MARCH, 2010



Meito Kansho:

Examination of Important swords

Classification: Juyo Bijutsuhin

Type: Tachi

Mei: Kunitoshi



Length: 2 shaku 7 sun 6 bu (83.6 cm)

Sori : 1 sun 2 bu (3.6 cm)

Motohaba: 1 sun  9 rin (3.3 cm) 

Sakihaba: 7 bu 3 rin (2.2 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 3 rin (0.76 cm ) 

Sakikasane: 1 bu 7 rin (0.5 cm)

Kissaki length: 1 sun 4 rin (3.15 cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 8bu 9 rin (23.9 cm)  

Nakago sori: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm )



This sword is shinogi-zukuri with an ihorimune, wide mihaba, thick sakane, rich nikuoki, large wazori (torisori), and has funbari. The widths at the moto and saki are not much different. There is a short chu-kissaki with an inokubi style boshi, and this blade has a long dynamic tachi style. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and on part of the ura side the hada is visible. The entire blade has dense thick ji-nie, and there are nie utsuri. The hamon is mainly choji mixed with gunome, ko-gunome, and a square type hamon motif. On  the middle of  the ura side there is a komidare style hamon with a low yakiba which is somewhat  soft appearing. But the entire yakiba is wide and gorgeous, and in the  middle of the hamon, and in places, on the top of the hamon there are tobiyaki, frequent ashi, yo, dense nioi, and fine thick ha-nie. On the upper part of the omote side there is kinsuji, sunagashi, and a bright clear nioiguchi, mixed with muneyaki. The boshi on the omote side is a small midare, and on the ura side it is almost straight with a nijuba style. On both sides, the tip is komaru, and there is a shallow return. The nakago is almost ubu; the tip is slightly sakikiri; the yasurime are katte-sagari; and there are three mekugi ana( the first ana is original).

People say the Rai schoolfs original founder is Kuniyuki, and niji ( two kanji character) Kunitoshi carried on the Rai school. Since past times, it is unclear if this Kunitoshi was or was not the same person as Rai Kunitoshi, and we are still not sure about this. But niji Kunitoshi has only one sword signed in Koan 1(1278), and Rai Kunitoshi has a tachi signed in Showa 4 ( 1315) at the age of 75 ( classified as Juyo Bunkazai, and owned by the Tokugawa museum). Thus, if we consider the niji Kunitoshi to be the same person as Rai Kunitoshi,  then when he signed the sword in  Koan 1, he was 38 years old, and this is a reasonable date. Today we see that Rai Kunitoshifs works have wide mihaba and gorgeous choji midare hamon, and the niji mei Kunitoshi has suguha style hamon with narrow gentle blades, which looks like each smith has a different style from the other. Rai Kunitoshifs signature style and tagane-zukai ( chisel marks) are almost the same as the niji Kunitoshifs. The niji Kunitoshi was active in the mid-Kamakura period and Rai Kunitoshifs signatures are seen at the latter part of the Kamakukra era,(i.e. Bunei and Koan (1264-1287), Genko times ( during the Mongolian invasion), and the Einin to Shoan eras (1293-1301)). At the same time in Bizen province, there Ichimonji school was active, and their hamon show high yakiba with gorgeous choji midare. At the same time, in the Osafune school, one sees mainly gunome hamon which do not have much variability, and this changed to a gentle suguha style. In particular, Nagamitsu who did not use the same style as the niji Kunitoshi and was active at a slightly different time, changed his style from time to time. In all of the major old sword books until medieval times (the Muromachi Period), niji Kunitoshi is considered to be the same person as Rai Kunitoshi, and the idea that there were two generations was an opinion which developed only after Edo times into modern times. However, there is a strong opinion that these 2 smiths were mose likely to have been the same person. This tachi has a long wide mihaba, a deep wazori, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. The short chu-kissaki, almost inokubi style kissaki, and the strong shape and dynamic appearance produces an imposing appearance. Also, the jihada has fine dense ji-nie, utsuri, and the hamon is mainly choji, mixed with all kind of shapes, and there is a  lot ov variation, and this blends in with the hataraki in the hamon, producing an interesting appearance. Also, it shows the Rai schoolfs characteristic muneyaki, and has bo-hi which is seen many of his signed blades, and shows  this schoolfs character and strong shape of the point, and the jihada and hamon. This is the longest signed tachi by the niji Kunitoshi, and is owned by the Uesugi family who liked and respected long tachi for many years. This is one of the 35 blades which Uesugi Kagekatsu personally selected for his own  collection. 


