December, 2011



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Tokubetsu Juyo Token

Type: Tachi

Mei: Yasutsuna


Length: slightly over 2 shaku 5 sun (75.9 cm)

Sori: slightly less than 9 bu (2.6 cm)

Motohaba: slighly less then 1 sun (3.08 cm) 

Sakihaba: 6 bu 3 rin (1. 9 cm)

Motokasane: slighly over 1 bu 7 rin (0.52 cm) 

Sakikasane: slightly over 1 bu (0.32 cm)

Kissaki length: slightly over 8 bu 9 rin (2.71 cm)  

Nakago length: 7 sun 1 bu 9 rin (21.8 cm)

Nakago sori: 7 rin (0.2 cm)




This is a shinogizukuri tachi with an ihorimune, a wide mihaba, a slighly wide shinogi, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. The sword is suriage and is still a koshizori shape remaining with a deep sori and a chu-kissaki. The jihada is itame and there is a visible ohada. There are dense ji-nie, fine chikei, and the jihada is dark, and there is a pale jifu utsuri.  The hamon is a suguha style with a shallow notare, ko-gunome, gunome, and is also ko-midare. There are sunagashi, fine nie-suji, and the inside of the hamon has abundant nie. The boshi is straight  with a komaru.  The nakago is suriage; the nakago tip is kurijiri; the yasurimei are a shallow kattesagari; and there are two mekugiana. On the omote side of the nakago, close to the tip and along the mune edge, there is a large size two kanji signature made with a slightly fine tagane (chisel).

In the Sanin area, a high quality satetsu has been produced since the earliest times, and at the same time, sword making teckniques were established there. It is suposed that this occurred during the same time period when the Yamato and Yamashiro school smiths were active. Yasutsuna is represent of the Kohoki smiths, and according to several meikan (sword books) he is listed as being active around the same time as the early Yamato school smiths. However, today, people think he worked in a slightly later era, which would be about the same time as Sanjo Munechika, which was during the late Heian period. The Yasutsuna school is located far away from the center of politics and culture, and it displayed a very high level of skill and technques in their swords, so it is thought that they possessed or demonstrated unique talents in making their swords.

Yasutsunafs usual tachi have a strong koshizori and elegant shape. In his characteristic shape, the tip of the sword does not drop when compared other swords from the same era. Yasutsunafs jihada and hamon are similar to Ko-bizen swords, but his itame hada are more visible, and the ji contains chikei, a dark jigane, and the continuous ko-gunome hamon stands out. These features are different from Ko-bizen swords. Most of his ubu nakago are yaki otoshi at the machi, which is an old style. This tachi belongs to descendents of the Kubota-han Satake family, and among his narrow tachi, this blade is unusually wide, and is the widest we have ever seen. Yasutsunafs kanji gTsunah is little larger than the kanji for hYasu g, and Tsuna kanji curves slightly on the right side, and this is one of Yasutsunafs characteristics. For an early smith, he has many signed blades: there is a Kokuho Meibutsu Doji-giri Yasutsuna; three Juyo bunkazai blades; five Juyo bijutsuhin blades; one mumei Juyo bijutsuhin blade; two Tokubetsu Juyo Token blades; and nine Juyo Token. Among Yasutsunafs signatures, there are a few blades on which the gTsunah kanji are different. There is one mei where the gTsunah kanji, contains an extra dot on the right side when compared with the usual mei, and it is known that he had two different styles for his mei.        



 (Explanation and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori )



Sword owned by NBTHK

Sword Classified Juyo Bijutsuhin 

Kokuho Meibutsu Dojigiri Yasutsuna  





Meitan kansho

Appreciation of fine tsuba & kodogu


Genjoraku zu tsuba

Mei: Tetsugendo Shoraku (gold hanko; name: Toshiyuki)


