August, 2011



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Juyo Bijutsu Hin

Type: Tanto

Mei: Yoshimitsu

Details:  Umetada habaki

              with a kiritske (carved) mei Rikusa               


Length: 7 sun 1 bu (slightly over 21.5 cm)

Sori : slightly uchizori

Motohaba: 6 bu 6 rin  (2.0 cm) 

Motokasane: slightly over 3 rin  (0.41 cm) 

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

Nakago length: slightly over 3 sun 3 bu (10.7 cm)  

Nakago sori: very slight



This is a hirazukuri tanto with a mitsumune, and a small elegant shape.  The jihada is a tight ko-itame mixed with mokume, and there are thick ji-nie and chikei, and near the mune side of the ji, there is a pale bo-utsuri. The hamon is suguha, and at the koshimoto it is mixed with ko-gunome. In places, there are ko-ashi, and around the monouchi the hamon is low and shows a nijuba style. There are frequent ko-nie, and a bright nioiguchi. The boshi on the omote is a shallow notare, and the tip is sharp. On the ura, the boshi is straight and the tip is komaru. Both sides have a shallow return. On the omote koshimoto near the mune, there is a suken horimono. The nakago is almost ubu: the nakago-jiri is kurijiri, the yasurime are shallow kattesagari, and there is a one mekugi-ana. On the omote side, under the mekugi ana along the center, there is a large smooth two kanji signature made with a with fine tagane (chisel).

The Awataguchi school started at Yamashiro no kuni in Kyoto, during the early Kawakura period, and it was written about in the Ujijui-monogatari (a 13th century book of stories). The school produced many master smiths, and Yoshimitsu was a one of best master smiths. He was known as a tanto master smith along with the Soshu smith Shintogo Kunimitsu. Since Edo times, Soshu Goro nyudo Masamune, Go Yoshihiro, and Yoshimitsu are the three master smiths who are called the gTenka sansakuh (i.e. the three best swordsmiths in the world ),  and among them Yoshimitsu was evaluated as the best smith, and his work was treated as the best. His tanto shapes are not constant, and there are variations such as a wide blade with a short length , a wide blade with a longer length, a small size, and a normal size. There are all kinds of shapes, and Kuniyoshi has tanto with this kind of shape, and from this fact, it is thought that the two of them may have been closely related to each other. In Edo times, the book gKyoho Meibutsu Choh listed 34 meibutsu (master piece) blades ( but18 were lost in a fire ), and among these, Hirano Toshiro (which belonged to the emperor) was given by the Kaga Maeda family to the Meiji emperor.  This tanto was considered a meibutsu since Muromachi times, and was known for its unusually thick blade, and its name came from this characteristic. This was owned by the Muromachi shogunate family, Honnami Kotoku, Ichiyanagi Izunokami, Kuroda Josui, Toyotomi Hidetsugu, Hideyoshi, Mori Terumoto, the Tokugawa shogunate family, the Hitotsubashi Tokugawa family. In early Showa times, it was owned by the Teishitsu Museum (the imperial household museum). Two other tanto made by Yoshimitsu have meibutsu (names) and are the Atsu Toshiro (classified as kokuho and owned by the Tokyo National museum), and the Goto Toshiro (classified kokuho, and owned by the Owari Tokugawa Reimeikai Museum). Yoshimitsu has almost no tachi, and there is a saiha ko-tachi (with a katana mei, and which was made the 12th tokubetsu Juyo sword), which is called gichigo hitoeh. There are also a few ken by this smith. His hamon are almost always suguha, but he has exceptional midare hamon and gunome midare hamon.

This tanto has a suguha hamon, and around the koshimoto there is a  continuous ko-gunome hamon. Around the fukura, the hamon becomes narrow, and this is typical of his style. This is a very elegant looking tanto, and belongs to the Ishimi kuni Tsuwano lord Kameifs family descendants. This tanto has an Umetada solid gold nijyu habaki, but is is not known what the gRikusah signature means.                