( Explanation and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori)




Shijo Kantei To No.638


*For  Shijo Kantei To No.637 (in the February issue) the answer is a sword by Chounsai Tsunatoshi dated Tenpo 3.


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 638 issue Kantei To is April 5, 2010.

Each person may submit one vote. Submissions should conatin your your name and address and be sent to the NBTKH Shijo-Kantei. You can use the Shijo Kantei card which is attached in this magagzine. We will accept any votes postmarked on or before April 5, 2010. If there are sword smiths with the same name in different schools, please write the school or prefecture, and if the sword smithwas active for more than one generation, please indicate a specific generation.




type: tanto

Length: 8 sun 2 bu (24.85 cm )

Sori: uchizori

Motohaba: 8 bu 4 rin (2.55 cm )

Motokasane: 2 bu 6 rin(0.8 cm )

Nakago length: 3 sun 7.5 bu (11.36 cm )

Nakago sori: very slight


The tanto is an unokubi-zukuri tanto; there is a mitsumune; the mihaba is a little wide;there is a thick kasane; there is uchizori and slightly heavy tsukurikomi. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, with a muji style jihada mixed with a little bit of masame type hada; there is dense ji-nie and chikei. The hamon and boshi are as seen here, and in places the habuchi has hotsure, long ashi, dense nioi, thick nie, and there is some rough nie. The jihada is bright and clear, and there are kinsuji and sunagashi. The horimono on the omote and ura are smooth koshi-hi. The nakago is ubu, kurijiri, the yasurime are sujichigai, there is kesho yasurimei, and there are two mekugi ana. the omote first mekugi ana is ubu ( original ), and under the mekugi ana in the center of the shinogi-ji there is a signature (for this smith, an unokubi-zukuri tanto is very rare) 




Juyo Toshingu: Important sword fittings


Ashi ni kamakiri (reed and mantis) sukashi tsuba


Mumei: Akasaka shodai Tadamasa


Akasaka tsuba are one style of work seen in  iron sukashi tsuba. These are seen in Kyoto, Owari, and Higo, and the name came from smiths who used to live in Akasaka in Edo. During the Bunsei era, the 8th generation Hikojuro Tadatoki sent  a document with their history to the Tokugawa bakufu to bring their work to the attention of the bakufu. The shodai Tadamasa moved to Akasaka, early in the Kanei era, to work as a tsuba smith. In Edo where bushi families moved from all over Japan, they may have liked the sophisticated Edo style tsuba. From that time, the school continued to be active into Bakumatsu era (at the end of the Edo period) for over two hundred years with 9 generations of smiths.  Among the schoolfs work is the Ko-Akasaka work which was produced by the first three generations, and these are all mumei. After the 4th generation smith, they signed their work.  

In Akasaka tsuba,  the nikuoki is higher in the center, and the mimi (rim) side sukashi is wider, which makes for stable shape, and usually the mimi is maru-mimi ( round).  Also the iron forging is called sanmai-awase, and subjects are from nature and old items. These smiths created original patterns. This work shows their character, and this is judged to be a shodai Tadamasa tsuba. The theme is ashi (reeds) and kamakiri (mantis) and are from nature, and nikuoki is moderate, and  just right. There is a sophisticated carving technique, and the entire tsuba exhibits a rich appearance. In particular, the color of the iron rust is just right. The upper part of the seppa-dai has a somewhat sharp shape at the top of the nakago ana. The inside of the carvings show a thread type kitae, and the mimi side has a striped type of line, which is characteristic for old tusba. These characteristics produce an elegant and distinctive look.  


(Explanation by Iida Toshihisa)    



Teirei Kansho Kai For February


The swords discussed below were shown in the February meeting at the NBTHK headquarters building. This discussion presents answers concerning the makers of these blades.


   During these meetings, five swords are displayed for examination. The blades can be examined, but the nakago are covered and cannot be seen (they are left in the shira saya tsuka). After examining the 5 swords, the meeting attendees must decide who they think made the 5 swords which were available for examination, and submit a paper ballot with these names. The 5 swords seen in the February meeting are described below, and the correct names of the makers are presented, along with an explanation of important details which should lead a person to pick the correct sword smithfs name. This lecture and the explanations were given by Iida Toshihisa.


