February, 2011



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Juyo Token

Type: Wakizashi

Mei: Kanetsugu

        Kano Gan-nen (starting year or year 1) 8 gatsu hi


Length: 1 shaku 3 bu (31.2 cm)

Sori: very little

Motohaba: slightly over 9 bu 6 rin (2.92 cm) 

Motokasane:1 bu 4 rin (0.44 cm) 

Nakago length: 3 sun 1 bu  (9.4 cm)  

Nakago sori: 7 rin (0.2 cm) 



This is a hirazukuri wakizashi with a mitsumune, wide mihaba, a slightly thick kasane, and the blade appears to have  a slightly massive shape. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume and oitame, and has fine dense ji-nie and chikei. The hamon is gunome mixed with sharp tipped gunome, and has a midare appearance. There are ashi, a tight or dense nioiguchi, frequent ko-nie, and the hamon is bright and clear. The kissaki has a wide yakiba and is midarekomi, and shows an uneven flame appearance. The horimono on the omote and ura are a wide katana hi cut all the way along the nakago length. The nakago is ubu, with a shallow ha-agari kurijiri; the yasurime are higaki; there are three mekugiana, and one is closed. The first mekugiana is a tamerai no ana (punched through twice). On the omote, the second mekugiana is in the large two kanji mei, and part of the kanji strokes are inside of the hi. Similarly, the ura has a date extending across two of the mekugiana. At the end of the Kamakura era around the Genoo period, the Tegai school smith Kanenaga moved from Yamato Kuni Douboku to the Mino Kuni Tagei county of Shidzu, and later changed his name to Kaneuji, and since then the school has prospered. Later his students, Kanetsugu, Kanetomo, Kanetoshi, and Kanenobu moved to the same countyfs Naoe village and worked there, so we call all these smiths the Naoe Shidzu school. The school smiths have very few signed blades compared with Shidzu Saburo Kaneuji. Today, there is no tachi known with this signature, and only wakizashi and tanto are seen with this signature. Kanetsugu has one Juyo Bijutsuhin tanto beside this one, and Kanenobu has two Juyo Token tanto. Generally, no later than the Nanbokucho time, Kaneuji hamon mostly have a large pattern, and sometimes ko-gunome styles are seen. With either style, one does not see a whitish jihada, and there are strong nie on the  ji and ha. Kanetsugu, Kanetomo, and Kanenobufs Naoe Shidzu smithsf hamon have smaller patterns and a somewhat whitish jihada when compared to Kaneujifs work, but Kanetsugufs work shows swords with both styles: a whitish jihada and with no whitish jihada. This wakizashi is a large size with somewhat large pattern gunome, and the jihada is not whitish. The ji and ha are clear, the glamorous boshi is a midare hamon and appears like a like a flame, and blade is full of spirit, and this is the Oshidzu style,and this is valuable information showing us that already in Kanoo times, this kind of shape has appeared. 


( Explanation and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori )



Juyo Tosogu


1) Warabite(new fern leaves)ooka(cherry blossom) sukashi tsuba with kinzogan-mei Matashichi

2)Warabite ooka sukashi tsuba kinzogan-mei Matashichi


These are two similar pattern sukashi tsuba made by Higo Hayashi Matashichi, and both have a rare two kanji Matashichi gold inlay signature. Matashichifs iron ground sukashi tsuba have a very high valuation, and these kind of new bracken leaves and cherry blossom patterns are his favorite design. Another tsuba with almost the same type of design has a Juyo Bijutsuhin classification. The mainstream Higo-kinko work is supposed to have started in early Edo times, under lord Hosokawa Sansai Tadaokifs artistic guidance, and there were four prosperous schools:  Hirata, Nishigaki, Shimizu, and Hayashi. Three of schools were founded by workers who had gold smith backgrounds, but the Hayashi school was founded by a gunsmith from Owari who worked for the Kato family. Matashichi has a gun signed Shigeyoshi early in his career, and it has kuyo-mon with gold inlay. Matashichifs iron tsuba making with his forging and basic inlay techniques is supposed to have been established during his gun making career. One of the charms of  Matashichifs iron tsuba is their very attractive iron color. Usually it is called yokan ( a sweet made from sweet red beans) color. This is a deep dark color, and appears to contain some moisture. This is a distinctive iron color, and these two tsuba show this characteristic. The upper tsubafs technique is very refined, and both tsuba show fine detail of the petals which are curved very well. The flat surface appears to have a little bit of a volume (they are curved and not completely flat), so it is not hard look along the carved sections. Also, if you look carefully, part of carved sections have contours, and these give a delicate appearance to the whole tsuba. The bottom tsuba also has Matashichifs favorite gold inlay, and it shows an elegant theme.