(Explanation and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori)


 Juyo tosogu


Momotaro rusumoyo zu (an Edo period design, showing the property of someone, and leaving details to the imagination) tsuba

mei: Konkan (with kao)


The Momotaro story starts gonce upon a time, ---h, and for many Japanese people it is a familiar and antique story. The Momotaro legend valued virtue and desccribed the elimination of evil, and this is known as one of the Ijotanjo tan stories (about a baby born with a strange shapes or an animal shape). In mid-Edo times in Japan, the old fashioned Momotaro story was listed in the aka hon (a childrenfs book) as one of the five best Edo period stories, and today it is considered a masterpiece example of an old story in Japan. In this story, wandering animals overcome many difficult situations, defeat evil beings such as demons, and bring about a peaceful world for people, and this kind of story is present all over the world. For example, in South East Asia and in North American Indian stories, there are differences in the details, but the essences are the same. The anthropologist, Dr. Ishida Eiichiro analyzed the Momotaro legend and story, and he concluded that the the story about the mother of Momotaro was based on a legend about the founding of a religion in Eurasia. In childhood, we heard the Momotaro legend as a bedtime story, and this old story has a background based on the Eurasian continent.

Konkan was a Yokoya school smith, and he also worked in the Nara school style. He was an excellent master smith, used a wide range styles, and made full use of poetic scenes in his work. His work was very unique and not a direct representation, has some insight and consequences, and draws peoplefs eyes into his world. This is a one of his good examples: he designed the Momotaro legendfs story which has a dynamic background, by using a subtle rusumoyo style, in a  small tsubafs space. After this scene, the story has a dynamic movement, but the  design is quiet, and in combination with the grand Momotaro story, this tsuba brings out a depth of feeling. We can almost to hear the breath of the old man who went to the mountain to gather firewood, and the old woman who went to the river to wash clothes, and this still has a pure simple effect. This is a Konkanfs master piece work.                  


Explanation by Kurotaki Tetsuya and photos by Kubo Ryo.               




Shijo Kantei To No. 655


The answer for Shijo Kantei To No.654 (in the July, 2011 issue) is a tanto by Hosho Sadaoki.


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 655 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: katana

Length: slightly less than 2 shaku 2 sun 8 bu (69.0 cm)

Sori: 7.5 bu (2.27 cm)

Motohaba: 8 bu 7 rin (2.65 cm)

Sakihaba: 6 bu 3 rin (1.9 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu (0.6 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 3 rin (0.6 cm)

Kissaki length: 1 sun 9 rin (3.3 cm)

Nakago length: 5 sun 5 bu (16.82 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight


This is a shinogi zukuri katana with an ihorimune, a normal mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are a little different. The upper half of the blade has sakizori, and there is a chu-kissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with nagare hada, and the hada is slightly visible. There is ji-nie, and the jihada is a dark color but has some whitish parts. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. Some parts of the hamon are very narrow, and the hamon on the omote and ura are the same. There is a  worn down nioguchi, nie, and a little sunagashi. The nakago is slightly suriage, the tip is narrow and it has a unique shape. The nakago shape is iriyamagata with a square mune, and the ha side is rounded.The yasurime are kattesagari. There are two mekugi-ana, and on the omote side towards the mune, below the original mekugi ana there is a two kanji signature. The ura side, under the habaki towards the mune, has the smithfs suriage signature.





Teirei Kanshou Kai For July


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 June 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


Orikaeshi mei: Norifusa


Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 7.5 bu

Sori: slightly over 5 bu

Style: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame; there are frequent ji-nie, fine chikei and a pale midare utsuri.

Hamon: choji midare with a low hamon, and above the monouchi area it is suguha; there are frequent ashi and yo, and some areas have a saka-ashi style hamon; there nie, and a bright and clear hamon. 

Boshi: omote and ura both are a shallow midarekomi; there is a komaru and hakikake.


