June, 2011



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


From the Shinsaku Meito Ten,
Heisei 23 nen 2011 Annual New Sword Competition

Section for tachi, katana, wakizashi, naginata, and yari

NBTHK Chairmanfs prize 


Type: Tachi
Mei: Hyuga no kuni ju Kunimasa saku
Heisei 23 nen haru (spring) kichijitsu

Length: 3 shaku 6 bu 2 rin (92.8 cm)

Sori : 9 bu 6 rin (2.9 cm)

Motohaba: 1 sun 2 bu 1 rin (3.65 cm)

Sakihaba: 8 bu 8 rin (2.65 cm)  

Motokasane: 2 bu 6 rin (0.8 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 9 rin (0.55 cm)

Kissaki length: 2 sun 4 bu (7.2 cm)   

Nakago length: 8 sun 8 bu 3 rin (26.75 cm)

Nakago sori: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm)


   This is a shinogizukuri sword with an ihorimune, thick mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. There is a large sori and an okissaki. The jihada is ko-itame mixed with itame, and there are dense jinie and frequent fine chikei. The hamon is high, and mainly a notare, and is a mixture of gunome, ko-gunome, sqaure type square gunom, and togari. Some parts of the hamon have ear shaped midare, and there are frequent ashi, yo, kinsuji, nie-suji, sunagshi, thick uneven rough mura, and in places, tobiyaki and yubashiri. The boshi on the omote side is a small midarekomi, tsukiage, and has a sharp tip. The ura side is a large midarekomi, and the tip is nie kuzure (crumbled nie). Both sides have hakikake, and the entire boshi has kinsuji and sunagashi, and the ura side has large yubashiri. Horimono on the omote and ura are bo-hi cut through into the nakago. The nakago is ubu, and there are ha-agari-kurijiri, sujichigai yasurime, and one mekugi ana. On the omote side, under the mekugi ana on the shinogi-ji, there is a slightly large long signature made with a thick tagane (chisel), and the ura side towards the mune edge there is a date.

The swordsmith Matsuba Kimimasa was born in Showa 34 (1959 ). In Showa 58 (1983) he became a student of the swordsmith Kobayashi Yasuhiro, and when Kobayashi passed away while he was still a student, he became student of Ando Yukio who was Kobayashifs senior student. In Heisei 1 (1988) he received his swordsmithfs license. In the year after that, and every year since, he has participated in the Shinsaku Meito Ten and has received many prizes such as the Chairmanfs prize, the Kunzan prize, and the Kanzan prize. He has been making original and spirited swords. He is also active in aikido and kenjutsu, not only inside of Japan, but also in America and Europe, and he has been giving demonstrations and lectures. This is his teacher Matsuba Kimiyasufs ideal sword, It is a Bizen Osafune blade in Chogifs style, and the length is 3 shaku. It is a great work, and shows an exuberant spirit. The shape has a wide mihaba an okissaki, and is a very dynamic shape. The large hamon matches the shape.The high yakiba has variations in the width, and has various types of nioi and nie. The inside of the hamon has kinsuji and nie-suji, and the jihada has tobiyaki and yubashiri, and shows many activities, and overall, the sword is very powerful. He has succeeded in working in the style of Chogi, and this sword reminds us of an old Chogi sword, and has a new Gendaitofs fresh feeling as wel as that of an old Bizen sword.


(Explanation and oshigata by Ishii Akira)





Shijo Kantei To No. 653


*The answer for Shijo Kantei No.652 (in the May, 2011 issue) is a katana by Suishinshi Masahide.


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 653 issue Shijo Kantei To is July 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 July 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: wakizashi


Length: 1 shaku 9 sun 1.5 bu (58.02 cm)

Sori:4.5 bu (1.36 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 4 rin (2. 85 cm)

Sakihaba: 5 bu 9 rin (1.8 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 3 rin (0.7 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm)

Kissaki length: 8 bu 6 rin (2.6 cm)

Nakago length: 4 sun 4 bu (13.33 cm)

Nakago sori: 3 rin (0.1 cm)


This is a shinogi zukuri wakizashi with a mitsumune, a usual mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. The upper part has sori, and there is a chu-kissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume hada. The hada is visible, and there are frequent ji-nie, chikei, and midare utsuri. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. The hamon has ashi, yo, a bright nioiguchi, nioiguchi type ko-nie, and a little bit of sunagashi. Horimono on the omote and ura are bo-hi with marudome above the machi. The nakago is ubu, and the nakago jiri is kurijiri.The yasurime are katte-sagari. There are four mekugi-ana, and on the omote side. The nakago has a long signature along the center, and the ura side has a date.



