July, 2011



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Juyo Bijutsuhin

Type: Tachi

Mei: Kunimune


Length: 2 shaku 5 sun 6 bu (slightly over 77.5 cm)

Sori : 6 bu (slightly over 1.8 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 6 rin  (2.9 cm) 

Sakihaba: slightly less than 5 bu 9 rin  (1.78 cm)

Motokasane: slightly less than 2 bu 3 rin  (0.69 cm) 

Sakikasane: slightly over 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm)

Kissaki length: 8 bu 6 rin  (2.61 cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 9 bu 9 rin (24.2 cm)  

Nakago sori: 3 rin (0.1 cm)



This is a shinogizukuri sword with an ihorimune, a  narrow mihaba, and a slightly thick kasane. The sword feels heavy, and the widths at the moto and saki are a little different. There is some funbari, a shallow sori, and a chu-kissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume. The fine jihada is visible, and there are ji-nie and chikei, and from the machi area there is a clear midare utsuri. The hamon is chu-suguha mixed with a very shallow notare, and there are ko-gunome and ko-choji. The hamon has many square gunome, ashi, a tight strong nioiguchi, and ko-nie. The boshi is straight and shallow, and drops nearer to the edge inside of the kissaki. The tip is komaru and there is a small return. The nakago is ubu,  the nakago-jiri is iriyamagata, the yasurime are kattesagari, and there are three mekugi-ana. On the omote side, under the first mekugi ana on the shinogi-ji, there is a fine small two kanji signature.

Among the Bizen smiths in the Kamakura era, according to old sword book records, Kunimune was from a different group from the Osafune smiths whose founder was Mitsutada, and Kunimune belonged to the Naomune school. Naomunefs son Kunisane had four sons: Taro Kunisane, Jiro Kunisada, Shiro Kuniyasu, and Kunimune who was the third son. Kunimune has been known as gBizen Saburoh, and his name is seen in old books such as g Noami hon meizukushi g and g Sho meizukushi Noami hon meizukushih. These old sources said that Kunimune later was ordered to move to Kamakura, by the Kamakura erafs fifth ruler Hojo Tokimune. He become one of founding smiths of the Shoshu school, along with the Fukuoka Ichimonji schoolfs Sukesane and the Kyoto smith Awataguchi Kunitsuna. The gKoto meizukushi taizenh and other old books say that g Kunimune Bizen saburo Yamanouchi ju,  was ordered to move by Sir Saimyoji nyudo (Tokimunefs retirement name)h. There are a resonable number of  Kunimune blades left today, such as this one with a wide mihaba, dynamic tachi shape, and a gorgeous choji midare hamon. There are also others with a narrow gentle shape and a gentle suguha style hamon. Kunimunefs range of styles is wide, and in particular, blades with a midare hamon contain what we call gBizen Saburofs shiro shimi (white stain)h. This is a visible white area sometimes seen inside of the hamon. There are two types of jihada, one has a large pattern jihada with a visible hada, and this is often seen with a georgeous midare hamon. The other hada is a fine jihada, often seen with a suguha type hamon. Kunimune has a has reasonable number of signed blades left, and we have found that there are primarily two types of signatures. In the most common one the kanji for gmunefe has the 4th and 5th strokes curved right to left; in the other signatures, the 4th and 5th strokes are  curved left to right. Also, Kunimune has an older tachi signed gKunimune  Bizen kuni ju Osafune Showah with the rest of signature was cut off. This is owned by the Tokyo National museum, and from this, some people are of the opinion that Kunimune swords were made by more than one generation, but today it is difficult to judge this from the signatures and styles, and this will be future subject of study.


(Explanation and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori)



Juyo tosogu


Enoko zu ( puppy design) mitokoromono

kozuka and kogai mei: Sano Naoyoshi (with kao)

menuki: mumei Naoyoshi


Most of the Edo machibori kinko craftsmen (goldsmiths) belonged to either the Yokoya school or the Nara school. The Yokoya school, after the master smith Somin, produced many branch school masters, such as Yanagawa, Oomori, Katsura, Miyake, Ishiguro, Furukawa, Sano, Iwamoto, Kikuoka, Inagawa, and Kikuchi, and these craftsmen were very active. Among these, Sominfs senior student Yanagawa Nagamasafs school produced many master smiths. The work of the mitokoromono artist, Sano Naoyoshi shown here belongs to the Yanagawa school, and he studied under Naomasafs student Nakamura Naonori. He lived in Edo Shiba Shirogane, and worked under the Akimoto family who were the Dewa Yamagata daimyo family. This school was prosperous, and was active with the  nidai (2nd genaration) Naoteru, the sandai (3rd generation) Tokinobu, and the yondai (4th generation) Tokiyoshi. The 4th generation was active during the Bakumatsu period.

