February, 2012


Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Tokubetsu Juyo Token

Type: Tachi

Mei: Koretomo (Ko-Aoe)


Length: 2 shaku 4 sun (72.75 cm)

Sori: 8 bu 9 rin (2.7 cm )

Motohaba: 1 sun 7 rin (3.25 cm) 

Sakihaba: 7 bu 3 rin (2.2 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 2 rin (0.65 cm) 

Sakikasane: 1 bu 2 rin (0.35 cm)

Kissaki length: 1 sun 9 rin (3.3 cm)  

Nakago length: 7 sun 4 bu 3 rin (22.5 cm)

Nakago sori: 1 bu (0.3)




This is a shinogi zukuri tachi with an ihorimune, a wide mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. The sword is thick with  a large kasane, and has a high koshizori shape with funbari and a chu-kissaki, so presents a very strong tachi shape. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume and there is a visible hada. There are ji-nie, and in places, a jifu type hada. There is a dark high jifu utsuri. The hamon is choji mixed with ko-gunome, and contains square type features and togari. The entire hamon shows a wide yakiba. The upper part of the hamon on the omote side, and the bottom part of the hamon on the ura side show variations or alterations in the width of the hamon. There are frequent ashi and yo, slightly uneven thick nie, kinsuji in places, and a bright and clear nioiguchi. The boshi is a small midarekomi, and the entire boshi has frequent hakikake; the omote side is almost yakizume and the ura side has a komaru and return.  The horimono  on the omote and ura side are futasuji-hi with kakudome. Below the hi, there are tsume horimono. The nakago is ubu; the yasurimei are o-sujichigai; and there are three mekugiana. On the omote side of the nakago, under the second mekugi ana (which is ubu), and close to the mune side, there is a large size two kanji signature made with a strong heavy tagane (chisel).

From end of the Heian period to the Kamakura period, Ko-aoe was well known for swordsmiths along with Yamashiro, Yamato, Ko-Bizen, Ko-Hoki, and Ko-Kyushu. As ban-kaji (the ex- emperorfs swordsmiths), the names Sadatsugu, Tsunetsugu, and Ietsugu are well known. The end of their active careers was suposed to be around the mid-Kamakura period. Their style included a narrow, elegant shape, and their hamon are similar to the neighboring provincefs Ko-Bizen style which has frequent nie, and a nioiguchi which is not clear and is worn down: these are characteristic features of their style. Among these smiths, Koretomo has a different style: his hamom are suguha or a suguha style hamon mixed with ko-midare and ko-gunome which is different from the Ko-Aoe yakiba. His nakago on the ha side edge (the hamune) are thick, the yasurime are osujichigai, there are deep chisel marks made with a thick tagane, and there is  a large size kanji signature under the mekugi-ana which are characteristic Ko-Aoe style features. Many of the Ko-Aoe smiths usually have a mei on the ura side, and this is an important charateristic for them, but Moritsugu and Shigetsugu signed on the omote side like on this tachi, and Tsunetsugu, Nobutsugu, and the smiths Noritaka and Masatsune from the same province have signatures on both sides. This means that the side the signature is written on is not too important. The upper part of this jihada is sumihada (a dark hada) or is called samehada which is a jihada mixed with jifu-like features. In some places, there are  very high, uneven jifu utsuri over the shinogi. The Ko-Aoe hamon are wide, with an unusual appearance, and there is a dynamic tachi shape, and from these characteristics, this is supposed to be a very early to mid-Kamakura tachi. However, from the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period, there are very few examples of Ko-Bizen and Ko-Aoe work which have this kind of shape, and Yasutsugu, Tametsugu, and Sadatsugufs work  emphasize midare hamon swords, so from these details we have to be careful to judge the specific time of this work. This sword still has a large hiraniku, feels heavy, has been preserved perfectly. There is a wide mihaba, and the widths  at the moto and saki are not too different. There is a chu-kassaki, and a very dynamic tachi shape. The hamon is unusual and among Ko-Aoe smiths , and is an unusual midare hamon, which is a valuable example. The nioiguchi is clear, and looks like a Bizen sword, and from these details, we should reconsider this as the work of an Aoe smith.Koretomo has a tachi and a kotachi classified as Juyo token, and these  have signatures on the ura side. Both tachi have a narrow mihaba, and small kissaki, which are typical Ko-Aoe style features. So this work could be made by either the same smith at a different time, or by his successor who was a different smith. We need more new data and observations to decide this question.  



