January, 2015



Meito Kansho

Examination of Important Swords


Classification: Tokubetsu Juyo token


Type: Katana

Kinzogan mei: Bitchu no kuni Masu ju Yoshitsugu 

             Genna 5 nen 8 gatsu hi suriage kore

             Futatsudou dodan 5 sun kiru kore: Nakagawa Saheita (kao)

             Aruji (owner) Nabashima Kii-no-kami            


Length: 2 shaku 5 sun 5 bu 1 rin (76.1 cm)

Sori: 8 bu 1 rin (2.45 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 4 rin (2.85 cm)

Sakihaba: 6 bu 3 rin (1.9 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 3 rin (0.7 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4cm)

Kissaki length 1 sun 2 rin (3.1cm)

Nakago length: 6 sun 3 bu 7 rin (19.3cm)

Nakago sori: 3 rin (0.1cm)




This is a shinogi zukuri katana with an ihorimune, a standard width, thick, and the widths at the moto and saki are not much different. There is a strong koshizori and a short chu-kissaki. The jihada is ko-itame mixed with mokume and hagare hada. There are jifu, and the entire fine jihada is visible. There are ji-nie, frequent fine chikei, jifu type utsuri, and on the omote side around the center there is a little dan-utsuri. The hamon is based on chu-suguha, and some parts have ko-gunome. There are frequent ashi and yo, a tight nioiguchi, nie, some uneven ko-nie, and there are some kinsuji, niesuji, sunagashi and a clear nioiguchi. The boshi above the yokote is straight with a komaru with a small return, and becomes kuichigai. At the tip there are small hakikake. The horimono on the omote and ura are bo-hi carved through the nakago. The nakago is o-suriage, the tip is kurijiri, and the yasurime are osuji-chigai. There is one mekugi-ana. On the omote hiraji, there is the smithfs name and the suriage date inlayed in a kinzogan mei (gold inlay), and the ura has a saidan mei (cutting test) and the ownerfs name.


The Bichu kuni Aoe school has two periods: in the NBTHK, the mid- Kamakura and older blades are called gKo-Aoeh. After the mid-Kamakura period, the blades are just called gAoeh. After the latter half of the Kamakura period, the Aoe style was not unified or consistent, and it is sometimes not easy to identify clear differences between these later and the older works. Generally their jihada becomes finer and tighter, and we often see sumihada. The utsuri are different from the older stylefs uneven jifu-utsuri, and around this period, dan-utsuri are seen. The hamon are the same as the older periodfs suguha style, but some of the suguha have sakashi, and there are tight nioiguchi suguha with saka-ashi. In the Nanbokucho period this characteristic hamon is more exaggerated and becomes a beautiful saka-choji midare hamon. Possibly these nioiguchi are related to the more refined jihada, and many of them have a brighter nioiguchi than Ko-Aoe work, and both the jihada and hamon become clear. The inscriptions gradually move from the ura to the omote. At the end of the Kamakura period around the Showa era (1312-17), besides a date, the mei could include the names of residential areas such as Masu, Koi and Aoe, and we see given names or titles such as Sahyoe-no-jo, Uhyoe-no-jo and Kyobu, which were never seen before. But the large size of the signature along the center of the nakago remained as a Ko-Aoe relic.

Uemon-no-jo Yoshitsugu is representative of the Aoe master smiths from around the end of the Kamakura period, and there are several signed blades. There is a tachi signed gBishu Masu ju Uemono-no-jo Yoshitsugu sakuh which is classified Juyo Bunkazai and is owned by the Hie Shrine: that tachi is the only one signed on the ura side, and is supposed to his early work. Today his earliest dated sword is  from Shochu 3 (1326) and is a tachi which is classified Juyo Bunkazai which is owned by Fukui prefecturefs Fujishima Shrine. But the Umetada meikan lists a Genkyo 2 dated sword (1322), signed Bichu no kuni Aoe ju Uemon no jo Yoshitsugu. The Kareki and Gentoku (1326-31) dated blades are signed with just a name and without a title. For example, beside the tachi, there are some tanto, and these have the old suguha style, but many of them have a tight clear nioguchi.