Sano Naoyoshi studied at the Yokoya Yanagawa school, but people used to say that many of his designs and carving tecniques are similar to the iebori Goto smith styles (iebori smiths were those who worked for the Shogun and daimyo families),  and this mitokoromono set shows this kind of character. The kozuka and kogai are all gold with a nanako ji, and the bottom has a different kind of iroe (color added by using different kind of metals. The enoko (puppy) design, and the menuki have a shakudo ji, and the same design in a katachi-bor i style (enoko design without any background), with a rich color iroe tecnique. The shape of the kozuka and kogai, the nanako ji with the bottom design are in a Goto style, and the georgeous iroe has a good blance and is very elegant. In particular, the bottom of the carving has a slightly round shape, and has strong volume, and this is as good as Goto school josaku (better or higher level) work.


Explanation by Iida Toshihisa and photos by Kaname Fumiyasu.               




Shijo Kantei To No. 654


The answer for Shijo Kantei No.652 (in the June, 2011 issue) is a Oei Bizen Sanemitsu wakizashi.


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 654 issue Shijo Kantei To is August 5, 2011. Each person may submit one vote. Submissions should contain 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 August 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: tanto

Length: 8 sun 5.5 bu (25.9 cm)

Sori: uchizori

Motohaba: 6 bu 6 rin (2. 0 cm)

Sakihaba: 5 bu 9 rin (1.8 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu (0.6 cm)

Nakago length: 3 sun 2 bu (9.7 cm)

Nakago sori: none


This is a hirazukuri tanto with an iorimune, a normal mihaba, an almost normal length, and a thick kasane for its mihaba. The soi is uchizori. The jihada is masame with a well forged tight hada. There is thick ji-nie, chikei, nie utsuri, and a clear jihada.  The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. The hamon has hotsure, nijuba, kuichigaiba, frequent nie, kinsuji, fine sunagashi, and is bright and clear. The nakago is ubu, and the nakago jiri is sakikiri.The yasurime are this schoolfs original style. There are two mekugi-ana, and the omote side has a signature. 





Teirei Kanshou Kai For June


The swords discussed below were shown in the June 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 smithfs name. This lecture and the explanations were given by Iida Toshihisa.



Kantei To No.1: katana


Mei: Kawachi no Kami Kunisuke


Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 3 bu

Sori: slightly less than 4 bu

Style: shinogi zukuri

Jihada: tight ko-itame; there are ji-nie.

Hamon: straight short yakidashi; above this there are choji mixed with gunome; there are frequent ashi, a strong nioi guchi with ko-nie; some places have uneven thick nie and sunagashi. 

Boshi: straight and komaru with a return.


This katana is the work of the Nidai Kawachi no Kami Kunisuke, who has another nickname: Nakakawachi. Nakakawachifs father belong to the Kyoto Horikawa school, the same as Inoue Shinkaifs father, and both of their fathers moved to Osaka, and became established as respected Osaka shinto smiths. Nakakawachi was active around the Kanei era which was the same time as Inoue Shinkai. This sword has a normal mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. There is a shallow sori and chu-kissaki, which is a typical Kanei shinto shape. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, the same as other Osaka shinto smiths, and we call this an Osaka jitetsu. The hamon has a characteristic Osaka shinto yakidashi, and the boshi is straight, komaru and has a normal return. Nakakawachifs characteristic hamon are an active Bizen Den choji midare. His original choji midare hamon is call gkengyo (fist) chojih which is a round top choji hamon with several ko-ashi near the top, and the resulting shape resembles a human fist. This work shows his characteristic midare hamon, also has Osaka shinto  characteristics, and this is a typical Nakakawachi work. Because of these characteristics, most people voted for him at the first voting. Some people voted for later period shinshinto smiths, such as Bizen Den Yokoyama school and Hosokawa school smiths. However, both of these schools have a shape which is different from the Kanbun shinto shape. Also, during the shinshinto period, in many swords, the jihada is not clear or noticeable, and are a muji-hada type.  The Yokoyama school hamon has a yakidashi the same as Kunisuke, but there is usually a very simple repeated rhythm, and nioiguchi is tight. If this were Hosokawa school work, it would be very rare if it had a yakidashi. The Yokoyama and Hosokawa schools do not have a characteristic gkangyo chojih hamon.           


