Nihontô (Japanese Samurai Sword)


Last updated: 9 April 2017

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:

This sword was most likely made up for the tourist trade (hamamono) (Japanese Sword Shop external link) using a new-new-sword production period (shin-shintô) blade made by an unknown smith (kaji) of Satsuma Province (Nagayama pp 296-297) probably sometime following the end of the Edo period (1603 to 1868). The various mounting components (koshirae) are most likely from different locations and production periods (particularly the kozuka kogatana).

The blade has a shallow curvature (sori) and is wide, thick and heavy, with a ridge line (shinogi zukuri), long point (Ô-kissaki) and an overall robust shape (sugata). Length (nagasa) is 42.5 cm (16.75"), with a motohaba of 34 mm (1.34"). The blade retaining collar (habaki) is overlaid with gold foil.

The blade surface pattern (jihada) is very fine wood grain (kô-itame). The temper line pattern (hamon) consists of somewhat irregular undulating "mounds" (gonume midare) in nie deki. The kissaki temper line (boshi) is kô-maru with a somewhat long turn back (kaeri). I think this blade is in a good sashikomi polish that does not obscure the activity (hataraki) in the hamon.

The tang (nakago) is unsigned (mumei) with two peg holes (mekugi-ana) and file marks (yasuri-me) that are diagonal upward sloping (katte-agari).

The scabbard (saya), has a high gloss vermilion lacquer finish (shu-urushi).

A utility knife - kozuka (handle) kogatana (blade) - is in the slot on the (omote) side of the saya.

The kozuka bears a depiction on both sides of a full Autumn Moon (aki no tsuki) with a deer (Sika) lying down in marsh grass.

The omote of the kogatana is finished by filing in the traditional way and is boldly inscribed (signed) Tango No Kami Kanemichi - a new sword period (shintô) Mishina province smith (kaji) active in the early to late 1600s.

Many collectors and scholars hold that kogatanas were not made or signed by the smith who produced the blade - those tasks instead being assigned to assistants or apprentices.

Although slightly scuffed from use, the ura of this kogatana is in good polish with an irregular wavy (notare) temper line (hamon).

The hilt (tsuka) binding (ito) is black silk over ray skin (same). The upper pommel (fuchi) and the en-suite Tachi style (handachi) helmet shaped (kabuto-gane) lower pommel (kashira) are made of shakudô - an alloy of copper and gold.

The hilt ornaments (menuki) depict Autumn pine mushrooms (Matsutake)

The surfaces of the shakudô upper pommel (fuchi) and lower pommel (kashira) are textured with a fish roe pattern (nanakô) and patinated to a dark violet/black color

The upper pommel (fuchi) is decorated with gilded high relief temple guard lion dogs (shishi) and peonies (botan).

The lower pommel (kashira) is decorated with a gilded depiction of a dragon (yang) (top) and a tiger (yin) (bottom).

The Bushû school pierced iron guard (tsuba) has finely carved Japanese cherry blossom (sakura) buds, leaves, stems and flowers with gilded highlights.

Go to the Nihontô Directory