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)

30| Shin-Shin-To 1781-1867 (Bakumatsu Period Sword 新々刀)

0-timeline - size 24 BakumatsuThe red circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

The later part of the Edo period is called Bakumatsu.  See the circled area of the timeline above.  Swords made during this time are called Shin Shin-to.   They are also called Fukko-to (復古刀: revived sword).  Fukko-to copied the shape, Hamon, Boshi, and other features of the Ko-to and Shin-to swords.  The characteristics of Shin Shin-to (新々刀) and well-known swordsmiths are those below.

The Characteristics of Shin Shin-to

  • Katana, Wakizashi, and Tanto all tend to be similar to or copy of the Ko-to and Shin-to in shape.
  • Many swords often have Hi or detailed engravings.
  • One swordsmith would make more than one style swords like Soshu Den, Bizen Den, and Shin-to style together.
  • Often shows Katai-ha.

30 katai-ha


  • Weak (not tight) Nioi.
  • Yakidashi (2 to 3 inches above Machi) is often Suguha (straight line Hamon), even though the rest is irregular    Boshi is often irregular Midare.
  • Detailed engravings, but more realistic than the previous times.

Well known swordsmiths of Shin Shin-to

  • Settsu (Osaka area) ——————Gassan Sadayoshi (月山貞吉) Gassan Sadakazu (月山貞一) Gassan family is famous for detailed carvings.
  • Musashi no Kuni (Tokyo area) ————-Suishinshi Masahide (水心子正秀)  Minamoto Kiyomaro (源 清麿)  Taikei Naotane (大慶直胤)  Taikei Yoshitane (大慶義胤) is famous for his carvings.

30 Kiyomaro entire

Minamoto Kiyomaro(源清麿)    Once my family possession

  • Tosa (四国: Shikoku area) ———————————————— Sa Yukihide (左行秀)
  • Satsuma (鹿児島: Kagoshima) ———— Oku Moptohira (奥元平) Namino Hira (波平)

Meiji Ishin-To

Right before the Meiji Restoration, long swords (approx. 3 feet) with no curvature were made.  Sa Yukihide (from Tosa) forged this type of sword.  Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛)、 Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬) owned this type of swords.  Both are famous historical characters during the Meiji Restoration, called Meiji Ishin (明治維新).  Both of them were a part of the Kin’no-to (勤皇党) group which supported the Emperor and renewed the political system.

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)