Kantei To No.2: tanto


Mei: Rai Kunimitsu

        Kano 2 nen 6 gatsu


Length: 8 sun 5.5 bu

Sori: very slight

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: the entire jihada is a tight ko-itame; some parts are itame; there are ji-nie, fine chikei, and pale nie utsuri.

Hamon: chu-suguha, dense nioiguchi, ko-nie, and a bright and clear hamon.

Boshi: the omote is slightly notare; the tip is sharp and there is a return. the ura is straight with a komaru and return.


This is a Rai Kunimitsu tanto dated Kano 2. Rai Kunimitsu  was Rai Kunitoshifs son, and he was active at the end of the Kamakura period to the early Nambokucho period. Today his dated blades range from Kaei 1 in the Kamakura era to Kano 2 in the Nambokucho era, and this is his last known dated work. There is a slightly wide mihaba, a slightly thick kasane, and it is sunnobi with almost no sori. Mid-Kamakura tanto are narrow, sunnobi, and uchizori. Nambokucho Enbun-Joji type tanto and wakizashi changed and have a thin kasane, are wide, and the tip has sori. At the end of the Kamakura to early Nambokucho period, this is a transitional shape. At this time, the smiths who made this kind of tanto with a very tight ko-itame jihada with a dense nioiguchi and suguha hamon were the Kyoto smiths Rai Kunimitsu and Rai Kunitsugu, and the Higo Enju school smiths. This is a Rai Kunimitsu tanto, but it has a rare iorimune shape (these are usually mitsumune), and because of this many people voted for the Enju school. The answer is understandable, but if it were Enju work, the jihada nie would be weaker when compared with the Rai school, and it would be mixed with nagarehada; there would be white utsuri, and the hamon nioiguchi would be worn down.  On many of the Enju swords, both the ji and ha are less bright and clear when compared with Rai blades.  Their boshi are usually an omaru style, and different from this. In addition, there are often nijuba around the boshi, and these are characteristics of the Enju style. If you judged this as Rai school work, either Kunitsugu and Kunimitsu have suguha which follow Rai tradition, and either smith isan acceptable answer. But Kunimitsu has more suguha work when compared to Kunitsugu, and Kunitsugu has stronger nie on his blades than Kunimitsu.             


Kantei To No 3: katana


Mei: Kozuka no Suke Fujiwara Kaneshige


Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 9 bu  

Sori: 6 bu

Design: shinogizukuri

Mune:  ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame with jinie and frequent chikei.

Hamon: suguha style hamon mixed with continuous gunome; there are ashi; some places have a juzuba type hamon; there is a dense nioiguchi, frequent nie, sunagshi and nie suji.

Boshi: around the yokote, the boshi is slightly yakikomi (the hamon drops just past the yokote), straight and a komaru with return.


This katana has a slight sori, the width at the point is narrow compared with the moto, there is a chu-kissaki, and the jihada is a tight ko-itame. The hamon is a sugaha style, mixed with continuous gunome, gunome ashi, and juzuba style elements. From these characteristics, we judge this as a Kanbun era Edo shinto katana. At that time, representatives of the famous Edo shito smiths were Kotetsu, Okimasa, the Edo Hojoji school, and Kazuka no Suke Kaneshige. This blade has a little yakikomi on the yokote, and this may be judged as a Kotetsu boshi, so many people voted for Kotetsu. If it were Kotetsufs work, the ji and ha should be more bright and clear. Also there is a straight yakidashi, which Edo shinto smiths usually do not have. This bottom half of the hamon has frequent sunagashi and niesuji, but Kotetsufs work very rarely has this kind of hamon. This is a Kozuke no Suke Kaneshige katana. Kaneshige made juzuba style midare hamon, and he was a very skilled smith, the same as other Edo shinto smiths. His midare hamon has original rhythym: at first it looks simple, but it contains a pattern with one and two, and one and two, constantly continuous gunome. This is an important point in judging this as his work, and this katana on the omote side shows this character. Also, Okimasafs midare hamon have a similar one and two, and two continuous gunome hamon. The Edo Hojoji school smiths have a narrower yakiba when compared with the other Edo shinto smiths, and many of their hamon are a suguha style mixed with a much smaller continuous gunome midare hamon.            



