Japanese Swords

Work in Progress (Translation)

ART and Attraction

Art and Attraction

History

Some people may feel that the Japanese sword has a long history. Although the Japanese sword is a weapon, it has also become an object of art, faith and a symbol of authority. Some people may also feel the spirit of bushido when looking at the Japanese sword, which is said to be the soul of the Samurai. In the history of Japan, Japanese swords have been carefully preserved for over a thousand years. Their historical role has been significant and even today, they still shine brilliantly as a reminder of its creation. The Japanese swords are one of the most unique Japanese cultural assets in the world. Finding the beauty in Japanese swords is finding Japanese culture. 

Sugata (shape)

There may be many people who find the beauty in Japanese swords that pursues function and eliminates all kind of waste of movement. Their shape and curvature were born out of the history of their creation, according to the needs of each, and tell the story of their history and the trends and aspects of their times. 

Jigane (Steel Pattern)

Many people may be attracted to the beauty and charm of Jigane. In order to satisfy the requirements for Japanese swords to be “unbreakable, unbending and sharp”, high quality Tama-hagane is forged over and over again to produce a strong, tough sword by wrapping the low-carbon content Shin-Gane (soft iron) with the high-carbon content Kawagane (hard iron). These patterns appear on the surface of Jigane, which is likened to the bark of a tree and called “Itamehada“, “Masamehada“, “Mokumehada“, “Ayasugihada” etc., and they have a variety of attractive features. 

The most common type is Itame-hada, and it is often found in Sōshūmono (swords made around current Kanagawa prefecture), which are famous for Masamune swords. Also, small-grained Ko-itame-hada is often found in swords made by swordsmiths from Yamashiro (currently Kyoto Prefecture) in the Kamakura period, and the ones that are especially fine and tightly packed are called Nashiji-hada. And, the swords in the end of the Edo period are called Muji-hada or Kagami-hada since they are so tight and very fine-grained that it’s hard to see the grains. 

The Aoe School of Bicchū (present-day Okayama Prefecture) features Mokume, and the Masame-hada is said to be the characteristic of Yamato-mono (the swords made in present Nara prefecture). Furthermore, apart from Hamon, sometimes Utsuri, a white haze like the shadow of Hamon, appears on Jigane. The Bizen swords have the most beautiful Utsuri, which is a big highlight. 

Hamon (Temper Pattern)

Speaking of the beauty of the Japanese swords, the beauty of “Hamon” must be mentioned along with its Sugata and JiganeHamon is a pattern created by quenching techniques. Clay called Yakibazuchi is applied to the blade using a spatula. Depending on how it’s applied, it can be either Suguha or Midareba or etc., and the shape of Hamon is determined. This is called Tsuchitori. When the clay of Tsuchitori is dry, put it in the furnace and then put it in the tank after checking the degree of burning of the blade. This is called Yakiire, and is said to be the most important process that requires the most skill. 

The patterns of Hamon are attractive and varied, as they reflect the era in which they were created, the lineage and characteristics of the swordsmiths. 

Hamon has two types such as Nie and Nioi caused by quenching. What looks like a glittering star in the autumn night sky is called Nie, and what looks like a hazy view of the Milky Way is called Nioi.* This can be said to be the sum total of the swordsmith’s aesthetic sense.  

The style with a lot of Nie on the middle of the blade is called “Nie-deki“, and it is mainly found in the lineage of early Kamakura swords and Sōshū-mono swords.

The style of “Nioi-deki” is represented by Bizen-mono from mid Kamakura period and Bicchū Aoe-mono from the Nanbokucho period. 

                                            

*Nie is the coarse particles that can be seen by the naked eye. Nioi is so fine that it can only be seen with a microscope. 

Some Keshiki (patterns, appearance) are called “Hataraki“. For example, Nie on the blade are joined and become a thin line, and the one that appears to shine and more brightly is called Kinsuji, the one that is thicker and longer is called Inazuma. If such similar one is to seen on the base part of the blade, it’s called Chikei. If Nie has hardened in one area, it is called Tobiyaki. There are also many other interesting features, such as Ashi, , Sunagashi, etc. that appear in the blade’s surface.  

Horimono (Blade Engraving)

Engraving of blades was already practiced since the Heian period. Some are from the practical, some are from faith, some are decorative, and some are distinctive depending on the fashions and linage of the times. 

