January, 2012



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Juyo Token

Type: Katana

Mei:  Bizen kuni ju Osafune Kiyomitsu saku

        Tenbun 23 nen 8 gatsu hi


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 4 bu  (71.0 cm)

Sori: slightly over 9 bu (2.8 cm)

Motohaba: slighly over 1 sun 1 bu (3.08 cm) 

Sakihaba: slightly less than 8 bu 3 rin ( 2. 51 cm)

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

Sakikasane: slightly over 1 bu (0.32 cm)

Kissaki length: 1 sun 3 bu ( 3.94 cm)  

Nakago length: 6 sun 2 bu  (18.8 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight  (0.1 cm)




This is a shinogi zukuri katana with an ihorimune, a very wide mihaba,  and the widths at the moto and saki are different. The sword has thick kasane, a large sori, and the sakizori is prominent. There is a long chu-kissaki, and the blade has funbari. The jihada is a tight ko-itame mixed with some ko-mokume. There are dense nie, fine chikei, and there is a pale utsuri. The entire hamon is wide, and has ko-gunome mixed with gunome, square shaped gunome, and togariba. There are frequent yo, ashi, ko-nie, kinsuji, and a bit of fine sunagashi. Some places have yubashiri, and there are fine tobiyaki, a tight nioiguchi, and a bright and clear hamon. The boshi has a wide yakiba with a midarekomi hamon. The omote has a komaru, and the ura is straight but with togari. Both sides have hakikake, nie, and a shallow return. The horimono on the omote and ura are bo-hi with tsure-hi, and both have kakudome.The nakago is ubu. The nakago tip is a square shaped ha-agari type kurijiri; the yasurimei are a katte sagari; and there is a one mekugi ana. On the omote side of the nakago, under the mekugi ana, running to the tip and along the mune edge, there is a long signature, made with a fine tagane (chisel). On the ura side, slightly under the mekugi ana and along the mune edge, there is a date.

People call these Sue-Bizen swords, and these were made late in the Muromachi period, approximately after the Bunmei era by Bizen Osafune smiths. At that time in Japan, after the Onin-no-ran, the end of the Muromachi era was the waring states period, and possibly because there was such a great demand for swords, swords from this period were quite different from Oei Bizen and Eikyo Bizen work. Along with well made swords, there were mass production swords being made which were called kazuuchi mono. Among the Sue-Bizen smiths, there are many well known smiths such as Kiyomitsu and Sukesada. There are Kiyomitsu smith names which include titles such as: Goro-sae-mon-no-jo, Mago-saemon-no-jo, Gengoro, Sae-mon-no-jo, Yoso-sae-mon-no-jo, Juro-sae-mon-no-jo, Ji-sae-mon-no-jo, Hikobeijo and Magobeijo. But there are also some Kiyomitsu smiths without a title. Among the Kiyomitsu smiths, Goro-sae-mon-no-jo and Mago-sae-mon-no-jo Kiyomitsu are well known. In particular, Goro-sae-mon-no-jo Kiyomitsu was a master smith, along with Yoso-sae-mon-no-jo Sukesada who was active during the same period. There are a few Goro-sae-mon-no-jo Kiyomitsu dated swords: these are dated Taiei 2 (1522), Taiei 7 (1527), and Kyoho 3 (1530). But there are more dated swords from around the Tenbun era ( 1531 ), and at the same time we see the work of the next generation Kiyomitsu smiths such as Mago-sae-mon-no-jo and Goro-sae-mon-no-jo. This is a katana without a title, and from the signature, this is Goro-sae-mon-no-jofs work. The Kiyomitsu clan smiths had a strong relationship with the Akamatsu family. Possibly this was because Akamatsu Masahide (Akamatsu Masanorifs grandson, and Akamatsu Masanori made swords himself) was lord of Banshu Tatsuno castle, and Goro-sae-mon-no-jo Kiyomitsu made swords there from around Tenbun 22 (1553), April to Tenbun 24, August (Koji 1). See Photo 1 (the 33rd Juyo Token) and Photo 2 (the 13th Juyo Token). Many of  his works have a wide suguha hamon, and besides this, there are large notare hamon, gunome midare hamon, and, rarely, hitatsura hamon. Kiyomitsufs jihada are often visible, but  this sword has a tight refined jihada, with a wide midare hamon pattern mixed with all kinds of features, and the result is a gorgeous active hamon. Along with the strong shape, this sword has a dynamic feeling. The ji and ha are very healthy, and among the Goro-sae-mon-no-jo Kiyomitsu swords, this is one of his best dynamic works.         


( Explanation and oshigata by Hiyama Masanori)


