April, 2011



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Tokubetsu Juyo Token

Type: Katana

Mei: Mumei Sadamune 


Length: slightly over 2 shaku 3 sun 5 bu  (71.3 cm)

Sori : 6 bu (1.8 cm)

Motohaba: 1 sun 7 bu (3.25 cm) 

Sakihaba: 7 bu 5 rin (2.25 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu (0.6 cm) 

Sakikasane: 1 bu 5 rin (0.45 cm)

Kissaki lenth: 1 sun 5 bu 5rin (4.7 cm)

Nakago length: 5 sun 8 bu 4 rin (17.7 cm)  

Nakago sori: very slight



   This is a shinogi zukuri katana with an ihorimune, a wide mihaba, a usual kasane, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. There is a slightly large sori and an okissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and the entire hada is visible. There are dense thick ji-nie, and frequent distinctive chikei. The hamon is a ko-notare style mixed with ko-gunome. There are ashi, uneven, dense, and slightly rough nie, kinsuji, niesuji, and frequent sunagashi in the hamon and ji. On the bottom part of the sword, around the top of the hamon, there are yubashiri, and tobiyaki. The boshi is midarekomi, the omote tip shows a striped pattern, and ura has a sharp tip. Both sides have a komaru and return. The entire boshi has frequent kinsuji, sunagashi, and hakikake. The horimono are low bo-hi with marudome, and the ura has bonji around the habakimoto. The nakago is osuriage, there is a shallow kurijiri, the yasurime are a very shallow katte sagari, and there are three mekugi-ana. The sword is mumei.

   Hikoshiro Sadamune, who helped establish the reputation of  Soshu Den swords as art objects, is known as Masamunefs son or student. The Nanbokucho era book gShinsatsu Ooraih lists him as one of the best master smiths and as Goro-nyudofs son Hikoshiro. An old book of oshigata lists blades dated  during the Gentoku, Kenbu, and Ryaku-o eras(1329-1342), but today he does not have has any signed blades left. He has a mumei katana blade called gKikkoh, and a tanto called gTaikokaneh and these have narrow and standard shapes suggesting the same era as the old listed oshigata. Also, he has a wide katana with  futasuji-hi, and a hirazukuri wakizashi which are named Terasawa, Fushimi, Saimura and Tokuzenji: these are sunnobi, with a wide mihaba  and a large shape, which suggests a Nambokucho era characteristic shape. From these facts, we can guess that his active period was the end of the Kamakura era to the Nambokucho era. Sadamune followed his teacherfs style, but his work was usually more gentle, and he established his own style. His chikei, kinsuji, inazuma, tobiyaki, and yubashiri , and all of his hataraki are not as dynamic and distinctive as Masamunefs. His hamon have large and small shallow notare, mixed with gunome and ko-midare, and these are gentle hamon when compared to Masamune and are different from him. In describing them, people say Masanune is virile and dynamic and Sadamune is soft and quiet. Most of Sadamunefs blades have horimono, and many of these are futatsuji-hi. In addition, he has deeply carved, well executed kasane-bori which followed  the style of Daishinbo (a famous engraver in the Kamakura era), and these features are part of his characteristic sword elements.

   According to the Edo period book g Kyoho Meibutsu-choh, Masamune has 39 blades, and Sadamune has 18 blades which is more than Awataguchi Yoshimitsufs 16 blades, and this tells us something about their popularity at that time. This katana has a wide mihaba, an okissaki, and the end of the hi is in a very low position. This is a Nanbokucho era dynamic shape, and the jihada is slightly visible but refined: ji-nie, chikei, and all kinds of hataraki are seen many places. The hamon is controlled and low, and has thick rough ha-nie, frequent kinsuji, niesuji, and sunagashi along with the jihada. Judging from the hamonfs hataraki,  it is appears that the Soshu Den style was influenced by Ko-hoki work. This shows a lot of dynamic nie hataraki but it is not an artificial look, and it shows Sadamunefs  well controlled artistic sense, and is one of his best his blades.                   


(Explanation and oshigata by Ishii Akira)






Fugaku Miho-no-matsubara (a famous pine grove on a beach) and Hinode-zu(sunrise design)

on a daisho fuchi-kashira


Daisho fuchi mei: Ichigyosai Atsuoki (with kao)


   Kyoto has been a sophisticated and traditional place for Japanese culture for hundred of years, and in the toso and kinko field, in the Muromachi and Momoyama periods, Kyoto was the home of the Goto, Shoami, and Umetada schools. In Edo times, it also produced many master artisans. It can be said that Shinoyama Atsuoki was one of the best kinko smiths, along with Natsuo and Goto Ichijo.

