64| Part 2 of –30 Shin Shin-To : Bakumatsu sword (新々刀)

Chapter 64 is a detailed chapter of 30|Bakumatsu Period, Shin Shin-to.  Please read chapter 30 before reading this chapter.

0-timeline - size 24 Bakumatsu

                  The circle Above indicates the time we discuss in this chapter.

Swords made between the Tennmei era (天明 1781) and the end of Keio era (慶應) are called Shin Shin-to.  Please see the timeline above.  It was the time Japan was moving toward the Meiji Restoration.  It was the Bakumatsu time.  During the time, sword making was active again.  Below are the well-known swordsmiths in the main areas.

Musashi no Kuni  (武蔵の国: Tokyo today)

Suishinshi Masahide (水心子正秀) ———- When Suishinshi Masahide made Yamashiro Den style swords, the shape was similar to one of the Ko-to time swords; Funbari, elegant shape, Chu-suguha (medium straight), Komaru-boshi, fine wood grain.  When he forged the Bizen style, he made a Koshizori shape, just like a Ko-to by Bizen Osafune.  Nioi with Ko-choji, and Katai-ha (Refer to  30| Bakumatsu Period Sword 新々刀).  I wrote  in my sword textbook that I saw Suishinshi in November 1970 and October 1971.

Taikei Naotane  (大慶直胤) ————-Although Taikei Naotane was within the Suishinshi group, he was among the top swordsmiths.  He had an amazing ability to forge all kinds of different styles of swords wonderfully.  When he made a Bizen Den style, it looked like Nagamitsu from the Ko-to time with Nioi.  Also, he did Sakasa-choji as Katayama Ichimonji had done.  Katai-ha appearsMy note on the textbook says that I saw Naotane in August 1971.

Minamoto no Kiyomaro (源清麿) —————— Kiyomaro desired to join the Meiji Restoration movement as a Samurai; still, his guardian realized Kiyomaro’s ability as a great swordsmith and helped him become one.  It is said that because Kiyomaro had a drinking problem, he was not so eager to forge swords.  At age 42, he committed SeppukuKiyomaro, who lived in Yotsuya  (a part of Shinjuku, Tokyo, today), was called Yotsuya Masamune because he was as good as Masamune.  His swords were wide width, shallow Sori, stretched Kissaki, and Fukurakareru Boshi has Komaru-boshi.  Fine wood grain Ji-gane.

Settsu no Kuni    摂津の国   (Osaka today )

Gassan Sadakazu  (月山貞一) ——- Gassan was good at Soshu Den style and Bizen Den style, but he could make any kinds of style.  He was as genius as Taikei Naotane.  One needs to pay attention to notice a sword made by Gassan from a real Ko-to.  He also had an amazing ability in carving.  His hirazukuri-kowakizashi forged in Soshu Den style looks just like a Masamune or a Yukimitsu.  He forged the Yamashiro Den style with Takenoko-zori with Hoso-suguha or Chu-suguha in Nie.  He also forged the Yamato Den style with Masame-hada.





61|Part 2 of — 27 Shin-to Main 7 Regions (part A)

This chapter is a continued part of chapter 27| Shinto Main 7 Regions  (Part A).  Please read chapter 27 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Shin-to                        The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

Chaptern 27, Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A :主要7刀匠地) and Chapter 28, Shin-to Main Seven Regions (part B 主要7刀匠地)described an overview of the seven main regions.  This chapter and the next chapter show the representative swords from these regions.  They are Yamashiro (山城 in Kyoto), Settsu (摂津today’s Osaka), Musashi (武蔵  Edo), Satsuma (薩摩  Kyushu).  But Echizen (越前) and Kaga (加賀), Hizen (肥前) are skipped.29 Map with number 7

With the Ko-to swords, the shape, Hamon condition, Kissaki size, the length, and the shape of the Nakago, etc., indicate when the sword was forged.  In Ko-to time, the Bizen swordsmiths forged the Bizen Den swords; the Yamashiro swordsmiths forged the Yamashiro Den swords, the Mino swordsmiths forged the Mino Den sword.  But with the Shin-to-time swords, that is not the case.  The Den and the location of a swordsmith often do not match.  For Shin-to sword, we study the swordsmiths and their main seven regions and their characteristic.

Regarding the swords made in the Ko-to time, if a sword has a wide Hamon line with Nie, usually, its Ji-hada shows large wood grain or large burl grain.  Also, when you see a narrow Hamon line, it usually has a fine Ji-hada. 

