9 sun 7.5 bu ( 59.84 cm)

Sori: 4.5 bu (1.36 cm)

Motohaba: 1 sun 9 rin (3.3 cm)

Motokasane: 1 bu 8 rin ( 0.55 cm)

Nakago length: 5 sun 4 bu (16.36 cm)

Nakago sori: none 


The sword is o-hirazukuri ( a large hira zukuri sword), and has a mitsumune, wide mihaba, is a large sunnobi, has a thin kasane, and a shallow sori. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, with nagarehada, and hada is visible. There is ji-nie, chikei, some jifu, and a pale midare utsuri. The hamon is a square type midare hamon, and the habuchi has fine hotsure, yubashiri, ko-ashi, yo, a worn down nioiguchi in nie, and ther are kinsuji and sunagashi. Horimono on the omote and ura are both smooth katana hi and tsurehi (two unequally sized  hi). The nakago is suriage with a kurijiri, and the yasurime are kattesagari. There are three mekugiana, and on the omote side in the center of the nakago this schoolfs characteristic tagane-tsukai long mei, and the ura has a date (with its size, this is considered a wakizashi, but the style is a hirazukuri uchigatana, and this is very rare style at the time this was made).    


Juyo Tosogu



Tagayasan-saya kin-kangu aikuchi koshigatana koshirae:

A koshirae with a saya made from Siamese Cassia wood with gold kodogu and no tsuba


This is a Ookawa Teikan issaku kanagu koshirae

(all the kanagu weere made by made by Ookawa Teisan)


Fuchi mei : Teikan ( kao)

Kozuka mei : Meiji Mizunoe-saru ooshou

                      Oite (at) Otonashi-kawa-hotori

Kogai mei: Teikan ( kao)


During the late Edo period, there were many good gold smiths working in towns everywhere in Japan, and located in the Tokugawa gosanke fief in Mito, there were many excellent goldsmiths such as Tamagawa Yoshihisa, Ooyama Genpu,  Ichiryu Yuuzen, Hagiya Katpei, and Uchikoshi Hirotoshi, and they had their own school. Thus Mito became one of largest places for the production of toshingu. The successors to this group were Unno Shoumin, and Yoshimori in the Meiji period, and they had a large influence on the modern chasing world. This koshirae is the Mito gold smith Ookawa Teikanfs kanagu koshigatana koshirae. The Ookawa school was started by Taizan Akagiken Genshifs student Motosada, and Teikan is the second generation. He was born in Bunsei 11 in Mito, and he was active as  the Mito clanfs smith, and his work has been seen in Kaei 4 when he was 24 years old up to to Meiji 31 when he was 70 years old. His most active period was when the Haitorei edicts came out, so some of his late work contained excellent techniques for an export type art called Hamamono. This koshirae used tagayasan (Siamese Cassia) wood  in which the mokume pattern shows very strongly but is distinctive and tasteful. The kanagu (metal fittings) are solid gold with flower and insect patterns. This is a dynamic koshirae which cost a large amount of money, and the design and technique are very sophisticated, and this illustrates the Mito kinko workerfs high standards for technique and workmanship.


 (Explanation by Iida Toshihisa)    



Teirei Kansho Kai for September


The swords discussed below were exhibited in the September 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 September 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 Kubo Kyoko.




Kantei To No.1: tanto


Mei: Hizen kuni Tadayoshi

Horimono: Munenaga

Length: 9 sun 2 bu         

Sori: a slight uchizori

Style: hira zukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, some parts with nagarehada, and there are dense jinie and fine chikei.   

Hamon: ko-notare mixed with ko-gunome; there are ko-ashi, dense nioi, kinsuji, sunagashi and a bright nioiguchi.

Boshi: shallow notare; the tip has a sharp komaru, and there are hakikake.

Horimono: the omote has bonji and a fudo-myoo carving in a frame; the ura has bonji and smooth katana hi with hoso-hi (fine hi).


