MAY, 2010



Meito Kanshou

Examination of Important Swords


Classification: Tokubetsu Juyo Token

Type: Katana

Mei: Hizen Kuni Ju Omi Daijo Fujiwara Tadahiro


Length: slightly less than 2 shaku 3 sun 3 bu (70.55 cm)

Sori : slightly less than 5 bu 3 rin (1.6 cm)

Motohaba: 1 sun 2 rin (3.2 cm) 

Sakihaba: 7 bu 3 rin (2.2 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 1 rin (0.65 cm ) 

Sakikasane: 1 bu 5 rin (0.45 cm)

Kissaki lenth: 1 sun 2 bu 5 rin (3.8 cm)

Nakago length: slightly less than 7 sun 4 bu 9 rin ( 21.55 cm)  

Nakago sori: very slight




   This is a shinogi-zukuri sword with an ihorimune, funbari, a slightly large sori, and a chu-kissaki. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, and there are thick dense ji-nie, fine chikei, and a clear hada. The hamon is a wide suguha with notare, and mixed with some ko-gunome. The hamon has ashi, a dense nioiguchi, abundant ko-nie. The omote shows some nijuba, and has fine kinsuji and sunagashi. There is a bright clear nioiguchi. The boshi has a wide yakiba, is straight with a komaru return, and has some hakikake. The nakogo is ubu, the tip is iriyamagata, and the yasurime are katte-agari. Ther is one mekugiana, and the omote on the mune side has a long signature.

    Tadahiro was born during Keicho 19 (1614), when the Shodai Tadayoshi was 43 years old. At that time, the Osaka Castle battles took place (the Osaka Fuyunojin and Natsunojin, or the winter and summer battles of Osaka castle) and these were the last conflicts which took place as the long peaceful Edo period began. The Tokugawa government passed the Buke Sho Hatto law (formalizing Samurai rule) about this time too. Tadayoshifs childhood name was Heisakuro, and in Kanei 9 (1632) he changed his name to Shinzaemon, after the Shodai Tadayoshi passed away. At that time, Tadahiro was only 19 years old, but he already had a sword-making reputation. On July 22 of Kanei 18 (1641), he received the title of Omi Daijo, and he passed away on May 27 of  Genroku 6 (1693) at the age of 80. His sword making career spanned over 60 years, and later in his career he made gassaku swords (collaborative works) with the Sandai Mutsu no kami Tadayoshi. He also taught his grandson the Yon dai Omi Daiyo Tadayoshi, and let him sign his daimei. Because of this history, The nidai Tadahiro has the largest number of swords among the Hizen To smiths. The nidai Tadahiro has two typical styles:  one is suguha and other is choji midare. Both styles show excellent techniques, and in particular, suguha was his favorite style. These have thick dense nioi, and frequent ko-nie. This Tokubetsu Juyo Token katana was probably made after Kanbun 12 and possibly into the Enpo era, judging from the signature.  Tadahiro made gassaku swords with the sandai Mutsu no kami Tadayoshi from early in the sandaifs career, and in later years, the sandai Tadayoshi collaborated with him, and this sword shows the result of a collaboration. This is his favorite suguha style and shows the sandai Tadayoshifs exllent skill, and is finished very well. This sword is listed in the Nihonto-taikan, as a good example of a suguha sword.                    

(Explanation and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori)




Shijo Kantei To Number 640


*In issue No. 639 (the April issue), the answer is a  katana by Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (dated Genroku 14).


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 640 issue Shijo Kantei To is June 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 June 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.



