June, 2010




Mei To Kanshou

Examination of Important Swords


Tokubetsu Juyo Token

Type: Tachi

Mei: Sanenaga


Length: slightly over 2 shaku 5 sun 2 bu (76.4 cm)

Sori : 8 bu 2.5 rin (2.5 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 9 rin (3.0 cm) 

Sakihaba: 5 bu 9 rin (1.8 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 3 rin (0.69 cm ) 

Sakikasane: slightly over 1 bu (0.31 cm)

Kissaki lenth: 9 bu 4 rin (2.86 cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 1 bu 9 rin (21.8 cm)  

Nakago sori: very slight




This is shinogi-zukuri sword with an ihorimune, a slightly high koshizori, funbari, and a chu-kissaki. The jihada is a visible itame mixed with mokume, there is utsuri which is is bo-utusri at the bottom, and it becomes midare utsuei; around part of the monouchi, the utsuri  extends to the shinogi-ji.  The hamon is gunome mixed with choji, and there are ashi, yo, and some nioi type nie. The boshi is a notare type, and the tip is a little sharp, and has some hakikake, and there is a shallow return. The nakgo is ubu (there is a slight machi-okuri), the nakago jiri is kiri (cut off), the yarurime are suji-chigai, and there are two mekugiana. On the upper mune side there is a two kanji signature made with a fine tagane (chisel).                    

According to a historical record,  the “Kokon Mei-zukushi’, Sanenaga was Mitsutada’s student, and he was born in Kencho 4, and passed way in Showa 5, at the age at 65. Nagamitsu used the last name of Fujiwara, and Sanenga used the Taira name, and after him, Mitsunaga, Nagashige, and Nagayoshi continued the Osafune school. Today we see that Sanenaga has two types of signatures, one is a niji-mei (two kanji) style, and other is a long mei. The niji-mei signatures, never have a date, but the long signatures have dates of Shoan 2 (1300) on a Juyo Bijutsu classified sword; Kagen 2 (1304) on a Juyo Bijutsuhin blade; Kagen 3, Kagen 4, Tokuji 2 (1307), Tokuji 3, Enkyo 2 (1309) and Enkyo 3. Some historical books mentioned that he had swords dated in Bunei and Koan, and that swords dated after the Shoan ( 1299 ) era swords were made by the nidai (second generation). Sanenaga has a tachi which has a very classic appearance  in a  Ko-Bizen style with a Juyo Bijutsuhin classification, and from this kind of sword, people thought that there was a second generation. However, today, people think there was no such nidai Sanenaga. Sanenaga has two type of swords, one is similar to Nagamitsu’s choji midare style, and the other is a suguha style mixed with ko-choj and ko-ashi which is a simpler style. Usually we seen more suguha style swords. Among late Nagamitsu swords, we have seen a Sanenaga daimei,  and we can guess that the these two smiths had a strong relationship. This sword reminds us of Nagamitsu’s work , and the nioiguchi nie looks like an old style, more so than than the usual Sanenaga style, and part of the utsuri is on the shinogi-ji, which we never see in other Bizen swords. From these characteristics, we are guessing, this was made before the Shoan era, and is one of his early swords. Also, if we look at the signature’s  Naga kanji carefully, this is similar to a Nagamitsu signature’s kanji “ Naga”, and we are only guessing, but this could be a Sanenaga daimei sword signed by Nagamitsu. This is a good example for study and research of Sanenaga’s work, and at the same time, this is a master piece.  


( Explanation and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori)




Shijo Kantei To Number 641


*In issue No.640 (the May issue) the answer is an Osafune Nagamitsu tachi.


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 641 issue Shijo Kantei To is July 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 July 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.





Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 5.5 bu (71.38 cm )

Sori: 9 bu (2.73 cm)

Motohaba: 8 bu 3 rin (2.5 cm)

Sakihaba: 5 bu 3 rin (1.6 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 1 rin (0.65 cm

Sakikasane: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm)

Kissaki lengh: 8 bu 3 rin (2.5 cm)

Nakago length: 6 sun  4 bu (19.39 cm)

Nakago sori: 1 bu  (0.3 cm)


The tachi is a shinogi-zukuri sword with an ihorimune, a narrow mihaba which is different at the moto and saki. There is a high koshizori, funbari, and the tip has a little uchi-sori. The point is a ko-kissaki (small point). The jihada is itame mixed with mokume  hada, there is nagarehada, and the overall hada pattern is slightly large and visible. There is fine ji-nie, chikei, some nijuba, ko-ashi, yo, fine nie, and some parts have a soft nioiguchi. There are kinsuji and sunagashi. The horimono on the omote and ura are futasuji-hi with marudome.   The nakago is ubu (but slightly machi okuri), the shape is kijimomo, the tip is kurijiri, the yasurime are katte sagari, and there are two mekugi-ana, and one of them is filled, (tip of nakogo has one yahazu-ana). On the omote, above the mekugi ana, the mune side has a niji-mei (two kanji) signature. In particular, the second kanji character shows a distinctive style. (this smith has two types of jihada: one is a tight ko-itame, with thick dense ji-nie and a refined jihada, and other style is like this sword).    



