NBTHK Journal of Swords

Issue Number 634

November, 2009



Meito Kanshou


Classification: Juyo Token

Size: Tanto

Mei: Rai Kunitoshi

        Bunho 2 nen 7 gatsu (July)

Length: 8 sun 1 bu (23.3 cm)

Sori: uchizori

Motohaba: slightly over 6 bu 6 rin (2.05 cm)

Motokasane: 1 bu 9 rin (0.58 cm) 

Nakago length: 3 sun 3 bu  (9.2 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight



This is a hira-zukuri tanto with a mitsumune, a normal mihaba and kasane, and an uchizori tanto shape. The jihada is a tight ko-itame with occasional ohada,  and there is some mixed Rai hada. There are frequent ji-nie, fine chikei, and nie utsuri. The hamon is suguha and around the koshimoto there is a yakikomi. In places, there are some nie-suji, ko-ashi, and there is a tight nioiguchi and ko-nie. The boshi is straight with a komaru and has a slightly deep return, and there is some muneyaki.  The nakago is ubu, with a shallow kurijiri, kattesagari yasurime, and there is one mekugi-ana. The omote side, under the mekugiana in the center, there is a large three kanji mei, and the ura side hasa  date.

In Yamashiro Kuni in Kyoto, at the mid-Kamakura era, the Awataguchi school was active, and the Rai school was started by Kuniyuki. The Rai school produced many excellentsword smiths such as Kuniyuki, Kunitoshi, Rai Kunitoshi, Rai Kunimitsu, Rai Kunitsugu, and Rai Kuninaga, and the school was prosperous into the Nanbokucho era. There are different opinions concerning the two kanji Kuniyoshi and Rai Kunitoshi, and some people think that they were the same person, while others think that they were two different persons, and there is no conclusion about this issue. There is a two kanji Kunitoshi tachi dated Koan 1 (1278), and at the Tokugawa Reimikai in Nagoya there is a Rai Kunitoshi tachi dated Seiwa 4 nen 10 gatsu  23 nichi (1315) which says the smith is 75 years old. His last signed extant sword is dated December of Genkyo 1(1321). We are guessing that he was born around Ninji 2 (1241). In Kowa 1 (1278), he was age 38, and for a sword smith, and this was his most productive period. There are small differences in styles between the two of  them. Nijimei (two kanji) Kunitoshi tachi have a wide mihaba, and inokubi kissaki, a dynamic shape, and gorgeous choji hamon. In contrast, most of Rai Kunitoshifs tachi have a normal mihaba and a chu-kissaki, or a narrow mihaba and ko-kissaki shape.  The hamon are suguha or a suguha style mixed with a small midare hamon.  Also the nijimei Kunitoshi does not have signatures on tanto except for the Aizome Kunitoshi ( classified as Juyo Bunkazai), while Rai Kunitoshi has many signed tanto. There are the oldest ones dated  Shoo 3 nen 3 gatsu 1 nichi (1290) (this is a Juyo Bijutsuhin), Shoo 5, Einin 4 nen 12 gatsu 16 nichi (1296), Einin 5, Showa 2 nen (1313), Showa 4 nen 8 gatsu (Juyo Bijutsuhin), Showa 4 nen 10 gatsu 13 nichi (Juyo Bunkazai), Showa 5 nen 11 gatsu (Kokuho). Bunpo 1, 6 gatsu (1319), Bunpo 1 , 7 gatsu,  8 gatsu (Juyo Bijutsuhin), and uruu ( a leap year) 10 gatsu, Ganou 2 nen (1320), Ganou 3 nen shogatsuhi (NewYears day), Gankyo 1, 12 gatsuhi (1321).  Most of  his signatures are  after he was 50 years old, and on Bunpo 3 his age was 78 years. His last works were at an age of around 81 years. Judging from this, he was a very long lived person at that time. This tanto has a good balance of mihaba and length, and the tip is uchizori which is a typical shape for work at the end of the Kamkura era, and it is elegant looking. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, has frequent ji-nie, and nie utsuri, and the hamon is  chu-suguha. There are frequent ko-nie; the machigiwa  (area around the machi) has a yakikomi; the boshi is komaru with a deep return; and. This kind of  elegant style is not seen except for Rai Kunitoshifs work, and this is a well made tanto.


  (Explanation by Hiyama Masanori, oshigata by Ishii Akira)




Shijo-Kantei To No.634


*For No.633( in the October issue) the answer is a wakizashi by Osafune Morikage dated Oan 3 nen.


Deadline for submissions for the No. 634 issue is December 5th. 