Style: tachi

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 8.5 bu (72.27 cm)

Sori: 8 bu (2.42 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 9 rin  (3 cm)

Sakihaba: 5 bu 8 rin (1.75 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 6 rin (0.8 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm)

Kissaki length: 9 bu 6 rin (2.9 cm)

Nakago length: 6 sun (18.18 cm)

Nakago sori: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm)


This tachi is shinogi-zukuri with an ihorimune, and a normal mihaba. The motohaba and and sakihaba are different. There is a high koshizori, funbari, a chu-kissaki, and the tip has sori. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, there are fine ji-nie, and a clear midare utsuri. The hamon and boshi are shown in the picture. There are frequent ashi and yo, a bright nioiguchi, ko-nie, kinsuji and fine sunagashi. The nakago is ubu, the tip is kurijiri, the yasurime are katte sagari, and there are three mekugiana. On the omote slightly above the mekugiana there is a two kanji signature (this smith often makes a midarekomi boshi on sowrds like this with a very active and beautiful hamon )    



Juyo Toshingu


Shamon (short club pattern) tsuba


Mei: Yamayoshibe


Yamayoshi is known as  a representative Owari tsuba smith who worked with Noriyasu. Some people used to think he was the Oda familyfs okakae katchu kaji (armor smith), but his simple iron tsuba styles are classical and show a strong original style. Yamayoshi has several signatures, and these are Yamasaka Yoshibe, Yamayoshibe, another Yamayoshibe with different kanji, and one signature in which the hirakana for gheh (which is prounced geh) substitutes for the kanji gbe.ff  The signature Yamasaka Yoshibe which is his full name, is the oldest signature, and several generations of workers are supposed to have continued to use this signature. There are later tsuba made around the Kanbun and Genroku eras which have an  g Oshuh signature on the right side of the seppa dai, and under that have a cherry blossom stamp; on the left side of the seppa dai, there is a Yamayoshibe signature, and this is called  the Sakura Yamayoshi. It is thought  that this is the third generation artist. This tsuba is a big thick dynamic work, and on the forged iron surface, the left and right have different heights, and have a dynamic o-sukashi shamon pattern. The finish work shows small grains and lumps on the hiraji (the flat surface) and the mimi (rim) and the entire iron surface has a varied texture. From the signature and style, this supposed to be made no later than the Momoyama era, and this is a magnificent style, with a strong character, and displays a rustic charm.    


(Explanation by Iida Toshihisa)    


Teirei Kansho Kai For April


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 April 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 Kurotaki Tetsuya.



Kantei To No.1: tachi


Mei: Yasutsuna


Length: 2 shaku 6 sun 4 bu

Sori: 9.5  bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with o-itame and mokume; the hada is visible; there are frequent ji-nie, a dark jigane, and jifu utsuri.

Hamon: The hamon is yakiotoshi, and above it is a suguha style mixed with ko-midare pattern. There are ko-gunome, ko-choji, abundant dense nie, kinsuji, sunagashi, hotsure, small yubashiri, a worn down nioiguchi, and in places the hamon is soft. 

Boshi: there is a narrow yakiba, with a slight notare and a komaru.

Horimono: the omote and ura have bo-hi with kakudome.


This is a Ko-hoki Yasutsuna tachi. From the motohaba, the width becomes gradually narrower, and there is a small kissaki. The center of the sori is around the koshimoto, and sori becomes gradually shallower up to the tip, which is a classic tachi shape, From this shape, we can judge this as work from the early Kamakura period or the end of the Heian period. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, there is jifu utsuri, and a large hada pattern is visible. The color of the jigane is dark, and people should pay attention to this detail. The hamon has a lot of hataraki, strong nie, and is a soft hamon. There are sunagashi, kinsuji, hotsure, the hamon is yaki-otoshi, and there is a worn down nioiguchi.In addition, there is hiraniku even on the nakago, and we have to pay attention for this.  From these characteristics, we should judge this as being work by Yasutsuna. If this were a Ko-bizen blade, the jitetsu would have no o-itame, the color would not be so dark, and there would be no yakiotoshi hamon. If this were an old Kyushu blade, the jihada would be more moist appearing, there would be a distinctive hada, and the hamon would be more simple, and never look like this kind of hamon.