For court ceremonies, gagaku (ancient dance and music) was important and bought glory and honor. Under the Taiho ritsuryo (the first Japanese laws from the early 8th century), a Jibu-sho (ministry of Foreign Affairs and General Affairs) is described which contained a section responsible for the development and promotion of legitamate and authentic gagaku. In early Heian times, under the Saga emperorfs supervision, gagaku was reformed, and it acquired a more Japanese style, in contrast to the earlier influence of the Chinese and Korean styles. Subsequently, more changes followed in later eras, and still continue today.  This subject of this tsuba is genjoraku which is described in an early Kamakura period music note called  gKyokunshouh. This was written by Koma Chikazane and is a dance performed by a single man. Eastern people (such as Chinese) capture snakes and consume them, and that is the subject of this tsuba. During the same era, there were excellent smiths who worked with many iroe (color) techniques, and produced many masterpieces. Among these artists were Ichinomiya Nagatsune and Yamazaki Kazuyoshi in Kyoto. In Edo, there was Omori Teruhide. Among these artists, the shodai (founding generation) Tetsugendo Shoraku (whose real name was Okamoto Toshiyuki) worked with iron, and produced original work very sucessfully, and people used to say that he was a master smith in iron work, and that no one was better than him. He has other work using themes from Tatsutanjin (the Mongolian people). Tatsutanjin and Genjoraku are similar subjects, and Toshiyuki looked for old continental Chinese subjects or themes. Genjoraku combines music and dance, and exhibits the glory and elegance of the court. These themes were expressed very well in Toshiyukifs very highly skilled iron work. This tsuba has a feeling from the weight of the iron, and at the same time, has feeling of intense sophistication.   


(Explanation by Kurotaki Tetsuya, photo by Kubo Ryo )






Shijo Kantei To No. 659


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 659 issue Shijo Kantei To is January, 5 2012. 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 magagzine. Votes postmarked on or before January 5, 2012 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: katana


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 1 bu (69. 99 cm)

Sori: slightly over 4 bu (1. 3 cm)

Motohaba: 1 sun 6 rin (3. 2 cm)

Sakihaba: 8 bu 3 rin (2.5 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 6 rin (0.8 cm)

Sakikasane: 2 bu (0. 6 cm)

Kissaki length: 1 sun 6 bu 2 rin (4. 9 cm)

Nakago length: 5 sun 7 bu (17. 27 cm)

Nakago sori: none


This is a shinogizukuri katana with an ihorimune, a wide mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. There is a large (thick) kasane, a shallow sori, and an okissaki. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, and the hada is visible. There are fine ji-nie, chikei, and jifu. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. The habuchi has nijuba, and kuichigaiba, ko-ashi, a bright nioiguchi, ko-nie, and sunagashi. The horimono on the omote and ura are bohi carved through the nakago. The nakago is ubu, and the nakago jiri is kurijiri. The yasurime are shallow katte sagari, and there are two mekugi-ana. On the omote side, the nakago has a long signature located towards the mune edge of the nakago. 





Teirei Kanshou Kai For November


The swords discussed below were shown in the November, 2011 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 swordsmithfs name. This lecture and the explanations were given by Ooi Gaku.



Kantei To No. 1: Wakizashi


Mei: Bizen kuni Osafune Kanemitsu


Length: 1 shaku 7 sun 5 bu

Sori: 4 bu

Style: hirazukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: itame mixed with mokume; there are some nagare hada, and hada is slightly visible; there are ji-nie and chikei, and towards the mune side there is utsuri.

Hamon: basically a notare hamon, mixed with ko-gunome and ko-choji; there are lsome ashi and yo, frequent nie, yubashiri, small tobiyaki, kinsuji and sunagashi. 

Boshi: notarekomi; the tips have hakikake; the omote has a sharp tip or point and return; the ura has an omaru and return.

Horimono: the omote has naga-bonji(kaen-bonji) and a harami-ryu ( pregnant dragon) kurikara; the ura has long bonji, and a suken down to the center of the nakago.


Hirazukuri long swords have a very old history, and include imported ones.  But after the shinogi-zukuri shape was developed which has a hira-zukurifs strong hamon, and at the same time has the kiriha zukuri shapefs strong construction  and light weight, the demand for hirazukuri swords dropped very quickly.  The hirazukuri blades from Awataguchi Kuniyoshi (gNarigitsuneh) and Osafune Kanemitsu (gSuijingirih) are famous, and other blades are seen from each era, but we do not see many of them. It may be, that without a special order, smiths did not produce hirazukuri blades, so most of the ones we have are very well made. In voting, the chacteristic shape, unique horimono, and Kanemitsufs notare midare hamon on this  famous Juyo Bijutsuhin blade allowed people to recognize it and vote for the correct answer during the first vote. Beside the long wakizashi length, note the other characteristics such as the long size of this hirazukuri blade with sori at the koshimoto, the wide mihaba, and the thin kasane, because these are the Nambokucho periodfs characteristic shape. The jihada is itame hada with chikei, and the hamon is a notare hamon with nie, which is Soshu Den feature. But there is clear utsuri, and from this characteristic, you can judge this as being a Soden-Bizen style. In particular, after Nagamitsu, in mainstream smiths work, we can often seen harami-ryu and kurikara horimono, and a smooth shaped hamon, and from these characteristics, you can judge this as Kanemitsufs work. Morikage has blades which seem to have been influenced by Kanemitsu, but his notare hamon are more tight when compared with Kanemitsu, and contain small square features. Also, in kurikara horimono, the bottom of the handle of the sanko is very round, and the center part is shorter, and these details are different from Kanemitsufs work.





