September, 2010




Meito Kanshou

Examination of Important Swords


Classification: Juyo Bijutsu Hin

Type: Tachi

Mei: Tomonari saku

Owner: NBTHK


Length: 3 shaku 1 sun 7.5 bu (96.3 cm)

Sori : 1 sun  4 rin (3.15 cm)

Motohaba: 1 sun 8 rin (3.25 cm) 

Sakihaba: 6 bu 4 rin (1.95 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 2 rin (0. 65 cm) 

Sakikasane: 1 bu 2 rin (0.35 cm)

Kissaki lenth: 1 sun 6 rin (3.2 cm)

Nakago length: 6 sun 7 bu (20.3 cm)  

Nakago sori: 5 rin (0.15 cm)



This is a shinogi zukuri sword with an ihorimune, a slightly wide  mihaba, strong hiraniku, a prounced koshizori,  and funbari. The  widths at the moto and saki are different. The tip is slightly uchizori; there is a short chu-kissaki, and a long dynamic tachi shape. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and some parts of the hada are visible, but the entire hada is tight, has dense ji-nie, and occassional fine chikei. There is a jifu type pale utsuri, and the jihada is dark. The hamon is primarily komidare and mixed with some kogunome and kochoji. There are frequent ashi, yo; dense thick ha-nie inside of the hamon towards the hasaki; frequent kinsuji, sunagashi, and a worn down nioiguchi. The boshi is kakedashi and is not clear. The nakago is ubu, with a sakiha-agari kurigiri. The yasurime are kattesagari; there is one mekugi-ana, and on the omote, towards the mune edge, there is a large two kanji signature inscribed with a large tagane (chisel). Tomonari is known as one of the two famous Ko-bizen smiths along with Masatsune and the work of the two of them is compared. Tomonari has more elegant shapes, but Masatsune has a tighter and more refined jigane. Tomonarifs jigane is darker, while Masatsunefs yakiba are more controlled and have elegant hamon. Tomonari produces a natural looking hamon, and his tachi shapes are classic looking.  In examing the signatures, Masatsunefs signatures have only two kanji, but most of  Tomonarifs signatures are Bizen kuni Tomonari (with 5 kanji), and other signatures have the five kanji plus a gtsukurih (made) kanji. Some of the mei are signed Tomonari, and some are Tomonari saku. It is difficult to judge a generation by the signature and styles, but often swords with long signatures have classic look. Concerning dates, people used to say Tomonari worked around the Eien (987-9) era, but this must still be investigated. There are two signed swords dated during Katei (1235-38) era, and from this fact, it appears definite that there were several smiths who used the Tomonari name in the Heian to Kamakura eras. Also, Kitain (a temple in Saitama prefecture), and Takateru Jinja (a shrine in Aomori prefecture ) have tachi signed gTomonari sakuh (both tachi are classified as Juyo Bunkazai),  and the hamon are suguha mixed with kataochi gunome, which is similar to Kagemitsufs style. These swords are listed in the  gKokon mei zukushi g as being made around  the Enkyo (1308-11) era. From these fact, some people believe that  it is possible that there was a smith using the Tomonari name in late Kamakura times. Among Tomorarifs signed tachi, this is the longest and has a very powerful feeling. It is more than 3 shaku long, and the jihada is a consistent itame hada from the moto to saki. Masamune, who established the  Soshu Den school, is supposed to have admired this sword, and particularly its very natural ko-midare hamon and the nioiguchi. The entire hamon, including the hasaki, has fine thick ha-nie, also a controlled but varying thickness of the kinsuji, niesuji, and frequent sunagashi. The hamon  is similar to those of Ko-hoki swords, which have a wild feeling or presence and an interesting hamon. Among Tomonarifs swords, this was made not later than the Heian era, and has a dynamic shape and at the same time, a very elegant look, and we could say that this is one of his best works.           


(Explanation and oshigata by Ishii Akira)