(Explanation by Iida Toshihisa)




Shijo Kantei To No.649


*The answer for Shijo Kantei No.648 (in the January, 2011 issue) is a tanto by Oei Nobukuni. 


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 649 issue Shijo Kantei To is March 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 magazine. We will accept any votes postmarked on or before March 5, 2011. 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:1 shaku 4.5 bu (31.66 cm)

Sori: almost none

Motohaba:1 sun 6 rin (3.2 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 8 rin (0.85 cm)

Nakago lengh: 3 sun 6.5 bu (11.06 cm)

Nakago sori: very little


This is a hirazukuri wakizashi with a mitsumune, awide mihaba, a large sunnobi shape, and almost no sori. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume and nagarehada. The entire jihada is tight but the hada is visible, and has dense ji-nie, frequent chikei, and is clear. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. The habuchi has hotsure, kuichigaiba, ashi, yo, dense nioi, thick nie, is bright and clear, and has frequent kinsuji and sunagashi.  The horimono on the omote is a suken, and on the ura is a koshi-hi with soe-hi carved through the nakagofs length. The nakago is ubu and has a shallow kurijiri. The yasurime are katte sagari; there is one large mekugiana, and on the omote under the mekugiana on the mune edge is a long signature.




Teirei Kansho Kai For January


The swords discussed below were shown in the January meeting at the NBTHK headquarters building. This discussion presents answers and observations 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 January 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 swordsmithfs name. This lecture and the explanations were given by Kurotaki Tetsuya


Kantei To No.1: tachi


Mei: Bungo no kuni So Sadahide saku


Length: slightly less than 2 shaku 5 sun 9 bu

Sori: 8.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame mixed with nagarehada; fine ji-nie and whitish utsuri.

Hamon: the moto has a yakiotoshi, and above it there is a narrow suguha style mixed with ko-midare, ko-gunome, and ko-choji; there is some hotsure mixed with small yubashiri; the entire hamon shows a worn down nioiguchi and has a soft appearance.

Boshi: narrow yakiba, and a small notare komaru.


This is a signed Bungo no kuni Sadehida Juyo Bijutshin tachi which is rare because he has few signed blades (from the a Suzuki Kajo collection). From the end of the Heian era to the early Kamakura era, blade shapes are narrow with a small kissaki; a large sori at the koshimoto; there is funbari; and toward the tip, the sori is dropped.This is a typical shapefrom this period, and we can say it shows a textbook type shape. The jihada clearly shows Sadahidefs character, and is well forged and appears to show some moisture, and this is characteristic of Kyushu tetsu. Also, we can see a yakiotoshi. From the shape and distinctive jihada, we can guess this is early Kamakura period work from the early Kyushu smiths, Sadahide, Yukihira, and from Ko-Naminohira. Sadahide is supposed to have been one of the ex-emperor Gotabafs swordsmiths, or Yukihirafs teacher or student. From this, their styles are similar, but Yukihirafs hamon has tobiyaki when compared with Sadehide, and even Yukihirafs simple blades often have horimono. Both Sadehide and Yukihira  have josaku (excellent) blades among the Kyushu smiths, and this is one of the best of Sadehidefs work.



Kantei To No.2: tachi


Mei: Bishu Osafune Morimitsu

         Oei 12 nen 8 gatsu hi

Length: slightly over 2 shaku 3 sun 7 bu

Sori: 8.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

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

Hamon: open bottom midare hamon which becomes a large pattern active midare; there are ashi, yo, a strong nioiguchi, ko-nie, and kinsuji. 


In the early Muromachi era, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu ruled a peaceful world, and the constant civil war from the Nanbokucho era was over. Yoshimitsu established a stable government after the Meitoku rebellion (fought against the Yamana family) and the Onin rebellion which led to the destruction of Oouchi Yoshihiro. In the Oei era, with the existence of a stable government, the shape of swords changed, and become more like a  reproduction of the Kamakura erafs shapes. Sword shapes changed from former Nanbokucho erafs large shapes to a normal mihaba; and swords showed koshizori; and a distinctive choji hamon was reborn, just like Mitsutada and Nagamitsufs. This is a typical Oei Morimitsu tachi (from the Suzuki Kajo collection). At a first examination, this is a Kamakura era tachi shape and could be judged as an old sword. But if you look at it carefully, it has a little sakizori, a thick kasane, and these characteristics are different from Kamakura era swords. Also the bottoms of midare hamon gunome are wider, and the open bottom hamon is distinctive, and these are characteristics of the Oei Bizen style. Some people voted for Yasumitsu. He is also an Oei Bizen smith, but his hamon are a small sized midare hamon, and his sharp tipped hamon are distinctive. Over all, if one compares the two smithsf hamon, the Morimitsu hamon looks more gentle than Yasumitsufs. Also, some people voted for Sue-Bizen Sukemitsu. If this were Sukemitsufs work, the shape would be different, and the open bottom gunome would be more regular, and his choji type hamon are not distinctive and have frequent nie.