This blade has a wide mihaba, thick kasane, and is sunnobi, which is a Keicho era tanto shape, and the jitetsu is a tight ko-itame, the hamon is mainly ko-notare, and there is a Fudo-myoo carving, and from these characteristics, it is possible to judge this as a Myoju or  Shodai Tadayoshi work. As people know, when ordered by his lord from the Hizen Nabeshima family, the Shodai Tadayoshi and Munenaga studied with Umetada Myoju. Tadayoshi learned sword making, and Munenaga learned carving and this provided a foundation for the prosperous Hizen to tradition and this sword shows the good results which came from Myojufs training. Thus voting for Myoju is an almost correct answer, but Myoju hamon vary more in the vertical direction, and show deep modulations between the tops and bottoms of the hamon. They also have a tight nioiguchi, and on this sword, the bottoms of the notare hamon valleys have dense nie, and from these characteristics, the Shodai Tadayoshi name becomes the choice. Also, The Umetada school Fudo-myoo style horimono are distinctive, as you can see in the photo, the Fudofs right elbow forms a square, and the flame is on the right side of  the head and forms a circle going to the left. The eyes and eyebrows are slanted.  These features are the same in Myojufs work and in Hizen work. Munenagafs successor Yoshinaga has no example of a Fudo carving in a box frame, and usually he carved this horimono on swords, and this is an important point. From his existing swords, Munenagafs active time was around Keicho 15-16 to Genwa 7-8, for a 12-13 year period, and after Genna 10, when Tadayoshi changed his name to Musashi daijo Tadahiro, we never see Munenagafs carving. From the signature, this was made around Genwa 4. Other votes are for same schoolfs Harima-no-kami Teruhiro, Kunihiro, and Yasutsugu. These smiths used horimono often, but Teruhiro does not have such a detailed horimono, and Kunihiro and Yasutsugu hada are itame mixed with mokune, and the hada is visible, so you must pay attention to these types of  differences.




Kantei To No.2: wakizashi


Mei: Nobukuni

Length: 1 shaku 1 bu

Sori:very slight

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: ko-itame mixed with mokume, and the ha side is mixed with nagarehada, and there are thick dense  ji-nie, and fine chikei.

Hamon: mainly a gunome midare mixed with ko-gunome, ko-notare, and a togari type hamon. In some places, two continuous gunome are fused together, and these become yahazu style choji. There is a large active midare wave, and there are ashi, yo, frequent nie, fine sunagshi, yubashiri, many muneyaki, and a bright nioiguchi. 

Boshi: the omote is a shallow notare, and the ura is straight, and both sides have a sharp tip, have hakikake with a deep return, which continues to form muneyaki.

Horimono: the omote and ura both have katana hi with marudome, and inside of the hi, there are two bonji, and under the hi, in the ji there is a long bonji. The omote has a rendai beside a long bonji. If there aare different types of horimono on one sword, this style is called kasane-bori.


Nobukuni was active around the Nanbokuchofs golden era from Enbun to Joji, and he is supposed to have been the Shodai, and later generations worked to the end of the Nanbokucho era to the early Muromachi era around the Oei period. On this signature, the gkunih kanji is distinctive, and the inside strokes on the left and right are on the opposite sides of where they are usually written, and from this, we can judge this work was made around the Oei era by Saemon-no-jo Nobukuni. This hirazukuri wakizashi  lengh is long for its mihaba. There is a thick kasane and shallow sori for the size, and these characteristics are representative for this time. Oei Nobukuni has two types of  hamon, one is suguha with a tight nioiguchi, and the other is a gunome with midareba. This hamon shows continuous fused two gunome which becoma a yahazu style midare, and between midare waves there are low ko-notare yakiba and gunome. This distinctive hamon is seen at the end of  the Nanbokucho era, during the Eitoku and Meitoku periods. Nobukuni swords and Oei Nobukuni use this hamon. The midare hamon swords have more frequent nie than the suguha swords, and hataraki inside of the ha are more distinctive. The jitetsu is a ko-itame with dense ji-nie, and there are chikei which is a Yamashiro style refinement. But sometimes the inside of the ha shows a nagarehada, and from this characteristic, we can judge this as a Ryokai school smith.  This has a kasane-bori style of  horimono on the omote and ura (kasane bori indicates that there is a mixture of styles in the horimono being used), and all generations of Nobukuni liked horimono and produced good horimono. This applies to Oei Nobukuni, and  besides bonji, he often used many kinds of styles for the kasane-bori horimono. From these characteristics , many people voted for the correct answer the first time. From the Oei period, this Saemon-no-jo and Shikibu-no-jo Nobukuni names are famous, and it is difficult to judge which Nobukuni made the sword, so if you look at this as a Oei Nobukuni work, it is correct. A few people voted for the Shodai Kuninobu, but his kasane is thin, and his hamon is a Yamashiro-den suguha or a Soshu-den notare, and he never uses this kind of gunome notare.     