 (Explanation and oshigata by Ishii Akira )





Meitan Kansho

Appreciation of fine tsuba & kodogu


Tatsu no otoshigo (baby dragon) zu menuki

Mumei: Misumi


People say the scales can fall from onefs eyes, but why are scales mentioned with humans.In any case, I recently studied Misumifs menuki work, and it felt like the scales fell from my eyes. The best of  Misumifs work are his menuki. His works are tastefulwhen compared with other smiths.  Among the Higo smiths, menuki by Hirata are occasionally seen besides Misumifs work. According to the gHigo kinko rokuh (the goldsmiths list) written in Meiji 35 by Nagaya Jumei, g He never went to other places during his entire life, he supprised people, had natural gifts, and was a strange personh. Among unusual Higo kinko, Misumifs work seems to  be more strange. The other day, I had a chanse to see many of Misumifs menuki. In particular, his animal work is excellent. His works are more like sculpture, and seem to include a substance beyond realism, and appear realistic. Many of his works are in shakudo, his figures are low, and this is one of his characteristics. Because of this, his works are small sized and more tense, and I feel that this is a his real style or character. However, tatsu no otoshigofs other name is a sea horse, and this is quite different from imaginary dragons. But from the appearance of this work, the hard scales on the surface, and the shape of his tail, maybe you can imagine this to be a dragon. Even the Goto family who utilized the dragon theme, did not seem to be interested in tatsu no otoshigo. The reason I am attracted to Misumifs menuki is not only the surface, but also his back or reverse side work. His natural rough finish is dynamic, and he shows triangle-like chisel marks. Maybe he considered it a joke about himself, and named himself as Misumi which means triangle because of this feature in his work. I would like to comment on the details that people use to identify Higo work: people used to say that Higo style work on which the back or reverse side shows stubby triangular chisel marks is Misumifs work. However, without dynamic and tense triangular marks, it should be judged as a later generationfs work or another schoolfs copy. Thus the scales fall from onefs eyes and we learn. The original phrase came from the New Testament: the believer who was prosecuted became blind, and God blessed him, and his eyes opened again.


Explanation by Kubo Yasuko )






Shijo Kantei To No. 661


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 661 issue Shijo Kantei To is March 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 March 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: tachi


Length: 2 shaku 9.5 bu (63. 49 cm)

Sori: 7 bu (2. 12 cm)

Motohaba: 7 bu 3 rin (2.2 cm)

Sakihaba: 4 bu 6 rin (1. 4 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu (0.6 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm)

Kissaki length: 5 bu 9 rin ( 1.8 cm)

Nakago length: 5 sun 5.5 bu (16. 82 cm)

Nakago sori: 3 rin (0.1 cm)


This is a shinogi zukuri tachi with an ihorimune, a slightly narrow mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. This sword is suriage, has a large koshizori, the tip has sori, and there is a chukissaki. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, and there are fine ji-nie, and clear midare utsuri. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. There are ko-ashi, a tight nioiguchi, ko-nie, and a bright nioiguchi. The horimono on the omote and ura are bo-hi with kakudome. The nakago is suriage, and the nakago jiri was originally kurijiri. The yasurime are katte sagari, and there are two mekugi-ana. On the omote side, the nakago has a two kanji signature located towards the mune edge of the nakago. 








Teirei Kanshou Kai For November


The swords discussed below were shown in the January, 2012 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 January 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 Ooi Gaku.



Kantei To No. 1: Katana


Mei: tsukuru Taikei Naotane

        Tempo 6 Chushun (middle of the spring)


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 5. 5 bu

Sori: 7 bu

Style: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight itame, in places mixed with o-itame and mokune hada; there are dense ji-nie, and frequent chikei.

Hamon: notare mixed with o-gunome and choji; there are slight vertical alterrations and a gorgeous midare hamon; there are dense nie mixed with yubashiri type tobiyaki, and frequent kinsuji and sunagashi. 

Boshi: wide yakiba, shallow notare, komaru and a slightly deep return.

Horimono: the omote at the koshimoto has a sankozuka-no-ken; above this there are bohi; the ura at the koshimoto has gomabashi, in the center, there are bonji, and above this, there are bo-hi.


