Nihontô (Japanese Samurai Sword)


Last updated: 6 November 2016

I have included both English and equivalent romanized Japanese (rômaji) sword related terminology (in bold brown type) which I hope will be of assistance to those who are unfamiliar with Nihontô.

Primary references used throughout this page:

Blade with it's securing collar (habaki) and storage scabbard (shira-saya)

The person from whom I purchased this blade included some (mostly difficult to read) attribution notes by several individuals whose names, backgrounds and depth of Nihontô knowledge remains unknown. The consensus was that this is a shobu-zukuri wakizashi blade made by Inaba Kokaji Kagenaga (circa. 1394), student of Awataguchi Yoshimasa (Inaba Kokaji School founder), described in Teiryo Yoji, Honami Kozon, p. 106.

I bought this blade because I wanted to research what I thought was a kotô Awataguchi school associated blade made in the Yamashiro Tradition -- based on the accompanying attribution notes.

Note that the ridge line (shinogi) on this blade does not extend all the way to the tip (kissaki) as it should on a shobu-zukuri blade: Nagayama, pp 49 & 53 and Nakahara, pp 18-19, Fig. 13.

I now think that this was originally a nagamaki blade made by a Chu-Aoe school (Bitchu province) smith during the Nanbokucho period (1333-1392) and eventually reshaped into a wakizashi blade as described by Nagayama (p49) who then goes on to point out (p142) that many nagamaki blades were produced and then subsequently shortened and re-shaped by Chu-Aoe school smiths as nagamaki-naoshi-zukuri blades during this time.

In addition to Nagayama and Nakahara, my main attribution references were:

In order to narrow the search for a Chu-Aoe school smith (kaji) who might have made this blade I eliminated from consideration those smiths who incorporated ashi (notches or "legs") and/or choji (clove shaped ashi) in the hamon of their blades as a matter of course. That eliminated the great majority of potential smiths, for those hamon characteristics are almost always present on blades made by the great majority of the Chu-Aoe school smiths.

I next searched for Chu-Aoe school smiths who produced blades that featured kô-mokumi with masame (small straight wood grain) blade surfaces (jihada) and temper lines (hamon) that featured kô-midare based on sugu-ha (small irregular straight pattern) for those are some of the defining attributes of my blade.

That narrowed the list of candidates to just three Bitchu Chu-Aoe school smiths who were active 1326-1361 (Nihonto Club).

I believe it was one of those three smiths who originally made this blade for a nagamaki. It is pure conjecture as to when it was reshaped to a nagamaki-naoshi-wakizashi blade, and who did the work.

Additional References (web pages) consulted:

Images of blade

Note: This blade has undoubtedly undergone many polishings (some not very good ones?) and possibly several reshapings during its lifetime, as evidenced by the thin temper line (hamon) on the omote, thin temper line (boshi) at the ura point (kissaki) and various (minor) surface flaws (kizu). This blade is now in (I think) a reasonably good sashikomi polish - i.e. it does not (especially) obscure the activity (hataraki) in the hamon.

Overall shape

Blade left side (omote) - illustrating the curvature (sori). Length of the blade (nagasa) is 37 cm (14.60"). Width (mihaba) is 2.3 cm (.90"), and somewhat thin in cross-section (kô-kasane). There is a slight tapering of the blade (funbari) from the base to the point.

Blade right side (ura). The overall blade shape (sugata) is nagamaki-naoshi-zukuri. It has a ridge line (shinogi) but does not have a point dividing line (yokote). The back ridge (mune) is peaked (iori). The flat surface between the shinogi and the mune (shinogi-ji) is low and of medium width.

Blade surface grain and pattern
Activity (hataraki)

kô-mokume (very tight wood grain) with masame (straight grain) blade surfaces (Nagayama p 116). There are a few temper spots (tobiyaki) in the jihada. (Nagayama p 142) There is shirake utsuri (indistinct whitish pattern) on the ura. The ridge surfaces (shinogi-ji) are burnished.

Blade edge temper pattern
Activity (hataraki)

Close-up photos of representative activity at random points on both sides of the blade

On both sides of the blade the temper line is irregular (midare) sometimes becoming quite narrow (kô-midare) and is based on sugu-ha (straight pattern). (Nagayama pp 101, 116, 131). The hamon is mostly defined by a prominent misty white line of fine martensite (nioi) There is occasional mura-nie (scattered uneven large particles) in the jihada that infringes on the hamon.

Blade point (kissaki) temper pattern
Activity (hataraki)

omote point (kissaki) showing temper line (boshi) with no turn back (yakizume) (as a result of nagamaki-naoshi re-shaping). There is somewhat thin nioi and dark lines of nie, like brushed sand (sunagashi). (Nagayama p 116)

ura point (kissaki) showing very narrow temper line (boshi) that almost runs off at the tip, again, as a result of nagamaki-naoshi reshaping (maybe to remove chips from the kissaki ha) (Nakahara pp 91-93).


The tang (nakago), who's length (nagasa) is 11.5 cm (4 5/8"), has one peg hole (mekugi-ana) and a rounded tang tip (ha-agari kurijiri). File marks on the tang (yasuri-me) are right-handed downward slanting (katte-sagari). I think this tang has been shortened considerably (Ô-suriage nakago) and the original smith (kaji) signature has been lost (mumei). Nagayama p 66: Ô-suriage nakago (description plus illustration of nagamaki naoshi tang)


As with many old period (kotô) swords, this blade has some flaws (kizu). There are a few small open layer surface blemishes (kitae-ware) but no rust, chips or cracks. There are also a few scratches on the blade back flat surface (shinogi-ji) and one possible battle scar (kirikomi) (Nakahara p 88) shown in the center of the Photo.

Go to the Nihontô Directory