Kantei To No 3: katana


Mei: Kunihiro

Length: slightly over 2 shaku,  3 sun

Sori: 6.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri,

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with mokume, and the hada is visible; there are ji-nie and fine chikei.

Hamon: mainly a shallow notare mixed with gunome and a ko-notare, and the yakihaba above the monouchi becomes wide, and has frequent nie, and occasional uneven nie, kinsuji, and fine sunagashi; along the top of hamon there are yubashiri, and a worn down nioiguchi. 

Boshi: midarekomi; the omote is komaru, the ura is sharpe, and both sides have hakikake.

Horimono: the omote and ura have smooth futasuji-hi.


This blade has a wide mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different; there is a shallow sori and an okissaki, and swords with this type of shape are seen in the Nanbokucho era, and later in the Keicho shinto or shinshinto periods, so some people voted for this as a Shidzu sword from the Nanbokucho era. This has a thin kasane for its size, and the futasuji-hi extend under the habaki and along the nakago ( if the tsuka is removed the hi are nakago-saki). There is no mizukage forward form the machi which is atypical of Horikawa school swords, and the ji and ha look old, and from these characteristics, it is understandable that some people judged this as a Nanbokucho era suriage sword, instead of an ubu-nakago sword from Keicho times. Kunihiro has swords in which the  shape, ji, ha and horimono look like exact copies of older styles. This has a thin kasane, and the futasuji-hi are cut smoothly along the length of the nakago, and the mei is close to the hi, and from these details, it is clear that he copied old style swords. Judging from his swords,  Kunihirofs sword making goal was to make swords following the best styles of Shoshu Den work such as Shidzu, and voting for this as a Nanbokucho smith is understandable, but those have ji and ha which are different. This jihada is a typical Horikawa school rough looking hada, and different from a sophisticated Soshu Den sword with  a soft appearing hada, and the hamonfs nioiguchi is not clear and more worn down.  Among the Horikawa school smiths, Kunihirofs hamon have a low yakiba and are gentle, the yakihaba become wider from the  monouchi to the yokote, have dense nie, and the yakiba has a thick dense nioiguchi. From these characteristics, among the people who voted for this as a shinto sword, most voted for Kunihiro.  



Kantei To No. 4: katana


Mei: Kanemoto

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 7 bu

Sori: 6 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame mixed with nagarehda; there are dense ji-nie, chikei and white utsuri.

Hamon: round top gunome mixed with togariba, and in places there are as many as five continuous fused gunome; in places along the hamon, there are some sanbonsugi; there are ashi, and occasionally there are long ashi extending to the hasaki; the nioiguchi is mainly nioi, and there are ko-nie and fine sunagshi along the entire hamon.

Boshi: the omote and ura have a prominent midarekomi, the tip is omaru, and the round omaru circle falls to the ha side and becomes a jizo-boshi.