This katana is o-suriage, but is still koshizori and has a dynamic shape. The jihada is ko-itame mixed with mokume hada, there are jifu sumihada, and the entire jihada is tight, and the fine jihada is visible, and is a typical characteristic Aoe chirimen hada. Also on the ura side around the center, there are very pale dan-utsuri, which are not shown well on the oshigata. The hamon, besides abundant ashi and yo, has hataraki such as niesuji, kinsuji and sunagashi. Both the jihada and hamon are bright and clear, and a little classic looking, but at the same time refined and sophisticated looking, which shows the Kamakura period Aoe schoolfs characteristic style from the latrer half to the end of the Kamakura period. This work is not showy, but is a calm and quiet artistic masterpiece.

From the kinzogan-mei, this belonged to someone in the Hizen Saga clanfs Nabeshima familyfs branch Ogi clan: the Shodai lord Nabeshima Kii-no-kami Motoshige (1602-54). He was son of the maid of the Saga clanfs Shodai lord Katsushigefs official wife (Toyotomi Hideyoshifs adopted daughter). After the his first wife passed way, Katsushige choose Ieyasufs adapted daughter Kiku hime (Kogenin) as his next wife and she bore him Tadanao and several other sons. At the Battle of Sekigahara, the Saga clan belonged to the Western army but they tried escape from the Toyotomi influence. So Motoshige become the adopted son of his grandfather Naoshige, and could not succeed to the leadership of the main clan, as he was considered to be bad luck as well as the son of Totyotomifs adopted daughter. Motoshige was a good friend of Yagyu Munenori, the great swordman and received a Shinkage-ryu certificate. At the Shimabara battle, he joined with his father, and in Kanei 15 (1638) on February 27th, Motoshige at the age of 37, attacked in the front line and invaded the castle. The old oshigata book gTsuchiya oshigatah listed this family sword as being in the Amakusa battlefs front line. The suriage date, and the tameshigiri signature by Nakagawa Saheita are very valuable. Though this is an o-suriage katana, it has a high historical value, and that makes this katana a most interesting and valuable sword.  


Explanation and photo by Ishii Akira.




Juyo Tosogu


Fukurokuju zu (design of one of the Seven Gods of Fortune) tsuba 




    Kiyotoshi Hogan with kao


For the New Year, we will introduce tsuba with happy subjects such as koumori (bat), shika (deer), reishi (mushrooms) and Fukurokuji.

The artist, Tanaka Kiyotoshi, was the founder of the unique Toryusai school, and at that time in the Edo, he had established the highest reputation. In the Bakumatsu period, he was a popular artist and one of the three best master smiths along with Goto Ichijo and Kano Natsuo.

This is a one of the best of Kiyotoshifs works. He use suaka (pure copper) and shakudo (copper mixed with 3-5%gold) for imotsugi (a combination of the two metals). On the suaka ishime ground from the omote to the ura side , there is a deer full of life, and it looks like it is almost ready to start moving. Kiyotoshi used all kinds of irogane (colored metal) such as gold, silver, shakudo, and shibuichi on the omote and ura sides. The composition is thoroughly and completely designed, down to the last detail, and there is no word to describe this except as excellent work! All of the carving techniques are perfect and refined. The whole work shows Kiyotoshifs excellent ability to use techniques and of his artistic sense. One could say this is the best of the best work.

Kiyotoshi began to use the Hokyo name in Koka 2, and in the following year Koka 3, he received the Hogan title at the age of 43. In Meiji 9 he passed way at the age of 73, and as the head of the Toryusai school, he improved its style and helped train many students. From the signature, this is supposed to have been made right after he received the Hogan title. This work was done in his prime period, and both his mind and body were full of life, and his technique was at its peak.               


