March, 2011



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Tokubetsu Juyo Token

Type: Katana

Mei: Mumei: attributed to Norishige

Koshirae: Kurorafushoku ( black wax color)  uchigatana koshirae

                      Kanbun 4 nen Honnami Koon / daikinshi 30mai origami


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 1 bu (70.1 cm)

Sori: slightly less 8 bu (2.4 cm)

Motohaba: slightly over 9 bu 2 rin (2.79 cm) 

Sakihaba: 6 bu 6 rin (2 cm)

Motokasane: slightly over 2 bu (0.61 cm) 

Sakikasane: slightly less 1 bu 4 rin (0.43 cm)

Nakago length: slightly over 1 sun 1 bu  (3.47 cm)  

Nakago sori: very little 




This is a shinogi zukuri katana with an ihorimune, and is osuriage. It has a large sori, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. There is a slightly high shinogi, a large hiraniku which shows volume, and a long chu-kissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume and oitame. There are fine dense ji-nie, frequent chikei, and the hada is bright and clear. The hamon has gunome mixed with sharp tipped gunome, and shows a midare pattern. There are ashi, a tight nioiguchi, frequent ko-nie, and it is bright and clear. The kissaki has a wide yakiba and is a midarekomi which appears crumbled, and has a flamelike appearance at the tip. The nakago is osuriage, and is sakikiri. The yasurime are a shallow kattesagari, there are two mekugi-ana, and it is mumei. At the end of the Kamakura era, Norishige is supposed to have lived in the province of Etchu, Fufu-gun Fukuyama (or Gofuku), and his family name was Saheki. He has a fair number of  blades in existence today with signatures; most of them are tanto, and there are very few tachi, and two blades with dates of Showa 3 (1314) and Gano 1 (1319) are known. The Okinsho Kokon Meizukushi (a historic book) includes a list called kokin-kajimei hayamidashi ( old and new sword smith names),  which shows Norimune as eeSagami-no-kuni junin Norimuneh. In Edo times, another book the g Kokin mei zukushih as well as other sword books list him as one of  the Masamune jutetsu. However, his tanto are smaller and have uchizori, and his tachi do not have a wide mihaba or okissaki. From these characteristics, he is supposed to have been active during the same era as Masamune or a little earlier. From this dating, Norishige is supposed to have belonged to the Soshu Kamakura Shintogo Kunimitsu school. According to the Kiami book , his style shows gwell managed forging, and his jihada are not simpleh. His usual forging work shows itame and the hada is  visible. He shows a swirling like hada with strong ji-nie and frequent chikei, and his dixstinctive hada is called matsukawa-hada. The boundary and the inside of the hamon has all kinds of hataraki, and a variety of nie hataraki. He has another style with a tighter itame hada, which shows a gentler or quieter appearing jihada and hamon, and the hamon are mainly ko-notare. This was the first Tokubetsu Juyo Token classified blade, besides a mumei blade and has an excellent ji and ha, and is as well made as his other Juyo Bunkazai blade which is owned by Nagajima Tama, a Yanagisawa family descendant. According to  aTokugawa book, in Genroku 7,  when the shogun Tsunayoshi visited Okubo Kaga-no-kami Tadamasafs mansion (the lord of Odawara castle), the shogun presented this Norishige katana to Okubofs son Tadamasu.              


( Explanation and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori )



Meitan Kansho

Appreciation of Famous tsuba  


Zo-zu( elephant design) tsuba

Mei: Minayama Ooki (stamp)


The definition of an elephant is a mammal belonging to the chobi zo (long nose elephant) family. There are two kinds of elephants, one is the African elephant, and the other is the India elephant, and they are biggest animals living on land. With their huge body and unusual appearance, elephants appear in many old religious stories. One famous story is about Maya Fujin (Buddhafs mother) who dreamed of a white elephant which came down from heaven and entered her womb, and subsequently she gave birth to Buddha. At Tai and Myanmar (Burma), elephants are known as vehicles for Fukenbosatsu (a womanfs god),  and as a symbol of the Kingfs standing. From stories like these, the elephant was recognized as a very interesting animal. In the Buddhist story gSanbo-eh (edited by Minamoto Tamenori) from the mid-Heian period in Eikan 2 (984), references to elephants are mentioned. From early times in Japan, the elephantfs existence is supposed to have been known from Buddhist stories. In Japanese, the first time people are supposed to have actually seen an elephant was in Oei 15 (1408). In mid-Edo times, an elephant appeared in the city of Edo. From his long nose, slow movment, cute eyes, and strange appearance, many people recognized him. Can you imagine how much people were surprised with their view of an elephant at that time. Because of this, many smiths, including Yasuchika, used an elephant theme as a tsuba design. This artist Minayama Oki belonged to the Otsuki Mitsuoki school, a great master who lived in Nijo in Kyoto. There are not too many of his works left today, but from his schoolfs influence, his carving technique is excellent, and there are couple of masterpieces left today. This masterpiece shows a huge elephantfs body fitted into the small tsuba. There is an excellent conposition, and this work shows his unique and excellent carving technique. It also shows a well expressed elephant theme, and the elephant was an unusual and unseen animal beyond peoplefs imagination at that time .            