Kantei To No.1: wakizashi


Mei: Etchu no kami Masatoshi


Length: 1 shaku 3 bu

Sori: 1 bu

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with nagare hada, and there are frequent ji-nie.

Hamon: mainly ko-gunome, mixed with togariba, ko-notare, and there are ko-ashi, ko-nie, sunagashi, and yubashiri.

Boshi: shallow notarekomi, the tip is a little sharp, and it is komaru with a long return.

Horimono: on the omote there is a bonji with a suken; the ura has gomabashi.


This blade has a slightly wide mihaba, is sunnobi, has sakizori, a thick kasane, and is hirazukukri. From this shape, you could guess this is Keicho-shinto or Shinshinto, but if you look at the boshi and yakiba, both the omote and ura have a shallow large notare, and a sharp tip and a return, and this is a distinctive sanpin-boshi style. This is a Keicho-shinto work from the Kyoto Mishina school, and is a wakizashi by Etchu no kami Masatoshi.  The Kyoto Mishina school was originally founded by smiths from Mino, thus some Mino characteristics appear in their work. This jihada is mixed with nagarehada, and the hamon is gunome mixed togariba, and these show characteristics of the Mino style. The Mishina schoolfs main smiths are Etchu no kami Masatoshi, Iga no kami Kinmichi, and Tanba no kami Yoshimichi. This is a sue-Seki style gunome midare hamon, mixed with togariba and has a tight dense nioiguchi. In general, Masatoshifs work shows this kind of style, and Yoshimitsu has a very few distinctive Mino style gunome midare hamon just like this one, and most of his hamon are notare, with strong ha-nie, and a sudareba style midare.  Also, Kinmichi has very few typical sanpin boshi, and many of his sanpin boshi are a big midare with strong nie, and his notare show  a somewhat square shape, which is a  Shidzu style. In the voting, many people caught these characteristics and voted for Masatoshi, but a few people voted for  Dewa daijo Kunimichi. Kunimichi is a Horikawa school smith, but his boshi are sanpin style, and his jihada are sometimes mixed with nagarehada, but usually his jihada are itame mixed with mokume, and a little rough which is a characteristic Horikawa hada, and his midare hamon are bigger, and many of them show saka-ashi hamon.           



Kantei To No.2: tanto


Mei: Kanesaki


Length: 7 sun 3 bu

Sori: uchizori

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame mixed with nagarehada; there are dense ji-nie, and white utsuri.  

Hamon: narrow suguha, tight nioiguchi, a little ko-nie.

Boshi: straight  and komaru, and the boshi falls somewhat towards the ha edge.

            There is a long return.

Horimono: omote and ura have smooth bo-hi.


This tanto has a narrow mihaba, a usual kasane, and is an uchizori tanto. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, there is utsuri,  and the hamon is a fine narrow suguha. From these details, at the first impression this looks like a Kamakura period Kyoto Rai school, or work by Shintogo Kunimitsu. But if you look at the shape carefully, the uchizori is little too strong, the fukura is poor, and at the tip, the kasane suddenly becomes thin for the motokasane, and tanto with this shape are seen during the later Muromachi period,in particular in the work of  many of the Sue Seki smiths. This is a Sue Seki Kanesaki tanto. Sue Seki smiths usually have gunome and togariba hamon which is a typical style for a Seki midareba hamon, and beside this, sometimes they made copies of Kamakura era Yamashiro or Soshu tanto, just like this work. This tanto is close to an older style, but has some different characteristics as I explained. If you look carefully, the jihada is mixed with nagarehada, and the entire hada looks white, and the habuchi is too tight, and there is less hataraki inside of  the ha. The boshifs yakiba return (kaeri) side is wider than ha side and this is called a taoreta boshi (i.e. the boshi is falling towards the ha). Also the boshi return goes too close to the mune and suddenly finishes, and these characteristics are different from those of older tanto.   



Kantei To No 3: tachi


Mei: Ryokai


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 2 bu

Sori: 5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, mixed with some nagarehada, there are fine ji-nie, and the entire blade has white utsuri.

Hamon: suguha mixed with ko-gunome, there are ko-ashi, yo, and part of the hamon is soft, and has some ko-nie.

