May, 2013



Meito Kanshou

Appreciation of Important Swords


Classification: Tokubetsu Juyo Token

Type: tachi

Mumei: Bizen Osafune Morimitsu

             Oei 12 nen 8 gatsu hi

Owner: NBTHK


Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 7bu 1 rin  (71.85 cm)

Sori: 8 bu 7 rin (2.63 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 9 rin (3.0 cm) 

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

Motokasane: 2 bu 3 rin (0.7 cm)

Sakikasane : 1 bu 5 rin (0.45 cm) 

Kissaki length: 9 bu 9 rin (2. 9 cm)

Nakago length: 5 sun 5 bu 8 rin ( 16.9 cm)

Nakago sori: 7 rin (0.2 cm)




This is a shinogi zukuri tachi with an ihorimune, a standard mihaba, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. The blade is thick with a high sori, and there is a slightly prominent saki sori. The kissaki is a chu- kissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and the entire jihada is well forged. There are ji-nie, some chikei, and a dark jigane with midare utsuri. The hamon is based on open bottom gunome, and is mixed with choji, square gunome, and togariba. The entire hamon has a high midare yakiba. There are ashi, yo, and the hamon is formed in nioi. At the koshimoto, there are kinsuji, nie-suji, and small tobiyaki. The boshi is a midarekomi, with a komaru and return. The nakago is slightly suriage. The nakago tip is a shallow ha-agari kurijiri, and the yasurime are sujichigai. There are three mekugi-ana. On the omote near the third mekugi-ana (the original mekujiana), towards the mune edge,  there is a long kanji signature made with a somewhat fine tagane, and the ura has a date.

During the Nambokucho era, the Soshu Den style was poplular style all over Japan. In Bizen, around the end of the Kosori era, the Soshu Den style faded away. Bizen smiths changed to a wide mihaba with an o-kissaki and a long tachi shape; i.e. they returned to a style with the Kamakura periodfs standard shape. In the early Muromachi period, smiths who were active during the Oei era were called gOei Bizenh and produced old classic styles. Two of greatest smiths from the Oei Bizen tradition are Morimitsu and Yasumitsu. Morimitsu is supposed to be the son of a mainstream Osafune smith. Today, he has many blades extant, from Meitoku 5 or Oei 1 (1394) to Oei 33 (1426).  Some sword books claim that there were two generations of Morimitsu, and it isnft known if this is true, but for a thirty year active period, one generation seems more reasonable. In looking at his work, we see that he produced tachi from time to time, but many of them were made before Oei 10. After that, he produced many hira-zukuri tanto or long, narrow wakizashi with shallow sori. He also has shinogi zukuri wakizashi, and rarely, uchigatana over over 2 shaku. His hamon up to Oei 10 are Kozori style narrow midare hamon. But most of his hamon are based on prominent round top gunome or choji, and may have been influenced by old fashioned notare hamon. Many of his midare hamon bottoms are open and large when compared with Yasumitsufs more narrow hamon, and this is characteristic of his style as you know. Also, two of these smiths sometimes produced fine suguha hamon following examples by Kagemitsu or Aoe work, and these are excellent works. Most of his signatures are g Bizen Osafune Morimitsuh, and very rarely with a gShuri-no-sukeh title, and sometimes there is a two kanji signature. On his tachi, he signed inside the shinogi-ji, just like Kosori smiths. Some of his swords are either hira-zukuri or shinogi-zukuri, and usually signed with large kanji along the center of nakago toward the tip. This tachi is work from his earlier period, and the the shape does not show much koshizori, but has more emphasis on sori at the tip. It is thick for the mihaba, which shows this times characteristic shape, which is the same as other prefecture smiths. The jihada is a well forged itame hada, the entire jihada is refined, and the hamon is his characteristic style as explained. Among his works, this hamon is large and is excellent work.                

This tachi was donated to the NBTHK by the family of the former NBTHK chairman Suzuki Kajo. In Edo times, it belonged to the Kishu Tokugawa family.  


Explanation and the photo by Ishii Akira.




Meitan Kansho

Appreciation of fine tsuba and kodogu



Yatsuhashi zu tsuba

A tsuba with a picture of eight bridges.




This is a well known theme called g Yatsuhashih. It shows moving water with Iris flowers and simple board bridges over shallow water.  This is the theme of Arihare Narihirafs trip to the West, and he was considered one of the 6 best poets in the 9th century and one of the 36 best poets in the 11th century. This is described in the gIse monogatarih (an early Heian period story).