Kantei To No 3: katana


Mei: Nagayuki oite Settsu kuni saku kore

Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 8 bu

Sori: slightly over 5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame with fine jinie, chikei, and midare utsuri.

Hamon: choji mixed with gunome; kawazuko choji; tobiyaki in places; there are ashi, yo, a tight nioiguchi, a strong nioguchi; ko-nie; is bright and clear.

Boshi: omote and ura are both midarekomi, with a sharp tip and return.

Horimono: omote and ura have bo-hi with marudome.


The widths at the moto and saki are different, and there is a shallow sori and a chu-kissaki, and from this characteristic shape, it is possible to judge this katana as work from around the Kanbun era. The jitetsu is a tight beautiful and refined ko-itame, and there is midare utsuri. There is a well made choji hamon, and from these characteristics, the Ishido school will come to mind. Generally, Nagayukifs hamon does not have up and down variations in height, and a distinctive tight nioiguchi. But this hamon does show up and down height variations, and a slightly dense nioiguchi, and this offers several different possibilities for a judgement. But on the inside of the hamon, there are open bottom gunome, and this is a characteristic of Nagayoshi hamon. Also, the midearekomi pattern and sharp tipped boshi is  an important point. From this jihada and hamon, some people vorted for Edo Ishido. If this were Edo Ishido work, the boshi will be more rounded, the inside of the hamon would have round choji; and the narrow bottomed choji would be distinctive. This is a very refined ji and ha, and Nagayuki was very careful in working with the steel used for his swords, and this katana shows his highly skilled work.



Kantei To No. 4: wakizashi


Mei: Kato Chounsai Tsunatoshi

        Tenpo 12 nen 2 gatsu hi

Length: 1 shaku 7 sun 1 bu

Sori: slightly over 4 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight itame hada with dense ji-nie.

Hamon: omote has a short yakidashi; mainly gunome, and mixed with round topped gunome and frequent choji style gunome; has frequent ashi and yo; in places there are long ashi, narrow clustered choji, and variations in the height. This is a distinctive hamon, and the nioiguchi is tight and bright.

Boshi: omote and ura both are straight, and almost yakizume with a very small return.


At this time, letfs start to examine the hamon first and move to the shape. This hamon is repeating in  a 3-4 sun interval, with narrow clustered choji, and ashi though to the hasaki, from these characteristics, you can imagine Shinshinto smiths such as Munetsugu and Chounsai Tsunatoshi. Of course the jihada is a Shinshinto era muji type hada. Think about these smiths and look at the shape. Usually, in Munetsugufs shape, the width at the moto and saki are not different, there is no sori, and a thick kasane. Most of his blades show a  strong robust shape. One does not see this kind of blade, where the width at the moto and saki are different, so here there is funbari, a large sori, a thick kasane, and a

tachi style. Compared with Munetsugu, Chounsai Tsunatoshi blades have this kind of tachi style shape, and the hamon has a short yakidashi. Of course, some times Naotane, and Hosokawa Masayoshi have tachi style blades. But they never have this kind of hamon. If  it were Naotane, it would have utsuri and a distinctive square gunome hamon. If it were Masayoshifs work, the choji ashi will usually be slanted to make a shape like fan.  This is a  typical example of a Chounsai Tsunatoshi blade.



Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: Tsuda Omino kami Sukenao

         Genroku 2 sai 2 gatsu hi

         Motte Jitetsu oroshi saku kore       

Length: 2 shaku 5.5 bu

Sori: 5.5 bu

Design: shinogizukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, thick dense jinie, and frequent fine chikei.

Hamon: moto has long yakidashi, above it there are ogunome mixed with ko-notare, and it becomes a toranba style midare; there are ashi, dense nioi, thick nie, fine sunagashi, and a clear nioiguchi.

Boshi: wide straight yakiba with a ko-maru and return.

Horimono: omote and ura both have bohi extending below the habaki moto.


