NBTHK Sword Journal

December, 2009

Issue Number 635




Meito Kansho

Study of Important Swords


Classification: Juyo Token


Style: Katana


Mei: Sakon-ei gon-sho-sho Fujiwara Ujisada

        Tensho 3 nen 2 gatsu kichijitsu


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

Sori: 5.5 bu (1.67 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 4 rin (2.83 cm)

Sakihaba: 7 bu 3 rin (2.2 cm)

Motokasane: 1 bu 6 rin (0.48 cm) 

Sakikasane: 1 bu (0.33 cm)

Nakago length: slightly less than 6 sun (18 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight



This is a shinogi zukuri katana with a mitsumune, a slightly wide mihaba, a thin kasane, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. There is not much hiraniku, the shape is slender, and there is  an o-kissaki. The jihada is a tight itame, and there are frequent ji-nie along with a fine visible jihada. The hamon is a shallow notare, and is mixed with well spaced o-gunome. There are ashi, a tight nioiguchi, frequent ko-nie, and occasionally small tobiyaki. The entire nioiguchi is bright, and the ji and ha both are clear. The boshi shows a large yakiba, with an ichimai-style omaru with a shallow return. The nakago is ubu, the tip is ha-agari-kurijiri, the yasurime are katte-sagari, and there is one mekugiana. On the omote side, next to the mekugiana on the shinogiji, there is a long signature with the smithfs appointment or title inscribed with a fine tagane (chisel). The ura side has a date.

People used to say that Ujisada was the nidai Wakasa-no- kami Ujifusafs older or younger brother, and there is no question that he was one of the best smiths at the end of  the Muromachi period. There is also a famous Ujisada gKazukunih mei sword which is Juyo Bijutsuhin, and because of this sword, his name is very prominent. His signatures are dated Tenbun 15, Eiroku 9, 11, 13, Genki 3, Tensho 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and there are dates up to Tensho 17. His appointment was around Eirouku 13 for the Saemon-no-jo title; in Tensho 13, there is a Sakon-ei gon-sho-sho title just like on this sword; and around Tensho 7, in August to December, he is supposed to have received the Izumo-no-kami appointment. His usual styles show ko-itame mixed with masame hada, and the hamon are a shallow notare mixed with a box-shaped type of hamon, which shows influence from the Ujifusa school. But this sword does not have a visible masame hada, the jihada is refined, there is no white utsuri, and there is a  saka-ashi hamon. This sword exhibits better work than the typical Seki style swords which are seen at the end of the Muromachi period, and shows highly developed techniques. At this time, we see good techniques in his tanto work, but this is a rare type of work to see on a bigger sword. This kind of work is very rare, and  maybe this is the only existing sword like this. Along  with his Kazukuni Ujisada sword,this is masterpiece example of his work.In addition, Ujisada had high appointments compared with other sword smiths. He has a sword dated Tensho 9 which is the 23rd Juyo Token level sword, and this sword is owned by Tamba Hidenagafs descendants. According to his family records, Ujisada made two swords, and one went to Oda Nobunaga, and other one went to Hidenaga.

This is a guess, but  it seems possible that one of the Ujisada swords may have been destroyed on June 2, Tensho 11 during the assasanation of Nobunaga at Honnoji when the temple burned.

 (Explanation by Hiyama Masanori, oshigata by Ishii Akira)



Shijo Kantei To No.635


*For Shijo Kantei To No.634 (in the November issue) the answer is a tanto by Uda Kunihisa.


Deadline for submitting answers for the No. 635 issue is January 5th, 2010.

Each person can submit one vote. Please write your name and address, and send your answers to the NBTKH Shijo Kantei. You can use the Shijo Kantei card which is attached in this issue. We will accept any answers which are postmarked on or before Janurary 5, 2010. If the sword smith name you submit is found in different schools, please indicate the specific school or prefecture; if the sword smith name you submit has worked for more than one generation, please specify the generation.