Photo1:  the 33rd Juyo Token

Katana mei: Bizen kuni ju Osafune Goro-sae-mon-no-jo Kiyomitsu saku

                     Tenbun 23 Saru toshi 8 gatsu 10 nichi

                     Tame: Tokuoka Kankai Yusaemonjo Ieyasu

                     Oite: Banshu Tatsu no jo ka saku kore 

Photo 2: the 13th Juyo Token

Katana mei : Bizen kuni ju Osafune Goro-sae-mon-no-jo Kiyomitsu

                     Tame: Masahide saku kore

                     Tenbu 24 nen 8 gatsu kichijitsu






Meitan Kansho

Appreciation of fine tsuba and kodogu


Awaho (millet ear) zu tsuba

Mei: Ichisai Tomei



This is the Kyoto kinko artist Araki Tomeifs unequaled awaho tsuba work from the Bakumatsu period. Tomeifs childhood name was Hidenobu, and he was born in Bunka 14 (1817) to a rice shop merchant in Kyoto. At age 13, he wanted to be become a chokin-shi (chaser), and he entered the Goto Kanbei family school under the 8th generation Mitsuyuki Tojyo. There, he received his artist name of g Tomeih. Later, Tomei entered the Goto Ichijo school, and he received the artist name gIchisaih and he used both artist names and worked as gTomei Ichisaih. After he became an independent craftsman, he opened his studio at Yanagibajo dori, nijyo agaru cho in Kyoto. Apparently, he become friendly with the famous painter Hayashi Ranga, and with this influence, his original awaho design and chasing tecnique was established. This awaho is not a standard carving or engraving, and Tomei created his own original tagane tecnique, but the details are unknown. The tips of the awa ears are very sharp, and no other smiths compete with his excellent techniques, and he had a strong personality. This is typical of his awaho work: on a polished iron ground, there are many awaho and the curved stalks were made with an elegant takabori technique. The tsuba shape is a sumiiri-mokko kata with uchikaeshi-sukinokoshi mimi (a tecnique used to finish the mimi or rim). In addition, the gold and silver sunako (powder) zogan (inlay) produces an elegant scene, and the entire tsuba is very elegantly finished. There is a fuchi kashira set made to accompany this, and the entire set is classified as Juyo Tosogu.


(Explanation by Iida Toshihisa )







Shijo Kantei To No. 660


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 660 issue Shijo Kantei To is February, 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 February 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 4.5 bu (71.05 cm)

Sori: 4 bu (1. 21 cm)

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

Sakihaba: 7 bu 9 rin ( 2.4 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 3 rin (0.7 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 5 rin (0. 45 cm)

Kissaki length: 1 sun 5 bu (4. 55 cm)

Nakago length: 6 sun 3.5 bu (19. 24 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight


This is a shinogi zukuri katana with an ihorimune, a wide mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. There is a large kasane (the blade is thick), a shallow sori, and an okissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with nagare hada, and the hada is visible. There are thick ji-nie, frequent chikei, and jifu. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. The hamon has tobiyaki, muneyaki, frequent ashi and yo, very prominent nie, and conspicuous kinsuji and sunagshi. The nakago is ubu, and the tip of nakago becomes narrow, and has a unique shape. The nakago jiri is a ha-agari type kurijiri. The yasurime are kiri, and there is a one mekugi ana. On the omote and the ura sides, the nakago has a long signature located towards the mune edge of the nakago. 








Shijo Kantei No. 658 (in the November, 2011 issue)


The answer for the Shijo Kantei To No. 658 in the November, 2011 issue is a tanto by Omi daijo Tadahiro.


Among the Nidai Tadahirofs short blades, there are hirazukuri wakizashi and tanto. His hirazukuri wakizashi are seen often today. The shapes have a wide mihaba, a long size, a large kasane, and a shallow sori. But there are very few of his tanto. The tanto have a standard shape or  have a slightly wide mihaba, a long size, a large kasane, and uchizori is sometimes seen, and this is a short tanto for the nidai Tadahiro. The Omi daijofs jitetsu are often a tight ko-itame with dense ji-nie and fine chikei, and this is Hizenfs original komenuka hada, and the hint suggests this. The Hizen sword jitetsu is a tight ko-itame and refined komenuka hada, and the hamon form a belt-like very clear suguha with a clear nioiguchi; the boshi are komaru with a return, and the boshi are parallel to the fukura. After this characteristic style was established, the Hizen smiths produced many swords, and this activity began around the Shodai Tadayoshifs Musashi daijo period, and this style was used in succession  by the Nidai Tadayoshi and the Sandai Tadayoshi. The Nidaifs suguha work is often mixed with kuichigaiba and nijuba, just like on this tanto. Many of the nidaifs boshi are komaru with a return, and the boshi is parallel to the fukura. Other examples have the width of the hamon becoming wider along the upper part of the blade, and a komaru and return where the return is wide or somewhat wide. The Nidai Tadahirofs nakago tips are iriyamagata, and the yasurime are kiri, but we sometimes see kattesagari. Most of his signatures on hirazukuri short blades are on the omote side, and long signatures are located towards the mune edge of the nakago. However, there are a few signatures signed with two kanji. In voting, most people voted for the Nidai Tadahiro, and fa ew people voted for Musashi daijo Tadahiro (the Shodai Tadayoshi ). The Shodai Tadahiro has many suguha works, just like this tanto; and the tip of nakago is iriyamagata and the yasurime are kiri. Because he has a few examples of katte-sagari yasurime, the Shodai Tadayoshi answer is treated as an almost correct answer at this time. But during the period when he used the Tadayoshi mei, his nakogo tips are kurijiri, and most of his yasurime are either katteagari or kattesagari, and we do not seen this kind of suguha. Because the middle of the Edo period continued to be a peaceful time, the demand for swords decreased sharply, and sword making declined. With this trend, the demand for tanto and hirazukuri wakizashi decreased. There are very few tanto among the Kanbun Shintofs three best master smiths, Shinkai, Sukehiro, and Kotetsu. The Nidai Tadahirofs successor, the Sandai Tadayoshi, was active from  Banji to Teikyo, which is the same time the three master smiths were active, and he was short lived. His works are few, and maybe because of this, we do not see his tanto today.


(Explanation by Hinohara Dai.)