Teirei Kanshou Kai For May


The swords discussed below were shown in the May 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 May 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 Ishii Akira.



Kantei To No.1: katana


Mei: Bizen no kuni Osafune Yosazaemon no jo Sukesada saku

         Tenbun 22 nen 2 gatsu kichijitsu


Length: slightly less 2 shaku 3 sun 2 bu

Sori: slightly less 8 bu

Style: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame; there are ji-nie and some pale midare utsuri.

Hamon: mainly open bottom gunome mixed with togariba, and ko-gunome; some areas have nijuba; the entire yakiba is high; there are ashi, yo, ko-nie, and the upper half has small tobiyaki.

Boshi: wide midarekomi yakiba; an onmaru and a return.


This is a Juyo Bijutsuhin Yosazaemon no jo Sukesada katana. This is a prominent sakizori instead of a koshizori sword, and from this characteristic, we can decide that this is a Muromachi era katana. There is pale utsuri, and the jihada is a refined and tight ko-itame. The ko-nie hamon is composed mainly of open botttom gunome, and some areas at the top of the hamon show two or three fused gunome in the midare hamon. In the boshi, the yakiba is wide, and from these characteristics, you can judge this as a Sue-Bizen katana, and many people voted for Sukesada. At that time, shoter uchigatana were the main blades which were used for katate-uchi (used as a one handed sword), but sometimes, an elaborate sword like this is seen which has a long size for that time. Maybe from this fact, some people voted for earlier era work like an Oei Bizen tachi. The Oei Bizen swords often have open bottom midare hamon, but when compared to Sue Bizen swords, they do not have a tight nioiguchi, and have a softer hamon. Also their hamon are choji type hamon and the tops of the choji and the bottoms of the valleys are round. Their jihada have clear utsuri compared with this sword, and a darker jihada with chikei. Other people voted for Katsumitsu, who was active at the same time, but his midare hamon have gunome which are closer to each other, and he has primarily choji hamon. Some people voted for the later era Shinshinto smith Tatara Nagayuki. In his early works he had Sue Bizen utsushimono, but his blades have a wide mihaba, a tighter nioiguchi compared with this sword, and usually his boshi tip is very sharp. Yosazaemon has a signed tanto dated Tenbun 6, with his age at 71 years old, and from this fact, he made this sword at the age of 69 years.



Kantei To No.2: wakizashi


Mei: Oku Yamato no kami Taira-ason Motohira 80 sai (age 80 years old)

        Bunsei 6 sue-aki ( late fall )


Length: slightly over 1 shaku 1 sun 2 bu

Sori: 1 bu

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame hada with dense nie and fine chikei.

Hamon:gunome midare mixed with ko-notare and togariba; there are ashi, a wide nioiguchi, frequent dense ara-nie, and some areas of the nioiguchi are uneven; there are sunagashi and thick distinctive kinsuji.

Boshi: midarekomi with a komaru and return; the tip has hakikake.


This is a hirazukkuri wakizashi with a sunnobi shape, and from this, you can imagine this as being a Nambokucho, Keicho shinto, or Shishinto work. But from the thick kasane, this is not a Nambokucho wakizashi. Looking at the hamon, you can see that there are frequent dense ara-nie, and some areas at the top of the hamon have sharp shapes with nie. Also, there are wavey thick kinsuji called gSatsuma imotsuru (potato vine),g and from these characteristics, it is not too difficult to judge this as a Shinshinto era Satsuma blade. At that time, there were two great smiths who were active: Motohira and Masayuki. However, this jihada does not show Masayukifs characteristic whitish jihada, and it does show Motohirafs characteristic tight ko-itame hada which is a muji style, and a moist appearing hada. Also, the nioiguchifs width around the yakidashi is not wide when compared with the hamon above it, and this is a Motohira characteristic. Other votes were for smiths from the same province such as Mondo-no-sho Masakiyo, and the Edo smith Kiyomaro. Masakiyofs swords will have a nioiguchi and nie which vary and form a wide and narrow bands in the hamon. In addition, some parts of the nie are strong and prominent and some parts are weak. The top of of his hamon have prominent hataraki such as yubashiri and tobiyaki. Kiyomarofs swords will have an itame jihada mixed with nagarehada, and the hamon is mainly a choji type gunome with uneven nie. The inside of his hamon not only have sunagashi, but also frequent nie-suji and the entire blade is more robust.