Style: Katana



Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 5bu (68.2 cm)

Sori: 6.5 bu (1.97 cm)

Motohaba: 1 sun 7 rin (3.25 cm)

Sakihaba: 7 bu 4 rin (2.25 cm )

Motokasane: less than 2  bu (0.6 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm )

Kissaki length: 1 sun 3 bu 4 rin (4.05cm)

Nakago length: 5 sun 3 bu (16.06 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight


This sword is a shinogi zukuri style sword with an ihori mune, a slightly wide mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. There is slight hiraniku, a sakizori, and a long chu-kissaki.  The jihada is itame mixed with nagarehada; the hada is visible; and there is ji-nie and white utsuri. The hamon and boshi are seen in the  photo, and in places the ashi become hasaki sttyle ashi which means that the ashi extend down to th cutting edge. There is a tight nioiguchi, strong nioi, and ko-nie.  The nakago is ubu; the nakago tip is iriyamagata; the yasurime are takanoha; and there is one mekugiana. On the omote side, between the mekugi-ana and the mune edge, there is a niji-mei (this smithfs boshi are usually midarekomi).    



Juyo Tosogu


Kaben hato-zu tsuba

Tsuba with a picture of petals and waves

Mumei from the Ko-mino School


Around the mid-Edo Period in Mino, there were kinko workers who included the name of the area they lived in in their mei. For example  g Mino-ju Mitsuaki, Mitsunobu, and Mitsunaka,ff and these artists worked primarily in a sukishita-takabori style (an engraving style), and used autumn plant patterns which are a very emotional theme in Japanese art. There are similarities in style among these artists, but the older ones supposedly founded the gKo-minoh school. Ko-mino work is supposed to have started at the same time as the Goto family, and Ko-mino artists were active over a long period, from mid-Muromachi to Momoyama times. The style has some similarity to Goto styles, but they are more deeply carved, and the details are sharper and have a three dimension quality to them, and this is a characteristic feature of Ko-mino work. This tsuba has an oval shape, and on the shakudo nanako base there are spring and autumn flowers and petals. These include ume, suzushiro, takusha, and kiku, which are mixed with  waves. The work is done in a distinctive fukabori, and has a soft gold iro-e (after the carving, color is added by adding soft colored metals in the appropriate places). The iro-e technique and composition has patterns which expand out from the center around the seppa-dai. The top of  the seppa-dai is sharp, the hole for the kogai is wide, and the hole for the kozuka is a tanzaku (trapezoidal) shape. These features are characteristic of the old Mino style. Also, spreading gold iro-e drewdrops are seen, and this shows a characteristic Ko-mino style.   

(Explanation by Iida Toshihisa)    




Teirei Kansho Kai for November


The swords discussed below were shown in the November 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 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 November 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 Hiyama Masanori.



Kantei To No.1: tachi

Mei: Nobukuni

         Oei 2 nen 8 gatsuhi

Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 5 bu        

Sori: less than 8 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihori mune

Jihada: itame hada, mixed in places with nagarehada; the hada is visible, there are

             occasional ji-nie and tobiyaki.  

Hamon: notare mixed with gunome; a yahazu type hamon which shows two continuous or

              fused  gunome; there are ashi, yo, frequent ko-nie, and some sunagashi.

Boshi: midarekomi; the omote is somewhat omaru, and the ura is hakikake; there is a

            shallow return on both sides.

Horimono: the omote has long bonji and the koshimoto has suken ukibori; the ura side above the koshimoto has long bonji.


This mihaba and kissaki have normal or ususal dimensions, but for the mihaba, the kasane is thick, and there is a sakizori. From this shape, we can judge this to be early Muromachi work from about the Oei period.  

The Nobukuni school started in the mid-Nanbokucho era during the Enbun and Teiji eras, and this was the first generation smith who worked at the end of  the Nanbokucho period from Shitoku and Kakei times to the beginning of  the Oei period. About that time there was  supposed to be a second generation active during the Oei period called Oei Nobukuni. Oei Nobukuni had two types of  style: one was a traditional style like the shodai, with a tight nioiguchi suguha hamon, and the other style used primarily a gunome-midare hamon, just like on this sword. The gunome-midare hamon have a characteristic of two gunome fused together become a yahazu style choji. Between the two fused gunome, there are low ko-notare and gunome. This kind of hamon is seen on Eitoku and Meitoku period Nobukuni swords. Minamoto Saemon-no-jo, Shikibu no jo Nobukuni, and Oei Nobukuni inherited this kind of hamon, and one of them used a repeated shape or pattern in the hamon, and the work of the others is similar to this kind of  hamon on this sword. Most of the midare hamon have frequent ko-nie when compared with their suguha hamon. There are also kinsuji and sunagashi and  hataraki. Also, the jihada is mixed with nagarehada,  just like this tachi, and these features come from the Shodai Nobukunifs  style. The shodai is supposed to be Hisanobufs son, and Hisanobu was the son of Ryokai. A few people voted for just the Nobukuni name, but this kind of distinctive midare hamon is never seen in the Shodai Nobukunifs work, and it is seen at end of the Nanbokucho to Oei era Nobukuni work, so I will advise that next time, this type of work should be described by including the era, which is the end of the Nanbokucho period to around the Oei era, or just the Oei era.