(Explanation by Iida Toshihisa and photo by Kubo Ryo )




Shijo Kantei To No.650


*The answer for Shijo Kantei No.649 (in the February, 2011 issue) is a  wakizashi by Nanki Shigekuni.


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 650 issue Shijo Kantei To is April 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 April 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.



Type: katana

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 4.5 bu (71.1 cm)

Sori: slightly over 5 bu

Motohaba: 1 sun 6 rin (3.2 cm)

Sakihaba: 7 bu 8 rin (3.35 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 3 rin (0.7 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 5 rin (0.45 cm)

Kissaki lengh: 1 sun 3 bu 5 rin (4.1 cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 1.5 bu (21.66 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight


This is a shinogi zukuri katana. It has an ihorimune, a usual mihaba, and the widths at the  moto and saki are not very different. There is a large wazori and a chu-kissaki. The jihada is a tight ko-itame and the hada is visible. There are ji-nie, chikei, and the steelfs color is dark. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture, and in places there are tobiyaki, ashi, yo, dense nioi, dense nie, sunagashi and kinsuji. The horimono on the omote is a ryo chiri bohi. On the ura there are futasu hi, and both hi are extended along the nakago. The nakago is ubu with a kurijiri; the yasurime are sujichigai; there is one mekugi-ana; and on the omote mune side there is a long signature.




Teirei Kansho Kai For February


The swords discussed below were shown in the Febuary 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 February 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 Kubo Yasuko.



Kantei To No.1: tanto


Mei: Yoshimitsu

Length: 7 sun 2 bu

Sori: uchizori

Design: hira zukuri

Mune: mitsu mune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, mixed with itame and mokume; there are dense thick ji-nie, frequent chikei, and bo-utsuri. 

Hamon: narrow suguha mixed with ko-gunome, and ko-notare; around the monouchi, the hamon is a little narrow; there are frequent ko-nie, hotsure, yubashiri, fine kinsuji and sunagashi.

Boshi: straight with komaru; the tip has fine hakikake and niesuji.


This is a small tanto, a little over 7 sun long. The mihaba and kasane are in good balance; there is an uchizori, and a sophisticated shape, and from these features, we can judge this as a late Kamakura era blade. From the clean suguha hamon, many people voted for three master tanto smiths: Yoshimitsu, Rai Kunitoshi, and Shintogo Kunimitsu. The jitetsu is tight ko-itame, but is different from the characteristic Awataguchi nashiji hada. His tanto is itame mixed with mokume and the hada pattern is large, and he has two types of jihada, a nashiji-hada and another just like this one, and many of his blades have this type of hada. Both of jihada types have dense thick ji-nie, fine chikei, and nie utsuri. We can compare these three smiths with reference to strong nie on the jihada and hamon: Rai Kunitoshi is more gentle compared with Yoshimitsu and Shintogo Kunimitsu, and Shintogo Kunimitsu has more frequent strong nie than Yoshimitsu, and his jihada have frequent chikei, and his hamon have strong kinsuji, which produces a strong impression. This jihada is similar to Shintogo Kunimitsufs, but inside of the hamon the kinsuji are not outstanding, and the suguha, at the koshimoto has continuous small bean-like ko-gunome (he has other blades with continuous ko-gunome hamon). Around the fukura area, the hamon is narrow, and in the boshi the nie are stronger, and can appeared crumbled on the ji and become nie suji, and these are characteristics of a Yoshimitsu blade. From all of these characteristics, one should vote for Yoshimitsu. As something less than a correct answer, some people voted for his father Kuniyoshi (who some feel was his teacher), but Kuniyoshifs jihada is a tight attractive ko-itame, and on many of his swords, the habuchi has niju-ba.   



Kantei To No.2: tanto


Mei: Rai Kunitoshi

Length: 9 bu 1 rin

Sori: none

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: ko-itame mixed with mokume and a nagare type of jihada; has dense ji-nie, fine chikei, and pale utsuri. 