Juyo Toshingu


Asatsuma fune zu ( image of woman and boat) tsuba


Mei: Goto hokyo Ichijo (kao)


The Heike monogatari ( Tale of the Heike) has a famous opening statement which is “Gionshoja no kane no koe, shogyo nujo no hibiki ari” (The  sound of the temple bell in Gion  rings, and reminds one of the uncertainties of life and human beings). The Heike established a high social position, and enjoyed glory and power for a short time: but at the same time there is a possibility that this glorious state can be lost anytime. This tsuba by Ichijo depicts the state of the world in this kind of situation. At the battle of Dannoura, the Heike lost, and their emperor Antoku drowned in the ocean. They were defeated by the Genji who they had oppressed. After this battle, the Heike disappeared from society,  and survived with a hidden or anonymous lifestyle. This tsuba pattern is a former Heike woman at Asatsuma port in Omi prefecture, who succumbed to unfortunate and uncomfortable  circumstances. This kind of theme was Hanabusa Itcho’s favorite subject, and there is a hakogaki (inscription on th ebox) stating that Ichijo received his inspiration from him. The women Itcho used as subject had a glorious life style at the court when the Heike were in power, but all of the sudden, their life dropped to the bottom of an abyss. This tsuba was made at the end of  the Bakumatsu period when the master Ichijo created the story on the tsuba. Ichijo used his high level of skill, and showed a feeling for the former Heike woman’s sad life and her glorious life style in the past. At the peak of the Heike time, this women must have been glamorous. Ichijo created the feeling of the woman’s different circumstance’s in this tsuba with his high skill, and teaches a moral lesson. The lesson is “shosha hitsui no kotowari” (even a winner will always lose in times to come). The great master Ichijo teaches us important lessons of the world and truths which extend beyond his own time.                       


(Explanation by Kurotaki Tetsuya)    




Teirei Kansho Kai For May




The swords discussed below were shown in the May 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 shirasaya 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 smith’s name. This lecture and the explanations were given by Kubo Kyoko.



Kantei To No.1: tachi


Mei: Sukechika tsukuru (Kobizen)


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun

Sori: 8.5  bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with mokume hada, a slightly large hada pattern is visible; there are thick ji-nie, frequent wide chikei, and this is mixed with jifu style  jihada.

Hamon: above the machi there is a large yakiotoshi, and above this the hamon is primarily  suguha mixed with ko-notare and ko-gunome; there are ko-ashi, la slightly thick nioiguchi, frequent nie, frequent kinsuji, and sungashi; part of the nioiguchi is soft. 

Boshi: the omote is straight, the ura is slightly midarekomi; both sides have a komaru and return.


This sword has an ubu nakago, and a narrow shape, a small kissaki, a high koshisori, and a lively shape, and from these characteristics, we can judge as work from the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period. In the Meikan,  Sukechika is listed with the Ko-bizen and Fukuoka Ichimonji smiths, but this is a Ko-bizen sword. As a Ko-bizen blade, the jihada shows a somewhat large pattern, the hada is visible, and  the hamon is a suguha style. There are dense nie, frequent kinsuji and sunagashi, and some parts of the hamon are soft, and maybe because of the yakiotoshi above the machi, many people voted for smiths from the end of the Heian to the beginning of the Kamakura period, such as Ko-hoki Yasutsuna, Ko-naminohira, or others. Among Ko-bizen swords, yakiotoshi works are very rare, and as I mentioned about the jihada and hamon, it is understandable that people voted for these smiths. But if were a Ko-Hoki blade, it would have more hiraniku, the tip would not show much uchizori, and usually the jihada is dark. The Ko-bizen hamon is mainly suguha mixed with ko-notare and ko-gunome, just like this tachi, but the Ko-hoki hamon is ko-midare mixed with individual areas of ko-notare, and with ko-gunome. In particular, Yasutsugu’s hamon show a space between these individual  hamon types or effects. Their hada is visible, and kinsuji and sunagashi fade  smoothly into the jihada and hamon, and there are interesting hataraki. If this were Ko-naminohira work from  Kyushu the  jihada would be a smooth nagarehada, and there would be a distinctive moist appearing jihada. All votes for Ko-bizen smiths are judged as correct answers, and many people voted for Masatune. He has a  jifu style jihada  which is same as this, but usually most of Masatsune’s jihada are tight and refined. Tomonari’s utsuri does not stand out, and his jihada is only visible sometimes.