However, with Shin-to swords, if a sword has a wide Hamon with Nie, it often has small wood grain or small burl grain pattern on Ji-hada.  And if it has a narrow Hamon line, it may have a large wood grain pattern Ji-hada.  That is the Shin-to characteristic.   

Here is an exception; some of the early Soshu Den swords during the late Kamakura period show wide Hamon with Nie with small burls on Ji-hada.  Because of that, whether it is Ko-to or Shin-to is confusing.  Even so, other features like Ji-hada or other parts should indicate the Shin-to or Ko-to.

  1. Yamashiro (山城: Kyoto)

64-kunihiro-sword.jpg 64 Kunihiro IllustrationHorikawa Kunihiro   (堀川国広)   From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広)

Horikawa Kunihiro was considered a great master swordsmith among Shin-to swordsmiths.  He forged his swords in many styles with different characteristics.  Hamon types are O-notare, O-gunome, Togari-ba (pointed hamon), Chu-suguha with Hotsure (frayed look), Hiro-suguha with Sunagashi effect, Inazuma, or Kinsuji appears.  Kunihiro liked to make his sword shape look like O-suriage (shortened Nanboku-Cho style long sword).  Kunihiro‘s blade gives you a massive feeling.  Kunihiro‘s swords often have beautiful carvings on them; designs include a dragon, Sanskrit letters, etc.  Since his swords are in many different styles, there is no general characteristic on his swords other than that Hamon is mainly Nie.  His Ji-hada is finely forged.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

img067.jpg  img068.jpg           Iga-no-Kami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道)           Dewa Daijyo Kunimichi (出羽大掾国路)        Both Juyo Token (重要刀剣), once my family owned, photos were taken by my father.

Iga-no-Kami Kinmichi ( 伊賀守金道)

Kinmichi family is called the Mishina group.  Refer 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要7刀匠地)Iga-no-Kami Kinmichi received the Japanese Imperial chrysanthemum crest. 

The characteristic of Kinmichi ——- wide sword, shallow curvature, extended Kissaki, Sakizori (curvature at 1/3 top),  wide tempered line, Kyo-yakidashi (refer 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要7刀匠地), Hiro-suguha (wide straight Hamon), O-notare (large wavy), Yahazu-midare, Hako-midare (refer 24| Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀)Boshi is Mishina-boshi, refer 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要7刀匠地).  Fine wood burl, Masame appears on Shinog-ji area.

Dewa Daijo Kunimichi (出羽大掾国路)

Dewa Daijo Kunimichi was the best student of Horikawa Kunihiro.  The right photo above.  Like Kunihiro, the shape of the sword looks like a shortened Nanboku-cho sword.  Shallow curvature, wide-body, somewhat stretched Kissaki, and Fukura-kareru (less arch in fukura).  Wide tempered line, large Gunome, Nie with Sunagashi, or Inazuma shows.  Double Gunome (two Gunome side by side) appears.  Fine Ji-hada.

  1. Settu (摂津) Osaka (大阪 )

Settu (Osaka) has many well-known swordsmiths.  They are Kawachi-no-Kami Kunisuke (河内守国助), Tsuda Echizen-no-Kami Sukehiro (津田越前守助広), Inoue Shinkai (井上真改), Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱), etc.                                                                                                     

The Settsu (Osaka) sword’s main characteristic ———— The surface is beautiful and fine, almost like a solid look with no pattern or no designs surface.  The below two photos are of the Settsu sword.

                 62 Ikkanshi photo  62 Ikkanshi illustration                  Ikkanshi Tadatsuna from Sano Museum Catalogue.  Permission granted to use.

Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱)

Ikkanshi Tadatsuna was famous for his carvings.  His father was also a well-known swordsmith, Omi-no-Kami Tadatsuna (近江守忠綱).  Ikkanshi Tadatsu was the second generation of Omi-no-kami Tadatsuna.  Therefore he was also known as Awataguchi Omi-no-Kami Fujiwara Tadatsuna (粟田口近江守藤原忠綱), as you see in the Nakago above photo.                                               

The characteristics of Ikkanshi Tadatsuna —————- longer kissaki and Sakizori (curved at a higher part of the body), wide tempered line with Nie.  Osaka Yakidashi (transition between the Suguha above Machi and Midare is smooth.  Refer to 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要7刀匠地) for Osaka Yakidashi.  O-notare with Gunome, Komaru-boshi with a turn back, and very fine Ji-hada with almost no pattern on the surface.

