APRIL, 2010



Meito Kanshou

Examination of Important Swords

Classification: Juyo Bijutsuhin

Type: tanto

Mei: Hankei



Length: 9 sun 9.5 bu (30.2 cm)

Sori : 3 rin (0.1 cm)

Motohaba: 8 bu 8 rin (2.66 cm) 

Motokasane: 1 bu 8 rin (0.57 cm) 

Nakago length: 3 bu 4 rin (10.6 cm)  

Nakago sori: very slight



This sword is  a hirazukuri sword with a mitsumune. The nakasuji (the middle surface of the mitsumune) is slightly wide, the mune angle is sharp, the mihaba is wide but the width at the tip is narrower, and the kasane is large (it is thick). It has a very shallow sori, and the shape of the fukura is poor. The jihada is itame mixed with o-itame and mokume, and in places the hada has a rough appearance. There are notably thick chikei, and the hada has hijiki-hada (a rough hada which appears like a kind of brown algae). The hamon is primarily a shallow notare mixed with continuous kogunome. There are ko-ashi, nie, dense nioi. The habuchi has some hotsure and yubashiri. The entire blade has fine sunagashi, long kinsuji, some mune yaki, and in places there are rough nie and a worn down nioiguchi.The boshi has a deep yaki in nie kuzure, there are fine hakikake, and the tip displays a kaen style. The nakago is ubu, the hamachi and munemachi are large, and the nakago mune is kaku (square). The shape is yagengata; the yasurime on the omote are osujichigai, and on the ura they are giyaku-osujichigai. There is one mekugi ana, and on the omote below the mekugi ana center is a large and thick nijimei signature.

Hankei‘s history, and dates of birth and death are unknown, and the antique books “ Shinto bengi” and “ Kokon kaji bikou” had some opinions about this. People used to say that he was born in Mikawa, and his name was Noda Zenshiro Kiyotaka (according to Mr. Ono); he moved from Mikawa to Edo, and became gun smith, and was a pupil of the Tokugawa bakufu’s gun smith Akagari Hachiro.  After the Osaka Natsunojin (the Osaka Summer Battle) Ieyasu passed way, the country remained peaceful under Tokugawa bakufu policy, and the peaceful era continued, and the demand for guns decreased. Thus, around the Genna era, Hankei became a sword smith. The same kind of thing occured with the Higo smiths,  Hayashi Matasuke and the Matashichi brothers became gold smiths later in more peaceful times. At the beginning of his career, Hankei signed his work  “Kiyotaka/ kao” with a distinctive tagane tsukai (chiseling technique), and later he changed his name to  Hankei. During the period when he made swords, he did not sign with the date, so it is difficult judge the exact period when he worked. But if one looks at the details of his signature, in the upper part of the Han kanji on the left side, one sees the shape of  the katakana “ro” which is called a romata-mei. Another kanji shows the shape of the katakana “ru” which is called a rumata-mei, and at the bottom of the romata-mei kanji, there are three dots ( as seen here), and the bottom of the rumata-mei appears like the kanji sho (as seen here). In Kanei 1, Hankei made two swords and accompanying papers (which may be copies), which he donated to Kishu Koyasan Kongomineji (a temple) and Kongo Sanmaiin (another temple) and when looking at these swords, both swords have rumata-mei. From these facts, it appears that in Kanei 1, his signature style changed from the romata-mei to the rumata-mei. Hankei has very few hirazukuri wakizashi and tanto, and their shapes are wide with a shortened hocho style blade. These are sunnobi blades for their length, and have a very poorly shaped fukura. His jihada are o-itame and the hada is very visible, and is mixed with masame hada. There are thick ji-nie, conspicuously thick and black chikei, and a distinctive hijiki-hada. This style of jihada reminds one of a Soshu Den Norishige sword. His shapes include a mitsumune and the angles are very sharp. His nakago and signature are very distinctive, and the hamachi and munemachi are large, and the yasurime on the omote are osujichigai, and on the ura are giyaku-sujichigai, and the mune yasurimei are higaki, and this combination of features is never seen in work from other smiths. The nakago is a yagen style which is chiseled on the omote and ura. His signatures are deep, and all of these elements are very unusual. He has three Juyo Bunkazai katana, and five Juyo Bijutsuhin katana, and this is the only tanto which has a Juyo Bijutsuhin classfication.    