This is a Katayama Ichimonji Norifusa katana, and from the name, many people imagined that this kind of tachi belonged to a Tokugawa family descendant and has a Kokuho clasification. There is a wide mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much diffurent. The hamon is o-choji mixed with juka-choji, kawazuka-choji, fukuro-choji, and some parts have a saka-ashi hamon. There are high and low variations in the height of the hamon which is a very active midare hamon. This is a Juyobijutsu Hin clasified katana, and the mihaba is a little narrower than the kokuho one; the choji clusters are smaller andhave a smaller size; and above the monouchi there is a suguha style hamon, and maybe because of this, in the voting some people voted for a later Kamakura era Bizen katana. If you examine the hamon carefully, we do not see many characteristic late Kamakura gunome hamon mixed with a choji hamon. Also  the clusters of choji are close each other, and there is no space between them, and there is a fine high and low hamon. This kind of hamon is seen on a mid-Kamakura era blade, and the mihaba isstandard, the widths at the moto and saki are not much different, and the kissaki is an inokubi style, From these characteristics, among the mid Kamakura Bizen katana, you can judge this as Ichimonji school work. Details of Norifusafs characteristic style are: the jihada has thick jinie, frequent chikei, a strong look. In his choji hamon, some parts show a saka-ashi style, there are fine ashi and yo hakaraki, and it is bright and clear. The Fukuoka Ichimonji master smiths, Yoshifusa, Norifusa, and Sukezane each had a different style of signature, and their signatures were variable. Thus, some people think that there was more than one generation using these signatures. These smiths made a wide mihaba, inokubi kissaki, and a georgeous o-choji hamon which is a typical Fukuoka Ichimonji style, and also swords with a narrower shape with a smaller hamon. We can see that, as time passes, the shape changed from a wide mihaba with a georgeous hamon, to a narrow mihaba with a gentle hamon. Some of the old token books listed Enbun Joji shaped blades, but today we still have about five different shapes from that time. For a mid-Kamakura blade, you can imagine a wide mihaba, inokubi kissaki, and a dymnamic shape, but even mid-Kamakura times, typical inokubi kissaki tachi made sometimes, and I believe that there were transitional times when the shape was changing, from an early Kamakura narrow shape to a wider tachi with an inokubi kissaki, and in late Kamakura times to a narrow shape. There are problems about production dates, and each smithfs generation, so we cannot date this exactly now, but in the future, we should be able to date each smith and transitional work for smiths such as Norifusa and Yoshifusa, and it should be possible to date this katana more precisely.                      ,      



Kantei To No.2: tachi


Mei: Bizen Osafune Iesuke

    Eikyo 9 nen 9 gatsu


Length: 2 shaku 5 sun 6.5 bu

Sori: 8.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume; the entire jihada is visible; there are ji-nie, chikei, and midare utsuri.

Hamon: open bottom gunome mixed with choji, togariba, and square type gunome; there are ashi, yo, a strong nioiguchi, and ko-nie.

Boshi: midarekomi and tips are sharp.


This is a Oei Bizen Iesuke tachi. There is less funbari than expected around the habakimoto, and from this characteristic, this is a suriage tachi, and the original shape had a standard mihaba. The widths at the moto and saki are different; there is koshizori, and the tip has sori, and this is a tachi shape from around the Oei period. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and the entire jihada is visible; there are chikei, and the hamon is primarily open bottom gunome and choji, and the boshi resembles a candle flame. These are typical Oei Bizen characteristics. Among the Oei Bizen smiths, Morimitsu hamon have primarily round top choji and open bottom gunome, and a more georgeous midare hamon. But on this midare hamon, there are prominent square gunome and togariba, a slightly rough smaller hamon, and the jihada is not refined when compared with Morimitsu and Yasumitsu. The tip of the boshi resembles a candle flame, and falls towards the ha side, and the quality of the workmanship is somewhat below that of Morimitsu and Yasumitsu. From these details, among the Oei Bizen smiths, you can judge this as being the work of a branch school smith such as Iesuke and Tsuneie, and from the prominent square gunome hamon, Iesuke is the most reasonable answer. In the voting however, many people voted for the Kamakura era smith Nagamitsu. This is a long tachi shape with a georgeous choji midare hamon, and at first appearance, the shape is similar to a late Kamakura tachi shape. However, the tip has a little sori, and hamon has many open bottom gunome. In early times, this type of hamon is seen on Nanbokucho period work in Bizen, but is seen mainly in Muromachi time work, and from the hamon and shape, this should be judged work which is later than a Nanbokucho tachi.           



Kantei To No 3: katana


Mei: Hoshu Takada ju Fujiwara Munekage


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 5.5 bu  

Sori: 5.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame with j-nie and white utsuri.

Hamon: wide suguha, some parts mixed with square gunome; there are ashi, yo, a tight nioiguchi and ko-nie.