This sword has a high shinogi, a somewhat thin kasane, and not much hiraniku. There is a strong sakisori and thin fukura, and from this shape, we can judge this as a late Muromachi uchigatana. The jitetsu is itame mixed with  nagarehada; the hamon is gunome mixed with togariba; the boshi is an active midarekomi; and the tip is omaru where the omaru circle drops toward the ha and forms a jizo boshi. These are characteristics of Sue-Seki swords. This is work of the Nidai-Kanemoto, i.e. Magoroku, and he is famous for his Sanbonsugi hamon. However, Magoroku hamon are different from later generations in which big and small togariba continue regularly in the hamon. Magorokufs hamon have more variations and are attractive. For example, loking at the togariba, three, four, or five togariba can fuse together and become a single mass, and the valleys between each group are lively looking. Another type of hamon is composed of uneven togariba which are continuous from the  moto to saki, and entire hamon appears to be composed of Sanbonsugi. Another type of hamon has round top gunome instead of  togariba. This hamon shows round top gunome mixed with togariba, and five continuous gunome or togariba become one group, and the yakiba has large up and down alterations, and looks like a Sanbonsugi style. In this sword Magoroku used a mixed hamon technique, and the high midare waves form a gorgeous hamon: with its large size, it demonstrates a spirit. With its soft nioiguchi and hataraki around the habuchi, this is a fine example of a Magoroku sword. Many people voted for this as Magorokufs work on the first vote, and a few people voted for the almost correct answer of Kanesada. This sword has many round top gunome, but Kanesada does not have a hamon in which several gunome fuse to become one group and become Sanbonsugi. Also, some people voted for Koyama Munetsugu, or Munehiro who are shinshinto smiths. It is understandable because their swords have no hiraniku, and long ashi extending to the hasaki, but please pay attention to the fact that their jihada is a tight ko-itame and become mu-jihada, a typical shinshinto jihada which is different from the hada on this sword.  


Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: kinzougan mei Sadatsugu

         Hona (kao) ( Ringa)

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 1 bu

Sori: 6 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: ko-itame mixed ko-mokume; the entire hada is tight and the fine hada is visible and becomes a chirimen-hada; there are dense ji-nie, fine chikei, and the area near the shinogi has jifu type midare utsuri, and near the ha there are occasional fine bo-utsuri, and dan-utsuri.

Hamon: primarily suguha mixed with ko-gunome, a square type of  hamon pattern, and some parts have saka-ashi, ko-ashi, and yo; there is a tight nioiguchi, fine kinsuji, sunagashi, and a bright nioiguchi.

Boshi: shallow notarekomi with a sharp tip and komaru.

Horimono: the omote and ura have smooth bo hi extending though the nakago.


The Bichu Aoe schoolfs Sadatsugu is known to actually be several different smiths who were  active at different times during their era. In the early period at the beginning of the Kamakura period, the school is called Ko-aoe, and later towards the end of the Kamakura period around the Kareki era, there is a smith using the Uemon-no-jo title, and during the Nanbokucho era, there is a smith using the Osumi Gonsuke title, and there are several  different smiths with the same name. This blade has a kinzogan mei attributing it to Sadatugu, but this attribution is not for a particular Sadatsugu, but is just to attribute the work to some Sadatsugu. This kind of wide judgement attribution is seen on old swords. This sword has a wide mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are slightly different, there is a long chu-kissaki, and the jihada is ko-itame mixed with ko-mokume. The fine hada is visible and is a chirimen style hada. The shinogi side has a jifu style midare utsuri, and the ha side has a fine bo-tsuri which is called dan-utsuri, and this jihada shows characteristics of the Aoe school.