 (Explanation and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori)



Shijo Kantei To No.639


*For No.638 (in the March issue) the answer is a Sa Yukihide tanto.


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 639 issue Shijo Kantei To is May 5, 2010.

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




Type: katana

Length: 2 shaku 5.5 sun (75.9 cm)

Sori: 8 bu (2.42 cm)

Motohaba: 1 sun 1 bu 1 rin (3.35 cm)

Sakihaba: 8 bu 1 rin (2.45 cm)

Motokasane: 3 bu 1 rin (0.95 cm)

Sakikasane: 2 bu 1 rin (0.65 cm)

Kissaki length: 1 sun 5 bu 8 rin (4.8 cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 4 bu (22.42 cm)

Nakago sori: 3 rin (0.1 cm)


The katana is a shinogi zukuri style blade with a mitsumune, a wide mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are not much different. There is a large sori, a thick kasane, and a large long chu-kissaki. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, there are dense thick ji-nie and fine chikei. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the oshigata, and there are long ashi, dense nioi, thick nie, a bright nioiguchi, and in the hamon there are long kinsuji mixed  with sunagashi. The horimono on the omote and ura are bo-hi with soe-hi. The nakago is ubu, with a deep ha-agari (slated towards the ha side) kurijiri; the yasurime are sujichigai with kesho; and there are three mekugi ana and one of them is filled. On the omote towards the mune edge, in the center of the shinogi-ji, there is a mei made with a thick tagane (chisel), and there is a slightly long signature. On the ura, somewhat towards the top of the nakago, there is a date. It should be noted that this katana has a big and dynamic shape, and the kissaki is longer than usual.     



Juyo Toshingu: Important sword fittings



Okazu (Cherry theme) fuchi-kashira

Mei: Natsuo


Okazu (Cherry theme) fuchi-kashira       

Mei: Narau senshi (studied and copied from a master teacher) Natsuo saku

        Oozu motomeni (made to fill a request) Takao with kao


    There are two sets of fuchi-kashira presented here. The first one was made by Natsuo. The second set was a copy of Natsuo’s work and even shows the Natsuo signature, but adds that this was made by Takao in response to an order.  

   Among Natsuo’s flower themed work, the botan (peony) subjects are most impressive. He made many sketches of botan, but for a couple of months in the early spring, he watched cherry blossoms as well as botan. He sketched yamazakura (mountain cherry) from the opening of new leaves to budding and flowering (In the Yamzakura trees, the leaves open first and the buds and flowers follow). He followed and sketched the entire flowering process from day to day. Isn’t this a wonderful design ? He does not even show a whole flower, and gives a strong impression of  the elegant cherry blossom scent in the spring air. Also, the ura side of the fuchi has the light of the sudden morning sun shown with silver inlay. The poem by Motoori Norinaga says “ Shikishima no yamatogokoro o hito towaba asahi ni niou yamazakura” (if some one asks for the heart of the Japanese, that is the scent of  yamazakura in the morning sun). But the novelist Kobayashi Hideo wrote that the real yamato-gokoro (Japanese heart) is paying attention to and caring for small and fleeting things, which indicates a very delicate sensitivity. If so, this shows the essence of the Japanese feeling. From the signature, this made around Ansei 3, and Natsuo was in his late twenty’s, and it is amazing again to see such a high level of  perfection in the work of someone so young. Possibly, he was a genius to understand the yamato-gokoro.              

  The secoond set is Takao’s fuchi-kashira set, and it was supposed to have been ordered by Mr. Kawase Torasaburo (a famous collector) in Taisho 8. It is unusual that Takao used a kao, and we can see his strong passion for this work. He was the Natsuo school’s senior student and had a high level of skill, and he copied everything very carefully, even the yasuri-me (file marks) on the top. But differences are seen in the softness of the petal shape, the soft and free lines of the stamen, and the continuous dots. The jigane is kuro-shibuuchi (by adding a little gold to shibuuchi, the color appears very rich ), and maybe he planned to make a yozakura (cherry blossom in the evening) to fit with Natsuo’s morning blossom. I hope that these two sets will stay together forever, and will exhibit the beauty of Japanese traditions.  

(Explanation by Kobo Kyoko)    




Teirei Kansho Kai For March


The swords discussed below were shown in the April 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 smith’s name. This lecture and the explanations were given by Hinohara Dai.