Hamon: chu-suguha style shallow notare hamon, has dense nioi, dense ko-nie, fine sunagashi, and kinsuji.  

Boshi: straight with komaru type; tip has hakikake; long kaeri (return).

Horimono: The omote and ura both have bonji; the lower part of the omote has futasuji-hi, and the ura has a bo-hi through the nakago.


This is a Rai Kunitoshi tanto. Compared with Kantei To No.1, Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, this tanto is over 9 sun, has a large size, the mihaba is wider, there is a thick kasane, and this tanto displays a volume among Rai Kunitoshifs  tanto. Usually, the Awataguchi smithsf  tanto (especially Kuniyoshi and Yoshimitsu) have a wide mihaba and sunnobi shape, and some are long for their mihaba, while are short for their mihaba. So these smiths made a variety of shapes. They also did this with their sori. Because of this, many of the Rai school tanto shapes can depend on exact era in which they were made. This tanto has a large size and is musori, and from these characteristics, many  people voted for the next generation smith Rai Kunimitsu, and some people voted for Enju. From considerations of the kasanebori (than two or more types of horimono on one blade), some people voted for a later era Yamashiro smith, Nobukuni. If this were Nobukunifs work, he is supposed to have beena shodai smith, and his active period was the peak of the Nanbokucho era. So his mihaba are wider, there is a shallow sori, and thin kasane. From the shape, jihada and hamon, people who voted for Rai Kunimitsu and Enju had a reasonable and logical answer. Rai Kunitoshifs characteristic point is his boshi: from the fukura area to the straight hamon and  tight komaru and long return, this is called the gRai Kunitoshi Mt. Fuji shaped boshih. Since historic times people looked at this as his strong pointfor identifying his work. This boshi is more round and has a smoother shape than the usual one, and from this characteristic, you could vote for Kunimitsu and Enju. However, this boshi has a long return, and this is a point in favor of it being work by Rai Kunitoshi. From the signature, this is supposed to have been made around the Shoo to Einin era, and is his early work.



Kantei To No 3: tachi


Mei: Uda Kunifusa

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 1.5 bu

Sori: 7.5  bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume; has frequent ji-nie, chikei, and a dark jihada; a jifu type jihada is present in places, and there is a whitish utsuri.

Hamon: suguha style ko-midare mixed with continuous ko-gunome; there are ko-ashi, a nioiguchi type ko-nie, a worn down nioiguchi, and on the omote, the lower part has dense nie, fine sunagashi, and kinsuji; on the omote under the yokote there is a tobiyaki type yubashiri.

Boshi: omote is straight, the ura is notare komi, and the tip has a small return.


This sword has a slightly narrow shape, a high center for the sori, a small kissaki, and from these characteristics, many people voted for early Kamakura blades, such as Ko-Hoki and Ko-Aoe. The jihada and hamon do have an old look, and it is understandable to reach this kind of answer, but if you look carefully, the sori center location is not at the koshimoto, but more towards the point area. There is a thick kasane for the length and mihaba, and from these characteristicss, we have to reconsider the era in which this was made. The shape is characteristic for the late Nanbokucho to early Muromachi era. In Bizen , you can see this type of shape in the Kosori school, and in Yamashiro, you can see this in the work of Nobukuni. The reason for the high shinogi is that these smiths are originally from Yamato, and from this characteristic, many people voted for Shikkake Norinaga. But we should consider the shape: if this were from the end of the Kamakura era, it would have a wide mihaba and chu-kissaki. The Etchu Uda school is supposed to have moved from Yamato Kuni, Uda County and started ther school, around Bunpo in the Kamakura era. From then to the Nanbokucho era, these are called Ko-uda. There are many smiths who were active during the Muromachi era who used the gKunih kanji, and Kunifusa was one of  the representatives of the school. This shape and mei are similar to other two tachi;, one is at the Hie shrine, and the other is owned by the Kurokawa Kobunka Association. These were made not later than the Nanbokucho era, and this date accordance with the characteristics we see here. The dark jihada is characteristic for Northern area blades, and among the school, Kunifusafs forging is not rough, there is a smooth hada, and his hamon is a suguha style, mixed with ko-midare, continuous ko-gunome, and classic looking. Uda school smiths made various style blades, and Kunifusa is known as a highly skilled smith. The jihada with a whitish utsuri, worn down nioiguchi, loose boshi shape, and the entire shape could lead us to judge this as an Uda school blade instead of an older blade.                    



Kantei To No. 4: katana


Mei: Bushu Shitahara ju Yamamoto Genjiro Terushige

        Suzuki Sakuemon uchi kore

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 8 bu

Sori: slightly over 5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight itame mixed with mokume and an ayasugihada type hada; there are frequent ji-nie, fine chikei, a dark jihada, and some jifu. 