Kantei To No.2: tanto


Mei: Sa


Length: 7 sun 4 bu

Sori: very slight

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume; there is dense ji-nie and white utsuri.

Hamon: chu-suguha with some ko-ashi, a somewhat strong nioiguchi, and ko-nie.

Boshi: the omote is straight, and the ura has a nijuba style; the ura is kuichigaiba, and the tip on both sides is sharp with a deep komaru and return.


This is a Samonji tanto. The size is small, the kasane is small (the blade is thin), and there is a slight sori. From these characteristics, this is a Nanbokucho tanto. At that time, smaller size tanto are seen in the work of Shizu Kaneuji, Chogi, and Samonji. Usually, Samonji swords have a rich moist appearing jihada, the hamon are primarily midareba, and the boshi are tukiage with a  sharp and deep return. But this work is different from the typical examples, and this is very a gentle looking tanto. Samonji has tanto dated Ryakuo 2, and his student Yukihiro has tanto dated in Kano 1, and from this, the time Samonji changed his style from this gentle appearing style to his characteristic style,  and this transition is suppose to have occured during a 10 year period. In the Kano era, there were major conflicts between Ashikaga Takauji, Tadayoshi, and Ko Moronao, and society changed at this time, and also during this time, it appears that Samonjifs style changed too.   



Kantei To No 3: tachi


Mei: Rai Kunimitsu


Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 7.5 bu

Sori: 8.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight itame, and some places show a large pattern. The jihada is visible, and there is ji-nie, fine chikei, and nie utsuri.

Hamon: primarily suguha, mixed with ko-gunome, ko-choji, and gunome; there are frequent ashi, yo, thick bands of nie, kinsuji, sunagashi, and in places, yubashiri type tobiyaki; there is a bright and clear nioiguchi.

Boshi: straight, the omote has a komaru and return; the ura is a togari style and both tips have fine hakikake.


This is a Rai Kunimitsu tachi. The mihaba at the koshimoto is somewhat small, and from this shape, we can judge that this is a suriage blade.Even though it is slightly suriage, there is a pronounced sori and a wazori shape. People should pay attention to this because this is an important detail. The jihada shows a large pattern, but it is a tight itame, and has nie utsuri toward the yakiba. The hamon is mainly suguha mixed with ko-gunome, ko-choji, and has frequent ashi, yo, and thick nie. Also, the middle of the sword has gKyo-gyakuashih hamon,which means that there are ashi running from the kissaki to the nakagofs deirection. The boshi is straight and tip is komaru and the shape is gentle. Considering the shape, ji, ha , and boshi, it is possible to judge this as being work from the Rai school. In particular, note that the wide mihaba does not show much of a difference between the moto and saki, and the long chu-kissaki, the hamon mixed with kogunome, and there is an emphasis on round gunome. From these characteristics, a vote for Rai Kumimitsu is great answer.




Kantei To No. 4: katana


Mei: Shoji Chikuzen daijo Taikeifuji Naotane (kao)

         Bunsei 4 nen 5 gatsu hi

       (Note: sometimes he signed Taikei Fujiwara Naotane)


Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 3.5 bu

Sori: slightly over 8 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, frequent ji-nie, fine chikei and midare utsuri.

Hamon: mainly a square type gunome, mixed with togariba, and kataochi-

gunome; there are koshihiraki (wide bottomed) gunome, frequent ashi, and the entire hamon is a saka-ashi hamon; the hamon is mainly nioi and has ko-nie.     

Boshi: omote and ura are both midarekomi, and the tip is sharp and has a return.