Kantei To No. 2: katana

Mei: Chikuzen no kuni Fukuoka ju Koretsugu


Length: slightly less than 2 shaku 3 sun 2 bu

Sori: 5 bu

Design: shinogizukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: itame hada with a tight strong nagare hada; in places this is mixed with masame hada; there are dense ji-nie, and midare utsuri.

Hamon: choji midare; the entire hamon is a saka-ashi hamon; there are ashi, saka-ashi, some yo, a tight nioiguchi, ko-nie, small tobiyaki, some sunagashi, and a bright nioiguchi.

Boshi: the omote is midarekomi and the tip is sharp; the ura is based on notare, with a small midare hamon, the tip is komaru, and both sides have a short return.   


The Ishido schoolfs  ideal style is that of Fukuoka Ichimonji. These blades have an active variable, gorgeous choji midare hamon, and many have utsuri. Possibly they wanted to have a close similarity to tachi shapes, so we see large sori. In particular, in the Fukuoka Ishido school, they are many blades with a large sori and good shape, and this blade is one of them. Also, they have many blades with a mitsumune, and this characteristic is seen in the work of Koretsugu and Moritsugu. It is seen more often in Koretsugufs work, and he has fewer blades left  when compared with Moritsugu. The masame hada is prominent, and the midare hamon is a saka-ashi type, from these characteristics, many people voted for his teacher Musashi Daijo Korekazu. But usually his work has a smaller hamon and there are not many wide hamon. Many of his boshi are a shallow notare, or straight with a komaru return, and they are quite different from many Fukuoka Ishido school bladefs with a midarekomi boshi.  From the hamon on this sword which is a gorgeous midare hamon with high and low variations, where the hamon in some places reach up to the shinogi, some people were induced to vote for Mitsuhira. But his choji hamon are more round and different from Fukuoka Ishido characteristic hamon like this, which is called g ika no atama (the head of a squid),h where a big cluster of choji tops forms the peaks. The boshi is midare and sharp with a return, and some part of the hamon have has sharp features, from these characteristics, some people voted for Nagayuki. His hamon are generally wide, and have no prominent wide and narrow alterations, the utsuri is monotonous or unvarying, and resemble a Sue-Bizen style midare hamon. Also, his nioiguchi is the tightest among the Ishido school smiths and look hard, and his boshi midarekomi are stronger than this and have a long return. The name Fukuoka cames from Kuroda family who removed to Chikuzen kuni, from their original location in Bizen-Fukuoka. Because of this, the Chikuzen Nobukuni school from  this area basically uses gunome and notare hamon, but sometimes we see work which resembles the Ichimonji school, with a prominent choji hamon and utsuri. But many of their hamon are smaller and have less variation in the widths and are nie-deki (composed of nie).



Kantei To No 3: tanto


Mei: Rai Kunitoshi


Length: 8 sun 5 bu 

Sori:  slight uchisori

Design: hirazukuri

Mune: Mitsumune

Jihada: tight ko-itame mixed in places with some visible hada; there are dense thick ji-nie and nie utsuri.

Hamon: chu-suguha, there is  aslightly dense nioiguchi, frequent ko-nie, and fine sunagashi.

Boshi: straight with komaru.

Horimono: the omote has a suken, the ura has a gomabashi, and both sides have kakinagashi.