61 Inoue Shinkai 1

 Inoue Shinkai (井上真改) from “Nippon-to Art Swords of Japan” The Walter A. Compton Collection

Inoue Shinkai (井上真改)

Inoue shinkai was the second generation of Izumi-no-Kami Kunisada (和泉守国定), who was a student of Kunihiro.                                                                                                                         

The characteristic of Inoue Shinkai’s swords ——-Osaka Yakidashi, the tempered line gradually becomes wider toward the top.  O-Notare and deep Nie.  Very fine Ji-hada with almost no design on the surface.

58|Part 2 of — 24 Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀)

Chapter 58 is a Continued part of chapter 24|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代).  Please read chapter 24|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代)  before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period

           The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section  

Muramasa (村正)

The discussion of this chapter is about the famous Muramasa (村正).  Usually, many well-known swordsmiths were from one of the Goka Den (五家伝: The primary five schools: Yamashiro Den, Bizen Den, Soshu Den, Yamato Den, and Mino Den).  However, Muramasa was not from the Goka Den but Ise Province.  The first generation Muramasa was known as a student of He’ian-jo Nagayoshi (平安城長吉) of Yamashiro Den.  The Muramasa family lived through the mid-Muromachi period.  They had three generations from the mid-Muromachi period to the Sengoku period

61 Ise map

Here is one of Muramasa’s Tanto that was made during the Sengoku periodSince this is the Sengoku period Tanto, the blade shows the Sengoku period sword style.  It shows Mino Den characteristics, with the Soshu Den Characteristics added. 

61 Muramasa photo  61 Muramasa illustration                                                                                                                                                            Muramasa (村正) from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Characteristics  on this Tanto

Muramasa’s Tantos are often 10 inches ± half inches or so.  Hirazukuri (平作り). Thin blade with a sharp look.  Nioi base with small Nie and Sunagashi (brushed sand-like patterns, the illustration below) appears.  Boshi (the top part of Hamon) is Jizo (a side view of a human’s head).  The tempered line has wide areas and narrow areas.  Some areas are so narrow, close to the edge of the blade, while others are broad.  Hako midare (box-like shape) and Gunome (lined-up beads pattern) appear.  O-notare (large gentle waviness) is a Muramasa’s signature characteristic.  The pointed tempered line is a typical Mino Den characteristic (Sanbon-sugi).  Refer to 23| Sengoku Period Sword(戦国時代刀)and 24| Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀).

61 Sunagashi 2

Sunagashi (Brushed sand-like trace.  My drawing is exaggerated)

53| Part 2 of — 19 Nanboku-cho Period Tanto (南北朝短刀)

This chapter is a continued part of chapter 19.  Please read 19 |Nanboku-Cho Period Tanto(南北朝短刀), before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Nanboku-cho

                          The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto

The drawing above is a typical shape of the Nanboku-cho time Tanto.  This drawing was in chapter 19.  This drawing exaggerates the form of the Enbun Joji Kowakizashi tanto.  At the end of Chapter 19 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀), there is a list of swordsmiths’ names in the period.  Hiromitsu (広光) and Akihiro (秋広) represent the most common characteristics of Nanboku-cho Tanto.

56 cropped Hiromitu photo 20 Hitatsura

Hiromitsu From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission to use granted granted)

Enbun Joji Ko-wakizashi Tanto is also called Sun-nobi Tanto (>10 inches) because the length is longer than standard size (approx. 10 inches) TantoThe top part of the Tanto bends outward slightly. This type of shape is called Sakizori.

Characteristics of Hiromitu (広光) and Akihiro (秋広)

  • Shape———————— Usually, one foot and one to two inches long (Sun-nobi).   Wide width.  The blade is thin.  Sakizori.
  • Hamon ———————-Wide Hamon and narrow Hamon are mixed.  Hamon around Yakidashi (right above Machi) area is narrow, but it gets wider gradually as it goes up.  Hamon around the Fukura area is the showiest.  Mainly Nie.  Sunagashi, Kinsuji, Gunome, Umanoha-midare (horse teeth shape Hamon), or Hitatsura appear (above drawing).
  • Boshi———–Irregular, unevenly tempered.  Hamon covers almost entire Boshi. Deep turn back.
  • Jihada ———————————————————Wood-grained pattern
  • Nakago —————–Tanago-bara shape.  Refer to 19 Nanboku-cho Period Tanto.