Please submit only one vote foe the maker. Include your name and address and send it to the NBTKH Shijo-Kantei. You can use the Shijo-Kantei card which is attached in this issue of the magazine. Votes must be postmarked on or before December 5th.

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


Size: tanto


Length: 9 sun 7.5 bu (29.54 cm)

Sori: uchizori

Motohaba: 8 bu 4 rin (2.55 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 1 rin (0.65 cm)

Nakago length: 3 sun 5.5 bu (10.76 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight 


The tanto is hira-zukuri with a mitsumune, a normal mihaba, and for the mihaba the lengh is long, there is a thicker kasane than usual, and there is a slight uchizori. The jihada is a tight itame, there is thick ji-nie and shirake (white) utsuri. The hamon has ko-ashi, yo, bright small nie, sunagashi, and a bright nioiguchi. Horimono on the omote is su-ken, and the ura has gomabashi. The nakago is ubu, there is a kurijiri, and the nakago-mune is marumune. The yasurime are kattesagari, there are three mekugi-ana, and on the omote side in the center, under the mekugi-ana there is a mei.    


Juyo Tosogu


A Usho-zu kozuka with a picture of a cormorant and itfs trainer

Mune mei: Nagatsune (kao)


Somin is known as a great master in the East, and Nagatsune is known in the West and he was famous as a great Kyo-kinkou (gold smith) .  Ichinomiya Nagatsune was born in Kyoho 6 (1721) at a sake brewerfs house in Echizen, Suruga, and he became the adopted son of the silver smith Nagayoshi. Later, he wanted to be a chaser (i.e. an engraver), and went to Kyoto and become a student of the Goto school master Yasui Takanaga (Takayama). Early in his career, he was named Setsuzan, and later, he changed his name to Nagatsune, and used Ganshoshi as an artistfs title. At age 50, he received the Echizen Daijo title which is the name of his home town, and he died in Tenmei 6 (1786), at the age of 66. Nagatsune studied drawing with Ishida Yuchin who was Maruyama Okyofs teacher, and today, we can see his high level of  sketching skills from his paintings and his design sketches. We look at Nagatsunefs work, and in his early work he singned Setsuzan when he used iron or copper for his jigane, and carved  with a shishiaibori (shallow curving) technique which is a style similar to his teacher. Later he used the Gotofs takabori iroe (high relief carving with color) style, and the usu-nikubori (shin) style. His favorite style was katakiribori with gold, silver, and copper. In particular, his katakiribori with a bright color hirazogan technique is different from Sominfs katakiribori work, and this is Nagatsunefs original style. Later, he had a strong influence on Kano Natsuo. This kozuka uses one quarter of its space as a polished ground, and has very smooth katakiribori, and many colors in the delicate hirazogan, and this is typical of his later work, and shows his very elegant style.        


At Suruga city museum in Fukui prefecture, there is a special exhibit of Ichinomiya Nagatsunefs gold smith work  in Suruga until November 29th.


 (Explanation by Iida Toshihisa)    




Teirei Kanshou Kai for October


The swords discussed below were shown in the October meeting at the NBTHK headquarters building. This discussion presents the 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 October 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 Manabu.




Kantei Ko No.1: tachi


Mei: Nagamitsu

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 8 bu         

Sori: 8 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: iori mune

Jihada: tight itame, with thick fine ji-nie, midare utsuri, and the koshimoto has bo-utsuri    

Hamon: choji mixed with gunome; there are ashi, yo, nioi, and the koshimoto has ko-nie and kinsuji.

Boshi: shallow notare, the tip is komaru, and there is a short return.


This tachi has a normal mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are different. There is  a thick kasane, and a large amount of hiraniku. The is funbari, a high sori, and the blade is koshizori. Even the tip has sori; there is a chu-kissaki, and this is a characteristic tachi shape from the late Kamakura era, when Nagamitsu was active. There is a tight itame hada, fine thick ji-nie, and a very fine jihada with clear bright utsuri. The hamon has a bright nioiguchi, and the choji hamon is mixed with distinctive gunome. The height of the yakiba is well controlled and uniform, and the top of yakiba is same height everywhere, and the activity of the ashi is well controlled, and this is characteristic of Nagamitsu. Also, the yakiba around the koshimoto and monouchi is low and resembles a saddle, and the boshi is a shallow notare with a komaru return, which is called a Sankaku-boshi (But with this kind of midare hamon the boshi is often midare), and these are characteristics of Nagamitsu swords. For almost correct answer, a few people voted for Mitsutada and Kagemitsu. Mitsutada has the most gorgeous hamon among the Osafune school smiths in the Kamakura era, and has many choji hamon with alternations, and some of  his kawazuko choji are more distinctive. Kagemitsufs work is based on suguha hamon and small midare hamon, and these are often mixed with a saka type hamon and saka-ashi hamon. Another opinion was for Kunimune: his midare hamon have distinctive choji, and are sometimes mixed with square hamon and open bottomed choji, and his boshi are midare and many of his jihada are visible.



