November, 2011



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Tokubetsu Juyo Token

Type: Tanto

Mei: Kuniyoshi (Awataguchi)


Length:  9 sun 5 bu 7 rin (29.0cm)

Sori : there is a slight uchizori

Motohaba:  8 bu 6 rin (2.56 cm) 

Motokasane: 2 bu (0.6 cm) 

Nakago length: 4 sun 5 rin (12.15 cm)  

Nakago sori: 7 rin (0.2 cm)




This is a hirazukuri tanto with a mitsumune, a wide mihaba, long with a slightly thick kasane, and which has a slight uchizori. The jihada is a tight refined koitame, and there are dense thick ji-nie. In places, there are fine chikei, and in some places there are jifu. The jihada is  bright, and there is a clear bo-utsuri. The hamon is chu-suguha with a slight shallow notare. Under the fukura, the hamon width is narrow,  there is a bright nioiguchi, frequent ko-nie, and along the hamon there are intermittent nijuba. Around the fukura, the hamon almost forms yubashiri, and the upper half of the hamon is mixed with one pale yubashiri line. The boshi is straight  with an omaru and a return. Horimono on the omote and ura are very close to mune edge, and are katana hi with tsure-hi. The nakago is ubu, (slightly machi-okuri); the nakago tip is haagari-kurijiri; the yasurimei are sujichigai, and the yasurime are not clear but appears like gai-ne-kiri; there are three mekugiana with one being closed. On the omote under the second mekugiana (the ubu ana) along the center, there is a two kanji signature made with a slightly thick tagane (chisel).

Awataguchi Kuniyoshi was the oldest of six brothers, and his grandfather Kunitomo was one of the emperor Gotobafs swordsmiths, His father was Norikuni, and Toshiro Yoshimitsu was either his student or his son, and he was one of the master smiths in the school. He has a couple of dated blades from Koan 3 (1280), and an old sword book oshigata shows some dated Kenji 4 (1278), and Koan 6 and 7 (1283 and 1287). From these dates, his active working period was at the end of the Kamakura era. His signatures are mostly nijimei (two kanji), and there is a long signature starting with a gSabyoei g title. Most of his mei were made with a slightly thick tagane, but sometimes he used a fine tagane. Most of his blades are tanto, and there are few tachi and ken. He has a hirazukuri uchigatana with a long signature (this is classified Juyo Bunkazai  and is named Go Nakikitsune ), and you can see his style in these works. In his tanto, he made them with a wide or narrow mihaba, all lengths, and this is very different from the Rai school in the same region which made a standard and average sized tanto. Kuniyoshifs jihada are a  fine tight ko-itame hada with fine thick ji-nie, which is delicate appearing and at the same time a strong jihada and is called a nashi-ji hada; this is his schoolfs distinctive jihada. His hamon are suguha, but besides suguha, there are suguha with a slightly shallow notare, and both of these have a clear nioiguchi, frequent fine thick ha-nie, and the ji and ha have a bright sophisticated look, and many of these have a distinctive nijuba. His horimono are katana hi and gomabashi which are carved very close to the mune, and this is one of his characteristic features. Some of his hamon around the yakidashi area are mixed with ko-gunome. In some of his hamon, around the fukura area the hamon becomes narrow. From these details, it apears that he used all kinds of shapes, hamon, and horimono, and Toshiro Yoshimitsu studied Kuniyoshi, and Yoshimitsu and is supposed to have followed their style.

This tanto has a wide mihaba, is long, and is slightly machi okuri. The original length is 1 shaku 2 bu, which is one of his longest tanto, and illustrates the variety of the shapes he used. The jihada is a tight compact refined ko-itame hada, with abundant ji-nie everywhere, and the hada appears to be wet and just like fine silk,. There is a clear bo utsuri. With the refined jihada, the hamon is an elegant suguha, with fine thick ha-nie along the entire nioiguchi, inside of the hamon, and is present to the tip of the hamon. The entire hamon is bright, and the ji and ha are very clear. Beside this, his distincive nijuba is seen along the upper part, and some places shows two lines, and this makes it very interesting. With the horimono close to the mune side, this tanto shows Kuniyoshifs characterisitcs with elegance, and this is his masterpiece.                    