This tantofs mihaba and length are a standard size. The nakago tip is suriage (cut) and one of signaturefs kanji is missing, but the machi is almost ubu. The kasane is normal, there is an uchizori shape, and the center surface of the misumune is thick, and from these characterisitcs, not many people voted for anything other than a late Kamakura era tanto. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, the hada appears to be covered with moisture, and in some places there is a weak hada which is called gRai hadah. There is frequent bo-utsuri, and a soft nioiguchi. The hamon is an elegant suguha with beautiful ko-nie, and has fine hataraki. The boshi is straight with a komaru and return, and the top of the boshi goes somewhat close to the fukura, and we call this a g Fuji boshih. This is a typical Rai Kunitoshi work, and very few people missed the correct answer. The mei kanji have somewhat round shapes, and the gkunihkanji, in the inside of the square, has three dot shapes which are higher on the left side, and from these characteristics, this supposed to have been made in around the Showa era. Among the Rai shool smiths, some people voted for Rai Kunimitsu. Kunimitsu has a Juyo Bunkazai tachi, dated Showa 4 nen, where it is written that he is 75 years old. At that time, Kunimitsu was working under Kunitoshi and was succeeding to his position, and Kunimitsu was a good  age already, and you can imagine that he was at the center of the group. But Rai Kunitoshifs latest  dated blade was in Genkyo, and Rai Kunimitsufs dates started from Kareki, so he waited about ten years to become the schoolfs master from this time. Because of this, Kunimitsufs work, besides a usual shape like this, include many blades which are longer, have a wider mihaba, almost no sori, a thick kasane, and reflect the period from the end of Kamakura to the early Nanbokucho era, and the blades are slightly large. As a appaisal people used to say hFor sophistication, Rai Kunitoshi is better than Rai Kunimitsu, but for spirit  Rai Kunimitsu is better than Rai Kunitoshih. The shape of this work is very elegant, so it would be better to vote for Rai Kunitoshi. The other name voted for was Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, but if this were his work, the hamon around the koshimoto has continuous ko-gunome, and around the fukura, the yakihaba becomes narrow, and his horimono are close to the mune, and many of the hori on the omote and ura are the same design.        




Kantei To No. 4: katana


Mei: Echigo no kami Fujiwara Kunitoshi  


Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 5. 5 bu

Sori: 5. 5 bu

Design: shobu zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with mokume hada, and the hada is visible; there are dense fine ji-nie, and fine chikei. 

Hamon: the moto has a yakidashi; above this, it is basically a chu-suguha hamon mixed with gunome, ko-gunome, togariba, and is a shallow notare hamon; there are frequent ashi; on the omote, in places, the midare hamon is continuous, and has nie; some parts become mura (uneven), and there is hotsure, kinsuji, and the entire hamon has fine sunagashi, frequent muneyaki,and  a slightly worn down nioiguchi.

Boshi: the omote has a slightly wide yakiba, which is straight with hakikase; the tip is sharp and there is a komaru; the ura is straight, with strong hakikake, some kuzure, and the tip is omaru; both sides have a long return.


Echizen no kami Kunitoshi was one of the Horikawa Kunihiro school smiths, and some people think he was Kunihirofs nephew. He was active until approximately the Kanei era. His most active period was during Kunihirofs later years, but we have no dated Kunitoshifs blades. The Shodai Izumi no kami Kunisada who was active during the Genwa and Kanei eras, and Kawachi no kami Kunisukefs early work both show signatures which are similar to Kunoitoshifs. Because of this, Kunitoshi is supposed to have taught them a while, and it is reasonable that his active period was until the Kanei era. Besides Keicho-shinto shaped blades, there are blades with a standard mihaba, a slightly deep sori, and a slightly long chu-kissaki, and this could be help to date his active period. This work is similar to a Kanei-shinto shape. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume hada, and the hada is a little rough, but not as rough as Horikawa-hada. He has more of this type of blade, because his ideal style is supposed to have been that of Izumi no kami Kanesada. The hamon has a yakidashi at the moto, and the hamon is wide, and these are his characteristics of his work. His gentle hamon are mixed with notare, gunome, and togariba, and his boshi have wide yakiba and a long return which is often seen in Sue-koto work, and this suggests that he was looking at Kanesadafs style. This hamon contains more of a mix of gunome and midare than usual, and the top of the hamon has yubashiri, and muneyaki which is similar to the Shin Kunisada style. At this time, considering  their relationships and their early work, Shodai Kunisada and Kunisuke are treated as correct answers.




Kantei To No. 5: wakizashi


Mei: Nagamitsu tsukuri (gakumei)


Length: slightly less than 1 shaku 6 sun 2 bu

Sori:slightly less than 4 bu

Design: shinogizukuri

Mune: ihorimune

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

Hamon: basically chu-suguha, mixed with continuous ko-gunome and some ko-choji; there are frequent ashi,  a slightly soft nioiguchi, primarily ko-nie, but some parts are nioi; there is a bright nioiguchi.   

Boshi: straight; there is a komaru and short return.  