In the old sword, there are many engravings that show faith in addition to grooving along the blade. There are characters such as 梵字 (Siddhaṃ script), 剣 (sword), 不動明王 (Acala), 倶利迦羅 (Kulika), 三鈷剣 (three-pronged vajra), 護摩箸 (Goma chopsticks), 八幡大菩薩 (Hachiman Daibosatsu = great Bodhisattava Hachiman), 南無妙法蓮華経 (Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō = Glory to the Dharma of the Lotus Sutra), etc. 

In the era of new swords, they became more and more decorative, with carvings of 鶴亀 (cranes and turtles), 上下竜 (ascending and descending dragons), 松竹梅 (pine, bamboo and plum trees = an auspicious grouping), and more. 

Sword Basics

Types and construction of swords

Japanese swords can be classified into the following types according to their shape and size.

Chokuto

Chokuto

Chokutō (straight sword) is a sword before Wantō (curved sword), and was produced from the Kofun period to the Nara period. It’s almost straight or slightly curved inward, and Hirazukuri or Kirihazukuri structure.

Tachi

Tachi

Tachi-swords are displayed with the blade edge down when you look at them in museums, and were worn from the late Heian period (12th century) to the early Muromachi period, wearing them around the waist (i.e., hanging ). They are highly curved, and the blade length is usually about 2 Shaku 3 to 6 Sun (70 to 80 cm).

Katana

Katana

Used in place of the Tachi from the mid-Muromachi period (late 15th century) to the end of the Edo period (mid-19th century). The blade length is over 2 Shaku (60.6 cm), but slightly shorter than a Tachi. Contrary to the sword, point to the waist with the blade facing up. When a sword is shortened by doing Suriage (making shorter from the tang to change its length), it’s called a Katana, and is worn at the waist with the blade edge up.

Wakizashi

Wakizashi

1 Shaku (30.3 cm) or more and 2 Shaku (60.6 cm) or less, and worn around the waist like a sword. There is also the one called Kowakizashi, 1 Shaku 2 to 3 Sun (36 cm to 40 cm). In the Momoyama and Edo periods, it was used as Sashizoe (held as a spare) of a sword as a set, and called Daishō (large and small).

Tanto

Tanto

Less than 1 Shaku (30.3 cm) in length and also called Koshigatana. The short swords before the appearance of Wantō were called Katana, also.

Ken/Tsurugi

Ken/Tsurugi

A Ken/Tsurugi is the ones that have a blade on both sides with no curvature.

Tsukurikomi

From left.: Hirazukuri, Shinogizukuri, Kirihazukuri

Tsukuri-komi is a three-dimensional expression of the structure of a sword. There are various types such as Hira-zukuri (flat), Shinogi-zukuri (curved blade with Yokote and a ridge), Kiriha-zukuri (cutting edge), and Moroha-zukuri (double-edged).

Japanese Sword History

History of Japanese swords

Sword Shapes (Time period right to left #1-12 below)

The shifting from Chokutō (straight swords) to Wantō (curved swords) is thought to have occurred after the middle of the Heian period, and it is generally thought that it was after the Taira no Masakado and Fujiwara no Sumitomo no Ran (Jōhei/Tengyo no Ran) in the first half of the 10th century. Prior to that, swords were called Jōkotō, a continental style straight sword brought to Japan from the continent.

The Japanese swords that appeared after the middle of the Heian period changed dramatically along the battle style changing in that era, and were improved and achieved more practical effects in each battle. Also, Japanese swords were produced mainly in the five countries of Yamato, Bizen, Yamashiro, Sagami, and Mino, by master craftsmen in various areas, so since the Meiji period this had been called “Gokaden“. In the Shintō (new sword) period of the Edo period, some people who were not satisfied with this and created new techniques combined the methods they learned by themselves with other methods to create new techniques, and these techniques were passed on to the modern swords.

  1. Jōkotō

Jōkotō is a straight swords without warping, and mostly made of Hira-zukuri (flat blades) and Kiriha-zukuri (cutting blade). There are two types of materials about swords from this era: one excavated from ancient burial mounds and the other from the Shōsōin estate in the Nara period.

2. Late Heian period – early Kamakura period

From the late Heian period, the “warped” curved swords, the Shinogi-zukuri, that we now commonly see have appeared. These swords are generally slender and curved strongly from the Nakago (tang) to the Koshi-moto (bottom of the blade), and the top width is significantly narrower than the bottom width, making it Ko-kissaki (small tip). This is called Koshi-zori (Highest curvature lower than the center). From the middle to the top, the curve is pushed down as if pressed from the Mune (spine).