 (Explanation and oshigata by Ishii Akira)





Meitan kansho (fine tsuba & kodogu)


Sumo zu fuchi-kashira

Mei: Mito ju Michitoshi saku


The Japanese national sport sumo has an old history, starting from the oldest books, the Kojiki and Nihonshoki. In these books there are stories of the gods competing in contests of strength, and in ancient times such sumo contests were included shinto festivals to pray for an abundant farm harvest. In Heian times, it become one of royal courtfs events call Sumahinosechie. In the middle ages in bushi society, it become a necessary martial art for fighting in wars. In the Genpei era, the Soga brothersf story of revenge was initiated because of a sumo match between Kawazu Saburo and Hoshino Goro. In the Sengoku era, Oda Nobunaga used to gather many sumo wrestlers, and every year he organized a joran-sumo (a sumo event which the Shogun attended) at Azuchi castle.  In the peaceful Edo period, a class of professional wrestlers developed, and both Edo and the Kansai developed sumo events or matches. In early Edo times, sumo matches took place in round spaces surrounded by many people, and if one of wrestler knocked down the other wrestler or pushed him out in the crowd of people, he was given sake. Later, the modern version of a sumo ring developed: straw bundles forming tubes were placed on the ground to form a boundary for the ring. This fushi-kashira has a sumo theme, and in mid-Edo times, and is work of the Mito kinko master smith, Yatabe Michitoshi.  His specialty was nikuboriji sukashi and takaniku bori, and his tecniques are dynamic and strong. This is a dynamic marubori theme of two wrestler holding each other, and the wrestlerfs figures are a copper ground with gold and shakudo, which is iroe. This shows very well the wrestlerfs exuberant feelings and is full of enagy. This fuchi-kashira illustrates characteristic Michitoshi work very well.  At the same time, this is interesting work which illustrates sumo matches at that time.


(Explanation by Iida Toshihisa, and photo by Kubo Ryo )





Shijo Kantei To No. 658


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 658 issue Shijo Kantei To is December 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. Votes postmarked on or before December 5, 2011 will be accepted. 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 8 bu (26. 66 cm)

Sori: uchizori

Motohaba: 8 bu 3 rin (2. 5 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 1 rin (0.65 cm)

Nakago length: 3 sun 6 bu (10.91 cm)

Nakago sori: none


This is a hirazukuri tanto with an ihorimune, a standard mihaba, a thick kasane, and uchizori. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, there are dense thick ji-nie, fine chikei, and a very unique jihada. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. The hamon is mixed with kuichigaiba on the habuchi, has ko-ashi, a thick nioiguchi, dense nie, sunagashi and a bright nioiguchi. The nakago is ubu, and iriyamagata. The yasurime are kiri, and there is one mekugi-ana. On the omote side, the nakago has a long signature inscribed towards the mune edge. 





Teirei Kanshou Kai For October


The swords discussed below were shown in the October 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 October 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: Kanesada


Length: slightly over 6 sun 4 bu

Sori: uchizori

Style: hirazukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: tight ko-itame; there are ji-nie, fine chikei, and the entire jihada

              has a whitish utsuri.

Hamon: fine suguha, a clear nioiguchi, and ko-nie. 

Boshi: straight; the omote is omaru, and the ura is komaru; the tips have

            fine hakikake.