Nobukuni (Below is my sword)

Shodai Nobukuni (the first generation Nobukuni) was a student of Sadamune.  He was one of the Sadamune San Tetsu (貞宗三哲, Sadamune’s top three students).  Nobukuni’s characteristics were similar to those of Hiromitsu’s and Akihiro’s described above.  Nobukuni also created Sun-nobi Tanto.  The sword below has a Hoso-suguha, Ko-mokume (small burl pattern), Ko-maru Boshi (small round).

56 Nobukuni 1 Nobukuni4

56 Nobukuni 2

This is the certification of my sword.  Shodai Nobukuni (初代信國).   Juyo Token (重要刀剣)


number Juyo 3220,    Certification Juyo-Token

Wakizashi:  Nobukuni (信国),  31.4cm length,  0.3cm curvature, HirazukuriMitsumune (three-sided Mune),  Sun-nobi, Ji-hada is wood grain and Ji-nie (nie on the surface between Shinogi and Hamon),  Hamon is Chu-suguha (medium straight),  Front carving shows Bonji (Sanscrit), Sanko-ken, back engraving is Bonji and Hoko (pike).   Original Nakago.  The examination by the Nihon Bijutu Token Hozon Kyokai.  It is certified as Juyo Token.  The Chairman Moritatu HosokawaShowa 45 June 1 (1970 June 1)

48|Part 2 of — 14|Late Kamakura Period Sword : Early Soshu Den (鎌倉末刀)

This chapter is a detailed part of chapter 14| Late Kamakura Period Sword.  Please read chapter 14 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

                         The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

14 Ikubi kissaki Damadge

In Chapter 14| Late Kamakura Period: Sword (鎌倉末太刀), the Ikubi-kissakui sword was explained.  The above illustration shows a flaw that was caused when the damaged area was repaired.  To compensate for this flaw, swordsmiths started a new sword style in the late Kamakura period.  They forged swords with a longer Kissaki and stopped the tip of Hi at a lower point than the Yokote line.   This way, if the Yokote line was lowered when it was repaired, the tip of Hi would stay lower than the Yokote-line.

15 Masamune (Sano)   15 Masamune hamon (Sano)

The above photo is a sword by Goro Nyudo Masamune (五郎入道正宗 ).  Please look at the size and shape of the Kissaki.  This is different from previous Ikubi-kissaki, or Ko-gissaki.  This is a typical late Kamakura period Kissaki style.  This is O-suriage (largely shortened). 

Under Kamakura Bakufu, many swordsmiths moved to KamakuraThey were Toroku Sakon Kunituna (藤六左近国綱) of Yamashiro Awataguchi group (山城粟田口),  Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真), and Kunimune (国宗) from the Bizen area.  They were the origin of Soshu Den (相州伝)Eventually, Tosaburo Yukimitsu (藤三郎行光) and his famous son,  Masamune (正宗), appearedIn the drawing above, Kinsuji and Inazuma are shown inside the Hamon.  The shinning lines inside the Hamon are Inazuma and Kinsuji.  Inazuma and Kinsuji are a collection of Nie.  Masamune is famous for Inazuma and Kinsuji.  Masamune lived in Kamakura; his Hamon looks like ocean waves when it is viewed sideways.

50 part 2 of 15 吉岡.photo 50 part 2 of 15 吉岡

The above picture is a sword by a swordsmith of Yoshioka Ichimonji group (吉岡一文字).  The Kissaki is also like the one of Masamune’s.  It is longer than the previous Ikubi-kissaki or Ko-gissaki.  This is Chu-gissaki.  The Kissaki like this is one of the crucial points to determine what period the sword was made.  The Hamon has Choji, Gunome, Togariba (pointed-tip), and very tight Nie.

50 part 2 of 15 運生 photo 50 part 2 of 15 運生 

The above photo is a sword by Ukai Unsho (鵜飼雲生) of Bizen Den.  This sword is also from the late Kamakura period.  But it has Ko-gissaki.  This sword does not have the late Kamakura period Chu-gissaki style.  Narrow Hoso-suguha is somewhat like an earlier time than the late Kamakura period.  This sword indicates that the sword does not always have the style of that period.  To Kantei*, first, look at the style and shape then give yourself some idea of the period of the time it was made.  But in this case, Kissaki does not indicate the late Kamakura periodThe next thing is to look at the different characteristics of the sword one by one like Hamon, Nie or Nioi, Jihada, etc.,  and determine what period, which Den, which province and then come up with the name. This process is called Kantei.