3. Mid-Kamakura period

Meat

During the Kamakura era, when the samurai were at the height of their power, the Tachi was also at it peak construction. There is little difference in width between the bottom and the top (it does not become thin even), and the curve is a Koshi-zori, but there is some warp at even from the middle to the top, and becomes the Chū-kissaki (medium tip), “Ikubi (boars neck) –“. The gorgeous Chōji-midare became popular Hamon (pattern) style.

4. Late Kamakura period

There are some that have a slightly extended sword, which is almost the same as the middle of the Kamakura period, and some that are slightly slender and look like those of the end of the Heian period or the beginning of the Kamakura period. Warpage is added. The blade design begins to appear as Gunome (an undulated pattern) or Notareba (a gently undulating pattern). It’s said that Gorōnyūdō Masamune from Sagami Province had perfected the style of Nie

5. Nanboku-chō period

In this era, wide swords with a blade length of 3 Shaku (90.9 cm) were made, and short swords also became a large swinging figure. All of them were built with the thin layers to reduce the weight. In addition, more and more grooves were carved along the blade. Also, in later times (mainly during the Tensho and Keicho eras), many swords were transformed into Uchigatana (unnamed swords) by becoming O-suriage (swords that were shortened from the Nakago).

6. Early Muromachi period

In the early Muromachi period, the swords shows a style which resembles the style of the early Kamakura period. The blade length is 2 Shaku, 4 or 5 Sun (72.7 cm to 75.8 cm), and the body width is a little narrow, and it’s warped. At first glance, it looks like it was from the Kamakura period, but it ihas a characterized style by a slight warp.

7. Late Muromachi period

In the late Muromachi period, the battle style became a group battle on foot, and battling swords with the blade up and worn inside the waistband became more common. After the Onin and Bunmei civilization wars, warfares broke out in many places, and Kazu-uchimono (ready-made products) appeared on the market. In particular, the ones which have been carefully trained by ordering are distinguished and called Chūmon-uchi. Bizen (Okayama Prefecture) and Mino (Gifu Prefecture) are the two major production areas.The size of the sword became shorter, and most of them are about 2 Shaku 1 Sun (63.6 cm) and have a strong tip warp. Also, the Nakago (tang) is made short, so that it is suitable for one-handed striking.

8. Azuchi-Momoyama period

In the history of swords, those before the Keichō (1596-1614) era are called Kotō (old swords), and those after that are called Shintō (new swords). In the Azuchi and Momoyama period, swordsmiths gathered around the castle towns of the new feudal lords, including Kyoto and Edo. And the development of transportation facilitated the exchange of iron materials, and foreign-made iron, namely nanban iron, was also used. The appearance of the swords is very similar to the shape of Ōsuriage from the Nanboku-chō period. Some have a wide body width with extended Chū-kissaki (medium tip) and some have Ōkissaki (large spearhead), and the layers are thicker. Most of the blade lengths are around 2 Shaku 4 Sun and 5 Sun (72.7 cm to 75.8 cm).

9. Edo period (early period)

The shape of swords from the early Edo period has narrower top width than the bottom width, and the warp is noticeably shallower, and it has Chukissaki, namely the shape of Gokoro. Most blades length is around 2 Shaku 3 Sun (69.7 cm). This unique shape was made especially during the Kanbun and Enpo years, so it’s called the Kanbun Shintō.

10. Edo period (Genroku period)

This was mainly during the Teikyo and Genroku eras, a transitional period from the Kanbun Shintō to the Shinshintō. The world was at peace, and innovative and splendid Hamon appeared. The curve is a little deeper than the Kanbun Shintō.

11. Bakumatsu period (Late Tokugawa Shogunate period)

Those after Bunka and Bunsei eras are called Shinshintō. The body shape is wide, with little flare in the bottom and top width, and it’s long (2 Shaku 5 or 6 Sun) with a shallow curve, and a thick layered, majestic build. Suishinshi Masahide and Nankai Tarō Tomotaka advocated the restoration of old swords, and Taikei Naotane is one of the students of Suishinshi. Minamoto Kiyomaro also aspired to restore the style of Sōshūden, and his skill was highly regarded.

12. Since the Meiji era

Swords from the Haitō Edict (Sword Abolishment Edict) in 1876 to the present are called Gendaitō (modern swords). The swordsmiths lost their jobs when the Haitō Edict was issued, but in 1906, Gassan Sadatoshi and Miyamoto Kanenori were appointed as imperial artisans and their swordsmithing skills were protected. From the Meiji, Taishō, Shōwa, Heisei eras, the forging technique have been carried on to today. Modern swords, regardless old or new, are copied from the styles of famous sword craftsmem of all periods, especially from the Kamakura period.