This is a smaller sized, well shaped tanto, with a hoso suguha hamon and was made by Kanesada (Nosada). This is a  Sue-Seki, Kyoto utsushimono tanto, but from this old style refined shape, many people voted for Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, Rai Kunitoshi, or Shintogo Kunimitsu, who were Kamakura era mainstream smiths. The Sue-Seki smithsf shapes often have a thick motokasane, and the tips become suddenly thin, and there is a poor fukura. This tanto does not have this kind of shape, and has a fine hoso-suguha hamon, so from these features, the answers are understandable. If you look at the tight fine jihada, the Yoshimitsu answer is understandable, but if this were Yoshimitsufs work, his hamon are not a uniform suguha, and some parts are mixed with ko-gunome, (often the koshimoto has yakikomi). His yakiba also become narrow around the fukura, and these are features of his work. If this were Rai Kunimitsufs work, his jihada is mixed with nagare-hada, and if it were Kunimitsufs work, his jihada are mixed with mokume-hada, and have frequent chikei. If you look at carefully at this tanto, th ji-nie are weaker than the mainstream smiths, and the fine suguha hamon is well done. However, the brightness of the nioiguchi, and the hataraki (sunagashi and kinsuji) do not compete with the mainstream smithsf work. On the boshi, the omote and ura sides round returns are different, and it is not as smoothly finished.  Utsuri is seen along the yakiba to the mune everyplace, but this is not bo-utsuri, and is a whitish utsuri. The center surfae of the mitsumune is narrow, and you should consider these different features. On the third vote, people corrected their opinions to Sue-Seki smiths. Usually, any Sue-Seki smithfs name is treated as an almost correct answer, but this time, considering the tantofs high standards, only the individual smith Kanesadafs name is considered correct.       



Kantei To No. 2: tanto


Mei: Yasuyoshi


Length: 9 sun 9.5 bu

Sori: 1 bu

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with mokume hada; the hada is visible, and there

           are fine ji-nie and frequent chikei; below the machi near the hamon, there

           is a straight utsuri; around the fukura the utsuri covers the entire jihada;

           there is a whitish utsuri and a dark jihada.

Hamon: ko-notare type ko-gunome, mixed with togari type gunome; there are

             ko-ashi, nioiguchi ko-nie, and long sunagashi.

Boshi: slightly midarekomi; the tip is sharp, and there is a long return.


Yasuyoshi is known as the son of Chikuzen kuni Dai Sa (great Sa), and he has two dated tanto: one is Shohei 12 nen (classified Juyo Bunkazai), and the other is Shojei 17 nen (classified Juyo Bijutsu Hin). These are signed gChoshu ju Yasuyoshih and from this, it appears that Yasuyoshi moved from Chikuzen to Nagato. The Shohei 10 year is the same as the Hokucho (North court) date for the Enbun-Joji era. This tanto is hirazukuri, has a wide mihaba, is long, has a shallow sori, and is a large size tanto, and this is a characteristic shape for this era. Among the Dai- Sa school works, Yasuyoshifs jihada are itame hada mixed with nagare hada, and the hada is visible. There is a whitish utsuri which is a characteristic Kyushu style, but his utsuri is straight and follows along the hamon. The  hamon is primarily a nioiguchi type gunome hamon, and these are Bizen characteristics. This tanto has no nagare hada when compared his usual jihada and strong hada. However, the jihada is dark, which is characteristic for a Kyushu blade. Also, the utsuri, hamon pattern, and the nioiguchi are typical of Yasuyoshifs style, but this tanto is very well done among his own works. Many of his boshi are midarekomi, and the tip falls toward either the hamon side or the mune side, and the omote side on this tanto clearly shows this characteristic. The ura side boshi does not fall, and it is tsukiage (straight), there is a sharp tip, and a long return, and this is just like work from Dai-Sa. In voting, people caught these characterisitcs correctly, and half of the people voted for Yasuyoshi on the first vote. Many people voted for the same erafs Bizen smiths Kanemitsu and Tomomitsu. This jihada is not obviously nagare hada, there is a strong nioiguchi hamon, a sharp tipped boshi, and visible straight utsuri, from these details, voting for these smiths is understandable. But if were their work, the hamon would be based on either notare or gunome patterns, and if it were notare, the hamon would have a more open bottom quiet shape. If it were gunome, the hamon would be mixed with square shaped gunome and kataochi gunome. In this hamon, in places, there are togari gunome which gradually become finer from the  tip to the bottom, and Yasuyoshifs work shows this kind of hamon often, so please remember this. This tanto belongs to the Owari Tokugawa family.          