Narihira was traveling to the west with friends, and they stopped at Yatsuhashi in Mikawa (todayfs Yatsuhashi in Aichi prefecture). The place has many small rivers, just like a spiderfs web, and there are eight bridges. At the place where they rested, there were beautiful beds of Iris blooming. Someone suggested they write a  poem to describe the feeling of the place by using 5 words where each word would start with a successive syllable from the word Kakitsubata ( which means Iris). Narihira wrote a poem gKarakoromo Kitsutsu narenishi Tsumashi areba Harubarukinuru Tabioshizo omofuh (I have a wife in Kyoto, just like a comfortable old kimono, and I feel sorry to come to such a long distance away from her), which expresses a manfs lonliness during travel, and his thoughts about his wife who was left in Kyoto. The tsuba is designed around this theme. As I explained, it shows moving water, Irises and bridges, but Narihira himself is not there. This technique, without a main character, is used to suggest something, and is called rusu-moyo (a design with an absence). This is Ko-kinko (old gold smith) work. Ko-kinko refers to kinko toso (smiths) working from early times up to the Momoyama period, and we are not sure about their families or history. This tsuba has a shakudo nanako ground, carved in takabori (high relief) with gold and silver iroe (colored metal inlay) details. This is a classic elegant design made with a very elegant technique. It is gorgeous but still has a good conservative classic feeling.


Explanation by Iida Toshihisa.




Shijo Kantei To No. 676


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 676 issue Shijo Kantei To is June 5, 2013. 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 June 5, 2013 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 1 bu 5 rin (24.8 cm)

Sori: uchizori

Motohaba: 6 sun 5 rin (2.0 cm)

Sakikasane: slightly less 2 bu (0.6 cm)

Nakago length: slighly less 3 sun 5 bu (10.5 cm)

Nakago sori: none


 This is a hira-zukuri tanto with an ihorimune, and the mihaba and kasane are standard. It is uchizori and has a standard tanto shape. The jihada is itame mixed with nagarehada, and the entire jihada is visible. There are fine ji-nie, chikei, jifu and midare utsuri. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. There are unique sharp tipped gunome and ashi, and the entire hamon has saka-ashi. There is a strong nioiguchi, ko-nie, kinsuji and sunagashi.  The nakago is ubu, and the nakago tip is slightly shortened with a kiri type nakago jiri (the original nakago jiri was kurijiri).  The yasurime are kattesagari, and there is a one mekugi-ana. On the omote side, the nakago has a long kanji signature along the center, and the ura side has a date. Many of this smithfs boshi have a sharp tip.



Teirei Kanshou Kai For April


The swords discussed below were shown in the April 2013, meeting at the NBTHK headquarters building. This discussion presents answers concerning the makers of these blades.

Meeting Date: April 13, 2013 (2nd Saturday of February)

Place: Token Hakubutsukan auditorium

Lecturer: Ooi Gaku


   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 sword smithfs name.



Kantei To No. 1: katana


Mei: shugaki (writing in red lacquer) which is unclear: Shidzu


Length: 2 shaku 2 sun 6 bu

Sori: 6 bu

Style: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: itame hada mixed with o-itame, mokume, and a strong nagare hada; the hada is visible; there are dense ji-nie, and frequent chikei.

Hamon: based on a notare hamon; mixed gunome, choji, and togariba; around the monouchi area there are prominent vertical variations in the hamon; there are ashi, yo, a wide nioiguchi, frequent nie, uchinoke, yubashiri, tobiyaki, frequent sunagashi and kinsuji, and a somewhat worn down nioiguchi.

Boshi: midarekomi with frequent hakikake; on the omote side there is a round tip and return; the ura side is omaru with a shallow return. 

Horimono: both the omote and ura sides have bo-hi carved through the nakago.