Sword Making Process

Sword making process

As the name implies, Japanese sword is unique to Japan, and is ranked as one of the world’s finest ironworks. In order to fulfill the requirements of the Japanese sword as a weapon, ingenuity and effort have been put into its production.

Material of Japanese sword

The material for Japanese swords is made using Tatara, an ancient Japanese iron manufacturing technique. The iron produced using this Tatara in the broadest sense of the word is a mass called Kera, which is made up of three different types of steels. These are crushed and sorted, and classified according to their carbon content as follows.

Tetsu (Iron) in a narrow sense … Carbon content 0.0-0.03%. Can be stretched without heating, if you hit it.

Hagane (Steel) ・ ・ ・ Carbon content 0.03 to 1.7%. Can be stretched if you heat and hit it.

Zuku (Pig iron) ・ ・ ・ Carbon content of 1.7% or more. Cannot be stretched no matter you heat or what you do.

Tamahagane” is a type of steels, which are classified as “Hagane“, with a particularly good and homogeneous fracture surface, and is used as a material for swords.

On the other hand, pig iron contains a large amount of carbon, so the carbon is removed (decarburization), while iron, on the other hand, absorbs carbon (absorption of carbon) and is used to adjust to the carbon content of Hagane.

Japanese sword production process

The process of making a Japanese sword differs slightly depending on the time periods, schools, and individuals, but here the general making process using Tamahagane will be explained.

1. Mizuheshi, Kowari

Heat Tamahagane and hammer it out to a thickness of about 5 mm (Mizuheshi), then crush it into 2 to 2.5 cm square pieces (Kowari), and select 3 to 4 kg of good quality parts out of the pieces, and use it as a direct material.

2. Tsumiwakashi

Pile up the small pieces of material on a Teko (fulcrum) and heat them in a Hodo (furnace). In this process, the material is sufficiently boiled (= heated) to form a lump.

3. Tanren / Kawagane making

Tanren is performed to adjust the carbon content and remove impurities. The method of Tanren: Strech the fully-heated material out flat, and then fold to stack it on top of each other. This work is repeated about 15 times. Especially, the first half of this process is called Shitagitae, and the second half Agegitae.

By Tanren, Kawagane (= hard iron that wraps soft core iron) is made. As a result of about 15 times of Tanren, the squared calculation yields about 33,000 layers. This is one of the reasons why Japanese swords are very tough.

4. Shinganezukuri, combining

Around the same time making softer iron, make Kawagane. Japanese sword pursues three conditions: it doesn’t break, it doesn’t bend, and it cuts well. However, in order to cut well and not to bend, the steel has to be hard. On the other hand, the steel has to be soft in order not to break.

The solution to this contradiction is the process to wrap a soft Shingane iron which has low carbon content with a hard Kawagane iron which has high carbon content. This is a major feature of Japanese sword production.

There are many types of wrapping methods, such as Kōbuse, Honsanmai, and Shihōzume. This varies depending on the era, school, and individuals.

5. Sunobe / Hizukuri

When the combining of Kawagane and Shingane is done, it is heated and hammered out to a flat rod. This is called Sunobe.

When Sunobe is done, tap it with a small gavel to shape it according to the manners of making a Japanese sword, and then use Sensuki (grinding tool) to prepare Nikuoki (thickness toward the rim of a Tsuba). This is called Hizukuri.

6. Tsuchioki (Tsuchitori) / Yakiire

Make Yakibatsuchi with fire-resistant clay mixed with fine powder of charcoal and fine powder of grindstone. Proceed Tsuchinuri (scraping the clay off to form various hamon patterns in tempering) according to the type of Hamon (temper pattern along blade edge). Apply the clay thinly on the part to be baked, on the other part thickly, and heat thin to about 800 degrees and then cool rapidly in time.

7. Shiage (Finishing) / Meikiri (engraving a name)

After Yakiire (quenching), correct bends and warps, and rough grind.

Finally, check there are no scratches or cracks on the blade, file the center (Nakago), make Mekugiana (hole for sword peg), and lastly add the craftsman’s name

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The Japanese sword, which is required as a weapon to be “unbreakable, unbending and sharp” which is contradictory, has been fullfilled and made into an each single blade with variety of innovations. And the beauty born from such practical use is the charm of Japanese sword. Also, even today, when Japanese swords are used no longer as weapons, as long as they are traditional crafts, this production process should be faithfully followed.

