January, 2011



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Juyo Bunkazai

Type: Katana

Mei: Yoshifusa (gakumei)

Owner: Togo shrine


Length: slightly over 2 shaku (60.7 cm)

Sori: 4 bu 6 rin  (1.4 cm)

Motohaba: slightly less than 8 bu (2.42 cm) 

Sakihaba: 6 bu 2 rin (1.88 cm)

Motokasane: 1 bu 4 rin (0.44 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu (0.32 cm)

Nakago length: 8 bu 8 rin  (2.68 cm)  

Nakago sori: 3 rin (0.1 cm) 



This katana is a shinogi zukuri sword with an ihorimune, and a slightly narrow mihaba. It is osuriage, has a slightly large sori, and a long chu-kissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume; the hada is somewhat visible, and in places there is nagarehada and ohada. There is ji-nie, and a pale midare utsuri. The hamon is choji mixed with groups of large choji, round top gunome, togari style gunome, and there are frequent ashi. There is variations in the height of the hamon, and some areas have a dense deep nioiguchi. There is a strong nioiguchi with ko-nie, and the entire hamon appears soft. The boshi has a wide yakiba with a midare hamon, and there is a little hakikake and a shallow return. The nakago is osuriage, the tip is a shallow haagari kurijiri, and the yasurime are osuji-chigai (on the new parts) and kattesagari (on the original old parts). There is one mekugiana, and on the omote side near the bottom of the nakago there is a two kanji gakumei (a framed mei moved to this location when the nakago was shortened) inscribed with a small thick tagane (chisel). In the mid-Kamakura era, in Bizen prefecture, the Fukuoka Ichimonji school smiths competed with each other in making their elaborate and gorgeous large midare hamon with choji. Among these smiths,Yoshifusa made especially large sized midare hamon along with Sukezane, and Norifusa, and Yoshifusa was representative of the schoolfs work. He has a reasonable number of signed blades in existence today, and he has many kinds of  signatures, made with a thick tagane or fine tagane, and made with large size kanji or small size kanji. His hamon are also varied, and are an active choji hamon or a gentle, almost suguha style hamon mixed with ko-choji, and ko-gunome. Because of these different kinds of mei and styles seen in his work, some people think that the various styles depended on which era the swords were made, or that maybe there were several smiths with this name. However, today, it is difficult to judge a generation from his signatures. This is an osuriage tachi, and has a signature placed in a frame in the nakago. This is a katana style, and the hamon has up and down variations, but the choji and juka-choji hamon is not distinctive. The signature was made with a slightly thick tagane, and the kanji characters are a middle or average size. This sword was worn by admiral Togo Heihachiro all of the time on the warship Mikasafs bridge. Togo is remembered for a famous speech made just before a Japan-Russia sea battle (during the Russo-Japan war). This speech included the phrase gour countryfs victory or defeat depends on this battle, so everyone must work very hardh. A book  the gMikasa bridge picture and the long kenh tells details about this and was written by Iida Hisatsune, the vice admiral. According to this book, the warship Mikasafs bridge is the highest bridge on the ship and was called the compass bridge. Usually no one was permitted to wear a ken on the bridge, but admiral Togo carried a long ken, and in his right hand he had a set of binoculars. The sword he carried was this Yoshifusa, and this was a gift from the emperorfs family, and mounted as a navy style long ken. Prince Togu (later the Taisho emperor) presented this sword to Togo in Meiji 37 during a strategy meeting at Ryojun Harbor (on the China sea), on the bridge of the Mikasa. Ever since that meeting Togo always carried this sword when he was standing on the bridge.     