At this time, many people looked at this sword as a kotachi or uchigatana. But you canft miss the fact that the funbari around the koshimoto is gone, and you can can judge this as a large suriage blade. The original shape is narrow and has sori at the tip, which is  tachi style from the end of the Kamakura era. The jihada is tight and refined, and has clear midare utsuri. The hamon is basically suguha, mixed with continuous ko-gunome and ko-choji; there are frequent ashi. The boshi is straight from the yokote, and has a round shape along the fukura, but it looks like a slightly relaxed shape ( Nagamitsu has often this kind of boshi, and we can include it as a Sansaku-boshi style) and komaru and return. From these characteristics, we can judge this as work by Osafune Nagamitsu, when he had the Sakon-enoshogen title, which is late work. Votes for smiths associated with Nagamitsu were for Sanenaga and Kagemitsu. But Sanenagafs midare hamon has more prominent ko-notare hamon, often a tight nioiguchi, and a somewhat quiet look. Kagemitsufs midare hamon have more saka-ashi.  In Chikakagefs work, his konie is stand out somewhat, but his jihada is visible, he has midare hamon, and his ashi are saka-ashi; his entire hamon are smaller, there is a worn down nioiguchi, and ha-nie are more prominent; also, his Sansaku boshi is above the yokote, straight for a little bit, and then becomes a notare hamon, and these are characteristics of his style.        




Shijo Kantei No 657 (in the October, 2011 issue)


The answer for the Shijo Kantei To No. 657 in the October  issue is a katana by Nagasone Okimasa.


This katana has a standard mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. There is a very little sori and a chu-kissaki. From this shape, you can judge this work as being a katana from the Kanbun-shinto period. Okimasa does not have many dated blades, but he has a few dated blades from Kanbun, Enpo, Tenwa, and Genroku. His active period was from Kanbun and Empo to the Jokyo and Genroku eras. Because of this, he has two kinds of shapes: one is Kanbun-shinto, just like this katana, and the other is a Teikyo and Genroku time shinto shape. His jitetsu are a tight ko-itame hada, or a visible itame hada, and his shinogi-ji often have a clear masame-hada, just like other Edo-shinto smiths. Okimasafs hamon have a yakidashi at the koshimoto, just like this one, and above that the hamon is primarily juzuba, just like this one, or a notare style mixed with gunome. This hamon is different from his usual work: some of his usual characteristics are not seen here: usually ha-nie extend into the jihada just like yubashiri, or rough nie is prominent, but these are not seen here. The nioiguchi is clear, which reminds one of his teacher Kotetsufs work, but compared with Kotetsufs juzuba, some parts of his gunome hamon have prominent up and down alterations in the height of the hamon, and his characteristic two gunome continuous hamon seen here, and from these characteristics, it is possible look this as Okimasafs work. Okimasafs favorite style is a little more dynamic than Kotetsu. Rarely, his jihada are a large pattern itame, and a visible hada with a notare hamon mixed with gunome. He also has dynamic midare hamon. He has a very few Kotetsu boshi; his boshi are straight with a  komaru, a shallow notarekomi and komaru, or nie-kuzure. His nakago tip is kurijiri, and the yasurime are a shallow katte-sagri. Many of his signatures are 5 kanji  gNagasone Okimasah, and some of them are g Nagasone Kotetsu Okimasah, and gNagasone Okimasa saku koreh. In many of his signaures, the first kanji is on the mekugiana, and last of kanji are on the center of the shinogi suji. Also, Kotetsu has many Kinzogan saidanmei (cutting tests), and the testers are usually Yamano Kaemon Nagahisa and Kanjuro Hisahide. Compared with Kotetsu, Okimasa has far fewer saidanmei, and beside Kanjuro Hisahide name, we see Sunagawa Ibei  Hisahide, just like on this katana, and Kosoto Hirazo Shigekatsu. In voting, most of the people voted for Okimasa, and as a almost correct answer, some voted for Kotetsu. Besides these names, some voted for Tsuda Sukehiro. Sukehirofs active period was the Kanbun to Genroku eras, and in his early work, he used a shallow sori Kanbun-shinto shape, and beside his toranba-midare hamon, he sometimes used continuous round top gunome which is somewhat similar to a juzuba hamon, so from these details, this answer is understandable. But Sukehirofs continuous gunome hamon stay inside of a wide yakiba notare-hamon which is different from Edo-shinto juzuba. ALso, Sukehirofs shinogi-ji donft have a prominent masame hada, and his nakago tip is iriyamagata and his yasurime are osujichigai. Except on his early work, he used a kozutsumi-kata (ko cloth pattern) kesho yasuri mei pattern.    


Explanation by Hinohara Dai.