Kantei To No 3: wakizashi


Mei: Dewa Daijo Fujiwara Kunimichi

    Kanei 7 nen 8 gatsu kichijitu


Length: 1 shaku 3 sun 5. 5 bu 

Sori:  4. 5 bu

Design: katakiriha zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume; some areas are mixed with nagare hada; the hada is visible; there are dense thick ji-nie and frequent fine chikei.

Hamon: gunome mixed with togariba; there is a high yakiba, and a beautiful midare hamon; the omote has a saka-ashi type hamon, with ashi, a thick nioiguchi, dense nie mixed with rough nie; the entire hamon has sunagshi, fine kinsuji, and yubashiri type tobiyaki.

Boshi: the omote is a shallow notarekomi; the ura is a wide notarekmi; both tips are sharp, and have hakikake; there is a long return, and this continues to form muneyaki. 

Horimono: the omote has long bonji and a sanko-tukatsuki-ken; the ura has katana hi carved though the nakago.


Dewa Daijo Kunimichifs earliest date is Keicho 13, and his latest date is Kanbun 2, so he was active for 50 years. He is known his long period of activity, and a great  productivity among the Horikawa school smiths. This wakizashi is dated Kanei 7, and he has signed blade dated Keian 5, age at 77 years old. From this, it appears that this wakizashi was made when he was 55 years old, and the workmanship is with full of spirit and well done. This blade has a wide mihaba, is long, has a large sori, and the katakiriha zukuri wakizashi shape shows exhibits a Momoyama period character. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and the hada is visible, but is not as rough as the usual Horikawa jihada. There are frequent chikei which is still typical of the Horikawa jihada. Some parts of the jihada are mixed with nagare hada and this is a Kunimichi characteristic. The hamon is basically gunome, and there is a high yakiba, and a beautiful midare, and this kind of high yakiba and dynamic style is Kunimichifs strongest point. Also the midare hamon can become a saka-ashi hamon (especially the omote side this is conspicuous), and this is  a major characteristic of his work. In particular, the boshi is notarekomi, the tip is sharp and there is a return, which is a typical Sanpin style. People who caught these details voted for the Kunimichi name at the first vote. As you know, Kunimichi has this kind of boshi. In his early signatures, Kunimichifs gmichih kanji use a different kanji, and later he used the Rai kanji, and this shows he was related to the Mishina family, even though he was in the Horikawa school. In voting, many people voted for Mishina school smiths such as Kinmichi and Etchu no kami Masatoshi. At this time, I accepted this as an almost correct answer, but if were from their school, the entire jihada would show more nagare hada, and there are very few katakiriha zukuri works. From the very well done sanko-tsukatsuki-ken horimono, some people voted for the Keicho era smith Yasushige. If this were his work, it would not show this kind of beautiful active hamon with large up and down variations, and his nioiguchi are worn down.            



Kantei To No. 4: wakizashi


Mei: Minamoto Kiyomaro

    Kaei 6 nen 8 gatsu hi


Length: slightly over 1 shaku 4 sun 7 bu

Sori: 1 bu

Design: shobu zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with mokumehada and nagarehada; the entire jihada is visible; there are dense ji-nie mixed in places with rough ji-nie, and fine chikei. 

Hamon: basically a gunome hamon; mixed shapes include round top gunome, square shaped gunome, and sharp tipped hamon; there are frequent long ashi, dense nie, and in places, rough nie-mura; there are frequent kinsuji and long sunagashi, tobiyaki, frequent muneyaki, and a bright, clear nioiguchi.