This katana has large pattern jihada, and there are frequent chikei. There is a Gyoso (smooth and flowing) type midare hamon with frequent hataraki. At the edge of the hamon, there is a strong nioguchi and dense nie. The jihada and hamon appear like a Soshu Den master smithfs work. This is a well made katana, and in Edo times, this could have been classified as Masamunefs work. But the mihaba is wide, the widths at the moto and saki are not much different, and there is an o-kissaki. The shape suggests the peak of the Nambokucho period, and the strong nagare hada, and the midare type hamon mixed with togariba suggest a Mino Den origin. Compared with Masamunefs work which has a strong visible jihada and a worn down nioiguchi, this sword has somewhat of a country feeling (i.e. it may not be mainstream work). This has a continuous gunome hamon with sunagashi, and the strong round boshi is characteristic of Kanuji. In particular, the ura side boshi is an o-maru style, which is similar to signed Kaneuji work. Considing these characteristics, you can judge this as Shidzu work. Some other people looked at this as being as Norishige or Sadamunefs work. Today, Norishige is thought to have belonged to the Shintogo Kunimitsu school, and at the same time was a student of Masamune. Norishige has dated Kamakura period blades, such as from the Showa and Gen-o eras, and his shapes are different, and there are thick dark chikei and a unique jihada which call Matsukawa hada. If it were Sadamunefs work, his jihada are tight but visible (the jihada patterns are clearly visible), and the hamon are primarily a shallow notare, and show gentle patterns.                    



Kantei To No. 2: katana


Mei: Tairyusai Soukan kore o tsukuru

        Keio 2 nen 10 gatsu bi

Length: slightly over 2 shaku 4 sun  

Sori: slightly less 6 bu 

Design: shinogi zukuri

Mune: mitsumune

Jihada: tight ko-itame, becoming a muji type; there are dense thick ji-nie, fine chikei, midare utsuri, and a bright jihada.  

Hamon: saka-choji midare hamon; there are slightly long ashi, and a strong and bright  nioiguchi. 

Boshi: slightly wide yakiba; midarekomi; sharp tip and long return.


The katana has a wide mihaba , and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. There is a shallow sori with an o-kissaki. The blade is thick and heavy, and even the tip is thick. The jihada is tight ko-itame, and becomes a muji type hada. The hamon is healthy but the tips of the ashi are wider and become soft, and from these characteristics, you can judge this as a Shinshinto katana. The hamon is a choji midare hamon with a bright nioiguchi. The hamon pattern repeats itself over a 3-4 sun interval,and from these characteristics, there were opinions of the maker being Koyama Munetsugu and Chounsai Tsunatoshi. However, the katana has a mitsumune and this is unusual for Bizen Den work, and there is a clear midare utsuri, and these characteristics are not seen in these two smithsf work. Also,many of Tsunatoshifs hamon have a yakidashi, a tight nioiguchi, and more vertical variations in the midare hamon. If you look at the katana carefully, the midare hamon is continuous, and the height of the tips at the top of the hamon are almost all the same, the gunome and choji clusters are azuki bean sized and they are almost all the same size. Also the dark areas in the midare utsuri are long and frequently range from the hamon to the shinogi-ji, and these characteristics are important points in judging the work as Soukanfs. Also, the hamon is saka-choji midare, which is rare for Shinshinto times. As a reference, this type of hamon is rare for Sokan, but tended to be made around the Keicho period.




Kantei To No 3: katana


Mei: Kazusa no suke Fujiwara Kaneshige


Length: slightly over 2 shaku 3 sun 4 bu   

Sori: 5.5 bu

Style: shinogi zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight itame hada with some parts visible; there are dense ji-nie and frequent fine chikei.

Hamon: gunome and ko-notare; the continuous hamon become a gentle midare hamon; there are thick ashi, some juzuba areas, a dense nioiguchi, dense nie with some places having rough (ara) nie; the nioiguchi is hotsure with yubashiri, kinsuji, sunagashi, and a bright nioiguchi.

Boshi: a slightly wide yakiba which is straight with a komaru; there are some hakikake and there is a long return.

Horimono: both the omote and ura, from middle of the blade, have bo-hi; under the monouchi there are soe-hi, and the hi are finished with maru-dome.


This katana is slightly wide, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. There is a shallow sori and a chu-kissaki, which is a characteristic Kanbun Shinto shape. The width of the shinogi-ji is wide for the mihaba, the shinogi-ji is low and flat, and these characteristics are often seen in Kanbun Shinto work. The shinogi-ji has a masame hada and the hada is visible. The hamon is a juzuba (string of beads) pattern, and these characteristics help to judge this as an Edo Shinto katana. The jihada is a tight itame, there are dense ji-nie, frequent chikei, and both the jihada and hamon are bright. The ura side boshi around the yokote area is gunome, then straight with a komaru and return.These chacteristics are the same as those of Kotetsu who is known to make juzuba hamon, and because of this, many people voted for him. But if you look at the hamon carefully, some parts of the juzuba pattern have gaps or spaces, and after a single gunome there are two continuous gunome, and this kind of hamon pattern is repeated: if you recognized this characteristic, it is not difficult to come up with the name of Kazusa no suke Kaneshige. If you look at this more carefully, notice that there is no yakidashi at the koshimoto which is seen often in Kotetsufs work. Also there are prominent sunagashi along the entire hamon which is seen in Kotetsufs work, and frequent hataraki such as yubashiri, hotsure and the overall appearance is gbasakeh (i.e. rough), and these characteristics are different from Kotetsufs. There were other votes such as Nakasone Okimasa and Hojoji Masahiro. If this were Okimasafs work, his hamon characteristics include two repeat gunome midare, and there are often yakidashi. If this were Masahirofs work, his gunome hamon are a little smaller, and many of his works have a low yakiba.      