Kantei To No.2: tachi


Mei: Sanenori


Length: 2 shaku 1 sun 8 bu

Sori: 5 bu

Design: shinogizukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame; there are dense ji-nie, fine chikei, and jifu utsuri. 

Hamon: suguha style mixed with ko-choji, ko-gunome, and with ko-midare; there are frequent ko-ashi, yo, and in many places there are kinsuji and sunagashi.

Boshi: shallow notare with a komaru and return.               


This work is classified as Juyo Bijutsuhin and is a Ko-Ichimonji Sanenori tachi. There is no funbari from the koshimoto, and this is a suriage shape, but it still has a high koshizori. At the tip, the sori becomes slightly uchizori, and there is a narrow shape, a small kissaki, and a tachi shape. The dark part of  the uneven jifu utsuri extends into the shinogiji, and from these characteristics, we would like to judge this as a tachi from the early half of the Kamakura period. Among the Fukuoka Ichimonji school smiths whose founder was Norimune, early Kamakura swords are similar to Ko-ichimonji swords,  but their tachi shape, jihada and hamon are closer to the Ko-Bizen style work instead of a mid-Kamakura period style work, although they were actually made in mid-Kamakura times. Actually, on the half bottom of the ura side of this tachi, we can see a ko-midare style classic hamon, which remains from the Ko-Bizen hamon style. However, the jihada is a refined tight ko-itame, and in places there are signs of a small choji hamon, and there is a tight nioiguchi, and a more refined feeling, and these are characteristics of the Ko-ichimonji style. In voting, people judged the sword’s character well, and beside the Ko-bizen answer, many people voted for Ko-Ichimonji. Some people voted for mid Kamakura Fukuoka Ichimonji smiths, such as Yoshifusa, but at this time in the Ichimonji school, the shapes are wider, the kissaki are inokubi, and the hamon varies and has high and low areas with a gorgeous choji hamon. Some people voted for late Kamakura Osafune school smiths, such as Nagamitsu, and Kagemitsu. Their swords have koshizori and the tips have more sori, and the jifu utsuri’s dark areas never extend up to shinogi-ji. Thus we must carefully consider the characteristics of each era.          



Kantei To No 3: tachi


Mei: Yasuhiro


Length: 2 shaku 6 sun 3 bu

Sori: 9.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with mokume hada; some places show nagarehada; fine ji-nie, frequent chikei, and clear midare utsuri.

Hamon: mainly gunome mixed with ko-gunome, ko-choji, and togariba; around the monouchi, the hamon becomes a suguha style, and has frequent ko-ashi, yo, nioi-deki, kinsuji and sunagashi.

Boshi: around yokote, it is straight, and has an omaru and  a small return.

 Horimono: omote and ura have bohi with marudome.     


Yasuhiro has few swords left today, and there are few swords with a long signature, and dated Shoan and Tokuji, and some are signed “Osafune ju “ where sword was made, and from this information, Yasuhiro is known as an Osafune smith who was active in the late Kamakura era, during part of Nagamitsu’s later period, and during Kagemitsu’s and Sanenaga’s time. This is Yasuhiro’s ubu and signature tachi. Of note are its long size, high koshizori, the tip has a continued sori, and there is a chu-kissaki. This work shows the dynamic shape of a fine tachi. The jihada has a clear midare utsuri, the hamon is nioi-deki, and is primarily a gunome hamon mixed with ko-gunome, and ko-choji. Around the monouchi, the yakiba becomes a low or narrow suguha, and these are characteristics of late Kamakura Osafune swords. Most of the people voted for this name or someone from the same era and school as this smith.This sword does not have many distinctive characteristics to enable one to judge it as Yasuhiro;s work, so an Osafune smith’s name from the same era is treated as an almost correct answer. If this were a Kagemitsu sword, the jihada is more refined, and someplace in hamon, a square type of gunome appears. Some people voted for Chikakage, maybe because of the boshi, which becomes straight above the yokote, but if were his work, the jihada would be more visible, and it would have strong ha-nie. May be because of the omaru boshi and return, some people voted for Unrui, but if this were his work, the shape would be wazori, and the jihada would have a darker jifu utsuri.      