Kantei To No 3: wakizashi


Mei: Hasebe Kuninobu


Length: 1 shaku 1.05 sun

Sori: slightly less than 2 bu

Design: hirazukuri

Mune:  mitsumune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume; around the ha and the mune, there is nagarehada; in some areas the hada is visible; there are dense ji-nie, and fine chikei.

Hamon: ko-gunome mixed with ko-notare and square shaped gunome; there are yahazu type gunome, ashi, frequent dense nie, kinsuji, and sunagashi; from the moto to the saki there are muneyaki; the entire hamon looks like hitatsura.

Boshi: midarekomi; the omote is sharper; the ura is komaru; on both sides, the return extends and becomes muneyaki, and extends down into the ji.

Horimono:the omote has bonji, and under that is a fudomyo-o; the ura has a gyo-style kurikara.


This wakizashi has a noticeably thin kasane, is hirazukuri and sunnobi, and around the ha and mune edges there is nagarehada. Tobiyaki, yubashiri, muneyaki are prominent and the hamon activity becomes a hitatsura style. This may be the reason why Kuninobu uses a special unique tecnique for the ha side steel, and the higher parts of the hamon look distinct. From these characteristics, it is not difficult to judge this as a Nambokucho era Yamashiro kuni work and a Hasebe school wakizashi. In this school, Kunishige and Kuninobu are well known smiths. Most of Kunishigefs hamon are notare and gunome, but sometimes Kuninobues hamon show square shaped and yahazu shaped features,and between these features, the hamon is low, just like on this wakizashi, which is the next generation Oei Kuninobufs work. Also, the Hasebe school does not have much horimono, even simple ones. However, Kunimobu has more elaborate horimono such as kurikara, kenjaku (a hunting rope and fishing line), and hatahoko (flag and hoko), so from this, you can decide this sword is his work. Other votes for the same era and school smiths were for Nobukuni and Sagami-kuni Hiromitsu. However, Nobukuni hamon are primarily a low notare, and in Hiromitsufs work, the upper part of the hamon becomes wider, and rouond choji call dango choji are prominent.



Kantei To No. 4: tanto


Mei: Omi daijo Fujiwara Tadahiro


Length: 8 sun 8 bu

Sori: slightly uchizori

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: ko-itamehada, and the entire fine jihada is visible; there are thick ji-nie, fine chikei, and pale utsuri.

Hamon: chu-suguha; there is a shallow notare; the omote hamon is mixed with kuichigaiba, and there is a wide nioiguchi and ko-nie.

Boshi: straight with a komaru.


This is nidai Hizen Tadayoshifs tanto. In Koto times, there were many tanto, but in the Shinto period, because of less demand, there are not many tanto. Shinto time characteristic tanto shapes have a wider nihaba, are a little sunnobi, and the kasane is around 9 sun, resulting in a large size, like this tanto. This jihada is a tight ko-itame, but entire fine hada is visible and called gkomenuka hadah. Some areas of the hamon look like a belt, and from these characteristics, you can judge this as a Hizen blade. When you look at the first three generation, the third generation Mutsu no kami Tadayoshi has almost no tanto, and his jihada are more refined. The first generation Shodai Tadayoshi has a few tanto, but many of them are mitsumune, and more notare hamon features are prominent when compared to this tanto. There are also elaborate horimono, such as kurikara and fudomyo-o inside a flame, or a wide blade will have an ukibori (relief) suken inside of a katana-hi. Other votes were for Horikawa Kunihiro, but his tanto are different from his long swords, the fine jihada is not visible, and his tanto have a tight ko-itame and a more refined jihada. From the shape, some people thought this came from the end of the Kamakura to the early Nambokucho period, and voted for Rai Kunimitsu. Rai school works usually have a more delicate refined jihada, have a strong clear utsuri, and the boshi return will be longer. This tanto does not have a very thick kasane, and has pale utsuri which is not usually seen. The rope like nioiguchi is worn down when compared to others, and Tadahiro copied an old style, and toned down his characteristics as much as he could.



Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: kinzogan mei : Shikkake Norinaga suriage kore

@@@@@ @ @Honnami ( kao ) ( Koshitsu)


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 2 bu

Sori: 9 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame mixed with nagare hada; in some places the hada is visible; there are dense ji-nie, and frequent chikei.

Hamon: chu-suguha type hamon mixed with ko-gunome, and ko-notare; there are frequent ashi and yo, a wide nioiguchi, frequent dense nie, kinsuji, niesuji, and sunagashi; some areas have hotsure and yubashiri; there is some nijuba.

Boshi: the entire hamon is nie kuzure; there is hakikake and yakitzume.

We mentioned that this was a suriage katana at the biginning, so no one voted for a Shinto or Shinshinto blade. Important characteristics of this sword are: wide shinogi-haba, a slightly high shinogi position, a thick kasane, strong shape, and some parts have nagare hada. There are hotsure and nijuba type hataraki, and the boshi is yakizume, and from these characteristics, you can judge this as a Yamato school katana, and most of the people voted that way. Among Yamatofs five schools, this does not show Hoshofs entire masame hada, or Senjuinfs older look. If it were Tegai school work, there would not be this much strong ha-nie, and their jihada is very clear and more refined. This was judged by Honnami Koshitsu as a Shikkake Norinaga katana. With rough thick ha-nie, it is understandable to think it is Toma school katana, but the entire ko-gunome hamon is prominent and continuous. Also there is a signed Norinaga tachi (with a Juyobunkazai classification) with the mei gYamato Norinaga sakuh owned by Kurokawa Kobunka Kenkyujo) and the form and style of nie, the entire hamon is similar to this, so we can say that Koshitsufs judgement is very understandable.



Shijo Kantei No 651 ( in the April, 2011 issue)


The answer for the Shijo Kantei To No. 651 in the April issue is a tachi by Osafune Motoshige.


This tachi is a little narrow mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. It is suriage, has a large koshizori, the tip has so, and it has a chu-kissaki. From the shape, you can judge this as work from the end of the Kamakura to early Nambokucho period. Motoshige was an Osafune branch smith. His jitetsu is itame mixed with mokume with nagarehada, and entire jihada is visible. There are jifu, and midare utsuri. Motoshigefs hamon are known from their distinctive style with long lengths of square gunome, and the valleys of the yakiba have tusk or fang shaped togariba. However, this type of hamon is not his original creation and we see similar hamon in his father Morishigefs tanto dated Showa 5, and by Morishigefs father Hatakeda Moriie (there is a theory that Morishigefs father was the Nidai Moriie, but it is not certain that there was nidai smith, so this is a subject for future study). These two tanto have square gunome but over short distances, and these are mixed with kataochi gunome. Motoshigefs hamon contain this kind of distinctive square gunome from the top to the bottom, or have square gunome mixed with ko-choji and ko-gunome just like on this tachi. This blade has stronger ha-nie and distinctive hataraki such as kinsuji and sunagashi when compared his usual work. This kind of work is seen in the Juyobunkazai hirazukuri wakizashi owned by a descendant of the Oshimazu family, and this wakizashi is different from his usual hamon, and has notare mixed with ko-gunome, strong nie, and distinctive kinsuji and sunagshi hataraki, and shows a strong Soshuden style. His boshi are often midarekome and have a sharp tip, just like on this sword. Most of people voted for Motoshige, and besides him, some people voted for Chikakage. Chikakagefs hamon are similar to Motoshigefs hamon, but his jihada are a visible ko-itame mixed with ohada and have pale utsuri similar to this sword, so that answer is understandable. But Chikakagefs boshi (it is not sure whether originally or in later work) have a straight hamon above the yokote, and then becomes a midarekomi hamon, which is distinctive sansaku-boshi. Sometimes the tip is sharper, but you do not seen this kind of very sharp tip. Also, Chikakage used a gyaku-tagane style for his many signatures, and this is one of his major characteristics, and this is different from the hint for this tachi, so please pay attention to this.


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.