Boshi: omote and ura are a very shallow notarekomi; there is a ko-maru and shallow return.


This sword has no funbari from the habaki-moto, and we can guess that this sword is suriage. The sori is shallow, and the entire blade is narrow and is wazori (torii sori), and there is a good well-balanced tachi shape. The jihada has frequent ji-nie, tight ko-itame, and a refined jihada. There is a pale bo-utsuri, and the hamon is a gentle suguha. The boshi is a normal straight boshi with a round return, and from these characteristics, we can guess that this is Yamashiro work, and in particular is likely to be from the Rai school. If you look at the ji and ha carefully, the jihada is a tight ko-itame, and there is a refined hada, but here and there there is a some nagare hada mixed in, and all of the bo-utsuri looks white. The yakibafs nioiguchi is not dense enough, there is a tight habuchi, and in places hamon is soft. The ji and ha are look less bright and clear than Yamashiro Rai work. This is a Yamashiro Ryokai tachi. If this were a work from Rai Kunitoshi, Kunimitsu, or another Rai school smith, the ji and ha would be brighter and clearer than Ryokai work; there would be  a dense  nioiguchi, nie, and the hataraki inside of ha would be more active, and there would be a more sophisticated look. Some people voted for Enju, and his style is similar to Ryokaifs, but the boshi would have  a more pronounced o-maru, and many of his swords have nijuba.           


Kantei To No. 4: katana


Mei: Shume no kami Ichinohira Yasuyo ( Ichiyo Aoi mon)


Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 8.5 bu

Sori: 5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight fine ko-itame; there are thick ji-nie, frequent chikei, and a dark jihada.

Hamon: suguha style mixed little some shallow notare; the bottom part is mixed with ko-gunome, there are koashi, a thick dense nioiguchi, thick nie mixed with some rough nie, and bright and clear nioiguchi.    

Boshi: deep (wide) yaki which becomes almost an ichimai style, and a round long return.


This is an Ichinohira Yasuyo sword. Yasuyo was one of the two best representatives of the Satsuma shinto smiths along with Mondo no sho Masakiyo. Among the Satsuma smiths, Masakiyofs  favorite hamon is a notare mixed with gunome and togariba, and is an alterating old Shidzu style midare hamon. Yasuyofs favorite hamon is a gentle notare type suguha. This sword does not show much of Sastumafs characteristic imotsuru style long niesuji, and kinsuji, and it is a little difficult to identify the province, but the hamon has strong nie, a thick dense nioiguchi mixed with ara-nie. There is a prounced hiraniku, a dynamic shape, and these are characteristics of the Satsuma style. In particular, many of Yasuyofs swords have more prounced hiraniku, a wide mihaba, awide shinogihaba, and a thick kasane, and this sword shows his characteristics very well. Yasuyofs jihada is a tight ko-itame, just like on this sword, and the hada is slightly visible, and the jigane is dark when compared to other Satsuma swords, and these are his original characteristics. Yasuyofs hamon are usually one of two types: a gentle notare type like on this sword, and a suguha style mixed with gunome.



Kantei To No. 5: wakizashi


Mei: Bizen Osafune Morimitsu

         Oei 27 nen 10 gatsuhi


Length: 1 shaku 6 sun 1 bu

Sori: slightly over 4 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume. There are ji-nie and midare utsuri.

Hamon: gunome mixed with choji, ko-notare; there are ko-ashi, and at the bottom of the midare hamon, the gunome waves are wider at th ebottoms than at the tops; there are nioi and ko-nie.

Boshi: midarekomi; the tip is sharp and there is a komaru with a return.

Horimono: the omote and ura have bonji.


This is a Morimitsu wakizashi, and Morimitsu was one of the two best representatives of the Oei Bizen smiths along with Yasumitsu. Oei Bizen work represents a strong effort to return to the style of Kamakura period swords, which faded out along with their gorgeous choji midare hamon. This sword shows the characteristic gunome mixed with choji. But if you look at this carefully, when compared with Kamakura swords, the hada is itame mixed with mokume, and the hada is visible. In addition, the hamonfs nioiguchi is too tight when compared to the older swords, and the habuchi looks harder. The bottom of the gunome waves in the midare hamon are wider than the tops and this is called a koshi-hiraki-ha. This is also a sakisori wakizashi shape, and these are characteristic of Oei Bizen work. You cannot see this on this sword, but often Oei Bizen boshi are midarekomi and the tip is a little sharp and is called the g flame of a candleh. Bo-hi are finished with a marudome end above the habaki. Many people voted for this as Morimitsu and Yasumitsu work. Usually, Morimitsufs midare hamon have large and round waves, and Yasumitsufs hamon are smaller, and mixed with a togari type of hamon, and this is not either of their midare hamon, but if  you look at this as an Oei Bizen sword that is satisfactory.        