Kantei To No. 4: tachi


Mei: Bishu Osafune Kanemitsu

         Oei 20 nen 8 gatsu hi


Length: 2 shaku 1 sun 7.5 bu

Sori: 7 bu

Design:shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume and nagarehada; the hada is visible and has dense ji-nie; it is  a fine jihada with chikei and midare utsuri.

Hamon: mainly a suguha hamon,  mixed with a ko-gunome type of hamon; there are frequent ashi, yo, and sakaashi; the hamon is mainly nioi and has a tight nioiguchi; there are some small ko-nie, kinsuji and fine sunagshi.      

Boshi: straight, with  a sharp tip, komaru, and return.

Horimono: the omote and ura both have bohi with marudome, and the half bottom of the sword has soe-hi with marudome.


This blade has funbari at the koshimoto, a large sori, a chu-kissaki, and tachi shape. The hamon is primarily a nioiguchi suguha which was made by Yasumitsu. Among Bizen smiths in the Oei era, a return to classic Kamakura styles was popular, and the shapes are just like this sword, and the hamon are influenced the Ichimonji style, and have gorgeous varied choji. But same time, there mid- and late Kamakura Osafune style suguha swords, just like this one, and these swords are difficult to judge. In voting, people voted for the Bizen smiths, Sanenaga, and Kagemitsu, and different era Osafune smiths Tadamitsu, and Kiyomitsu  who were good at using a suguha style, the Unrui smiths, and in particular, many people voted for next prefecture’s Aoe smiths.  This hamon is a suguha style mixed with saka-ashi, there is a tight nioiguchi, and a sharp boshi, and these characteristics are strong features of the Aoe style, and sometimes Yasumitsu made this kind sword which was similar to Aoe style swords. However, the Aoe jihada is mixed more with mokume hada, and has dan-utsuri. The active period for Aoe was the Nanbokucho era, and they have a different character from this Oei era tachi. This has a thick kasane for the mihaba, and a little sori at the tip, the jhada is mixed with a fine chikei style hada, and the horimono on the omote and ura have marudome at the koshimoto, and these are characteristic features for  Oei-Bizen. This is a different style from other Sanyodo smiths, who made suguha style swords, and some people understood these characteristics, and in deciding on an individual name, voted for Yasutsugu, and this is very good. This tachi has been passed down in the Naito family.        




Kantei To No. 5: wakizashi


Mei: Tsuda Echizen no kami Sukehiro

        Enpo 6 nen 8 gatsu hi


Length: 1 shaku 3 sun 3 bu

Sori: 3 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame mixed with mokume; ther are thick dense ji-nie, frequent fine chikei, and the jihada is bright and clear. 

Hamon: chu-suguha, with a very shallow notare, a thick nioiguchi, thick konie, kinsuji, fine sunagashi, and a bright and clear nioiguchi.

Boshi: wide yakiba, straight, with a komaru return, and there are fine hakikake.

Horimono: the omote has a shin no kurikara, the ura has bonji, rendai, and gomabashi.



In Sukehiro’s swords, from the Banji era to the early half of the Kanbun era, the width at the moto and saki are different, there is a shallow sori, a short chu-kissaki, and these have a typical Kanbun shinto shape. However, after the latter half of the Kanbun era, around the Enpo and Tenna eras, many of Sukehiro’s swords have shapes just like this sword: the widths at the moto and saki are not much different, there is a larger sori, and a longer chu-kissaki. From the good proportions here, and heavy kurikara horimono, many people voted for Hizen To smiths. As people know, Hizen was the center for toshin-horimono, and the founder was Munenaga. Hizen To and Osaka-shinto both have a tight ko-itame hada, and are suguha, and these characteristics are similar. But small details are different between these two schools, and in particular, you should pay attention to the boshi and the width of the nioiguchi. Both boshi are straight and have komaru returns, but Sukehiro and the Osaka Shinto smiths have boshi which are wide, and the nioiguchi is wider deeper. The Hizen smiths’ nioiguchi are more shallow and appear like a belt. This sword has a high ihorimune,and these are characteristic features for Osaka Shinto work. Also, among the people who voted for  Osaka Shinto work, possibly because of the kinsuji, sunagashi, and hataraki, many people voted for Shinkai. This nioiguchi shows tight thick fine nie, and the area from the hamon to the ji has fine hataraki which is described as being “just like a tear on a sheet of paper”.  Characteristic Sukehiro suguha work has five shallow notare, and this sword has one. From under the yokote line, the yakiba becomes wider, and the yakiba does not follow the fukura line, and is more more straight, and this feature is also one of  Sukehiro’s characteristics. Among the Osaka Shinto smiths, some people voted for Ikkanshi Tadatsuna, but the kurikara horimono is different from Tadatsuna’s, which has thick eyelashes, and this horimono may not have been made by Sukehiro himself, but more likely  by a specialist like Nagasaka Yuhoken.      