*Kantei —  to determine the swordsmith’s name by analyzing the  sword characteristic without seeing the Mei (inscribed swordsmith name). Mei may be gone if it was shortened.

All the photos above are from Sano Museum Catalogue.  Permission to use is granted.

46|Part 2 of — 12|Middle Kamakura Period: Tanto 鎌倉中期短刀

This chapter is a datiled part of chapter of 12| Middle Kamakura Period Tanto ( 短刀) .  Please read Chapter 12 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Middle Kamakura

                   The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

In 12| The Middle Kamakura Period: Tanto  described that the shape of Tanto called Takenoko-zori had appeared during the middle Kamakura period.  This style of Tanto curves inward a little at the tip.  The drawing below may be a bit exaggerated to show the curve.  The real Takenoko-zori curvature is not so apparent.  Maybe a few millimeters inward. 

Usually, the length of the Tanto is approximately 12 inches.  Tantos are described as follows; a Tanto of approx. ten inches is called Josun Tanto (定寸短刀), longer than ten inches is called Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延び短刀), and less than ten inches is called Sun-zumari Tanto (寸詰短刀).

12Tanto drawing Mid Kamakur


Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延び)   >   Jyosun Tanto (定寸)   >  sun-zumari Tanto (寸詰り)  (longer than 10 inches)           (approx. 10 inches)                (less than 10 inches

13 «Part 2» Tanto photo

 46 Shintogo Kunimitsu Oshigata

Shintogo Kunimitsu (新藤五国光)  Sano Museum Catalogue, permission granted to use

The style above is called Kanmuri-otoshi (冠落し); the Mune side (opposite side of cutting edge) is shaved off.  The length is approximately 10 inches.  Woodgrain pattern surface, Nie on Ji (refer to 3 |Names of Parts).   Very finely forged.  Hamon is medium Suguha (straight).  Boshi is Ko-maru (small round).  Because of the Kanmuri-otoshi style, it may not be easy to see the Takenoko-zori; the Mune side bends inward very slightly.  Among the Tanto producers, Shintogo Kunimitsu is considered as the top Tanto maker.

13 «Part 2»Tanto photo with Saya

Above photo is also by Shintogo Kunimitsu (新藤五国光) with Saya.  Saya is the scabbard.  The handle of the scabbard (white part) is made with sharkskin.  Both photos are from Sano Museum Catalog.  Permission granted.

38|Part 2 of — 5 Heian Period Sword 794-1192 (平安太刀)

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 5 Heian Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 5 before reading this section.  More sword terminologies will be used in the coming chapters.  They were explained between chapters 1 to 31.  For unfamiliar sword terminologies, please read chapter 1 to 31.

0-timeline - size 24 Heian                   The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this sect         

There are several active schools of swordsmiths during the Heian period.  We use the word “Den” for school.  They are Yamashiro Den (山城伝), Yamato Den (大和伝), Bizen Den (備前伝).  Also, the following areas are other active groups during the Heian period:  Houki-no-Kuni (伯耆の国), and Oo-U (奥羽).  Oo-U is pronounced “Oh,” and “U” as uber.

 Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )

During the Heian period, among Yamashiro Den swords, the most famous sword was “Mikazuki Munechika “ (三日月宗近) by Sanjo Munechika (三条宗近).  Mikazuki means crescent.  It was named Mikazuki Munechika because the crescent-shaped Uchinoke (collection of Nie) pattern appears in Hamon.  It has a graceful shape, narrow-body, Koshi-zori, Funbari, and small Kissaki.  It shows the wood grain surface and Suguha with Nie mixed with small irregular, sometimes Nijyu-ha (double Hamon: 二重刃) appears.  Sanjo Munechika lived in the Sanjo area in Kyoto.  His sword style was carried on by his sons and grandsons: Sanjo Yoshiie (三条吉家), Gojo Kanenaga (五条兼永), and Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永 ).  Gojo is also an area in Kyoto.

38Sanjo Munechika

    三日月宗近    Mikazuki Munechika  東京国立博物館蔵 Tokyo National Museum           Photo from “Showa Dai Mei-to Zufu 昭和大名刀図譜” published by NBTHK

Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国)

Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori Prefecture.  It is known as the place to produce good iron.  The sword, “Doujigiri Yasutsuna”  (童子切安綱) made by Houki-no-Yasutsuna (伯耆の安綱) was one of the famous swords during the time.   