Kantei To No.2: katana

Mei: saku Yobakushi Hosokawa Masayoshi (kokuin)

         Kaei 2 Tsuchinoto Mi chushun 

         Marume Heihachi

Length: 2 shaku 9 sun 3 bu

Sori: slightly less than 1 sun

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: iori mune

Jihada: ko-itame mixed with itame; there is a tight kitae, but the hada is only slightly visible; there are fine thick ji-nie and chikei; the koshimoto has pale utsuri.

Hamon: mainly gunome mixed with ko-gunome; in places, the top of the midare hamon is square, and the bottom half is mixed with juka-choji; there are ashi, and in some places there are long ashi; there is a slight thick nioiguchi, and the koshimoto has a soft hamon; the entire hamon has nie, and some sunagashi.  

Boshi: midarekomi, with some hakikake, and the tip has a komaru with a short return.

Horimono: the omote and ura both have bo-hi with marudome ends.


This sword was an attempt to produce a copy of an Ichimonji style Kamakura sword. The width at the moto and saki are different, and there is a high koshizori, but the kasane is thick. With a length of over 2 shaku 9 sun long, with a nakago almost 1 shaku long, this is a heavy sword. There is not much hiraniku, there is a long kissaki and shallow fukura, and the hamon is Bizen style. But the nie hamon has chikei, and is mixed with a Soshu Den style, and there is a  mixture of the different schoolfs characteristics. This sword has very long ashi which almost reach the hasaki, and these details are characteristic of Shinshinto swords, so no one considered this to be an old sword. This type of Masayoshi sword has a large  difference in the widths at the moto and saki, even for  s Shinshinto smith. This sword has a strong fumbari, and the nakago sori does not have a continuous sori with the blade, so it looks like two different sori are present, and this is characteristic of Masayoshifs style. His choji often become square, and the choji clump together to make a become sensu (folding fan) shape, with juka-choji and choji faling to the right and left, and sometimes the ashi cross each other. The hamon has few yo and sunagshi. The soft hamon around the koshimoto is influenced by Suishinshi Masahide (his early work often shows this), and this characteristic could help to decide this is a Masayoshi sword. As an almost correct answer, many people voted for Naotane. Many of Naotanefs Bizen-den are copies  of  Kagemitsu and Kanemitsu, and his Ichimonji style hamon are mixed with kataochi gunome, and there is clear utsuri, and often the utsuri extends down to the top of  the yakiba.

Besides almost correct answers, Unju Korekazufs choji hamon show clusters of choji and he used primarily square top large gunome, and his nioiguchi is denser when compared to Masayoshifs work. Koyama Munetsugufs work has a 3-4 sun repeat pattern in his hamon.              




Kantei To No 3: wakizashi


Mei: Hida no kami Fujiwara Ujifusa

Length: 1 shaku 3 sun

Sori: slightly less than 2 bu

Design: hira-zukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: itame hada with strong thick ji-nie, and chikei.

Hamon: notare mixed with gunome, ogunome, ko-notare and occasionally there are box shaped gunome; there is a dense nioiguchi, strong nie, and in places, mura nie, sunagashi, kinsuji, and nie suji.  

Boshi: mainly a square type shallow notare, with slight midarekomi, small hakikke, and a round tip and long return.

Horimono: The omote has futasuji-hi, and the ura has a gomabashi; both side have a smooth finish.