Boshi: small midarekomi; the tip is sharp,and there is a komaru, hakikake, a long return which continues to become muneyaki.


In the beginning, Kiyomarofs style was the same as his teacher Toshitakafs style. That was mainly a Bizen Den choji hamon with a tight nioiguchi. Later he changed to strongly emphasize a Soshu Den style, with primarily gunome, strong nie, long kinsuji and sunagashi. In particular, during his Masayuki era, many of his works emphasized tobiyaki and kinsuji, and these were active and beautiful. With the Kiyomaro signature, his midare hamon became bigger, and there were more ko-notare hamon, and the hataraki inside of the hamon become more gentle. This wakizashi is dated Kaei 6, which is the year before he committed suicide in Kaei 7, at 42 years of age, and there are very few dated blades from this time. This blade has primarily a gunome hamon, frequent long kinsuji and sunagashi, dense nie mixed with ara-nie, and the nioiguchi is bright and clear, and the boshi is sharp. These characteristics show his unique style. Also, the muneyaki is continuous from the moto to the tip and this is seen often in his work. This shobu zukuri wakizashi has a narrow shinogi haba for the mihaba, and the shinogi ji surface is very flat. There is  a high shinogi, and a shallow sori. This shape is a distinctive Kiyomaro shape among the Shinshinto smiths. Also, many of same era Shinshinto smiths have tight muji-tetsu jihada, but this blade is itame hada mixed with nagare hada and the hada is visible, with dense ji-nie, and is a very unique jihada. Because the shape, jihada, and hamon show his character very well, many people voted for correct answer in the first vote.

Most of the other answers were for smiths names from the same school. However,  if this were by Nobuhide, his hamon have a square type gunome and togariba stand out; if this was by Masao, his gunome hamon height is lower and he uses a gentle midare hamon; and if it  were by Kiyondo, his hamon use uniform continuous round top gunome.               



Kantei To No. 5: wakizashi


Mei: Hoju

       Oei 25 nen Tsuchinoe Inu 11gatsu hi


Length: 1 shaku 1 sun 6 bu

Sori: 2 bu

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame mixed with large and small mokume hada, some areas are a ayasugi type hada; the fine hada is visible; there are dense ji-nie, frequent chikei, and the jihada is dark.

Hamon: there is a high yakiba with a ko-notare hamon mixed with gunome; there are nie ashi, a wide nioiguchi, frequent nie, and some areas have nie kuzure; the entire hamon has fine sunagashi, fine hotsure, uchinoke, yubashiri, and there is a long muneyaki.   

Boshi: notarekomi; the tip is sharp; there is a komaru; there are hakikake, and a  return which is close to the mune.  


In old sword books like the Meizukushi, there are listed Oshu smiths such as the Mogusa and Gassan schools since Heian times, but most of these smiths worked  after the Nambokucho period. Early Kamakura era Oshu smiths with signatures are from the Hoju school. They lived in Oshu, Hirai-izumi from the Kamakura to Muromachi eras As an old example from before the mid-Kamakura era, there is a tachi with a two kanji signature (classified as Juyo Bunkazai, and owned by Seikado). There is a signed Shouchu o-tachi (which belongs to the Bushu Mitake shrine) and a Kenbu blade. During the Muromachi period, Hoju blades with signatures like the one on this wakizashi are often from the Oei era. There are dates from Oei 5, 6, 12, 14, 22, and 25. This blade has a wide mihaba and shallow sori, and at first, it looks like a Nambokucho shape. However, its long length, thick kasane, hirazukuri shape, and healthy condition makes it difficult to judge the era, but this shape is often seen in Oei times in Bizen and Soshu. The jihada is itame mixed tight large and small mokume and some areas have an ayasugi type jihada. These are Gassan and Hoju school characteristic points for each generation. Hoju has two type of hamon: suguha and midareba. In case of midareba, many of them have komidare mixed with ko-choji, and ko-gunome; these are smaller and simple looking hamon, but have sunagashi, hotsureba with worn down nioiguchi, and the entire hamon have a rustic charm. This blade has a high yakiba, wide nioiguchi, frequent nie, is more georgeous than the usual hamon, and is well done. However, the nie habuchi has sunagashi and hosure, and is involved with the jihada and forms a vertical hataraki pattern, and this is a characteristic Hoju school hamon.