Shijo Kantei No 636 (New Yearfs issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To Number

636 (in the New Yearfs issue). The answer is a Fujishima Tomoshige tanto.


This has a slightly narrow mihaba, a strong uchizori, and the fukura is poor, and from this, we can judge this as being a Muromachi era sword. In the early Muromachi era, some of Tomoshigefs jihada are a tight ko-itame, and the jihada is bright, and sometimes it has a Bizen type midare utsuri. However, often  the itame hada is visible just like on this sword, and sometimes is mixed with nagarehada, and the jihada is darker with white utsuri. These are characteristics of the Hokuriku (north east) jihada. As an example of one of Tomoshigefs swords, we have a niji mei tachi which is classified as Juyo Bijutsuhin at the Atsuta shrine in Nagoya. This sword was supposed to have been made at the end of the Kamakura to the early Nanbokucho era, but this type of old sword is very rare for Tomoshige. Most of his old swords were made around the end of  the Nanbokucho period, and after this, from Muromachi to Edo times, several generations appeared and the Muromachi period smiths worked in a very similar style. According to old sword books, Tomoshige has various styles. His hamon are a gunome style midare hamon, which looks like Nobukuni; a kaku-gunome mixed with togariba; an open bottom midare hamon hamon mixed togariba; a yahazu style hamon; tsuno (horn) hamon, which is an alternating hamon; or suguha. Many of these have frequent sunagashi inside of the ha, and the boshifs hakikake stand out. Among his works, the tanto are normal sized or slightly sunnobi, and the hamon is a continuous gunome, and the habuchi have frequent hotsure, dense nie, and frequent sunagashi, just like this tanto. The tachi owned by the Atsuta shrine has a usual mihaba, and a ko-gunome style hamon, which looks like Shikkake style work, and on this tanto the hotsure and sunagashi stand out in a gunome style midare hamon. The nakago is ha-agari kurijiri, with a deep katayama shape, and these characteristics remind one of Shikkake Norinaga. There are opinions that Tomoshige belonged to the Rai Kunitoshi school, or the Kashu Sanekage school, but people point out that it is more likely his work is similar to the Yamato smiths, because of what we have seen on this sword, and he often made kanmuri otoshi tanto.  Tomoshige has various kind of boshi, depending on each style, and many of them have frequent hakikake, and just like this tanto. Often the tip is a little sharp, and has a long yakisage return. His nakago is ha-agari kurijiri, wih a deep katayama shape, and the yasurime are shallow katte-sagari. The mei on hirazukuri tanto, often are inscribed on the center, with the four kanji character sgFujishima Tomoshigeh. Most people voted for Tomoshige, and as almost correct answers, there were a few votes for Etchu Norishige,and Kashu Sanakage. Both of these are Hokuriku smiths and Tomoshigefs senior smiths, and naturally their styles are similar to his. It may be that some people looked at this as a takenokozori work, and voted for Norishige, but Norishigefs work has itame and mokume, and the jihada pattern is bigger, and the entire hada is visible, there are thick ji-nie, thick large chikei along the jihada, and sometimes thick ji-nie and yubashiri along the jihada look like chikei. This effect is called matsukawahada, and Norishigefs hamon have bright thick nie, and he does not have this kind of tight hamon and long return on the boshi. In addition, his nakago have kurijiri. Sanekage has a tanto, classified as Juyo Bunkazai, dated Teiji 6, and his active period was supposed to be at peak of  the Nanbokuchoperiod. Most of  his tanto and hirazukuri wakizashi have a wide mihaba, have sunnobi sizes, a thin kasane, a shallow sori, and usually he did not make a normal size uchizori shaped tanto. His hamon have more abundant thick nie, and his nakago are kurijiri.      


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.