Kantei To No. 4: wakizashi


Mei: Soshu ju Hirotsugu saku


Length: 1 shaku 8 sun 2 bu

Sori: 5 bu

Design: shinogizukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: itamehada mixed with mokumehada; there are frequent fine chikei, and dense thick ji-nie.

Hamon: gunome mixed with choji; there are tobiyaki and muneyaki and it becomes a hitatsura hamon; there are ko-ashi, yo, a strong nioiguchi, and nie.

Boshi: midarekomi, with a round komaru and return which continues to become muneyaki.

Horimono: On the omote side at the koshimoto there is a so style kurikara; on the ura side at the koshimoto there are bonji and gomabashi.


This is a Soshu Hirotsugu wakizashi. According to the Meikan book, the shodai Hirotsugu smith started working in the Nambokucho era in the Kenbu period, but today we seem to have no work made before the mid-Muromachi period, and his active period is supposed to be after the Bunmei period. At that time, the Soshu smiths favorite style was a very active hitatsura hamon, just like on this wakizashi, and many of them have deeply carved dynamic kasanebori. This wakizashifs jihada has dense thick ji-nie and fine chikei, the hamon is wide, and has gunome mixed with choji, with tobiyaki and muneyaki, and becomes hitatsura hamon. Also both the omote and ura have well made horimono at the koshimoto: the omote is a so style kurikara, and the ura has bonji and gomabashi, and these show  typical Soshu work at that time. In the Muromachi period, the Soshu smithsf hitatsura work was a little different during the early period for smiths around the Bunan to Hotoku eras such as Masahiro and Hiromasa, and was different for the late Muromachi Kamakura Soshu smiths such as Tsunahiro, and the Odawara Soshu smiths such as Fusamune and Yasukuni. In their early work the choji hamon are prominent, and the entire hamon is smaller. In the late work there is not much seen in a choji syle, and the hamon become gunome hamon. Horimono work, in the case of the Odawara Soshu smiths, there are many very detailed shin no kurikara reliefs inside of a frame or hi. The Kamakura Soshu smiths used primarily negative carved horimono with a so style kurikara, bonji, and gomabashi, just like on this wakizashi. Possibly people recognized these characteristics, because many of them looked at this as sue Soshu work, especially Kamakura Soshu work. Some people voted for the Nambokucho period smiths, Hiromitsu and Akihiro. If this were a Nambokucho wakizashi, it would be different from this one which has a normal mihaba and clear sakizori shape. A Nanbokucho shape would have a wide mihaba, thin kasane, and nie in the  ji and ha would be stronger than in a Muromachi period blade; there would also be more hataraki inside the hamon.

Some people voted for sue Bizen smiths such as Sukesada, but many of the sue Bizen smithsf hitatsura hamon blades have a high shinogi, and a thin kasane.   




Kantei To No. 5: wakizashi


Mei: Tsuda Echizen no Kami Sukehiro

        Empo Gannen 12 gatsu hi


Length: 1 shaku 5 sun 6 bu

Sori: 4 bu

Design: shinogizukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame; there are fine chikei and thick ji-nie.

Hamon: there is a short straight yakidashi; above this there is a round top ogunome midare hamon which becomes a toranba style; there is a dense nioiguchi, frequent nie, and the hamon is  bright and clear.   

Boshi: wide yakiba; straight with komaru and a return.


This is a Tsuda Echizen no Kami  Sukehiro wakizahi, and he is one of the two best known Osaka shinto smiths along with Inoue Shinkai. Sukehiro is supposed to have designed the tall rough ocean wave yakiba.  This is representative of a fresh Shinshinto blade, with a large scale design, dynamic and lively, and with an active midare hamon, and it is a famous toranba midare hamon. This  toranba midare hamon had a strong influence on the erafs Osaka smiths, and many shinshinto smiths also copied the style. This is an ogunome midare hamon and is similar to toranba midare, and because of this, some people voted for Osaka smiths such as Echigo no Kami Kanesada and Ikkanshi Tadatsuna, or shinshinto smiths such as Suishinshi Masahide, Ozaki Suketaka, and Ichige Tokurin, who made toranba midare hamon or similar ogunome midare hamon.  Echizen no Kami Kanesada made Sukehiro style toranba midare, and he was a skillful smith. Kanesdafs hamon are often mixed with a yahazu type hamon, and his toranba midare often become a katayama gata shape. Another characteristic is under the yokote:there are three continuous gunome. In addition, the mune angle are sharp or steep. Ikkanshi Tadatsunafs characteristic toran hamon have  clear contunuous choji when compared with  Sukehiro. Shinshinto smithfs blades usually have a poor hiraniku form, and the  jihada is different from Sukehirofs tight ko-itame with fine chikei, thick ji-nie, and elegant jihada. Many of the shinshinto jihada are too tight, and show a muji type jihada. Their hamon are usually mixed with large ara-nie, and the nie become clumped and are different from Sukehirofs work in which both the ji and hamon have even bright fine nie.  