This katana has a wide mihaba, the boshi is not too long, and it has a standard or usual shape. But for its mihaba, the shinogi-ji is narrow, and there is a low hiraniku, and from the shape, we wish to judge this as a Shinshinto katana. Also,the  ji and ha both have thick nie, a gorgeous midare hamon, there are frequent kinsuji and sunagashi, and chikei stands out in the jihada, and these characteristics are strong  features of the Soshu Den style. This is the Shinshinto smith Taikei Naotanefs Soshu Den style work. Naotane was Suishinshi Masahidefs senior student, and he extended his teacher Masahidefs theory back to Koto work. He produced many Soshu Den, Bizen Den, Yamato Den and Yamashiro Den blades. When Naotane worked in the Soshu Den style, he does not show a  very distinctive personality, but in many of these swords, some parts of the jihada are mixed with o-itame hada and it looks like a whirlpool, and this feature is called Naotanefs guzumaki (whirlpool) hada,h and some parts of this katana have this kind of jihada. In voting, people voted for the same Shinshinto smiths, such as the Satsuma smith Motohira, Kiyomaro, or an older era Keicho Shinto smith Hankei. These are understandable answers from the style,but if it were Motohirafs work, the jihada would have a Satsuma original wet appearance, and the hamon would have Satsumafs prominent distinctive thick and long nie-suji call imotsuru. If it were Kiyomarofs work, the ji and ha would have more nie than Naotane, there would be a stronger jigane, the nioiguchi would be more bright and clear, and there would be frequent areas with a choji type hamon, and in places, there would be a parallel or twin line line type of kinsuji. If this were Keicho Shinto work by Hankei, the jihada would show his unique ohada mixed with dense chikei called ghijiki hadah, and Hankei also has many swords with a mitsumune with sharp angles.      






Kantei To No. 2: tachi


Mei: Rai Kuni? ( Rai Kunitoshi )


Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 9 bu

Sori: 6 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: tight itame hada; in places there are ohada; there are fine ji-nie, and pale bo-utsuri.

Hamon: suguha style, with a slight shallow notare in places; some parts have ko-ashi; there is a tight nioiguchi and frequent ko-nie.

Boshi: straight, shallow, and relaxed; the tip is komaru and there is a slightly deep return which continues to form muneyaki.   


From the appearance of the tachi shape, it does not have funbari at the koshimoto, and this is supposed to be a suriage tachi. But still has a large sori, with a wazori style, a narrow and quite high shinogi ji, and an elegant tachi shape. The jihada is a tight ko-itame, and there are nie utsuri, and fine dense ji-nie. The hamon is suguha style mixed with little bit of ko-ashi, there are frequent ko-nie, the boshi is komaru with a gentle return, and from these characterisitcs, among the Yamashiro smiths, Rai school smith names come out. If you look at carefully inside of the hamon, small ko-ashi tip in towards the koshimoto, which is the opposite of Bizen and Bichu blades. This is call gKyo saka-ashih, and seen in many Kyoto swords, and especially in Rai Kunitoshifs work. From the narrow tachi shape, among the Rai school smiths, you can think of Rai Kunitoshi, Rai Kunimitsu, and Ryokai. Ryokaifs jihada is mixed with masame hada and the jihada looks whitish, the nioiguchi is softer, and many of his ji and ha look weak. This looks like Rai Kunitoshi and Rai Kunimitsufs early work, but it is a hard to judge specifically for either smithfs work, so either smithfs name is fine. A few people voted for Bizen Osafune work, but their ji and ha does not have this much nie. The boshi yakiba is not this wide, and the return is not this long. The muneyaki is on one side of the iori-mune, and this is often seen in the work of Rai Kunitoshi among the Rai school works.      


Kantei To No 3: tanto


Mei: Masahide (kao)

    Tenmei 8 nen 2 gatsu hi


Length: 7 sun 1 bu 

Sori: slight uchisori

Design: hira zukuri

Mune: Ihorimune

Jihada: itame mixed with o-itame: there are thick ji-nie and chikei.

Hamon: onotare mixed with gunome and o-gunome; the entire hamon is midare, there are frequent nie, dense nioi, in places there are rough nie, and tobiyaki.

Boshi: wide yakiba; midarekomi; tip is round with hakikake and a long return.


This tantofs jihada is itame mixed mokume, and there are dense ji-nie, and chikei. The hamon has a wide nioiguchi, and onotare mixed with ogunome and frequent nie.