Kantei To No.1: katana


Mumei: Ko-Senjuin


Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 2.5 bu

Sori: 6 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihori mune

Jihada: tight itame hada mixed in places with nagarehada, and there is some

             jinie and chikei.

Hamon: a hoso-suguha hamon mixed with some ko-choji; the habuchi has nijuba,

              kuichigaiba, hotsure, and uchinoke, and there are  frequent nie, kinsuji

               and sunagashi.

Boshi: omote and ura are straight and komaru, and have a little hakikake.

Horimono: omote and ura horimono are smooth bohi.


This is an osuriage mumei katana, and is judged as being a Ko-Senjuin blade and is classified as Juyo Token. The Senjuin school has very few signed blades, and most of them are mumei tachi or katana. Their shapes are narrow or have a standard mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are different. Their hamon are Yamato Den school suguha styles mixed with nijuba, kuichigaiba, uchinoke, and hotsure.   Among Yamato’s five schools, one can see suguha mixed with komidare which is an old type of style, and others have a lot of hataraki and variations in height around the habuchi. In the voting, some people voted for this as being Ko-Naminohira. As an aswer, that is fine for the end of  the Heian and beginning of  the Kamakura period Yamato Den school work. But if this were Ko-Naminohira school work, the jitetsu would be a tight ko-itame and more moist appearing, and the hada would be mixed with nagarehada, or be a large itame hada with nagarehada, and become a masame type hada, and the entire jihada would be visible, and the color would be darker. Both of these schools have white utsuri. Also, even some Yamato Den blades do not have much hataraki compared to this sword, and the hamon appear more soft.     


Kantei To No.2: tachi


Mei: Kunitsuna


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 2 bu

Sori: 6 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

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

             and midare utsuri.  

Hamon: a wide yakiba, with a suguha style ko-choji midare; the upper half is mixed with

             large choji and the bottom half has smaller choji; there are ashi, frequent yo, dense

              nie; in particular, the bottom half  has thick nie, kinsuji and sunagashi.

Boshi: the omote and ura are straight with a komaru.


This is a Kobizen Kunitsuna tachi, classified as Juyo Bijutsuhin. According to the Meikan (a historical book), this Kunitsuna tachi was made during the Tenpuku era (1233-4), and this is a beginning- to mid-Kamakura era Kobizen example. Many of the swords from this time have large bunched choji and wide yakihaba, just like this blade. This type of work led to the Fukuoka Ichimonji style which was in the mid-Kamakura period. However, if you are not used to seeing these swords, it is not easy to judge this, and many people voted for this being as Yoshifusa, Norifusa, Kunimune, and Nagamitsu which are mid- to late- Kamakura Bizen smiths. Usually it is not easy to judge between Kobizen and  Ko-Ichimonji in mid- to late-Kamakura Bizen blades, and sometimes even experts make a wrong judgement. This is a suriage blade which has a small funbari, and the widths at the moto and saki are different; there is a high koshizori, a small kissaki, and the tip of the point drops. These characteristics are important points to judge blades as being made before the mid-Kamakura period, and we recognize that it is important to judge from the shape. Also, the midare utsuri on the upper part is darker, and clear jifu utsuri, and dark parts appear over the shinogi line, and the hamon has thick nie, which is not seen much in mid-Kamakura blades. Thus, from these characteristics ,it is possible to judge this as being a Bizen blade made before the mid-Kamakura period.         



Kantei To No 3: katana


Mei: Hizen kuni Tadayoshi


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 4.5 bu

Sori: slightly over 6 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame; there are thick jinie and fine chikei.

Hamon: a chu-suguha style shallow notare, mixed with ko-gunome; the habuchi has

              nijuba, and kuichigaiba; there are ko-ashi, yo, and ko-nie.

Boshi: the omote is a shallow notarekomi, the ura is slightly midarekomi, and both

              have  komaru; on the omote, half of the upper part has nijuba.