Some people voted for Bizen smiths working in the same era such as Morimitsu and Yasumitsu. From the shape, Oei Bizen is an understandable answer, but their jihada are itame mixed with mokume; the hada is visible; there are midare-utsuri; the boshi are midarekomi with a sharp tip; there is a shallow return; the hamon is nioi; and the ji and ha never have strong nie like on this sword. Also, among the Nobukuni school smiths, each generation liked horimono and they had well developed techniques (like on this sword which is kasanebori, i.e. there are horimono on both sides of the sword), and from the horimono details you can narrow down the choice of smith.                    



Kantei To No.2: katana


Mei: Hizen kuni ju Minamoto Tadayoshi

Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 7 bu

Sori: 5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihori mune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, with some ohada; a fine hada is visible, there are ji-nie and chikei;

            the entire sword has pale white utsuri.

Hamon: shallow notare, ko-ashi, frequent yo, occasional small kinsuji; around the

              monouchi the yakihaba is wide; there is a slightly thick dense nioiguchi; in some

              places there are kuichigaiba; there are abundant ko-nie. 

Boshi: straight, with omaru, a wide yakiba, and a very shallow return.


The Shodai Tadayoshi was an okakae sword smith who worked for the Hizen Nabeshima clan, and his name was Hashimoto Shinzaemon (okakae means that Tadayoshi was employed directly by his daimyo and worked for a salary or was paid an income from his daimyo). In Keicho 1, he studied under Munetada Myoju along with Munenaga who was a carver or specialist in making horimono. With Myoju, he leaned sword making, and Munenaga leaned toshinbori ( carving or making horimono on a sword), and they established the Hizen sword making school. The shodai Tadayoshi (during the Keicho and Genna periods) made all types of swords, such as Yamato Den, Yamashiro Rai school suguha, Shidzu, Naoe Shizu, Nagayoshi, Hiromitsu, Akihiro, and Muramasa styles, and these were utsushimono of old swords. This sword has a a slightly wide mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. From this type of shape, it looks like o-suriage Nanbokucho era work from around Enbun to to Teiji times, or Keicho shinto or shin-shinto work, but the kasane is not too thick, and the jihada is not a mu-ji style, from these details, his swords appear to be Keicho shinto work. The hamon  around the monouchi is a little wide, there is a shallow notare, and the nioiguchi is not the same width everywhere and has wide and narrow areas and varies a little. The valleys in the  notare hamon have a clear nioiguchi, and this kind of  sword is often seen during Tadayoshifs time. Before the Shodai Tadayoshi and ju nin Tadayoshi periods, his jihada were itame hada, and did not contain ko-itame hada; the hada is visible and some of the swords appear rough and old looking. Works with this kind of detail are signed with gju ninh in the mei, and have the Minamoto title, and from these details, this type of sword is supposed to have been made around Genwa 5 to 6, and have an appearance suggesting older swords. After he received the Musashi daijo title, his jihada becomes more refined, and show a komenuka hada.   Among the first three generations,  the swords have distinctive ashi and yo inside of the hamon, and the hamon widths show wide and narrow variations, and nie appears in the ji. These swords display a strong spirit, and we should think that this kind of sword was made by the Shodai Tadayoshi. Also, mizukage appears at the hamachi and continues to utsuri, and this characteristic can often be seen in his swords. After the nidai (second generation), the jihada becomes more refined and not as interesting looking, and other Hizen smiths have many swords in which the jihada is darker, and the hada is visible.  


Kantei To No 3: tanto


Mei: Kikuchi ju Kunitoki

       Enbun hi

Length: 8 sun

Sori: very slight

Design: hira-zukuri

Mune: ihori mune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, with occasional nagarehada becoming masame hada; the hada is

            visible, and has white utsuri.

Hamon: shallow notare, mixed with ko-gunome, fine sunagashi, some kinsuji, and

              frequent ko-nie. 