   Atsuoki belonged to the Kyoto kinkofs well established Otsuki school, and he studied under Otsuki Mitsuokifs senior student Kawahara Hayashi Hideoki. Thus, he was a student in the line of Otsuki Mitsuoki. At that time, the Otsuki school produced many good master smiths such as Otsuki Mitsuhiro, Minayama Oki, Tenkodo Hidemitsu, and Matsuo Gassan, and the school was very  prosperous. In particular, Atsuoki was known as an excellent master smith. He become independent at the age of twenty five, and in Bunkyu 2, the Tokugawa shogun family ordered kanagu carving work from him. As a consequence of this work, he received the Osumi Daijo title, and in Bunkyu 3, he received an order from Emperor Komei for kanagu. On this order he used the art name Ichigyosai. Many of his pieces are characteristic Otsuki school styles, and use painting-like designs with takabori-iroe (deep carving with color). Hirazogan and katakiribori were his specialty, and even with difficult and complex compositions, he was still able to maintain Kyotofs elegant and sophisticated style. On this dai-sho fuchi-kashira, the dai image shows Mt.Fuji with Miho no Matsubara. The image on the sho is a sunrise with a pine tree. With his excellent carving technique, the iroe (color) is delicate, accurate, and very elegant, and this shows all his high level of skill.


(Commentary by Iida Toshihisa and photos by Kaname Fumiyasu)       



Shijo Kantei To No. 651


*The answer for Shijo Kantei No.650 (in the March, 2011 issue) is a katana by Hizen Dewa no Kami Yukihira.


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 651 issue Shijo Kantei To is May 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 May 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 1 bu (70 cm)

Sori: 7 bu 5 rin (2.2 cm)

Motohaba: 8 bu 5 rin (2.6 cm)

Sakihaba: 6 bu (1.8 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu (0.65 cm)

Sakikasane: 1bu 5 rin (0.5 cm)

Kittsaki length: slightly less 9 bu (2.7 cm)

Nakago length: 6 sun 1bu (18.5 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight


This is shinogi zukuri katana with an ihorimune, a slightly narrow mihaba, and the width at the moto and saki are different. The katana is suriage, has a large sori, the tip has sori, and there is a chu-kissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume and nagarehada; the hada is visible, there are frequent ji-nie, chikei, jifu, and midare utsuri. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. The midare hamon has a distinctive square shape hamon patern, and has frequent ashi, and yo, The entire hamon has saka-ashi type. There are dense nioiguchi, dense nie, kinsuji and sunagashi. Horimono on the omote and ura are bo-hi with marudome. The nakago is suriage, but was originally kurijiri. The old yasurime are katte-sagari, and the new yasurimei are kiri. There are three mekugi-ana, and the omote side of the nakago on the mune edge there is a long signature. 




Teirei Kanshou Kai For March


The swords discussed below were shown in the March 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 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 March 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 smithfs name. This lecture and the explanations were given by Ooi Gaku.



Kantei To No.1: tachi


Mei: Bizen no kuni osa (below this kanji, the rest are unclear ). The remaining part of the

          mei is thought to be Osafune ju Chikakage

          Genko 3 nen ? gatsu hi

Length: 2 shaku 1 sun 4.5 bu

Sori: 7 bu

Style: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame mixed in places with visible nagarehada; there are ji-nie, fine chikei, and

           midare utsuri.

Hamon: chu-suguha mixed with ko-gunome, gunome, and a square type hamon; some areas

          have saka-ashi; there are frequent ashi, saka-ashi, yo, ko-nie, kinsuji, and some


Boshi: above the yokote, it is almost straight with notare, a komaru and a return.

Horimono: omote and ura both have bohi with marudome.