 The hamon is mainly suguha, mixed with ko-gunome, a square type hamon pattern, and saka-ashi, and the boshi is a shallow notarekomi. The tip is sharp with  a return, and from these characteristics, you can narrow this to an Aoe school work. Plus, the nioiguchi is tight, and has ko-nie, and some parts have thick nie, and from the shape, ji and ha, we can guess this is work from around the end of  the Kamakura period. Many people voted for the Aoe school. But among the Aoe smiths, some people voted for Ko-aoe work, and some people voted for Aoe work from the golden age of the Nanbokucho period. If  this was a Ko-aoe sword,  the hamon would be suguha, but mixed with many komidare, and the inside of the ha would have frequent nie, and the nioiguchi would be worn down. If it were a Nanbokucho sword, the shape would be big, there would be an okissaki, and the hamon would be nioideki and more tight. Beside almost correct answers, some people voted for Motoshige and Unjou. Both of these are Bizen smiths, and many of their works are in Aoe style, and this hamon is similar to theirs, but if it were by Motoshige, the jihada would be more visible and there would be nagarehada. If this was work by Unjou, the shape would be wazori, and many of the boshi have a  round return, and the nature of the utsuri is different.   




Shijo Kantei No 631( August issue)


 Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

Number 631 (in the August issue).

  The answer is an Osafune Kanemitsu tachi.


This has a normal mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are different; there is a high koshizori, the tip has sori, and there is a chu-kissaki. From the shape we can judge this as being a late Kamakura period sword. In the late Kamakura period, in the Bizen school, the Osafune smiths were the mainstream smiths, and many of their jihada show a bright, tight itame, and there is a refined kitae, and there are clear midare utusri, and these are some of their strong characteristic features. These smiths include  Mitsutada, Nagamitsu, and Kagemitsu, and this kind of kitae is also seen in the work of Kagemitsufs son Kanemitsu (he also made itame mixed with large mokume, and the hada is visible; in some of his other work, some parts of the  hada  contain jifu). This is Kanemitsufs early work, and has a normal mihaba, has a primarily a square type gunome and kataochi gunome hamon, and a tight itame hada, a bright jigane, a refined kitae, and has clear midare utsuri. When you look at this kind of sword, Kagemitsufs name come first to mind, but from the moto to saki there are square gunome, and a regular continuous kataochi gunome hamon, and it has to kept in mind that this type of hamon is only seen in Kagemitsufs tanto. His tachi have a suguha style mixed with kaku-gunome, kataochi gunome, ko-choji, and ko-gunome, and there are ashi and yo, and many of his hamon are saka-ashi type hamon, and very few tachi have regular continuous kaku-gunome and kataochi-gunome. His son Kanemitsufs early tachi work show some suguha with ko-ashi, and there is a another one just like this sword, with a regular continuous kaku-gunome and kataochi-gunome hamon, and this kind of hamon is seen, not only on tanto, but also on tachi, and this is a one of his characteristic features (this sword has some suguha, but some of  his swords have more regular continuous gunome from the moto to saki). After the Jouwa and Kanou periods, as people know, his shapes became large, and  at the same time there are many midare hamon which were never seen before. Kagemitsu boshi are usually sansaku-boshi, but on Kanemitsu tachi ( like this kind of tachi) the boshi are often midarekomi with a komaru return, or a midarekomi with a sharp tip, and this is also one of his characteristic features. His nakago are kurijiri, and his yasurime are kattesagari. His signatures are on the omote mune side, and include gBizen kuni Osafune Kanemitsuff, efBizen Osafune ju Kanemitsuh,  and a Bizen Osafune ju Kanemitsu long signature with a date on the ura side. This sword originally had the mei  g Bizen kuni Osafune Kanemitsuh, and in a later era, the lower part of signature was supposedly removed. Most people voted for Kanemitsu, and many people voted for his father Kagemitsu. Kagemitsu has some tachi similar to this, and it is difficult to look for differences, so a Kagemitsu answer was treated as an almost correct answer, but please pay attention to small details as I just explained. Besides almost correct answers, some people voted for Sanenaga, but his jihada is a tight and refined itame and has clear utsuri, and his hamon have a tight nioiguchi suguha style, and these characteristics are similar to Kagemitsu. However, Sanenaga hamon usually never show saka-ashi, and the ashi extend straight to the hasaki, and the boshi is a distinct sansaku boshi.             


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.