In the past, it was very rare to show this smith for a kantei to, and it is confusing at this time. The jihada is visible and dark and the boshi has hakikake, and these are the Northern countryfs characteristics. Thus from this, some people thought it was the work of an Uda smith. Other people looked at continuous mokume jihada, and thought of Shitahara smiths along the Tokaido From the hamon and boshi details, other people voted for old or new Seki smiths. Each opinion is understandable, but it was difficult, and people voted for work from the Tosando (the road from Ome to Oshu) and an Oshu smith. This sword belongs to a descendant of the Echigo Murakami Naito family.                       






Shijo Kantei No 656 (in the September, 2011 issue)


The answer for the Shijo Kantei To No. 656 in the September issue is a tachi by Osafune Iemori dated Oei Gannen(Oei 1).


This tachi has a standard mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. There is a large koshizori. This is suriage; the tip has sori; there is a very thick kasane for the mihaba; and there is a chu-kissaki. From this shape, you can judge this work as being a tachi from the end of the Nanbokucho to the early Muromachi period. The kosori school jihada are just like the one on this tachi: itame mixed with mokume hada, the hada is visible, there are ji-nie, dense chikei like kawari-tetsu. There is often jifu, which looks like a somewhat irregular jihada with  dark color. There is also some pale utsuri on the ji. Many of the Kosori hamon are: konotare mixed with ko-gunome and ko-togariba, like this tachi; konotare mixed with ko-gunome, ko-choji, and kotogariba, with a square type irregular midare; or continuous round top ko-gunome from the moto to saki, like the Yoshii school; the entire hamon with saka-ashi or kataochi-gunome, and either of these form a low yakiba for the mihaba; and other narrow hamon, which are characteristic. Additionally, even in the same Kosori school, some early smiths, such as those with dates from the Joji era like Nariie, or dated in the Oan era such as Hidemitsu, have made blades with a wide mihaba and long kissaki which is an Enbun style. The Joji era shape and hamon are based on kaku-gunome mixed with togariba, ko-notare, and kataochi- type gunome, or konotare mixed with ko-gunome, togariba, and a square element shaped hamon; these remind us of Kanemitsu and Motoshige. The Kosori school boshi are midarekomi and the tip is sharp; or they are midarekomi with a komaru and return, or straight with a komaru. In voting, many people voted for Kosori smiths such as Iemori, Moromitsu, Hidemitsu, Tsunehiro, and Osafune Masamitsu. Among the Kosori smiths, the work is very similar among them, and it is difficult to judge individual names, so these smiths names are all treated as correct answers. Usually, Masamitsufs style is very similar to Kosori work, so his name is treated as a correct answer. But Masamitsufs jihada and hamon are brighter, and his work is more skillful. The work of the Oei Bizen smiths Morimitsu and Iesuke is similar to Kosori works which are dated before Oei 10, and both smithfs names with an Oei era date before Oei 10 are treated as correct answers. In Bizen,in the second half of the Nanbokucho period, Kanemitsu, Chogi, or in the Omiya school, many of the smiths lost their own styles, except for the Yoshii school, and Bizen blades all became similar to each other. In particualr, the work in the Kosori school were all very similar, and sometimes, you can think that if it is difficult to judge an individulal smith and school, you can call it Kosori school work.           


Explanation by Hinohara Dai.