   Part of kanji signature is unclear, but at this time period, in looking for a mainstream Osafune smith who has a distinctive gyaku-tagane mei and sujichigai yasurime like seen on this tachi, we can guess Chikakage. Also his signature changed during his early career from a free-form grass-like shape to a careful kaisho style. Many of long signatures say gBizen kuni Osafune juh instead of gBishu Osafune juh and this is characteristic of his style. This tachi has a slightly narrow mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. There is  high koshisori, the tip has sori, there is a chu-kissaki, the koshimoto has funbari, and from these characteristics, this is an ubu or almost ubu shape which is a characteristic tachi shape from the end of the Kamakura era. The jihada has midare utsuri, and the hamon is based on suguha and mixed with ko-gunome, gunome, and a square type pattern, and there are saka-ashi. The boshi is a notare type with a komaru and return which is called a sankaku-boshi. From these characteristics, you can guess at a smith related to Kagamitsu. However, this jihada is mixed with nagarehada and masamehada, and part of the hada is visible. When compared with Kagemitsufs refined jihada, this hada is not as refined as his, and because of this, the utsuri is not as clear as Kagemitsufs. The hamon has ko-nie, and the boshi above the yokote is straight, and then a shallow notare, which is an exaggeration of the sansaku boshi, and these are typical Chikakage characterisitcs, and most people voted for him the first time. A few people voted for Motoshige, but if this were his work, the masame jihada would stand out more, and the hamon would be a little more wide, and be mixed with dull square type hamon, and there would be a sharper tip on the boshi.        






Kantei To No.2: Katana


Mei: Yamato no kami Yasusada

        Manji 3 nen 8 gatsu 25 nichi

Kinzogan : Yamano Kaemonjo Nagahisa ( kao )

       Futatsudo kiriotoshi


Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 9 bu

Sori: 4.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada, and the hada is visible; there are dense ji-nie, chikei, some jifu type hada, and a slightly dark color.

Hamon: notare mixed with gunome; a hakoba style hamon with thick ashi, dense nioiguchi, dense nie, kinsuji, sunagashi, and a worn down nioiguchi. 

Boshi: the omote is a notare style with a komaru, and the ura is straight, with a round return, and the tip has fine hakikake.


The widths at the moto and saki are different, there is a shallow sori, a chu-kissaki, and the shinogi-ji has a masame hada, and these are characteristics of Kanbun period Edo Shinto work. This sword also shows Yasusadafs character with its high ihorimune, and also many of his katana are long. Many of His jihada are often just slightly visible and dark, and have chikei. His hamon are among the largest size seen in Edo Shinto work, and are primarily notare mixed with gunome, and in places, there are midare. The valleys in the hamon can have square shapes, and there is a dense thick nioiguchi, frequent nie, and kinsuji. These are dynamic hamon, but around the monouchi area, the midare hamon and hataraki are gentle when compared to the rest of  the hamon, and many of the yakihaba (hamon width) are lower or narrower. His characteristic features are a nioiguchi which is worn down, and the boshi is slightly notare, with a round tip and return. Some people voted for Kotetsu and Okimasa, but their yakidashi are different from Yasusadafs, and their nioiguchi are bright and clear. Other people voted for  the Horikawa school, they have midare hamon, and even wide midare hamon, but they are not continuous, and are mixed with suguha and a shallow notare. Their  uneven nioiguchi and nieare noticeable. Many of Kinimichifs midare hamon are continuous, but are more dynamic, and some parts show saka-ashi. The boshi is a sharp tipped Sankaku boshi. If this were Kunitoshifs work, many of his jihada are tight, and the nioiguchi are bright. Also, a few people voted for Hida-no-kami Ujifusa, but in his work, the widths at the moto and saki are not different. There is a long kissaki with a Keicho Shinto shape; there are rough uneven nie; and the boshi is a relaxed notare, and looks  tsukiage (the boshi is pushed up towards the tip); and there is a komaru and long return. 

Kantei To No 3: wakizashi


Mei: Harima Daijo Fujiwara Tadakuni

         Kanei 13 nen 8 gatsu kichijitsu


Length: 1 shaku 3 bu

Sori: 1 bu

Design: Hirzukuri

Mune:  Ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame; there are dense fine ji-nie, fine chikei, and a bright jihada.

Hamon: the moto has a short yakidashi; there are choji mixed with gunome, thick ashi, dense ko-nie, slightly round tobiyaki, kinsuji, niesuji, frequent sunagashi, and a dense bright nioiguchi.

Boshi: midarekomi  with a komaru; the tip has strong hakikake; there is a long return.