This is a shodai Tadayoshi katana, and from the signature, it was made around Keicho 15. Early in his career, the Shodai Tadayoshi signed with a five character mei and a junin Tadayoshi mei, and later he signed Musashi daijo Tadahiro. In Hizen,  his style became very popular and his characteristics include a komenuka hada, and a hamon which has a very clear belt-type suguha. The boshi hamon is parallel with the fukura and has a komaru return. In his early work, which is at the beginning of the Hizen school, he made all kinds of suguha. His jihada are not always komenuka hada, and often the hada is only slightly visible. The  hamon is a suguha style with a shallow motare mixed with ko-gunome, and the habuchi has nijuba, kuichiaiha, and the width of the nioi band is wide and narrow, just like on this sword. Some work looks like normal or common suguha with a tight nioiguchi and kinsuji, and many of the boshi have a slight midarekomi. Some people voted for this as Nanki Shigekuni. Shigekuni’s swords have a Keicho-shinto shape, and the shinogi-haba is wide; there is a high shinogi; and the hamon is suguha mixed with nijuba and kuichigaiba. From these characteristics, it is understandable that some people voted for him, but his suguha hamon do not have much notare, and have thicker nie, frequent kinsuji and sunagashi, and the boshi have strong hakikake. Also, Nanki Shigekuni belongs to the Keicho-shinto smiths, but his active period was at the end of Keicho to Kanei times, which is about 10 years. Compared with Horikawa Kunihiro who was active during the Tensho period to the end of the Keicho period, there is about a one generation difference between them. Maybe because of this, early Nanki swords which are Sunshu-uchi (made in Suruga) have a typical Keicho shape, but after he moved to Kishu, his shape is a little narrow compared to the typical Keicho shinto sword, and many of the kissaki are a little smaller.  




Kantei To No. 4: katana


Mei: Hizen kuni ju Omi daijo Fujiwara Tadahiro shinkitae


Length: 2 shaku 5 sun 5 rin

Sori: 6 bu

Design:shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight fine ko-itame, frequent ji-nie, fine chikei, and a bright jigane.

Hamon: a choji hamon with long ashi mixed with togariba; this is mixed with a yahazu style hamon, with a square type of ko-gunome; there are ashi, yo, frequent nie, kinsuji and some sunagashi. The hamon is bight and clear.

Boshi: omote and ura are are midarekomi with komaru.


Many of  the Nidai Tadayoshi’s choji with long ashi have a round top, and the same shape of choji is seen continuously from the moto to the saki, and the ashi are the same size, and long. Among these swords, sometimes, one sometimes sees choji with long ashi which are smaller and mixed with a square type ko-gunome, ko-gunome, togariba, and a yahazu type hamon, and a habuchi which has tobiyaki, and these are variable hamon. These are seen on blades with a wide mihaba and a strong shape when compared to the usual Nidai blades. That is what we see on this katana, and on many of these swords the jihada is more refined, and the nakago is katte-agari, and these are the work of the Sandai Tadayoshi. Sometimes the sandai worked with the nidai Tadayoshi. In this vote, some people voted for the  Nidai and some voted for the Sandai, and others voted for Koyama Munetsugu and Tairyusai Sokan. Since this sword has a wide mihaba and strong shape along with a smooth jihada, some people looked at this as a mujihada work. Also, the boshi is midarekomi, and from these characteristics, this looks like a Shinshinto blade. The jihada does appear smooth, but if you look at it carefully, the  jihada has a clear hada which is a Shinto characteristic, and basically the Hizen to boshi is straight with a komaru, but in the case where there is a midareba hamon, often the boshi is a midarekomi. Also many of  Munetsugu and Sokan hamon are primarily composed of more round gunome-choji or choji, and become a midare hamon. In  Munetsugu’s work, a unit of the hamon which is 3-4 sun long is repeated over the length of the hamon continuously, and Sokan’s hamon are continuous gunome and have a distinctive utsuri.            



Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: (ichiyo-aoi mon) Mondo-no-sho Fujiwara Masakiyo         


Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 5.5 bu

Sori: 4.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, mixed in places with ohada; there are ji-nie and chikei.

Hamon: shallow ko-notare mixed with ko-gunome and togariba; the habuchi has

              yubashiri, nijuba and sanjuba, and there are frequent ashi, yo, thick nie,

              noticeable ara-nie, kinsuji, nie-suji, and sunagashi.

Boshi: the omote is a shallow notarekomi, and the ura is midarekomi; both are komaru

            and have frequent hakikake and a kaen style.