Boshi: the omote is straight, and the tip is komaru with a return, but the the boshi

            becomes narrower below the the tip; the ura is straight with

           a komaru and return.


Th date is not clearly visible, but there seems to be a Nanbokucho date of Enbun (around the Kenbu and Ryakuo eras).  This is a very rare Enju Munetoki signed tanto. The mihaba is a little wide, and there is almost no sori. For the length, the mihaba is wide producing a distinctive stubby look, and this kind of tanto shape appeared at the end of the Kamakura era around the Kenmu period, and after this, the shapes changed to a wider mihaba, thick kasane, and shallow sori, and these details define work from the next era, around the mid-Nanbokucho period, for Enbun and Teiji era tanto. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, and there are frequent ko-nie, and the hamon is a mixture of ko-notare, and ko-gunome. From these characteristics, a  few people looked at this as Enju work, and many people voted for the smithfs original school of Rai. This sword seemed to the most difficult one to judge at this meeting. At the first impression, it looks like a Rai tanto, but if you look at it carefully, on the omote and ura, around the boshi, it has nijuba, and there is a nagare hada type masame hada. These characteristics make it not be too difficult to judge this as an Enju tanto. As I mentioned before, Rai never has this kind of masame and mixed jihada, and they do not have hotsure inside of the ha, and there are fine sunagashi. After you judge this as an Enju tanto, it is difficult to reach an individual smithfs name. As a reference point, we have never seen a signed  Kunimura or Kuninobu  tanto, and sometimes have seen signed Kunisuke and Kuniyoshi tanto.


Kantei To No. 4: tanto


Mei: Bizen Osafune Kanemitsu

         Enbun 5 nen 3 gatsu hi

Length: 8 sun 2.5 bu

Sori: slightly less than 1 bu

Design: hira-zukuri

Mune: ihori mune

Jihada: tight itame hada; has fine thick ji-nie, chikei, and pale bo-utsuri.

Hamon: narrow suguha type hamon, mixed with ko-gunome, and ko-notare, and the

              entire  hamon has nie, and in places there are rough nie; some places have

               kuichigaiba, and around the monouchi area, the yakiba becomes a little wide;

               there are frequent ko-nie, sunagashi, kinsuji, and around the machi there is


Boshi: frequent hakikake and yakizume.

Horimono: omote and ura have smooth koshi-hi.


This isa  common mihaba, but there is a thin kasane, and a shallow sori, and this kind of shaped tanto is often seen in the Nanbokucho era.The jihada is a tight refined itame kitae, and there is a pale bo-utsuri. The hamon is mixture of saka-ashi gunome, square gunome, and kataochi gunome, and the  ji and ha are both clear. From these characteristics, a few people voted for Kagemitsu and Kanemitsu, and other smiths from the same school such as Masamitsu, Tomomitsu, and Motomitsu. Kanemitsufs signed dates are at the end of the Kamakura era, from Genkyo 1 to the mid-Nanbokucho era Teiji period which was a 40 year long span. In early Nanbokucho times, until around the Koei period, his tachi and tanto displayed usual shapes, and the hamon are kataochi-gunome, and suguha mixed with gunome, which followed his fatherfs (Kagemitsu) style. Around  Teiwa to Kano times, his shapes become bigger, and around Bunwa to Enbun times, the hamon often become mainly notare, which is never seen earlier.The shape is different from uchizori shapes seen when Kagemitsu was active, and this work has a sori and a thin kasane, and from the shape, we can judge this as a Nanbokucho period tanto. A few  people voted for smiths from the  same school such as Masamitsu, Tomomitsu, and Motomitsu, but Masamitsu hamon are smaller compared with Kanemitsu, and his hamon have mixed ko-gunome, togariba, ko-notare, and choji styles, and many of the hamon are irregular. Many of Tomomitsufs hamon are primarily ko-notare. Motomitsu hamon are mainly a square type of gunome, and usually a sharp nokogiriba type gunome (i.e. the gunome are angular and have an appearance like saw teeth).         


Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: Omi-no-kami Takagi-ju Sukenao

         Empo 8 nen 2 gatsu hi

Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 3.5 bu

Sori: 7 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihori mune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, with frequent fine ji-nie.

Hamon: straight long yakidashi, notare mixed with gunome, ogunome,

              frequent ashi, sunagashi, and a bright, clear nioiguchi.