This is a work by one of  the Owari-sansaku smiths Hida no kami Ujifusa. The nidaifs title was Bizen no kami, and the sandai again had the title Hida no kami. Their styles were similar to the shodaifs and displayed thesame high quality. This is a sunnobe blade, with a wide mihaba, thick kasane, a somewhat shallow sori, and is sakizori. This is a hira-zukuri wakizashi, and the jihada is itame and the hamon is notare mixed with ogunome, gunome, and ko-notare, and the entire hamon is a large midare, with a dynamic up and down movement. There are some box shaped gunome in places, and the midare hamon pattern is contiuous. There are strong mura nie, which go to the ji, and these characteristics clearly show Ujifusafs style. Because his midare hamon is a continuous pattern, just before the boshi, it is a gunome and notare hamon, and the boshi is mainly notare, with a relaxed tsukiage style. Many of his swords have  a komaru tip or  a sharp return, and that is seen here. For an almost correct answer, some people voted for Wakasa no kami Ujifusa, but his swords have a strong sakizori, the fukura is shallow, the jihada is a nagarehada, and many of his jigane appear white. Compared to Hida no kami, his yakiba are lower, and his nie are more gentle. Beside the correct answer, some people voted for Hoki no kami Nobutaka and Izumi no kami Masatsune. These two smiths have similar  swords to this, and especially since Nobutaka was Hida no kamifs teacher, this answer was considered to be an almost correct answer. However, Masatsune is known as an excellent suguha style smith, and because of this, we decided not accept this as a correct answer. However, both smithfs  names are good answers. Some people looked at this as a Seki Shinto smith, and they voted  for Igano kami Kinmichi and Higo no kami Teruhiro. Kinmichifs jihada is a distinctive masame, and has hataraki inside of the ha, and denser nie and nioi. Teruhirofs  ji and ha are bright and clear, and his nie are smooth and not mura style. Other votes were for the Kunihiro school. That schoolfs jihada is a distinctive slightly rough hada, and their hamon  contain mixed large midare hamon patterns are not continuous. They have suguha and shallow notare between the midare hamon, and a toned down or quiet nioiguchi. Kunihiro has many continuous dynamic midare hamon, but some parts of his hamon are saka-hamon, and have dense nie and nioi, and many of his boshi are sharp tipped Sanpin-boshi.         




Kantei To No. 4: katana


Mei: Bizen kuni ju Osafune Magoemon no jo Kiyomitsu

Length: 2 shaku 4 sun

Sori: 8 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: iori mune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume; the entire jihada is tight, and on the bottom half the hada is only slightly visible; there are dense ji-nie, fine chikei and pale utsuri.

Hamon: mainly a wide suguha mixed with a ko-gunome, notare hamon; there is some ko-ashi, frequent yo, nie, some uchinoke, yubashiri, and the upper half has frequent muneyaki, and a bright nioiguchi.

Boshi: deep yakiba, straight boshi, the tip has hakike, there is a komaru return, and a long yakisage.


This katana has saki-sori, the boshi yakiba is wide, the boshi return is a long yakisage, there are frequent muneyaki, and these are characteristics of late Muromachi swords. Also, there is a wide mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are not much different. This has a sunobi shape, the kissaki is long, the nakago is long, and this is a sword intended be used with a two hand (ryoteuchi) style. From these characteristics, we can judge this to work from around the Eiroku to Tempo eras. During this era, many smiths specialized in suguha, and this sword has a tight jihada and utsuri. The ji and ha are both bright, and there is  also a conspicuous mokume hada mixed into the jihada. The hada is visible, and there are frequent yo, and these appear to be hanging or suspended down to the hasaki (this is called Kiyomitsu saliva). The boshi has hakikake and becomes soft, and these features clearly show this is Osafune Kiyomitsufs work. In the voting, some people judged the shape correctly, and they voted  not only for the Kiyomitsu name, but also for Mago-uemon-no-jo Kiyomitsu work, which was Kiyomitsufs typical shape at this time, and this was very impressive. His father was Gorosaemon-no-jo Kiyomitsu, and his active time was around the Tenmon era, and many of his swords were shorter, and the nakago were katateuchi (intended to be used with one hand) or a little longer. As an almost correct answer, many people voted for Sukesada.In particular, Genbei-no-jo Sukesada was active at the same time, and is known as a master of suguha work, so this is a good judgement. But his jihada are very tight, and he does not have such soft yo, and there is a crumbled appearing hamon and boshi. Some people voted afor Taira Takada work and the Kanefusa school. Taira Takada work has a tight jihada, but they are too tight, and the jihada patterns are poor; the suguha nioi-guchi are tight, the ashi and yo are tight, and in particular, many of  the yo are so fine and narrow that they appear like needles. Kanefusa school jihada are nagarehada, and hada is slightly visible, and looks whitish. Besides ashi, and yo, there are small midare hamon which appear crumbled and often form small shima-ba, and the nioiguchi is tight and worn down, and many of  the boshi are sharp.           




Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: Tanba no kami Yoshimichi

Length: 2 shaku 4  sun 5 bu

Sori: slightly less than 5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: iori mune

Jihada: itame, strong nagarehada, and masame hada; the hada is visible, and there are thick ji-nie, and the entire hada looks somewhat dark.