This wakizashi has a wide mihaba, a long length, sakisori, and is hirazukuri. This type of shape is seen mainly in the late Muromachi era, and in early Edo times many smiths kept this shape with a thick kasane. There is a tight ko-itame jihada with fine thick ji-nie, which is a komenuka jihada. There are fine chikei, and the hamon has a straight yakidashi at the koshimoto. The hamon has choji mixed with gunome, round tobiyaki, dense nie, and the entire hamon has a dense nioiguchi. In Particular, the midare hamon valleys are deep, and the nioiguchi is clear,  not only on th eji side, but also on the ha side too. This blade has a very distinctive look, and is a characteristic Hizen blade. Because the ji and ha are both bright, many people voted for Hizen smiths. Tadakunifs hamon are midare and the sunagashi and kinsuji are prominent. His hamon are dynamic and full of spirit just like on this wakizashi. His midare hamon boshi are often midarekomi with strong hakikake and a long return. His boshi are different, and are not straight along the fukura with a komaru and return, as are seen in the work of many mainstream Tadayoshi family smiths and branch Hizen smiths such as Masahiro and Yukihiro, and this is a major characteristic of Tadakuni. If this were an Iyo-no-jo Munetsugu blade, the jihada would be mixed with nagarehada, there would be jifu, and in some places there would be a rough jihada. Also, prominent alterations in his jihada would stand out; in his hamon, the yakiba is high, gunome are mixed with notare, and in some places there are sharp shaped gunome; the valleys of the midare have hard dense nioi; thereis a dense nioiguchi; an unclear nioiguchi line,  and a worn down nioiguchi. Beside these almost correct answers, many people voted for Shin Kunisada. His nioiguchi have fewer nie on the ha side, and become mist-like toward the top of the ha,which is a more usual type of nioiguchi. His boshi are straight and have a round return. 



Kantei To No. 4: katana


Mei: Norinaga

       Kinzogan mei: Honnami (Koson kao) 


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 4 bu

Sori: 5.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada, with strong nagare hada in place; the hada is visible; there are dense ji-nie, fine chikei, and a pale bo-utsuri

Hamon: chu-suguha base, mixed with ko-gunome, and gunome in places; there is a continuous midare hamon. There are frequent ashi, yo, a slightly dense nioiguchi, thick ko-nie, hotsure, uchinoke, sunagashi and kinsuji.

Boshi: straight, with frequent hakikake, and yakizume.


   This jihada and hamon display an old style, and the width of the shinogi ji is wide for the mihaba. There is a thick kasane, high shinogi, chu-kissaki, strong shape, and the jihada is a strong nagarehada. There is a pale nie-utsuri, and hamon is based on a suguha with nie, and there is hotsure, uchinoke, frequent kinsuji, and sunagashi. Around the monouchi area, the hamon becomes a little wider, and there is nie and strong hataraki. The boshi has strong hakikake, and is yakizume. These are characteristics of the later half of the Kamakura era for the original Yamato style blades, and most people voted for Shikkake Norinaga, Teigai Kanenaga, and Toma Kuniyuki.  A few people voted for Yasumasa and Senjuin, but Yasumasafs jihada are primarily masame, and the Senjuin shape, jihada and hamon have an old look, and lively midare hamon, and is different from other four schools, and different from this katana. Teigai Kanenagafs jihada is a tight nagarehada and is not more prominent than any other Yamato blade. There is also strong ha-nie, mixed with ara nie (rough nie), and uneven small bright nie. Among the Yamato smiths who have left a signature, he has the strongest nie, and his hamon are suguha and have a notare style, and the heights of his hamon vary from high to low.  On Toma Kuniyuki signed blades, the ji and ha nie are fine and gentle and sophisticated. But his mumei blades are different, and the ji and ha nie are strong and rough, there are frequent chikei, kinsuji, sunagashi, strong hataraki, and his work almost looks like Soshu Den work. The strongest of his characteristic points is a midare hamon with continuous ko-gunome and mixed with gunome. Also, his suguha have regularly spaced ashi, and these can form gunome, and are called gunome ashi, and these are prominent. His hada are visible and his nie are somewhat gentle, and among the Yamato smiths these are characteristic features in his work.         



Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: Oshu Sendai ju Fujiwara Kunikane

        Kanbun 5 nen 3 gatsu kichijitsu


Length: 2 shaku 1 sun

Sori: slightly over 4 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: a tight masame hada, and the shinogi ji hada is visible; there are dense ji-nie.

Hamon: chu-suguha, which becomes a slightly little shallow notare hamon in places; there are frequent ko-nie, hotsure, uchinoke, nijuba, and a bright nioiguchi.