Boshi: omote is straight with a komaru tip and has hakikake; the ura is straight with a

        komaru tip; both sides have a return.


This is a Sukenao katana dated Enpo 8 nen, and the width at the saki is narrower than at the moto, and there is a chu-kissaki, so this suggests a Kanbun shinto shape. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, there is a refined kitae, there is a yakidashi, and the hamon is o-gunome. This  appears to be almost a toranba-midare style hamon, from these characteritics, this reminds one of Osaka shinto work, such as theNidai Sukehiro. From this reasoning, people voted half and half, between the Nidai Sukehiro and his successor Sukenao, and a very few people voted for Terukane. The differences between these two are: the Nidai Sukehiro created the toranba midare hamon, and after his peak period, the hamon suggests a pulling and pushing wave shape. Sukenao hamon are mainly o-gunome, and the nie inside of  the ha are rough, and the midare hamon valleys have strong  sunagashi. Also, both of these smiths have Osaka yakidashi in which the yakihaba becomes wider going from the moto towards the saki, and Sukenao has very long yakidashi, just like on this sword. Most of  the Nidai Sukehiro yakidashi are short, and he has more swords with a wider mihaba. Besides these two names, a few people voted for Terukane, and he was also an active smith during Kanbun times. From the shape, it is understandable to vote for him, but his hamon show more emphasis toranba-midare,  mixed with yahazu type gunome, and kataochi midare, and there are sunagashi along the whole blade. He also has a habit of forming 3 continous or fused gunome around the yokote.         



Shijo Kantei To No. 633 (in the October issue)


The answer for Number 633 (in the October issue) is a wakizashi by Osafune Morikage dated Oan 3 nen ki.


The mihaba is wide, and this is a large sunnobi blade with a thin kasane, and shallow sori. From the shape, you can judge this as a peak Nanbokucho era sword. In historic times, at the end of the Heian era to the early Kamakura era,  high class warriors wore primarily tachi, and not uchigatana. At that time, uchigatana were used by lower class soldiers as weapons to protect the higher class warriors, and to be able to move quickly. At that time, according to accounts of wars and from picture scrolls, the uchigatana were shorter than uchigatana made later.

These uchigatana, especially later ones, were not well made and were mass production swords, and we do not see any of them today. As you know, by the time uchigatana were used by high class warriors, they became primary weapons, and they became larger and longer, and they were made by good smiths; this occurred in the early Muromachi era. But in the Kamakura and Nanbokucho era there are a few good uchigatana examples in existence today (it is not definite, but from the end of the Heian into the Kamakura era, sometimes unusually well made uchigatana survived and are still extant, and early good examples remain from after the end of the Muromachi era). Some famous uchigatana are Juyo bunkazai, such as the work of Naruko Kuniyoshi, and Shidzu Saburo Kaneuji, and there are Juyo Bijutsuhin such as the Suishi-kiri Kanemitsu blade. Osafune Morimistu made uchigatana, and there is a Juyo Bijitsuhin sword dated Eiwa 1. He does have a few more, and most of these are hirazuri blades, and they are very short.

Morikage was a Bizen school lateral branch smith in the Nanbokucho era, and his jihada are itame and visible, and sometimes, mixed with o-hada, color is visible in the jifu type iron, and his utsuri are pale. He produced a wide range of work. He used a Kanemitsu type of  notare hamon, just like on this sword, and he also made Motoshige style square gunome, Aoe style suguha, and hamon containing choji mixed with gunome with a variable midareba. In his notare hamon, the midare parts form square shapes, and compared with Kanemitsu, his notare hamon are high and the bottoms are low, and these are characteristics of his style. Any style of his swords can have ashi, yo, a worn down nioiguchi, and ara-nie.  Morikagefs boshi for midareba blades are midarekomi, and many of them are tsukiage and the tips are sharp. Morikagefs nakago are kurijiri, the yasurime are kattesagari, and his signatures on hirazukuri uchigatana like this one, hirazukuri wakizashi, and tanto, are usually on the omote side, in the center of  the nakago and under the mekugi-ana. His mei are commonly  gBishu Osafune Morikageh and g Bishu Osafune-ju Morikageh. On the ura side there are dates. Also, he used a gyaku-tagane style of chisel work often in his mei, the same as other smiths in the school such as Chikakage and Yoshikage, and this is a characteristic of his as was mentioned in the hints. In the voting, most people came up with the correct answer, as is usual in this group.


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.