(Lecture and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori)




Meitan Kanshou

Famous Tsuba


Kumiko-zu tsuba (picture showing the creation of aromas using wood from aromatic trees. The aromas are supposed to indicate literary themes, nature, and the seasons) 

Mei : Umetada Myoju


In the history of the Japanese sword world, Umetada Myoju was an unusually talented person. He displayed an original artistic sense, and also possessed the skills which enabled him to express his artistic sense in all kinds of media. There are many people in this world, who have had a good sense, or a great skill or talent, but it is rare to see someone who has all skills and talent to express his work in different media. Myojufs swords, his sword horimono (carving), and his sword mountings (koshirae), are all first class. The Umetada family was famous since the Ashikaga shogun era, and worked for Hideyoshi and the Tokugawa. They are similar to the Goto family who were called gokebori (i.e. they worked for the Shogunate). Both families had rules for their work: the Goto family made kanagu or components for sword mountings, and later made gold oban coins for circulating coins or money. The Umetada family made habaki, seppa, and nakago zogan, and both families were bakufu okakae smiths (i.e. they worked for the bakufu or daimyo). These two families had different specialties, and their work was distinct from each other. Myoju never made menuki, kozuka, or kogai, and never used a shakudo nanako surface. In other words, in making koshirae or sword mountings, Myoju never used the Goto familyfs style of work. Myoju worked with all kinds of colored gold, and made original jigane (surfaces) and devised zogan (inlay) techniques, and his designs utilized Rinpa school compositions. Myoju established an original style of his own. However, this tsuba is somewhat different from his usual work. On the iron surface, there is a simple sukashi pattern, and this looks like an old tsuba. The way he used the iron is sophisticated, and the mimi (rim) is a Myoju original smooth uchikaeshi style (the rim is forged over the sides of the tsuba). The design is based on activities before the Edo period involving the appreciation and identification of aromas (using aromaric woods) and seems to be based on ten different kinds of aromatic woods, and this shows  Myojufs active period and his background. The Japanese people have been interested in aromas since very early times, and in the Heian period, a part of the culture of the nobility was takimono (burning aromatic woods). In the Ashikaga era, there was an art called ko-do (aroma manners), and they listened to the aromas (instead of the word gsmellh, they used the word glistenh) and enjoyed experiencing different kinds of aromas. The practice of ko-do peaked in the Edo period, and the famous Genji-kozu (52 different combinations of aromas designed using 5 aromatic woods based on Tale of Genji) was established. The relief designs cut on this tsuba show some notations associated with ko-do. Umetada Myoju was born in Eiroku 1, and died in Kanei 8, at the age of 74 years. In Kyoto, he carried on the Momoyama culture, and at this time, all craft masters had the same type of cultural sophistication and manners. In Kanei 8, Goto Tokujo passed way, and his work also had the same kind of special cultural feelings. If we could revisit the past, I would like to be able to invite these two masters together, and have a tea ceremony with aromas and ask them tell us takimono stories (Lecture by Kubo Yasuko).




Shijo Kantei To No.648


*The answer for Shijo Kantei No.647 (in the December, 2010 issue) is a tanto by Ko-Mihara Masakiyo.


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 648 issue Shijo Kantei To is February 5, 2011.

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 February 5, 201. 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.




Length: 9 sun 3.5 bu (28.33 cm)

Sori: 7 rin (0.21 cm)

Motohaba: 7 bu 9 rin (2.4 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 1 rin (0.65 cm)

Nakago lengh: 3 sun 3 bu (10.0 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight


This tanto is hirazukuri with a mitsumune. It has a normal or usual mihaba, is long sunnobi size for the mihaba, and the upper part has sakizori. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and the entire jihada is tight, and has fine ji-nie and chikei. The hamon and boshi are as seen as in the picture. The habuchi has hotsure, yubashiri, ashi, yo, a bright nioiguchi, frequent nie, kinsuji and sunagashi. The horimono on the omote is bonji with a suken, and on the ura is a koshi-hi carved through the nakago. The nakago is ubu, with a pronounced kurijiri. The yasurime are a shallow katte sagari, there are two mekugiana, and on the omote under the mekugianafs center there is a two kanji signature. The ura has a date.



Shijo Kantei To No.646 (in the November issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To

Number 646 (in the November issue).