Hamon: ko-notare type hamon mixed with round continued gunome; there are frequent ashi, ko-nie, hotsure, kinsuji, sunagshi, and a worn down nioiguchi.  

Boshi: wide straight yakiba with round tip and hakikake.

Horimono: The omote has a shin no kurikara, and the ura has a proverb carved in kanji: gtenjo tenka yuiga dokusonh (a zen phrase)


The Bushu Shitahara smiths were a prosperous school at the end of the Muromachi era through Shinto times, and Terushige was one of representive smiths of the school. There were 5 generations from around Eiroku to te Kanei era (some sources listed 12 generations until the Bakumatsu period). This nakago has the signature gGenjiroh, and from this name, this is a ni-dai or second generation blade. However, if you look at the kanji style carefully, in several places there are differences from the ni-daifs kanji style, particularly in the gharah kanji. The top of the central line or stroke is high and reaches to the center of the kanji particle ghih, and this is characteristic of the san-daifs style, and this suggests that the san-dai smith cooperated with ni-dai smith.  The nidaifs active period was from Tensho to Bunroku, and the sandai was  active during the Keicho era. This is a koto to shinto transition blade, but many elements are more likely to be a sue-koto style, and we treated this as a koto for this vote. The shape has a wide mihaba, a saki-sori, a long chu-kissaki , and a wide boshi yakiba, and these characteristics show the era, but a more important point is the jihada. The jihada is mixed with a spiral shape mokume (nyorin- moku), an ayasugi type hada, and has a dark color, and these are Shitahara smithsf unique characteristics. The hamon is ko-notare, mixed with round continuous gunome. There is a regular rhythmic midare hamon, and a worn down nioiguchi, and these features are also characteristic for the school. Also, the kurikara horimono are cut deep, which is similar to a Sue-Shoshu blade, but their figures are different: in particular, the dragonfs tail is up, and this is characteristic for the school. They also they liked to carve zen phrases or religious phrases with kanji characters. In voting, many people understood this point, and they voted for Shitahara smiths such as Terushige, Yasushige, and Norishige. All these answers are fine, but this kind of rich kurikara horimono is characteristic for Terushige, and many of his jihada are tight when compared with the schoolfs smiths. Also, Yasushigefs hada is visible and whole blade has a dynamic feeling. Other answers were Heianjo Nagayoshi, and the Shinto era Yasutsugu and Tadatsuna. All these smiths were skillful with horimono, but please consider the character and appearance of the jihada.                    



Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: Izumi no kami Kaneshige

         Kinzogan mei: Meireki 3 cho tori 2 gatsu  10 nichi

         Bushu Edo oite Asakusa mitsudo Yamano Kaemon saidan kore Nagahisa (kao)       

         Owakige futatsuju Yamano Kaemon 51 sai saidan kore Nagahisa (kao)

Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 9.5 bu

Sori: 3  bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: the jihad is a tight ko-itame, there are frequent ji-nie, and fine chikei.

Hamon: very shallow wide suguha notare; there are ashi, dense nioi, dense nie, and inside of the hamon there are sunagshi. The omote has long niesuji, and the nioiguchi is bright and clear.

Boshi: the yakiba is wide and straight with a komaru and long return; the tip has fine hakikake.

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


This blade has a dense wide nioiguchi, a wide suguha hamon, a bright nioiguchi, and the boshi has a komaru and return. These characteristics are those of Osaka shito smiths such as Shinkai and the Nidai Sukehiro. Actually, at the first vote, many people voted for these smiths and because of the long nie suji, some people voted for Satsuma shinto work. Also, looking at the shape, the difference in widths at the moto and saki stand out, and the short kissaki, and strong appearance. Because of this, some people voted for Kambun era Edo smiths, such as Kozukenosuke Kaneshige, and Kotetsu, and at the third vote some people changed the prefecture. The boshi yakiba is wide, and the return finishes closer to the hamon side than usual, and this is a characteristic often seen in a Shinkai blade, but he never had any short kissaki, and even in the Kanei era, his chu-kissai is long. The Nidai Sukehiro boshi have a wider hamon width under the yokote, and are komaru; the returns are clean and many of them finish at the mune. Satsuma shinto smiths, such as Yasuyo have a mid-Edo shape, and the jihada and hamon are not as clear as this one, and are usually mixed with ara-nie. Kozunosuke Kaneshige and Kotetsu answer are almost correct answers, but usually their hamon are notare mixed with continuous gunome, but they they have very rare suguha hamon mixed with gunome and frequent ashi. Kotetsu sometimes made just suguha, but the yakiba is narrower and there is a tight nioiguchi. The shape of this sword is similar to a Kanbun era shape, but has sori and funbari at the koshimoto, and this characteristic transitional shape is a Keicho to Kanbun era blade. This shape is from around the Kanei to Shoho era, and this kind of shape is seen in the work of Shin Kunisada, the Shodai Kunisuke, and Dewa daijo Kunimichi. Besides this one, Izumi no kami Kaneshige has few blades left today, and he has two styles, one is a notare style mixed with continuous gunome with frequent ashi, and other style is a shallow notare suguha, with a wide nioiguchi, dense nie, and a bright and clear hamon, like this katana: you should remember that he had two types of styles.            