Boshi: straight komaru, tip has little hakikake, little long return


This is a nidai Sendai Kunikane  katana which was formerly owned by Ito Miyoji. Because the size is short, some people looked at it as an osuriage tachi. However, the width at the moto and saki are much different, and there is a shallow sori, which is a Kanbun Shinto shape. The wide koshimoto shows the original shape. If you shorten a tachi of this size, no funbari will stand out. If this were a ko-tachi, the sori is too large, and the funbari will stand out, and will appear different from this. This blade has a wide shinogi ji, a high shinogi, and a masame hada over its entire length. The hamon has hotsure, uchinoke, and becomes a nijuba type suguha, and from these characteristics, it was easy to decide that this is either from the Yamato Yasumasa school, or an utsushimono of one of their works. The shape is not a large size Shinshinto blade, and  most people voted for Kunikane without hesitantation. The reasons people did not vote for Yasumasa, was because of the shape, the tight jihada, somewhat rough parts seen in the jihada, chikei which are not prominent, a hamon with a somewhat tight nioiguchi, and even ko-nie. Also, the boshi is straight with a komaru and gentle long return. There is a civil and gentle style, and this is different from Yasumasafs dynamic style. Some of blades of the nidai Kunikane look like they are daimei or a daisaku work for the Shodai, so it is difficult to judge exactly. However, the Shodai very rarely has this kind of tight nioiguchi, and many of his boshi are yakizume with hakikake, and most of his boshi kaeri are short. Recently, I had an opportunity to judge Sendai Kunekane swords. The Tohoku area produced many swordsmiths and sword afficianados, and this regionfs works include Kunikane, warabiteto (6-8th century swords made in the Tohoku area) up to work being made today, and I am sincerely sorry for the big disaster and suffering in this area. I hope our sword friends will help and encourage them to during their recovery.              



Shijo Kantei No 649 ( in the February, 2011 issue)


The answer for the Shijo Kantei To No. 649 in the February issue is a wakizashi by Nanki Shigekuni.


This blade has almost no sori, but a wide mihaba, long size, and thick kasane, and from these characteristics, it is possible to judge this as a Keicho Shinto blade. Among Nankifs hirazukuri wakizashi usually have a strong sori, but this one does not. His jihada is itame mixed with nagare hada, and often an oval shaped mokume hada appears too. The hada is visible, there are dense ji-nie, frequent chikei, and a clear jihada. This is a Soshu Den style work, and the basic hamon is a shallow notare mixed with gunome, but there are hotsure and kuichigaiba which are Yamato features. The upper part of the hamon becomes wider, there is dense nioi, frequent nie, frequent kinsuji and sunagashi, and a bright and clear habuchi. This kind of  blade could have several types of boshi: straight and yakizume, or the mune side will be midarekomi and komaru with a return, just like this blade. Sometimes the tip is sharp, and many boshi have frequent hakikake. This work reminds us of a classic Soshu Den style such as Go or Sadamune, plus it has  an active Momoyama era exuberant feeling, and shows Nankifs high level of skill. Thus it is understandable that people consider him as  one of the best Shinto master smiths. Nanki has few horimono, and on a shinogi zukuri katana or wakizashi, we sometimes see bohi. However, there are fewer hirazukuri wakizashi, and the tanto have richly designed horimono such as shin-no-kurikara, kou-ryu, tsumetsuki-ken, and takekurabe suken. The omote side kenfs width is the same from the moto to the saki, and the top of the ken is an obtuse angle and this original suken style is Shigekunifs characteristic style. Nanki Shigekunifs suken style is sometimes seen on takekurabe suken blades. His nakago have shallow kurijiri, the yasurime are katte-sagari, most of Kishu-uchi (made in Kishu) nakago ana are big, and his signature on hirazukuri wakizashi are mainly on the omote mune side. Sometimes under the mekugiana center, he signed goite Nanki Shigekunie tsukuru koreh.  This signature has a somewhat small size compared to his usual ones, but smaller sized signatures are seen on other blades. The Juyo Bijutsu Hin classified Suruga-uchi katana, and Juyo Token classified hira-zukuri wakizashi dated Genwa 5 are also Suruga-uchi, and they are similar to this wakizashi. There is no date, but this could not have been made later than Genna 5. At this time, because of  Nankifs characteristic style, most people voted for the correct answer.           


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.