Tokubetsu Juyo Tosogu

  Kikuhana kata ( chrysanthemum shape) Shippo ( cloisenne) tsuba 


Mumei : Hikozo                                                                                                                  


This tsuba has a smooth chrysanthemum shape. It is made from yamagane with well balanced urushi, an elegant sayamon (design), and the omote and ura each have five kuyo-mon . This is a famous Hikozo shippo tsuba. Hirata Hikozo moved to Higo with his lord Hosokawa Tadaoki (Sansai) in Kanei 9, and established Higo kinko school. Among Higofs four major schools, three of them are associated with Hikozo, and later each school established itfs own unique or innovative style. Hkozofs shippo works are rare, and there are only two tsuba, including this one. Hikozofs shippo work was recognized in late Showa in the 1920fs, and an excellent book gHigo kinko Taikanh which published in Showa 39 (1964) documented his work. This information came from Yonemitsu Tahei es book gKamiyoshi bunshoh where he listed Hikozo as a silver smith, and shippo tsuba smith. There is thought to be a relationship between Hikozo and Hirata Donin. Donin was the shogunfs okakae smith (working for the shogun or a daimyo), and is known to be founder of modern shippo work according to the gEto kinko meikanh (published in Bunka 7). He was asked by Ieyasu to study shippo techniques from Korea and finished his studies in Shoho 3 (1647) and he was the okakae goldsmith. But at that time, only European and Chinese shippo works were known, so it is not certain that he actually studied Korean techniques. According to the shippo expert Mr. Suzuki Norio, Donin school Hirata shippo techniques are different from Chinese shippo which used intense jewel stone colors, and more likely worked with French shippo styles which used bright brilliant colors. At this time, it is an honor to be able to appreciate this tsuba, and to look at this shippo work; but I feel it is a little different from Donin school shippo work. This is an heirloom tsuba from the Hosokawa family, and has their kuyomon design, and possibly it was Tadaokifs idea, because he was a tea ceremony master.  I am looking at  this tsuba to see if there is a relationship with tea ceremony shippo work. In Hikozofs time, one of  the tea ceremony founders Kobori Enshu used to use many shippo tea ceremony tools. However, the history of shippo has many detials and episodes, and even this tsuba cannot answer any questions of this sort yet. The important thing for modern students of shippo is to study the work and the history, and exchange information with other students inside and outside of Japan.


Explanation by Kubo Kyoko




Shijo Kantei To No.644


*The answer for Shijo Kantei To No.643 (in the August issue) is a tanto by Kanesada (Sue Teigai).

The deadline to submit answers for the No. 644 issue Shijo Kantei To is October 5, 2010.

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



Type: wakizashi

Length: 1 shaku 1 sun 9.5 bu (36.2 cm)

Sori: 2 bu 3 rin (0.7 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 6 rin (2.9 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 3 rin (0.7 cm)

Nakago length: 3 sun  6.5 bu (11.6 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight


This is a hira zukuri wakizashi with an ihorimune, a wide mihaba, and a large sunnobi shape. The upper half has sakizori. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and has nagarehada. The entire hada is visible, and there are  ji-nie, frequent chikei, and pale whitish hada. The hamon and boshi are as seen the picture, and there are tobiyaki, ashi, yo, a tight and strong nioiguchi. Ko-nie and sunagashi are present. Horimono on the omote and ura are kakinagashi futasuji-hi. The nakago is ubu, with a kurijiri and  higaki-yasurime. There are two mekugiana, and on the omote under the mekugi-ana in the center, there is a two kanji signature.  



Shijo Kantei No 642 (July issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

642 (in the July issue).


The answer is a katana by Nakasone Kotetsu.


This sword has a usual mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. There is a very shallow sori, a short chu-kissaki, and from this shape, this could be judged as Kanbun-shinto work, especially as Edo work. The shinogi jifs masame hada stands out, and this is characteristic for Edo work, This is a late Hako-tora era example of Kotetsufs work. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, there is dense ji-nie, frequent chikei, and a bright and clear jihada. Kotestufs characteristic jihada is mixed with teko-tetsu. One type is a tight ko-itame hada mixed with some rough large hada. The other type is mixed with a dark color kawari-tetsu steel, and often these jihada are visible around the habaki-moto. Sometimes the dark colored kawari-tetsu is apparent from the habaki moto to the saki, and some tanto have this appearance. This kind of jihada shows a large pattern. During most of his career, many of Kotetsufs work  show yakidashi at the koshimoto, and during the Hanetora era, he usually has a long yakidashi. Hakotora work era has shorter yakidashi compared to the Hanetora era work. During the Hakotora era one sees a Juzuba style hamon: this is a regular half circle shaped gunome hamon extending continuously from the moto to saki. These regular shaped gunome appear as if they were cut off of the top half of a circle. However, many of his hamon are a shallow notare, mixed with two and three continuous grouped gunome, and it is not necessarily a regular continuous hamon like this one. His hamon have two types: one has a thick nioiguchi with dense nie, and other type has a slightly dense nioiguchi. Both types have frequent ashi, and a bright and clear hamon.

How you see a Japanese swordfs nioiguchi depends on the condition of the polish, lighting conditions, and the intensity of the light during an examination. That means that we cannot always come up with the same description of a hamon, and particularly for juzuba hamon. Kotetsufs hamon have a clear white color, and the Edo Hojoji school hamon have a bright nioiguchi along with a slight reddish color. Many of Kotetsufs Hakotora era boshi, above the yokote have yakikomi and a komaru return, and this is called a Kotetsu boshi. Hakotora era nakago have kurijiri, and the yasurime have a slightly different angle, but basically are kattesagari. Because Kotetsu has very few dated swords, it is difficult judge exact dates. However, around late Kanei 5, his signaturefs enagaf kanji are usually signed on the mekugiana, and in his earlywork, except for very long signatures, he signed on the center of shinogisuji. Most people voted for Kotetsu, and a few people voted for Okimasa which is an almost correct answer. Part of this hamon has two continuous fused gunome, and some people voted for him. However, many of  Okimasafs hamon have up and down alternations in the gunome. Also when compared to Kotetsu, his hanie are uneven, and in his jihada in places, yubashiri and ha-nie come up into the jihada, and are rough. So his characteristics produce  a wilder look in his work than in his teacher Kotetsufs work.


(Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.)