Boshi: omote and ura are straight with yakizume; there are square ashi and yo.


This is a Takada school katana from the end of the Muromachi period by the smith Munekage.  From the wide mihaba, o-kissaki, large shape with suguha, more people than expected voted for an earlier era Aoe katana. This blade has a wide mihaba, and an o-kissaki, but this is not an Nanbokucho Enbun Joji osuriage shape: the habaki moto has funbari, and there is an ubu uchigatana shape, and the top half has sori, so you can judge this as a katana from the end of the Muromachi period. The jihada, if it were Aoe work, would be itame mixed with mokume, the entire fine jihada would be visible; there would be frequent chikei, and a darker color, a dark blue, call chirimen hada. This blade has a tight ko-itame hada, but it does not have this kind of interesting jihada expected from Aoe. It is less refined, and there is no dan utsuri like on Aoe work, and there is less clear white utsuri. The suguha hamon does not have hataraki and a clear hamon like Aoe, and has what is called ga pointed like needle shapeh with small sharp ashi and yo, and from these characteristics, it is possible judge this as a Takada school katana. From the same Muromachi period, some people voted for the mainstream sue Bizen smith Minamoto Byoei Sukesada. If it were him, the jihada would be a tight itame with  fine chikei, bright frequent ji-nie, and a refined jihada, and the hamon would have more dense nie, and frequent ashi and yo hataraki. Among the Takada school, during the latter half of the Muromachi period, the Taira Takada smiths such as Nagamori and Sanemori made blades with a standard mihaba, and where the widths at the moto and saki were not much different. Their work also had a chu-kissaki, and the upper half has a strong sori and unique shape. However,  a late Muromachi smith like Munekage can be transitional, and usually show old features and a new unique large shape.   @       


Kantei To No. 4: katana


Mei: mikazukibun Taikei Shoji Naotane (with kao)

    Bunka 8 nen chushu (autumn)

Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 1 bu

Sori: 4.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, muji type; there are ji-nie, and midare utsuri.

Hamon: open bottom gunome mixed with saka-ashi and square gunome, togariba, and yahazu style choji; there are ashi, yo, ko-nie, and around the habaki moto the hamon is soft.

Boshi: midarekomi, jizo type, there are hakikake.


 Kantei To numbers 4 and 5 are discussed together below in the commentary for number 5.


Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: Shoji Chikuzen daijo Taikei Naotane

    Bunsei 4 nen 5 gatsu hi

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 3.5 bu

Sori: slightly over 8 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame; there are frequent ji-nie, fine chikei, and midare utsuri.

Hamon: square type gunome stryle, mixed with togariba, kataochi gunome, and open bottom gunome; there are frequent ashi,and the entire hamon is a saka-ashi style; there is a strong nioiguchi and ko-nie.   

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


These are two Taikei Naotane katana: Kantei To No.4 is an Oei Bizen utsushimono, and No.5 is Kanemitsu utushimono. The No.4 Oei Bizen utsushimono is a well known katana, but we do not have many chances to look at it. The No.5 Kanemitsu utsushimono shows Naotanefss usual style: the top of the midare hamon is smoky in appearance, the hamon at the koshimoto is soft, and it resembles an old style sword. We planned to compare the two katana, but maybe this was a bit confusing for the voting, because unexpectely, many people voted for Kamakura and Nanbokucho period swords. The No. 4 katana has a standard mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are a little different, and the upper half has sori, which is a copy of a Muromachi style shape. The No. 5 katana has a wide mihaba, the widths at the moto and saki are not much different, there is a long kissaki, and a slightly  strong sori, which is Nanbokucho period tachi shape. Naotane worked in Soshu Den, Yamato Den, Bizen Den and with all kinds of styles, but at the end of the Bunka era to the end of the Bunsei era, many of his swords are in the Bizen Den style. The two katana have jihada which are a tight ko-itame muji type, and in the midare utsuri, but there are some places where it  strong and appears like nioi, and this is often a characteristic of Naotanefs work. No 4 is an Oei Bizen style, and No.5 is a Kanemitsu style, and both appear to be good copies of original work, but if you look carefully, neither of the midare hamon are as smooth as the original ones, and the hamon are mixed with Naotanefs characteristic Bizen den saka-ashi square gunome and togariba. Also, the No 4 katana hamon is soft in the koshimoto area. On the No.5 katana, the ashi in the hamon are long and extend almost to the hasaki. From these details, you can decide that this is a Naotane katana. At this kansho kai, after we began to view the nakago, we displaied several swords for comparisons; a typical Sukesada katana which has a wide mihaba with an inokubi kissaki; a Morimitsu tachi; a Yosasaemonjo Sukesada katana; and a typical Tomomitsu katana.  The No.4 and No.5 katana both have an old looking appearance, but when you compare the  jihada, utusri, and the shape of the midare with old swords, hopfully you can look at No 4 and 5 as Shinshinto katana. The two kao on the nakago have different shapes, and Naotanefs kao change with time, as do his signatures.