This is dated Bunsei 4, and is an example of Taikei Naotanefs Bizen Den style katana. He followed his teacher Suishinshi Masahidefs Fukukoto principles (return back to koto styles), and he tried to re-create go-kaden work ( the 5 koto schools) in styles true to the originals, and he was very versatile sword smith. Naotane has three Bizen Den style swords. One is an Osafune Kanemitsu type, with a wide mihaba, sunnobi size, large kissaki, large sori, and in a tachi style. The hamon is usually a large square type of gunome. The second style follows Osafune Kagemitsus work. These have a normal mihaba, and the mihaba at the moto and saki are different; there is a large sori, thick kasane, and the hamon is small square gunome. The third style has a normal mihaba, and the hamon is an open bottom gunome which is a copy of  an Oei Bizen utsushi sword. This sword was made so well that some people voted for this as being work from the main Osafune school. But this sword has a tight and refined jihada, long ashi reaching almost to the hasaki, the nioiguchi merges with the jihada, and the characteristic soft koshimoto is not conspicuous. From these characteristics it is not too difficult to vote for Naotane.  



Kantei To No. 5: tanto


Mei: Echizen Kuni Yasutsugu

        Honda Hida no kami shojinai

        Nanban kane, Sanjo kokaji (sword smith) haku


Length: 9 sun 8 bu

Sori: 1.5 bu

Design: katakiriha zukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: ko-itame, and the entire hada is visible. there is ji-nie, chikei, black kawari-tetsu is visible, and there is a dark color jihada.

Hamon: a shallow notare, mixed with ko-gunome; the habuchi has frequent hotsure, ko-ashi, and some parts of the hamon are rough; there is kinsuji and sunagshi. 

Boshi: the omote and ura are straight, almost yakizume, with a slight return.

Horimono: the omote has a wide katana-hi kakinagashi; the inside has a suken horimono; the ura has bonji, kuwagata, and rendai horimono.


This Shodai Yasutsugufs tanto is a copy of the Ebina Kokaji Munechika tanto, which is a specific tanto made by Munechika. The jihada is ko-itame, a fine hada is visible, and there is chikei, and a black kawari tetsu appear,s and this is characteristic of an Echizen-gane (jihada). The habuchi has hotsure and nie, and some parts are rough. From these characteristics,one can guess that this is Echizen Shimosaka school work. From the shape and distinctive horimono, it is not too difficult to judge this as being a Yasutsugu tanto. The important part of this sword is the mei which has some historical meaning. The Ebina kokaji Munechika tanto was owned by the Muromachi shogun. Later, this tanto was in a fire when Osaka Castle burned down.  Yasugugu repaired this tanto and made a new hamon (i.e. the tanto became a saiha work), and also he copied the Munechika tanto carefully, and this tanto one of these copies. There are books describing why the Ebina Kokaji was important. These descriptions are included in the hChoroku 2 Nen iraikojiki g (a portion of the book gGunshoruiju, a series of 406 volumes), in the gJishoinden Nenchu Gyojih (a comprehensive listing of events for the entire year) which listed the Muromachi shogunfs ceremonies during the entire year, and in the Zoku-gunshoruiju (659 volumes). At the New yearfs celebration, the eighth shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa wore luxurious clothing and hosted the new yearfs days ceremonies. In a historical book describing the details of the entire costume, the Ebina Kokaji name appears too. According to the book gJishoin Denchu Nenchu Gyojih, the name of the Munechika tanto is  Ebina Kokaji, and the tsuka and saya together measured 1 shaku 5-6 sun; the kanagu were all made from shakudo; the tsuka and saya were nashiji; the menuki and kogai were made from kiri wood and covered with gold and kogai by kiri wood. A sword and a hitatare (formal clothing for a bushi) are worn at New Years. From these historical records, we can tell that Yoshimasa wore the Ebina Kokaji sword during New Yearfs time along with his gorgeous clothing, and hosted or led the events every day. For the Muromachi shogunfs New Year ceremony, one of the most important theatrical costume components was the Ebina kokaji sword. Recently, Muromachi Dono (i.e. Muromachi shogun) studies have become very popular. For example, in the Rekishigaku Kenkyu (historical studies) magazine in the April issue last year, a special issue was devoted to a discussion of the Muromachi Dono. For a long time, the popular opinion was that Yoshimasa was a shogun primarily in name only. However, Donald Keenfs Ashikaga Yoshimasa study re-evaluated his cultural leadership, and concluded that his actual historical cultural contributions were important, and to a much larger extent than people had imagined. For example, the collection of pictures and pottery which is called the Higashiyama Gyobutsu, is considered to demonstrate the effect or influence of culture. Today, the Higashiyama Bunka (culture) is considered to be important in its influence of Japanese culture in many ways, and Yoshimasa directed or led this culture. Yoshimasafs cultural power influenced the modern era, too, and the relationship of  Edo period culture to its Muromachi predecessor, especially the Higashiyama Bunka, is considered to be important, and this tanto is a documented element of this early culture. This tanto tells us something of  the eighth shogun Yoshimasa and the power of  the Higashiyama Bunka; in addition, the nakagofs mei provides some historical information which is difficult to learn from just reading a historical record. Thus Yasutugu provided us important information in this tanto. This is a important resource for future studies of Japanese history.                 