Hamon: the moto has a straight long yakidashi, and above this there is a wide suguha notare, mixed with gunome; around the monouchi it is mixed with saka-choji; there is a  dense nioiguchi, strong nie, murazuki (grouped) nie, and frequent yubashiri, nijuba, tobiyaki, kinsuji, and sunagashi; the entire hamon has a striped appearance which becomes sudareba, and there is a worn down nioiguchi.

Boshi: midare hamon which is wide around the yokote, and above this there is a slightly wide yakiba; the tip is komaru with a long return.


This sword has a slightly wide mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki is not much different. There is a shallow sori, and the kissaki is not too long, and from this shape we can judge that this was made a little after the Keicho period. There is a long clear yakidashi,  and we could say that whole hamon is a gyoso (atypical) sudareba, but the bottom half has some stylized tight sudareba, and the boshi is not a sanpin-boshi with a deep yakiba and straight with a komaru and return, which is the Osaka Shinto style. From this kind of new style and from the signature, we can judge this as work from around Kanei times by Tanba no kami Yoshimichi (i.e. Kyo Tanba). Compared with Osaka-Tanba work, the shinogi haba is narrower, the jigane is a little dark, and there are many yubashiri. Many of his works are described in the book Shinto Meizukushi Koshu, and this sword matches one of the descriptions. Also, around the monouchi there is a saka-choji hamon, and this is unusual. At the 27th Juyo Token meeting, we could see few examples of this kind of work.  A few people voted for Iga-no-kami Kinmichi. But Shodai Kinmichi hamon are sometimes mixed with the beginning of a sudareba. His work has yubashiri, and tobiyaki on the ji side, but the ha side does not have much of a wide striped type of  hataraki, and the hamon are mixed with a midare hamon and midare types of hamon.      







Shijo Kantei No 632 ( From the September issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

Number 632 (in the September issue): the answer is a wakizashi by  Nakasone Okimasa.

This is a normal mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are different. There is a very shallow sori, and from this shape, we can judge this to be a Kanbun shinto sword. Okimasa does not have many dated and signed swords, but he has date of Kanbun, Enpo, Tenwa, and Genroku on his swords, and his active period was Kanbun and Empo to Teikyo and Genroku times. Because of his long active career, he has two types of shape. One is a Kanbun shinto shape just like this sword, and a Jokyo and Genroku shinto shape. His jitetsu are a tight ko-itame just like on this sword, and there is a visible itame hada. Very rarely, one sees a visible large itame hada with a notare hamon mixed with gunome, and these are very dynamic hamon. Also, many of  his shinogi ji have a distinctive masame hada, the same as other Edo Shinto smiths. Okimasa hamon have a suguha yakidashi on the koshimoto, just like on this sword, and above it, hamon becomes juzuba, like on this sword, or there is a notare hamon mixed with gunome. The juzuba hamon often has two gunome fused together, and compared with his teacher Kotetsu, he has strong ha-nie, and ha-nie are visible on the ji, just like yubashiri. In places on the ji and inside of the  ha there are sunagashi. Okimasafs boshi are not often like Kotetsu boshi, and his boshi are straight with a komaru, a shallow notarekomi with komaru, and nie kuzure. His nakago is kurijiri, and the yasurime are kattesagari. His signatures are mostly Nakasone Okimasa with five kanji characters, and sometimes he signs Nakasone Kotetsu Okimasa,  Nakasone Okimasa kaku kore, and in most of  his signatures, the first kanji starts on the mekugiana, and he writes along the center of the shinogi. His teacher Kotetsu has has many kinzougan saidanmei, and the swordsmen were usually Yamano Kaemon Nagahisa, and Kanjuro Hisahide. Okimasa has a very small number of saidanmei swords, and besides Kanjuro Hisahide, he has saidanmei from Sunagawa Ibei Hisashige and Kosoto Hirazo Shigekatsu. A while ago, one of  our members noted that Okimasa has very few dated swords, and it is hard to follow changes in his signature by date, and that his signatures have all kinds of  kanji styles. Some times, he also has very unusual signatures So I was asked  if it possible to judge his signature as being real or fake ? This is an understandable question, but Okimasa used a slightly large tagane (chisel), and inscribed a very dynamic signature, and these features are  distinctive and interesting, and once you learn to see this, it is not difficult to judge if  a mei is real or false. Most of people voted for Okimasa, and for an almost correct answer, some people voted for Kotetsu. This is a Kanbun shinto shape and there is a suguha yakidashi, and above it there is  juzuba, so it is understandable judge this as Kotetsu work, but his juzuba usually do not appear crumbled, has he has wide ashi, and the ji and ha are both bright and clear, and the boshi is often a Kotetsu boshi.            




Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.