The characteristics of Yasutsuna’s sword———-It has a graceful shape with small Kissaki, narrow Hamon (often Suguha with Ko-choji), coarse Nie on Hamon area, large wood grain mixed with Masame on Ji-hada Hamon area often shows Inazuma and Kinsuji.  Boshi area is Yakizume, Kaen (pronounced ka as a calf, en as engineer) with a small turn back. 

6 Sano Hoki Yasutuna

   伯耆の安綱 (Hoki no Yasutsuna) 佐野美術館図録 (Sano Musem Catalogue)                     Permission to use granted 

Bizen Den (備前伝 )

Bizen is today’s Okayama Prefecture.  It is known as the place to produce good iron.  From the Heian period until now, Bizen has been famous for the sword-making tradition.  The sword-making group in this area during the Heian period was called the Ko-bizen group.  The most famous swordsmith in the Ko-bizen group was Bizen Tomonari (備前友成), Bizen Masatsune (備前正恒), and Bizen Kanehira (備前包平).                                                                      

Ko-bizen group’s characteristics ——-  A graceful narrow body, small Kissaki, narrow tempered line with Ko-choji (small irregular) with Inazuma and Kin-sujiJi-hada is a small wood grain pattern.

6 Sano Kanehira

   Bizen Kanehira (備前包平) Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録)                          (Permission to use granted)

I saw Ko-Bizen Sanetsune (真恒) at Mori Sensei’s house.  That was one of the Kantei-to of that day.  I received Douzen*ᴵ.  The book written by Hon’ami Koson was used as our textbook.  Each time I saw a sword at Mori Sensei’s house, I noted the date on the swordsmith’s name in the book we used.  It was Nov. 22, 1970.  It had a narrow body line, small kissaki (that was Ko-bizen Komaru), Kamasu*2  (no fukura), and SuguhaKamasu is the condition where the fukura (arc) is much lesser than usual.  Thinking back then, it is amazing we could see famous swords like this as our study materials.


Kantei-kai is a study meeting.  Usually, several swords are displayed, with the Nakago part being covered.  The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge.  Below are the grades.

Atari —– If the answer is right on the exact name, you get Atari.  That is the best answer.

Dozen  —- The second best is dozen.  It means almost the right answer. The subject sword was made by the family or the clan of the right Den.   Dozen is considered very good.  It indicates the student has a good knowledge of the particular group.

Kaido Yoshi —– This means correct about the line, but not about the family.

Jidai Yoshi—- It means the time or period is right. Each Kantei-kai has different grading systems.  Some may not have “Jidai Yoshi” grade.

Hazure—– the wrong answer. 

After all the answer sheets are handed in, the answer sheets are graded and returned.  The judge reveals the correct answer and explains why.

*1 Dozen:  Almost the same as the correct answer. 

 *2 Kamasu:  The name of a fishIt has a narrow and pointed head.




28|Shin-to Sword — Main Seven Regions (part B 主要7刀匠地)

0-timeline - size 24 Shin-to
 The red circle indicates the subject of this chapter

64Map with number with 8

3Musashi ( 武蔵 ) in Edo ( 江戸 )

The Katana and Wakizashi made in the Musashi area have shallow Sori (curvature).  Often the width of the upper part of the body tends to be narrow.  Usually, the Hamon starts with a small irregular pattern, gradually becomes a bigger irregular pattern, then a few inches under the yokote line, it becomes a small irregular pattern again.  The Boshi is usually Komaru-boshi.  The Ji-hada is somewhat rough.   Masame-hada shows on Shinogi-ji.

Well-known swordsmiths in Musashi ———————————-Noda Hannkei (野田繁慶)                                                      Nagasone Okisato Nyudo Kotetsu (長曽根興里入道虎徹)

28 Kotetsu                            はんけい cropped

Nagasone Okisato Nyudo Kotetsu                                                Noda Hankei (野田繫慶)  (長曽根興里入道虎徹)                                             from Compton’s collection “Nippon-to”  Once owned by my father.                                                            

  1. Echizen ( 越前 ) and 5. Kaga (加賀 )

Many swordsmiths from Mino (美濃) area moved to Echizen and Kaga area (#4  & 5 on the map above).  Therefore, the swords made in this area are called Echizen- seki, and Kaga-seki.  Refer to 23|Sengoku Period (戦国) Sword for Mino Den.  The style of Echizen Yasutsugu (越前康継) is similar to the one of Mino Den.