Shijo Kantei To No 648 (in the January, 2011 issue)


Answer and Discussion for Shijo Kantei To Number

648 (in the January issue). The answer is a tanto by Oei Nobukuni (dated Oei 3).


This tanto has a usual mihaba, and a long sunnobi shape for the mihaba. The upper part has a sori, and from this shape, you can judge this as early Muromachi work around Oei era.  Oei Nobukunifs jihada is a tight itame, and there are fine ji-nie, and chikei. This is the original Yamashiro style refined jihada, and often his jihada is mixed with nagarehada. The Shodai Nobukunifs active period was around the Enbun and Joji eras, and he had two styles for his hamon. One is a traditional Kyoto Yamashiro-den suguha, and the other is supposed to have been inherited from Soshu Sadamune and is a Soshu-den notare. Oei era Nobukuni work used these two styles, and at the same time there were many distinctive gunome style midare hamon, just like on this tanto. The hamon shows two continuous gunome and becomes a yahazu shaped midare hamon. Between the midare, the hamon is a low or narrow ko-notare hamon, and some of the swords with this hamon have a rhythm or pattern which is continuous from the moto to saki. Another pattern can also appear in just part of hamon, like on this tanto. Oei Nobukuni suguha have a tight nioiguchi and ko-nie, but a midare hamon like this one has more ha-nie than a suguha hamon, and kinsuji and sunagshi hatarakiare prominent. This kind of midare hamon is already seen in Nobukunifs work at the end of the Nanbokucho era dated during the Eitoku and Meitoku eras, and the later Oei Nobukuni inherited his style form this work. He very often made this kind of midare hamon. Many of Oei Nobukunifs boshi with suguha are straight with a komaru;  for midareba, the boshi are midarekomi, and tip is komaru like this tanto. On some, the boshi are midarekomi and tip is sharp. Also, all generations of Nobukuni were skillful with horimono, and Oei Nobukuni made all kinds of horimono. They ranged from simple items like bonji and suken to elaborate kurikara, and often seen with elaborate kasanebori (more than one type of horimono), and he used different kinds of horimono designs. The nakago has a pronounced kurijiri, the yasurime are a shallow katte sagari, and the mei on tanto and hira-wakizashi have the two kanji  for gNobukunih, and often, usually on the omote under the center of the mekugi ana there is a date. In voting, most people voted for Oei Nobukuni. Some people wrote individual names, such as Saemonjo Nobukuni, and Shikibujo Nobukuni. This is a typical characteristic Oei Nobukuni blade in both the ji and ha , but the mei is not either of these two smiths, but another smith who was active at the same time and who inherited the Nobukuni nei. But Oei Nobukuni master smiths made very similar styles to each other, and it is difficult to judge individual names or smiths for this reason. An answer indicating an Oei era Nobukuni tanto will be fine. As an almost correct answer, some people voted for the peak Nanbokucho era Shodai Nobukuni. His works are either Yamashiro-den suguha or Soshu-den notare, and one never sees this kind of midare hamon; also his work usually has an Enbun-Joji shape. Besides these answers, a few people voted for Kashu Sanakage. He has a blade dated Joji 6, and his active period is supposed to be the peak of the Nanbokucho era, and many of his tanto or hira-wakizashi are over 9 sun long and sunnobi, with a wide nihaba, slightly thin kasane, and shallow sori. His jihada show large itame and mokume hada, and are sometimes mixed with nagare hada. His hada often have a dark color, and his hamon are notare type hamon mixed with gunome, or a continuous narrow gunome, and have strong ha-nie, and prominent sunagashi, and he never made this kind of distinctive midare hamon. He signed gKashu ju Sanakageh or gFujiwara Sanakageh, and we usually never see a two kanji signature. These are important points.


Explanation by Hinohara Dai.