Shijo Kantei To  No 653 (in the June, 2011 issue)


The answer for the Shijo Kantei To No. 653 in the June issue is a wakizashi by Osafune Sanemitsu dated Oei 16 nen. 


Sanemitsu does not have too many swords extant today. He has a gassaku blade with two Oei Bizen master smiths, Morimitsu and Yasumitsu; this blade has three  signatures. This kind of gassaku blade is listed in the Kozan oshigata, and from this, it is thought that the Oei Bizen smiths were closely associated. This sword has a standard mihaba, the widths at the moto and saki are different, the upper half has sori, and there is a chu-kissaki. From this shape, you can judge this as being an early Muromachi wakizashi. Oei Bizen jihada are itame mixed with mokume, the entire hada is visible, there are ji-nie, and utsuri and the utsuri is either midare utsuri or bo utsuri. The midare hamon are based on open bottom midare hamon and contain choji mixed with gunome and togariba, and these features are prominent. There are ashi, yo, a bright strong nioiguchi, and ko-nie. In this kind of hamon, the boshi are midarekomi, the tips are sharp, and we call this an gOei Bizen candle flameh characteristic boshi shape. Also, this school often has suguha hamon mixed with ko-gunome, there are ashi, yo, a strong nioiguchi with ko-nie. In particular, their narrow tachi shapes with a tight nioiguchi in suguha mixed with saka-ashi are refined, and look like Osafune blades by Kagemitsu and Chikakage from the end of the Kamakura period. Many of the Oei Bizen blades have horimono such as bohi with soehi, bonji, sankoshoken, kanji like gHachiman daibosatsuh, and kurikara. In the case of hi horimono, they have a marudome above the machi, and this is a characteristic Oei Bizen style. Oei Bizen nakago are wide with a kurijiri, the yasurime are kattesagari, and many of signatures on shinogi zukuri wakizashi blades are on the omote along the center of the nakago, and have long signatures. The ura can have a date. However, sometimes there is a signature towards the  mune side of the nakago.

 Many people voted for Sanemitsu, and also for other Oei Bizen smiths such as Morimitsu and Yasumitsu. Some people voted for Eikyo Bizen smiths such as Norimitsu and Sukemitsu. Sanemitsu has few swords extant, and his hamon are midare and contain round topped and open bottom gunome, or are choji midare hamon which are very similar to Morimitsu and Yasumitsu. Because of this, it is difficult to judge the differences, and these smiths are treated as almost correct answers.

Eikyo Bizen smiths like Norimitsu used to be considered as Oei Bizen smiths.     

Their hamon were midare and often had open bottom gunome mixed with choji and were beautiful and active, which is similar to Oei Bizen work, so an Eikyo Bizen smithfs name is treated as an almost correct answer. But the Eikyo Bizen smithfs original style have an entirely midare hamon, and are low or narrow, and they are built on details which are smaller than the Oei Bizen open bottom midare hamon; in addition, the choji hamon are not as prominent or as strongly presented as Oei Bizen work. Instead of choji, their hamon are mixed with square shaped ko-gunome, and are mainly nioi. Eikyo Bizen hamon are not like Oei Bizen work with large up and down variations in a very active hamon, and are not like Sue Bizen hamon which are midare with large open bottom gunome, and double gunome. Their hamon were made during a transitional period, with  somewhat  smaller gentler hamon, and this is a characteristic feature of their hamon, and are  diffurent from the hamon on this wakizashi, so plese pay attention to these characteristic details.


Explanation and provided by Hinohara Dai