Shijo Kantei Number 638


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

Number 638 (in the March issue):

 The answer is a Sa Yukihide tanto.


This tanto has a somewhat wide mihaba, a thick kasane, and is a heavy tanto, and from these characteristics, we can judge this as a Shinshinto era blade. Sa Yukihide has many shinogi  zukuri katana, but he has fewer tanto, and often we see a smaller size, a thick kasane, and an uchizori shape, just like this tanto. This kind of strongly shaped tanto continued to be made by his students Hidehiro and Hidemasa, and we see them often. Yukihidefs jitetsu, around the Ansei period is masame, and the entire hada shows a type of nagarehada, and sometimes it is completely masame hada. The masame pattern shows wide layers, but most of time, the hada is a tight ko-itame mixed with nagarehada, just like this tanto. There is also thick ji-nie, and chikei. Yukihidefs most common hamon is a suguha style with a shallow notare, just like this tanto. There are also ashi, dense nioi, dense nie, and a bright and clear nioiguchi. There are also kinsuji and sunagashi and this reminds us of the work of the Shinto smith Inoue Shinkai. Other types of Yukihidefs hamon are a notare style hamon mixed with large gunome, and where the yakiba has a variable height. There are also distinctive kinsuji and sunagashi, which look like they were strongly influenced by the Soshu Den style. His nakago tips are kurijiri, and the yasurime are sujichigai with kesho. On tanto, he signed Sa Hideyuki which is three kanji, or with a two kanji mei Yukihide, like on this example. On shinogi zukuri swords, during the Tempo era,  Yukihide signed  with a smaller signature on mune side of the nakago; around the Koka era his signature becomes bigger. After the Kaei era, most of time, he signed with large kanji on the center of the shinogi line. Often, there are kao inscribed with his signatures, and most of them, except for a few examples, are concentrated in Kaei 5 and 6. Most of the people voted for Yukihide, and besides and besides the correct answer, some people voted for Suishinshi Masahide, Naoe Sukemasa, and Saito Kiyondo. Masahide has suguha blades which are modeled after Inoue Shinkai, and appear similar to this, but on this kind of blade  many of them have ha-nie which appear black, and the nakogo tips are ha-agari kurijiri. On Naotane blades the masame pattern is thick, and the entire masame hada on the ji is somewhat large; on suguha hamon, the ji has nie, and the habuchi has frequent hotsure, frequent nie, and distinctive sunagashi, and many of his swords have a kao. Naoe Sukemasa made Shinkai style suguha swords, but his nakago tip is iriyamagata. Kiyondoes suguha swords are completely masame hada, and the hamon is not a thick nioiguchi, but a tight narrow nioiguchi; his boshi return has a distinctive hakikake, which appears like a comb stroke, and is thick and bright. His nakago tip is sujichigai, and kesho migaki work is not seen, except on a very few swords around Manei 1 and 2.                     


 Explanation and provided by Hinohara Dai.