This jihada and hamon show very strong characteristics of the Soshu Den style. This is Suishinshi Masahidefs early period Soshu Den work. Before Masahide absorbed the gFukkoto (back to Koto models) theoryh, which was around the Tenmei, Kansei, and Kyowa eras, we almost never see Bizen Den work mainly in nioi-deki. Masahide was copying Sukehirofs nie-deki toranba, or Shinkai type wide nie, and making Osaka shinto utsushimono, and this tanto is supposed to be one one of these works. Also this tanto is hira-tsukuri, with a standard mihaba, a thick kasane, not much fukura, and the hamon ashi are very long and reach almost the hasaki (the edge of the hamon). From these characteristics, you can judge this as a Shinshinto tanto.  People voted for same Shinshinto Soshu Den smiths: Kiyomaro school smiths and Satsuma smiths, such as Motohira and Masahiro. These smiths do fine work for Soshu Den smith styles, so the answers are understandable. The answer of Kiyomaro school smiths seems to arise from the poor shape of the fukura around the kissaki, and if this were work of the Kiyomaro school smiths, many of them would have nie ashi, and middle of hamon has sunagashi and kinsuji, and they look like cut nie-ashi in the middle. If this were the work of Satsuma smiths such as Motohira and Masayoshi, they would have dense, thick, frequent ara-nie, and the top of the yakiba would look sharp because of dense nie, and wavy thick kinsuji (Satsumafs imotsuru) would stand out.



Kantei To No. 4: katana


Mei: Izumi no kami Fujiwara Kunisada  


Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 6 bu

Sori: 3 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight itame hada mixed in places with ohada; there are fine dense ji-nie and chikei. 

Hamon: straight yakidashi, gentle notare mixed with ko-gunome; there is  a tight nioiguchi, frequent ko-nie, and the nioiguchi is bright and clear.

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


This widths at the moto and saki are a little different, and there is a chu-kissaki, and from this shape, the first impression looks like a Kanbun Shinto work. But if you look at this carefully, it has more sori than Kanbun Shinto, and the kissaki is longer, and this shape is one generation older than Kanbun time work, so it has a Kanei and Showa era shape. Shin-Kunisada received Izumi no kami title in May of Genwa 9 nen. After this time, in the Izumi kanji, a, with the eighth stroke to form the bottom line of the radical g, he chiseled from left to right, and this continued until around the end of Kanei 8. In this signature, the gah kanji is is written this way. There is no date, but from the style of the gkunih kanji, it is good guess that it was written after Kanei 5 to 6. Because of this, the jihada is a larger pattern than usual, the hamon is primarily a gentle notare with a tight nioi-guchi. This shows the influence of his teacher Echigo no kami Kunitoshifs work, and it is understandable that some people looked at this as being Kunitoshif work. This has a yakidashi, in which the moto is tight, the middle is loose, and the upper part has a gentle notare hamon mixed with gunome, from these characteristics, it is understandable to look at this as Kunitoshifs work. A Shodai Kawachi no kami Kunisuke answer is not too bad either. Both of these are the Horikawa schoolfs late students, and they moved to Osaka and started the Osaka Shinto school. Their works are similar, and it is difficult to see the differences. If you examine his work carefully, Shin Kunisadafs  hamon have a  straight yakidashi, and the center of the yakidashi nioiguchi is loose  or a bit spread out (the nioi is not tight or dense), and we call this a gKyoyakidashih. and Shodai Kunisukefs hamon are wider along with upper part. Also, the Shodai Kunisukefs entire  yakiba are much wider when compared with Shin Kunisadafs. Some of his hamon are very wide, and the top of hamon extends into the shinogi ji. Also, many of his boshi are wide. Also, the choji in the Shodai Kunisukefs choji hamon are very prominent.




Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: Hizen no kuni Omi daijo Fujiwara Tadahiro


Length: 2 shaku 4 sun 1 bu

Sori: 4.5 bu

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

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

Hamon: chu-suguha; there are fine nie-ashi, frequent ko-nie, and a bright and clear nioiguchi.   

Boshi: straight wide yakiba; the tip is komaru, and there is a return.  


The entire jihada is well forged and refined. There are dense frequent ji-nie, and fine frequent chikei called g komenukahadah. The suguha hamon has frequent nie, and is bright and clear. Also, the nie do not extend into the hamon, and so we see a  belt-like nioiguchi; in and some places, under the nioiguchi, there are ko-gunome like shapes. The boshi is straight along the fukura, there is a komaru and return. If you recognized all of these characteristics, it is possible to narrow this down to a Hizen katana. Among the branch smiths, such as Masahiro, and Tadakuni, we  see suguha works. But the better mainstream works are seen with more midare hamon, and if you donft see a darker jihada, or a visible hada, you should judge this as mainstream work from the first three generations. If you look at the first three generations, this kind of suguha work, for the Shodai Tadahiro during his Musashi daijo Tadahiro work, he developed a good jihada and hamon gradually. But if you see this kind of typical Hizen to katana, you can imagine it to be the work  of either the Nidai Tadahiro or Sandai Tadahiro. In voting, most people voted for these two smiths. This katana, compared with the Nidai Tadayoshifs gentle suguha, has stronger nie in the ji and hamon than usual; the boshi appears strong looking, there is a wide yakiba, and the yakiba is dynamic. The ji and hamon are both bright and clear. Not only the nakago shape and mei, but the entire work is similar to the Sandai Tadayoshifs, and because of this, either the nidai, or sandai answer is fine at this time.  