Kantei To No 4: tanto


Mei: Hoshu ju Mita Goro saemon Hiroyoshi

       Eiroku 2 nen 8 gatsu-bi

       Nushi (kome) Kan Hisataka nari (ownerfs name)


Length: slightly over 8 sun 9 bu

Sori: slightly less than1 bu

Design: hira-zukuri

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame hada; there are dense fine ji-nie, and a pale white jihada.

Hamon:  based on gumome mixed with ko-notare; there are togari shaped gunome, vertical alterations, and there is a dense nioiguchi, dense nie, ko-gunome, frequent ashi, yo and a gorgeous active hamon. There are also rough (ara) nie, kinsuji, sunagashi, and the habuchi has yubashiri.

Boshi: midarekomi; the omote has a slightly sharp tip; the ura is an o-maru style with hakikake.

Horimono: on the omote side there is a Daikokuten at the koshimoto; on the ura side there are three rice containers (bales); both horimono were made later after the sword was made.


Hiroyoshi has four main styles of hamon in his midare hamon work. One is his teacherfs Sue Bizen style hitatsura. Another is the neighboring provincefs Sue Bizen style midare hamon. The third is a repeating open bottom square shape gunome hamon, and the boshi kaeri are a suguha style, with a gentle yakisage (return) extending to the machi which is a unique style. The fourth style is a mixture of all of these hamon. This work is based on a Soshu Den hitatsura hamon with nie. The jihada is a tight ko-itame; the hamon is an open bottom gunome mixed with crab claw shaped double gunome which is a Sue Bizen style, and this is a mixture of two different styles. The midare hamon has uniform element sizes and is repeated. The boshi return is gently extended to the machi area (on the omote side on this tanto), and this is a mixed type of midare hamon. This is similar to Sue Bizen hitatsura, but difference is the refined jihada, a worn down nioiguchi, and hamonfs hataraki (ashi and yo) are not prominent (his repeated square gunome hamon have same characteristics). If this were Sue Soshu work, the hamon would be more irregular, and there would be frequent ashi and yo and a bright nioiguchi. Comparing this to other smiths, if this were Fuyuhirofs work, his jihada are nagare hada, the hada is a visible, dark jihada; there are ashi and yo, and the boshi has strong hakikake, If this were Taira Takada work, the nioiguchi, ashi, and yo are not smooth, and more tightly formed, and many of them are nioi. The Shimada smithsf work have a midare hamon continued and extended to form muneyaki, a large midare hamon, and often large togariba which look like waves.

The horimono was carved later in the swordfs history.              



Kantei To No. 5: katana


Mei: Tsuda Echizen no kami Sukehiro

       Empo 9 nen 8 gatsu-bi

Length: slightly less than 2 shaku 5 sun 2 bu  

Sori: 6 bu 

Design: shinogi zukuri 

Mune: ihorimune

Jihada: tight ko-itame; there are dense large ji-nie, fine chikei, and a bright jihada.

Hamon: straight short yakidashi; above this there are gunome and choji, and the hamon becomes a toran-ba; in the center, mixed with box shaped gunome, there are thick ashi, a dense nioiguchi, frequent nie, and a bright and clear nioiguchi.

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

Horimono: both the omote and ura sides have bo-hi with marudome.