Well-known swordsmith in Echizen ————————-Echizen Yasutsugu (越前康継 )

  1. Hizen (肥前)

Both Katana and Wakizashi in Hizen have a well-balanced shape. Hizen area tends to make swords with Chu-suguha-hotsure (a medium-width straight Hamon that looks like frayed fabric.) with fine Nie (沸).  The Boshi has a regular clean line with uniform width tempered line, as shown in the illustration below.  If you see a Shinto sword which has Chu-suguha Hamon and a Boshi that looks like the one below, it is often made by Hizen Tadayoshi (肥前忠吉).  Very fine Ji-hada (surface), sometimes called Nukame-hada.

29 Hizen Tadayoshi Boshi

Well-known swordsmith in Hizen ———————————— Hizen Tadayoshi ( 肥前忠吉)

  1. Satsuma (薩摩 )

The swords made in Satsuma have a solid look for both katana and wakizashiKissaki (the top pointed area) is a little stretched.  Yakidashi (a few inches above Machi ) shows a small irregular HamonHamon is O-midare with coarse Nie called Ara-nie.  The Ara-nie forms Togari-ba (pointed pattern, see the drawing below)One of the characteristics of this region is Satsuma-nie.  That is, the Ara-nie around hamon continues and blends into the Ji-hada area.  Therefore, the border between Ha-nie and Ji-nie is unclear.  Inside the Hamon sometimes shows a thick line shaped like lightning.  This line is called Satsuma-no-imozuru (sweet potato vine), less favorable than Inazume and Kinsiji.  This is the most prominent feature of the Satsuma sword.  Boshi has a narrow-tempered line with a small irregular patternThis is called Satsuma-boshi.  On the Ji-hada surface, Chikei (a long dark line like) appears.  This is called Satsuma-gane (薩摩金).

29 Satsuma Togari-ba

Well-known swordsmiths in Satsuma ——————  Izunokami Masafusa (伊豆守正房)                                                                                                 Ichinohira Yasuyo (一平安代)                                                                                       Mondonosho Masakiyo (主水正正清)


19 | Nanboku-Cho Period Tanto(南北朝短刀)


0-timeline - size 24 Nanboku-cho
The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

During the Nanboku-cho period, a type of Tanto called Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Sun-nobi Tanto was made.  Hirazukuri means a flat sword without the Yokote line and Shinogi.  Ko-wakizashi means a shorter sword.  Sun-nobi Tanto means longer than standard Tanto.  This is also called Enbun Jyoji Ko-wakizashi Tanto.  It is called this way because majority of this type of Tanto were forged around Enbun and Jyoji imperial era.  In Japan, a new imperial period starts when a new emperor ascends to the throne.  The Enbun era was from 1356 to 1361, and the Jyoji period was from 1362 to 1368.

20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto

Sugata  (姿: shape) ——-  The length of a standard size Tanto is approx. one ShakuShaku is an old Japanese measurement unit for length and, one Shaku is very close to 1 foot.  

8.5 Sun (the Sun is another old Japanese measurement unit for length) is approximately 10 inches.  Ten inches is the standard size Tanto called Josun Tanto.  Anything longer than Josun Tanto is called Sun-nobi Tanto.  Anything shorter than Josun is called Sun-zumari Tanto. 

Most of the Nanboku-cho tantos are longer than Josun Tanto,  approximately 1 foot 2 inches long.  Therefore they are called Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Sun-nobi Tanto

Saki-zori (curved outward at the top.  See the illustration above).  Wide width and thin body.  Fukura Kareru (no Fukura means less arc).  Shin-no-mune.  See the drawing below.

20 Fukura           20 Shin-no-Mune

 Hi, (樋: Grooves) and Horimono (彫り物: Engraving) —- A groove or grooves on the Mune side.  Bonji (Sanscrit, described in Chapter 16 Late Kamakura Period  (Early Soshu-Den Tanto 鎌倉末短刀, Koshi-bi (Short groove),  Tumetuki Ken, Tokko-tsuki Ken (see below) appear.  Ken (dagger) is curved widely and deeply in the upper part and shallower and narrower in the lower part.  This is called Soshu-bori (Soshu stule carving).