Shijo Kantei No 652 ( in the May, 2011 issue)


The answer for the Shijo Kantei To No. 652 in the May issue is   a gassaku katana made by Suishinshi Masahide and his son Suikanshi Sadahide (dated Bunka 15 nen).


 Masahide came from Dewa no kuni Akayu, and intially he studied under the Shitahara smith Musashi maru Yoshihide, and later studied under Soshu Tsunahiro and Ishido Korekazu. Masahide then created own style. People call him a founder of the shinshinto school, but during his his early career, many of his works are copies of the Osaka shinto smith Sukehiro, and sometimes of Shinkai, and rarely of  Ikkansai. Other works are in the Soshu Den style. Later he proposed making practical swords, and based on this, his style became primarily a Bizen Den style.        

He made many shapes: many Osaka shinto utsushimono (copies of Osaka shinto work) in a Kanbun shinto style. Later work is in the Bizen Den style, and many of these have a normal mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are slightly different. There is a slightly large sori, chu-kissaki, and a gentle shape, but in both of his styles there is a poor form for the hiraniku. The jitetsu is either an Osaka shinto utsushi (copy) and Bizen Den have a tight ko-itame  mu-ji type hada, and sometimes Osaka shinto utsushi muji type hada is seen with a ko-itame pattern. Bizen Den hamon around the koshimoto appear to be soft hamon. Above this, the yakiba is a little low, and there are narrow clusters of sharp tipped gunome and choji. The hamon is continuous with little height variations, but with with long ashi, saka-ashi, a bright and strong nioiguchi and ko-nie. The boshi on this type of hamon are often midare-komi with a komaru and return. Masahide often has horimono, such as a Shin no Kurikara relief inside of  a frame, like on this sword; bohi with soehi; a Namiryu relief inside a frame; a Kurikara and Sankotsukaken; and often, after the Kansei period, his horimono are supposed to have been done by Honjo Yoshitane. His nakago at this time have a ha-agari kurijiri; the yasurime are osujichigai with kesho; and on the omote, under the mekugi-ana on the mune side there is a long signature. On the ura, there is a date, and that is seen on this katana. Many of his nakago have a kao. Most of the people voted for Masahide. A few people voted for Suikanshi Sadahide. This is a Masahide and Sadahide gassaku katana, and around this time Sadahide is supposed to have collaborated frequently with his father. Sadahide also made this type of katana, and because of this, a Sadahide vote was treated as a correct answer. But this is typical example of work from the later half of the Shodai Masahidefs career, and unless you can see some strong characteristic to suggest it is Sadahidefs work, it is better vote for the Shodaifs work. A few people voted for Hosokawa Masayoshi.  Usually, for Masahidefs work, Masayoshifs name is not an almost correct answer, but in Bunka and early half of Bunsei, Masayoshifs work has a muji type jihada, a saka-ashi style hamon with small gunome and choji. Early in his career he signed with the name Morihide, and these swords have ha-agari kurijiri nakago and a long signature,  and because of this, only for this type of katana would the Masayoshi name be treated as an almost correct answer. But Masayoshi did not make this type of katana often, and usually his Bizen Den style work has a gunome-choji hamon mixed with choji; in the spaces between the midare waves, the hamon appears like fan shape, with long ashi, and ashi across the inside of the hamon. The nakago yasurime are an original ippontsuki, and the nakago tip is kurijiri. Another almost correct answer that a few people voted for was Taikei Naotane. His Bizen Den have a normal mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are quite different; there is a large sori, a chu-kissaki, and there is funbari. These features describe a a late Kamakura type shape, and the hamon can look like Kagemitsufs kataochi gunome or square gunome. His other swords have a  wide mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. There is a large long kissaki, and these are features of a Nambokucho shape,  and many of  his hamon show Kanemitsu type large square gunome, and his jigane have midare utsuri, and the nakago tip is kurijiri.            


Explanation provided by Hinohara Dai.