Shijo Kantei To No. 659

December, 2012 issue


The answer for the Shijo Kantei To No. 659 in the December  issue is a katana by Hizen kuni ju nin Tadayoshi (shodai).


This blade has a wide mihaba, the widths at the moto and saki are not much different, there is a large kasane (the blade is thick), a shallow sori, and an o-kissaki, and from these characteristics you can judge this as being a Keicho-Shinto katana. Characteristics of Hizen to swords are: the jihada is tight koitame, there is dense thick ji-nie, fine chikei, and a refined jihada. The hamon is a very clear belt-like suguha, and the boshi is parallel to the fukura and there is a komaru and return:  these characteristics are famous for Hizen to. This style of sword was established and produced in great numbers since the Shodai Tadayoshifs Musashi daijo Tadahiro period. During his 5 kanji charater Tadayoshi period and his ju nin Tadayoshi period, many of these works were produced, and he made all styles of suguha hamon. His jitetsu vary, and sometimes the jitetsu is ko-itame but does not have komenukahada, or there is some visible hada, and sometimes there is jifu. His entire hamon are a shallow notare mixed with ko-gunome; his nioiguchi are not always a belt type; sometimes the nioguchi has wide sections and tight or dense sections in the same hamon; there may also be wide and narrow sections of the nioiguchi. Also, his swords can look like Aoe utsushinomo with a tight nioiguchi in suguha, or have a Yamato utsushimono type jihada mixed with nagarehada, and in the habuchi there can be nijuba and kuichigaiba mixed in places with his usual suguha and there  can be kinsuji like an accent. In the boshi in this type of sword, not many are parallel with fukura with a komaru and return: they are straight with a komaru and return, or are notarekomi and the tip is komaru, or a narrows hamon with midarekomi. These boshi have hakikake. During the Tadayoshi mei period, the shodai Tadayoshifs nakago tips are kurijiri, and most of the yasurime are either a shallow katte- sagari or katte- sagari. The signatures in the Keicho period are on the omote mune side, signed gHizen kuni Tadayoshih. From around the Keicho period, he signed g Hizen kuni ju nin Tadayoshi sakuh, just like on his katana. It is hard to decide the exact date, but during the Keicho Shinto period, copies of highly regarded Soshu Den works become popular all over Japan. But around the Kanei period, we see tight ko-itame jihada with frequent ji-nie, a refined jihada, and the hamon is different from the Soshu Den style, primarily a midare hamon with round top yakiba notare and gunome, and there are dense nioi and dense nie, and a bright nioiguch, which are clearly different from the Koto style or from copies of a Koto style. This original Shinto style were being produced in large numbers all over Japan. At that time, like Izumi no kami Kanesada, because of his active working period, at the beginning of his career, he made typical Shinto type swords. Like some smiths, he worked in a transition period from the Keicho Shinto style to around the Kanei periodfs  original Shinto work. Early in their career, the Shodai Kunisada and Shodai Kunisuke swords are similar to their instructor Echigo no kuni Kunitoshifs, but later their work developed into the original Osaka Shinto style. Another example is Nanki Shigekuni. His early work reflects Go style Soshu utsushimono, and at the time he moved to Kishu, his hamon are mainly notare and gunome, with dense ha-nie and a wide nioiguchi, which look like old style Soshu Den swords, and this was his specialty. Later, his work appears just like his son Monju Shigekunifs  style. There are primarily round top gunome or a notare hamon which are a very modern style. In Keicho and Genwa times, during Tadayoshifs 5 kanji character, and during his ju nin signature period, he made all kinds of suguha, and he was very good at producing utsushimono of Chogi, Hiromitsu and Akihiro, with all kinds of midare hamon. But in the Shodai Tadayoshifs Kanei period, and during his Musashi daijo Tadahiro period, he changed and began to make his original belt-like type of suguha, a Hizen style original midareba with the bottoms of the yakiba valleys having dense nie. In the Keicho and Genwa to Kanei periods, sword styles were changing all over the Japan, and an original Shinto style was being established, and this is what was happening with Tadayoshifs work. At that time, this was a typical Tadayoshi work, and most people had the correct answer.   


Explanation by Hinohara Dai.