20 Tokko, tume Ken

Hamon (: Tempered line) —– The narrowly tempered at the lower part gradually becomes wider toward the top.  Then a similar wide Hamon goes into the Boshi area.  Hamon in the Kissaki area is Kaeri-fukashi (turn back deep).  See the illustration below.  Coarse Nie.  O-midare (large irregular Hamon pattern).

20 Hitatsura

                                        From Sano Museum Catalogue

Ji-hada (地肌: Area between shinogi-ji and tempered line)——— Loose wood grain pattern called Itame.  Yubashiri (refer Chapter 16| Late Kamakura period: Early Soshu-Den Tanto (鎌倉末短刀)), Tobiyaki (Irregular patchy tempered spot) appear.  Crowded (or busy) Tobiyaki is called Hitatsura (drawing above).

Nakago (: Tang) —- Short Tanago-bara.  Tanago-bara means the shape of the belly of a Japanese fish Tanago (bitterling).

20 Tanago Bara

Tanto Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period

Soshu Den ———————————————————-Hiromitu( 広光) Akihiro (秋広) Yamashiro Den ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)   Bizen Den ——————————————————— Kanemitu (兼光) Chogi (長義 )

Compton Hiromitsu Soshu Hiromitsu     “Nippon-To Art Sword of Japan “   The Walter A. Compton Collection


18| Nanboku-Cho Period Sword (南北朝太刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Nanboku-cho

                           The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

During the Nanboku-Cho period, Samurai demanded a large, elaborate, and impressive yet practical sword.  The Soshu Den style sword in Nanboku-cho time was just that.  This type was the most popular style then.  The Nanboku-cho period was the height of the Soshu Den.  Many swordsmiths moved from other provinces to the Kamakura area and forged the Soshu Den style swords.   Other schools and regions outside the Kamakura area also made the Soshu Den style swords in their own places.

19 Nanboku-cho Sword style

Sugata (姿: Shape)———-The original length of swords was 3, 4, or 5 feet long, but shortened to approximately two and a half feet long at a later time.  A greatly shortened blade is called O-suriage

The Nanboku-cho style sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori).  Refer to Chapter 5 |Heian Period: Swords.  The highest curvature comes around the middle of the body.  A wide-body, high Shinogi, narrow Shinogi-Ji (Refer to Chapter 3 Names of Parts).  The thin Kasane (thickness of the body) is the distinctive feature for the Nanboku-cho style.  High Gyo-no-mune or Shin-no-mune, sometimes Maru-Mune (round back).

19 Nanboku-cho 3 kinds Mune

Hi (: groove) and Horimono (彫刻: engraving) ——– Often, a single Hi (Bo-hi), double Hi, Suken (dagger), Bonji (Sanscrit), and/or Dragon are engraved on the Shinogi-Ji area.  Refer to Chapter 3 Names of Parts.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (: Tempered line) —- The lower part of the body shows a narrow-tempered line; gradually, the tempered line becomes wider and showy.  Course Nie.  O-midare (large irregular wavy Hamon), Notare-midare (wavy, irregular Hamon), Gunome-midare (a mix of repeated half-circular and irregular Hamon).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer to Chapter 14 Late Kamakura Period: Sword (鎌倉末太刀))  sometimes appears.

19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome19 Hitatsura Hamon Hiromitsu

                                  *From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).

Ji-hada (地肌: Area between Shino-gi and tempered line) ———————-Wood-grain pattern (Itame 板目). Sometimes Tobiyaki (patchy tempered spots) appears on Ji-hada. For Ji-hada, refer to Chapter 3 Names of parts.

Kissaki (切っ先) and Boshi (Tempered line at Kissaki area) ———- O-kissaki (long and large Kissaki). Fukura kareru (less arc).  Midare-komi (body and boshi have a similar tempered pattern), with Kaeri-fukashi (hamon deeply turns back), sometimes Hitatsura (entirely tempered).  See the above illustration.

Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den (school)

  • From Soshu—————————————————Hiromitsu (広光)  Akihiro (秋広)  
  • From Yamashiro ———————————————Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) 
  • From Bizen (called So-den Bizen)——-Chogi (長儀 )group  Kanemitsu (兼光 ) group 
  • From Chikuzen ———————————————————-Samoji (左文字 ) group

19 Chogi photo from Sano book

The distinctive characteristics of the Nanboku-Cho period sword on the photo above      

  • The engraving trace of Suken on the Nakago indicates this area was once a part of the main body.
  • Large and Long kissaki