Shijo Kantei No 639 (from the April issue)


      Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To Number 639 in the April Issue.


     The answer is a sword by the Nidai Awataguchi Omi-no-kami Tadatsuna (Ikkanshi Tadatsuna, dated Genroku 14).


This sword has a wide mihaba and a long chu-kissaki. However, Tadatsuna’s swords usually have a slightly narrower mihaba and a smaller kissaki as I mentioned. Considering these facts and the fact that the width at the moto and saki are not much different, there is  a large sori, a thick kasane, a long chu-kissaki, we can judge this as being work from around the Teikyo and Genroku era. The nidai Tadatsune’s jihada are a tight ko-itame, and have thick dense ji-nie and fine chikei, which is a typical Osaka Shinto refined jihada. This is often seen mixed with frequent chikei. Tadatsuna has four main styles of hamon: toran midare, a gunome style midareba, suguha, and ashinaga choji (choji with long ashi) which is just like this sword, and among them, the ashinga choji (choji with long ashi) and toranba midare works are are known as his masterpieces.

The midareba hamon swords have three styles: a straight yakidashi, and above it,  clusters of choji, and the top of the hamon is the same height for all of the choji groups; these are also ashinaga  choji (choji with long ashi). The second style has groups of waves, or a toran-like pattern where the waves are shaped like right angle triangles. These are toranba-midare hamon, with long ashi. The third style has a large continuous round top gunome (sometimes mixed with notare) midareba hamon. In these hamon, around the middle of the midareaba there are long kinsuji and sunagshi. In the case of ashinaga choji and toranba midare hamon, these kinsuji and sunagashi look like they are cutting through the middle of the choji-ashi. In the suguha hamon, long kinsuji appear around the top of the hamon. This kinsuji are suppose to result from the hon-san mai tsukurikomi construction, and if you look carefully at them, they often continued from the moto to the saki. In this case, one dark clear kinsuji is continuous from the moto to saki. Another kinsuji , appears to be part of the hamon and looks like a long kinsuji, but some parts of it appear tobe in the ji and changes to straight chikei, or forms a white kitae-me, or becomes only trace and continues from the moto to the saki. Tadatsuna’s boshi, either suguha and midareba, are mainly straight and have a komaru return. Tadatsuna is known as a master smith for making horimono, and he carved kurikara, umekurikara, tamaoiryu, amaryu, baichiku, sankoken, koi no takinobori, bonji, gomabashi, rendai, and other types of horimono. When he made bo-hi, like on this sword, he often finishied the hi slightly above the machi with a marudome. In his early work he signed many swords as “Awataguchi Omi-no-kami Tadatsuna”, and after about Genroku 2, he was named “Ikkanshi”, and he signed many swords ”Awataguchi Ikkanshi Tadatsuna” or “ Ikkanshi Tadatsuna”, and these signatures were signed on the omote, towards the mune edge of the nakago, and centered on the shinogi. They were usually carved with  a thick tagane or chisel, using large characters, and a long mei, and many of the swords have a date on the ura side. Many people voted for Tadatsuna, and besides his name, some people voted for the Nidai Kawachi-no-kami Kunisuke, and Suishinshi Masahide. Many Kawachi-no-kami swords have a  Kanbun shinto shape, the hamon have a straight yakidashi, and above the yakidashi, there is a square type of hamon mixed with continuous choji, called a fist shaped choji, and thesse run up and down the midare hamon. The entire hamon is nioiguchi, and the nakago tip is narrow, and the yasurime are osujichigai. Masahide’s shapes are Kanbun shinto style, with slightly long chu-kissaki, poor hiraniku which is a characteristic early Shinshinto shape, and his Bizen Den swords have  jihada with a tight ko-itame, and become a become muji-hada style. His hamon have slightly low yakiba, narrow bunches of choji,  and the top of the gunome choji tips are sharper, and the entire hamon has saka-ashi. The nioiguchi and the hamon at the koshimoto is soft, and the yasurime are osujichigai and have a kesho finish.   


 Explanation and provided by Hinohara Dai.