This is a Mondo no sho Masakiyo katana. Because this is a typical Satsuma midareba, many people voted for Masakiyo, Motohira, and Masayoshi. The jihada of Motohira, Masayoshi, and their students is a tight ko-itame, and inside of the jihada there are wide belt shaped areas which have a slightly different colored steel called kawari-tetsu, but in Masakiyo and Yasuyo swords, one never sees this type of jihada.  Masakiyo’s midare hamon is slightly smaller when compared with Motohira and Masayoshi, but the habuchi has yubashiri in places, and the yakigashira (top of the hamon) has nijuba and sanjuba, and the boshi has frequent hakikake and displays a kaen style. Such rich hataraki around the habuchi, and a dynamic hamon are never seen these two smiths’ work, and this is a strong point for judging a Masakiyo blade. He has three types of signature, one is his own, one is for his own son Masachika’s daimei, and other is for his student Masachika’s daimei.  







Shijo Kantei No 637


Answer and Discussion for the Shijo Kantei To Number 637

(in the February issue). The answer is a Shodai Chounsai Tsunatoshi katana dated Tenpo 3.


Tsunatoshi was Kato Tsunahide’s younger brother, and his hamon are choji-midare, toran-midare, and suguha. The older brother Tsunahide has many toranba swords, and Tsunahide also has choji-midare hamon. Tsunatoshi has some swords with a wide mihaba and choji-midare, but usually there is a slightly wide mihaba, just like this sword, or they have a  usual or slightly narrow mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are different. There is a  thick kasane, small funbari, a deep sori, and the kissaki is not too long. These features  are copied from a Koto tachi shape, and these are seen in his toranba midare swords, and in his older brother Tsunahide’s swords, and this is one of his characteristics. Tsunatoshi’s jihada is mainly a tight ko-itame, and becomes a muji type hada, and has fine ji-nie. His Bizen Den work has a short yakidashi at the moto, and above the yakidashi, the hamon are mainly composed of bunched narrow gunome-choji and choji. The yakiba varies up and down with a midare pattern, and the midare bunched choji and regular brunched choji are close to each other, and there are long ashi. The nioiguchi is bright, tight, and strong, and there are ko-nie. Also, many of the hamon sections show approximately a 3-4 sun size unit, and show the same repeated hamon pattern from the moto to the saki, and this is one of his characteristic points. Tsunatoshi’s boshi, on choji-midare hamon like on this sword, are often midarekomi and the tip is komaru. Tsunatoshi did not have many horimono, but there is a hirazukuri wakizashi dated Tempo 11 which has horimono: on omote there is a bonji and kurikara, and the ura has bonji, gomabshi, and tume. This wakizashi has a receipt written by Tsunatoshi himself. According to the receipt, the price of the wakizashi is 2 ryo, the price for the 2 kanji bonji is 2 bu 2 shu, and for the other horimono the price is 2 ryo 2 bu, polishing and a saya is 3 bu 2 shu, and the total was 5 ryo 2 bu, and it is interesting that horimono cost is higher than the cost of the sword. Tsunatoshi nakago in his early work have a round tip iriyamagata form, just like on this sword, and later nakago have a ha-agari kurijiri tip, and the yasurime is osuji-chigai with kesho. The signature is found in various locations, and for shinogi zukuri katana they are on the omote mune side and are long mei, while the ura has a date slightly higher than the omote mei. Most people voted for Tsunatoshi, and as an almost correct answer, a few people voted for Kato Tsunahide, Koyama Munetsugu, and Unju Korekazu. Tsunatoshi has very few choji-midare, just like this sword, and usually he made toranba-midare hamon. Munetsugu was Kato Tsunahide’s student, but his actual instructor was supposed to have been Tsunatoshi, and his choji-midare hamon is very similar to Tsunatoshi’s, and his ko-itame jihada look like mu-hada which is also similar. But Munetsugu has almost no yakidashi, and his choji hamon are more gorgeous, and the mihaba is wide, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different; there is a shallow sori, a long kissaki which is typical of a dynamic Shinshinto shape, and his nakago jiri have a shallow iriyamagata tip. Unju Korekazu’s choji midare hamon has dense nioi, thick nie, and inside of the hamon there are frequent kinsuji and sunagashi, and his nakago tip is kurijiri. As a correct and almost correct answer, a few people voted for Gassan Sadayoshi. Many of his swords have a wider mihaba than this, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different, there is a shallow sori, and a long kissaki. His Bizen Den swords have a jihada which is a tight ko-itame  and which becomes a mu-hada. His hamon show an open bottom midareba mixed with togariba, and the midare waves are close each other. There is a tight strong nioiguchi and ko-nie, which copies Sue-Bizen style work, and the nakago tip is kurijiri.             




Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.