This is over 2 shaku 5 sun and is a long katana with a wide mihaba. From the shape, many found it hard to recognize the defference in widths between the moto and saki, but there is a shallow sori and long kissaki which are characteristic of Osaka Shinto. From these characteristics some people thought of Keicho Shinto or Shinshinto. But Sukehiro has often has katana with lengths around 2 shaku 5 sun which exactly copy the Kanbun Shinto shape. They could be a special order, and many of them are well made. At first, people were confused by the shape. This sword also has a bright and refined ko-itame hada, a typical toran-midare hamon, and Sukehirofs other characteristic points which are a short yakidashi, places with a box style hamon, and places with a tama-yakiba (ball-like yakiba) which resembles waves splashing and splattering. Also, the sunagashi are not prominent. There is a nioiguchi, the nie are not crumbled, and the appearancce is neat and clear, and from these details, many peole voted for the correct answer in the first vote. Some people voted for Ozaki Suketaka. His hiraniku is poor, his jihada are too tight and become muji, and compared with Shinshinto work, his kitae look weak. His hamon have valleys and the waves bump into each other, and there are more square shaped components. From the high ihorimune and three continuous gunome waves under the yokote, many people voted for Itakura Gonnoshin Terukane. His work is not as good as Sukehirofs, but some characteristics are similar, and it is important to judge the maker from the entire katana. If this were Terukanefs work, his hiraniku are poor; sometimes there are nagarehada; there is a long yakidashi and sometimes no yakidashi; his sunagashi span the entire hamon from tips to valleys; and his hamon do have tama-yakiba, but many of the tama yakiba are in unnatural locations such as in the valleys of the midare hamon.




Shijo Kantei To No 674 ( in the 2013 March issue)

The answer for the Shijo Kantei To No. 674 in the March  issue is a tachi by Osafune Masamitsu dated Eitoku 2    


This tachi has a standard width, and the widths at the moto and saki are different. The blade is slightly thick for the width, there is a high koshizori, the tip has sori, and there is a chu-kissaki. This kind of shape is seen often from the late Nambokucho era,and approximately after the Eiwa era.  Some of Masamitsufs works are similar to late Nambokucho time Kosori work, but when compared with those, his jihada and hamon are brighter. Masmitsufs jihada are itame mixed with mokume and nagarehada, and the hada is visible. There are ji-nie, chikei, midare utsuri, and often different color jifu appears. The hamon are based on a shallow ko-notare, mixed with ko-gunome, ko-choji, and ko-togari, and the yakiba are low or narrow for the mihaba. The entire hamon is small, and there is a nioiguchi and ko-nie. The boshi are midarekomi, and tips are sharp. Around the Joji era, his few early works are in the Enbun-Joji style, and are large tanto and hira zukuri wakizashi. The hamon are kataochi-gunome or notare mixed with gunome, which are similar to his teacher Kanemitsufs style, and of his older fellow students Motomitsu and Tomomitsu.  Masamitsu is famous as a student of Kanemitsu along with Motomitsu and Tomomitsu. Motomitsu and Tomomitsufs active period was around the Enbun and Joji eras. Masamistufs dated works are before and after the Joji period into the early Muromachi Oei era. Thus Masamitsufs active period was later than the other two senior smiths. His teacher Kanemitsufs latest date was during the Joji period which was Masamitsufs earliest working period. His elder students Motomitsu and Tomomitsufs last dates were around the Oei era. Looking at the late Nanbokucho period, the main Bizen smiths last signed eras (the last dated examples do not always coincide with the end of the smithfs career) were Joji for Motoshige, Koryaku for Chogi, and Oei for Omiya Morishige. Many of the Bizen dates moved up to Eiwa, Koryaku, Eitoku, Shitoku, Kakei, Ko-o, and Meitoku, and the tachi shapes changed to become narrower. Chojifs Koryaku era tachi are narrow, but without other style changes. Morikagefs work from the end of the Nanbokucho period have a narrow shape with small hamon which is similar to Kosori work. Also, there are many Bizen smiths who are not belong to famous schools and do not have a clear school style (similar to this Masamitsu work), and people called all of these smiths Kosori smiths. Overall, at the end of the Nanbukucho period, Bizen swords became narrower, and at the same time, the mainstream schoolsf characteristics gradually disappeared and smaller hamon become popular. During Masamitsufs early career, his work was silmar to that of Kanemitsu, Motomitsu, and Tomomitsu. But during the late Nanbokucho period, when his teacher and fellow studentsf influrence become less, he produced many Kosori style blades, and this could be the trend of the times. In voting, most people voted for Masamitsu. Beside him, Kosori smith names such as Moromitsu, Hidemitsu, and Iemori came up. As I explained, Kosori work is very similar to Masamitsufs work and it is difficult to decide on names of individual smiths. From this viewpoint, Kosori smith names were treated as correct answers. 



Explanation by Hinohara Dai