Explanation by Kurotaki Tetsuya



Shijo Kantei To No. 696


The deadline to submit answers for the No. 696 issue Shijo Kantei To is Feburary  5, 2015. 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 Feburary 5, 2015 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 3 sun 0 5 rin (69.84 cm)

Sori: slightly less 6 bu (1.8 cm)

Motohaba: 9 bu 7 rin (2. 95 cm)

Sakihaba: 6 bu 1 rin (1.85 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu (0.6 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 2 rin (0.35 cm)

Kissaki length: 9 bu 9 rin (3.0 cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 0 3 rin (21.3 cm)

Nakago sori: very slight


 This is a shinogi zukuri tachi with an ihorimune, and which is slightly wide. The widths at the moto and saki are not too different, and it is a little thin for the width. This is suriage, but has koshizori, the tip has sori, and there is a long chu-kissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with mokume, and the entire jihada is fine and visible, and this is a unique jihada.There are, frequent ji-nie and chikei, and different colors in the kawari-tetsu jigane. There is also midare-utsuri near the mune, and suji (line-like) utsuri near the hamon. The hamon and boshi are as seen in the picture. There are ashi, yo, the entire hamon has saka-ashi, there is a tight nioiguchi, nioi type ko-nie, kinsuji and sunagashi. The nakago is suriage, and the nakago tip is ha-agari kurijiri. The yasurime are osuji-chigai (old yasurime) and katte sagari (new yasurime), and there are two mekugi-ana. On the omote side of the nakago, on the mune side, there is long kanji signature.



Shijo Kantei To No. 694 (in the November, 2014 issue)

The answer for the Shijo Kantei To No. 694 in the issue is a tachi by Enju Kunitoki.


This tachi has a standard width, and the widths at the moto and saki are a little different, and there is a chu-kissaki. From the shape, you can judge this as being work from the latter half of the Kamakura period to the early Nambokucho period.

The Enju school has few tachi with a shape like the Kuninobu tachi which is classified as Juyo Bunkazai. It is wide, and the widths at the moto and saki are almost not different. There is also a large kissaki, and dynamic shape. Usually, many of the the Enju schoolfs works have a standard width or are slightly wide, with a chu-kissaki or a slightly long chu-kissaki, just like this tachi. The sori is wasori, and these are characteristic points for Enju school work.

The Enju school is supposed to be related to the Rai school. Their jihada are a tight ko-itame, and there are tachi and tanto with suguha hamon, and tanto with shallow notare hamon which are similar to Rai school work. But many of their jihada are mixed with nagare hada, and instead of Rai school bo-utsuri, their utsuri are whitish. The schoolfs hamon nioiguchi appear worn down when compared with the Rai school. Their boshi usually have a large round tip and a short return. Sometimes, the Enju schoolfs jihada are mixed with a jifu type jihada. The Enju school signaturefs gkunih kanji are characteristic. Inside of the kuni kanji, the right part becomes ear shaped, which is a unique shape, and the hints mentions about this.

In voting, most people voted for Enju school smiths, such as Kunimura, Kunisuke, Kuiniyasu, and Kunisuke. The Enju school smithsf works are similar to each other, and so it is difficult to judge individual names. So, at this time, all Enju school smithsf names treated as correct answers.

Many of Kunimurafs tachi are long, and the widths at the moto and saki are very different, and there is a small kissaki and a unique tachi shape. In Kuniyasufs work strong nie are prominent.

As an almost correct answer, some people voted for Ryokai. His works have a standard width, and a wa-zori tachi shape. His jihada are mixed with masame hada, and show predominent whitish hada. There are suguha hamon, and there are definitely some similarities to the Enju school. However, many of Ryokaifs works have a high shinogi-ji, and some of his hamon have clearly worn looking nioi or appear soft. Also, in his signatures the first kanji do not have any characteristic or prominent features, and you should notice this.             


Explanation by Hinohara Dai