The answer is a tanto by Rai Kunimitsu


This tanto has a slightly wide mihaba, is sunnobi, has a thick kasane, and is almost musori but the tip is slightly uchizori. From this shape, we can judge this as work from the end of the Kamakura to the early Nambukucho period. Rai Kunimitsu tanto jihada have a tight ko-itame hada, thick dense ji-nie, fine chikei, a bright and clear jihada like the Kyoto style refined jihada. Often, a Rai school characteristic is clear bo-utsuri and Rai-hada, and the hints suggest this. Rai Kunimitsu tanto have two kinds of hamon: one is the Rai schoolfs favorite sophisticated suguha, and the other is a midare hamon with strong nie, just like this tanto. This style has a stronger spirit than other one, and a pronounced Soshuden style. This kind of tanto has a notare type hamon mixed with gunone as seen here (sometimes the gunome hamon are continuous from the moto to saki), frequent ko-nie, bright and a clear jihada. There are kinsuji and sunagashi, and the boshi is midarekomi with a komaru, and the midarekomi tip is small and sharp. Rai Kunimitsufs tanto nakago are kurijiri, the yasurime are shallow katte-sagari or kiri, and the mei is on the omote under the mekugiana center with Rai Kunimitsu written in three kanji characters. He made many of these tanto, but very few are dated. Among the Rai school works, Kuniyuki and the niji (two kanji) Kunitoshi each have only one tanto (or hira-zukuri wakizashi) in existence today, so there is not enough datafor comparisons, but Kuniyuki has a Tokubetsu Juyo Token classification for the Shimazu familyfs hirazukuri wakizashi. The length is a little over 1 shaku, it has a wide mihaba, a sunnobi size, very little sori, and the jihada is a refined tight itame mixed with jifu. The hamon is ko-notare mixed with gunome, with a thick nioiguchi, thick nie, kinsuji and sunagashi. This sword apparently influenced the midare hamon of the later smiths Rai Kunimitsu and Rai Kunitsugu. The niji Kunitoshi tanto is an example and is the  famous Meibutsu Aizen Kunitoshi. Itfs length is slightly over 9 sun 5 bu, it has a wide mihaba, a sunnobi size, sori, and the jihada is a tight ko-itame, there is nie utsuri, and the hamon is notare mixed with gunome and togariba with thick nioi and nie (note that there are conflicting opinions whether the two kanji Kunitoshi and Rai Kunitoshi are the same person or different persons). Rai Kunitoshi tanto are mostly suguha or a suguha style, but there is Juyo Bijutsuhin classification tanto dated in the Bunpo era. This has a notare type hamon mixed with gunone, and the ha-nie is stronger than usual for his swords. Since Rai Kunimitsu was a senior or principle Rai school smith, the work of the schoolsfs smiths had a midareba hamon or a partly midareba hamon. Kunimitsu and Kunitsugu made midareba hamon, and Kumimitsu frequently used this hamon, and it is possible think that he made a lot of suguha tanto, but also established this midareba style, and Kunitsugu continued with this style. Most of the people voted for Rai Kunimitsu, and some people voted for Rai Kunitsugu. Kunitsugufs work has a wide mihaba, a sunnobi shape, a midare hamon with strong nie, and it is difficult to distinguish his work from Rai Kunimitsufs, so his name is treated as a correct answer. Many Rai Kunitsugu tanto and wakizashi are larger than this tanto and have a wide mihaba; the ji and ha both show strong nie; there are prominent kinsuji and sunagashi, and have signs of a strong Soshuden style. As almost correct answers, a few people voted for Rai Kunitoshi and Kuniyuki. Rai Kunitoshi has a midareba tanto dated in the Bunpo era, but this is 7 sun 4 bu 6 rin, so it has a smaller size and uchizori shape, and the ha-nie is somewhat gentle. Also,  there are few of this kind of stylefrom Rai Kunitoshi, and most of his tanto are suguha or a suguha style. Kuniyuki has pioneering type of a midareba hirazukuri wakizashi, but there is  only one tanto or wakizashi left today, and we have never seen his three kanji signature.


(Explanation by Hinohara Dai )