During the Jokyo to Genroku eras, the curvature of the sword changed. In the Kanbun era, the swordfs width at the moto and saki were different, and there was not much sori. This changes at the Jokyo and Genroku eras. The swords have a large sori, the width at the moto and saki were not much different, and there was a long chu-kissaki. After thinking about the era, please look at the ji and ha. This is refined forging, and the entire hamon is a gentle toranba style, with thick nioi, thick ji-nie, a high yakiba with valleys, and alternations in the  hamon. These features show Sukenaofs characteristics. Also, this looks like Sukehirofs blade. However, this has fine sunagashi, and a sori, from these characteristics, one should vote for Sukenao instead of Sukehiro. I would like to explain about part of the signature  gjitetsu oroshih. The goroshih kanji  means that justice blows down from the top of a mountain like a wind. Maybe Sukenao would like to tell us that he performed gjigane oroshih by himself. Jigane oroshi means that a swordsmith adjusts the steel which can be a mixture of steels containing a range of carbon contents, and the final steel will have a carbon content which is optimal for sword making. Adjusting the carbon content to an optimal level will make the iron easier to work and will produce  a better final steel. Sometimes, in forging hodo, smiths stack high carbon steel (today we call this gzukuh from the tatara) like an arch, cover everything with charcoal, and then use a fuigo (bellows) to force air through the arch under the steel (like a wind from the top of a mountain). The resulting high temperatures in the steel lead to a decreases the carbon content of the steel. This process is called gzuku oroshih (the photo is from Kanbayashifs forge). It can be used to adjust the carbon content of the steel. This jitetsu oroshi technique or a similar technique is used today for some applications. For sword making, Sukenao tried a second processing to get better steel. His work on the jitetsu is described by gjitetsu oroshih. He likely had great respect for his teacher Sukehiro, but at the same time he had a wish to advance beyond him.


(Explanation by Kurotaki Tetsuya )




Shijo Kantei to No 647 (in the December, 2010 issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To Number

647 ( in the December issue). The answer is a tanto by Ko-Mihara Masakiyo ( dated Oan 1)


This tanto has a wide mihaba, a sunnobi size, a thick kasane, and a shallow sori, and from  this shape, we can judge this as a peak Nanbokucho era blade. The Ko-Mihara jihada is itame mixed with mokume and nagarehada, and the entire hada is visible. There are ji-nie, chikei, and a whitish utsuri. Also, often just like this tanto, there is a mixed distinctive mokume hada. Ko-Mihara is a branch of the Yamato Den school, and many of their hamon are a suguha style mixed with hotsure, kuichigaiba, nijuba, have a tight nioiguchi, frequent ha-nie, kinsuji, and sunagashi, which are characteristic features of Yamato Den work. Beside this one, there are blades just like this tanto with a distinctive tight nioiguchi and ko-nie, just like those seen in the neighboring prefecturefs Bichu Aoe schoolfs suguha hamon. These have a habuchi mixed with fine hotsure and kuichigaiba, and are seen sometimes. This Ko-Mihara tanto is in the Bichu Aoe style mixed with a Yamato feeling, and the historic book g Shinkan Hiden Shoh mentioned an  g interesting blade similar to Bichu tachi,h may have been talking about this kind of sword. This kind of style often has a slightly worn down nioiguchi when compared with Aoe blades, and boshi returns are thicker and longer  and close to the center. Ko-Mihara tanto nakago have square tipped  ha-agari kurijiri, the yasurime are kiri, or a shallow katte sagari. The signatures are usually on the omote side, and this tanto is different from the usual ones. Masakiyo has very few blades left today, and this is his usual signature location, or was made for metezashi (to wear a tanto on the right side), and we have to study more about this in the future. Many people voted for Ko-Mihara smiths such as Masakiyo, Masaie, and Masahiro. Ko-Mihara smiths works are similar, and it is difficult to find characteristics from this tanto to judge this as Masakiyo work, so all Ko-Mihara smiths are treated as a correct answer. A few people voted for Kaneyasu from the Nanbokucho era Hokke Ichijo school. Their styles are very similar to Ko-Mihara, and their nakago are square tipped kurijiri, theri yasurime are katte sagari, and from these same characteristics, their answer was treated as a correct answer. Beside the correct answer, many voted for Enju. Enju has few tanto and wakizashi, a wide mihaba, sunnobi sizes, and sori, but many works have a usual or slightly wide mihaba, and they are mainly uchizori or have an almost muzori shape. Also this school is Yamashiro Den, and the hamon are same suguha with ko-nie, but the nioiguchi is not as tight as this, and the hotsure at the habuchi and the kuichigaiba are not as distinctive as this. Also, many of the boshi have a large round tip and a short return. 


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.