Sword Polishing

Polishing of Japanese sword

The polishing techniques for polishing Japanese swords have made great progress along with the perfection of the swords. Professional polishers were already known to have existed during the era of Emperor Toba. Even after this, the polishing techniques were refined. In the Meiji period, Honami Heijuro Narishige, a master sword craftsman, appeared on the scene. He added his aesthetic sense to the advanced traditional techniques, and the art sword polishing techniques that we see today was established.

The goal of the polishing work is to bring out the beauty of the Japanese sword such as the unique curvilinear beauty of the Japanese sword, tough Jigane, and splendid Hamon, and the grace and dignity of Japanese swords.

1. Shitaji togi

Polishing Japanese swords can be broadly categolized into Shitaji togi (base sharpening) and Shiage togi (finishing sharpening).

Shitaji togi meas the basic work of shaping a sword, and usually six types of whetstones are used. The types of whetstones are arranged in order of grit size as follows.

Iyodo ・ ・ ・Produced from Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture. About 400 Ban ( “Ban” indicates the grit size)

Binsuido ・ ・ ・Produced from Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture. About 400 Ban

 Kaiseido ・ ・ ・Produced from Yamagata Prefecture. About 600 Ban

 Nagurado ・ ・ ・Produced from Minamishitara District, Aichi Prefecture. About 800 to 1200 Ban

・ Komanagurado ・ ・ ・The same place of origin as Nagura. About 1500 to 2000 Ban

Uchigumorido ・ ・ ・ There are two types of Uchimogurido such as Uchimoguri hato whose blade part is sharpened, and Uchimoguri whose ground part is sharpened. Both produced from Kyoto, about 4000 to 6000 Ban.

2. Shiage togi (final polishing)

After finishing Shitaji togi, the next step is Shiage togi. There are two different ways, Hazuyado and Jizuyado. The first one sharpens Hamon, and the second one sharpens the ground part. Hazuyado scrapes high quality Uchigumorido thin and small, and line Yoshino paper with glue or lacquer on the back.

Jizuyado uses thin divided Narutakido, but depending on the school, it’s crushed into 1 mm squares with fingertips, and this is called Kudaki jizuya.

3. Nugui

After finishing Shiage togi, the next step is Nugui. Nugui is a method to give a luster to the blade, and usually a method called Kanahada nugui is used. This is a method in which iron oxide produced during Japanese sword Tanren is burned for a long time, finely powdered, mixed with Chōji oil, and then polished with Yoshino paper.

4. Hadori

The next step is Hadori. Hadori is the process of finishing the blade part white and beautifully. The whetstone used for this process is Hazuyado, which is ground with the abrasive water of Uchigumorido according to the shape of Hamon. This work is also discribed as “Ha wo hirou (= picking up the blade).”

5. Migaki

After Hadori, the next step is Migaki (polishing). Migaki means polishing the Mune (back ridge of sword blade), namely Shinogiji (sword flat between the mune and ridgeline of the blade) using the iron rod with a length of about 15 cm. The unique black luster is created by this work.

6. Narume

Almost the final process is the “narume” of Bōshi (temper line in kissaki). Narume is the process of polishing Bōshi, which begins with determining (= finishing) Yokotesuji (horizontal lines). Once Yokotesuji is finished, sharpen Bōshi up using the Narume stand with the best quality Hazuya paper during being careful not to damage the Yokotesuji.

7. Keshō togi

Polishing, which has gone through a long process, is finally finished with Keshōtogi. Among them, “Keshō migaki” is the signature of the Togishi (polisher), so to speak, and means to polish several lines in the Mune of Bōshi using a polishing rod.

Here explained is, how to make a Japanese sword, especially about Tanren and Kenma. However, in order to complete one Japanese sword, the technique of many masters such as Sayashi, Nuri, Tsukamakishi, Shiroganeshi, and Chōkinshi. Craftsmanship is required. You can say the major feature of Japanese sword production is that a sword can be completed only when all these techniques are combined.

Sword Care and Cleaning

JAPANESE SWORD CARE AND ETIQUETTE

Japanese swords are rightfully famous for their awesome cutting power; they are also easily damaged. The fine polish of the sword, especially, is very fragile. It is our responsibility as temporary owners of these artistic and historic artifacts to see that they pass onto future generations of collectors. Towards that end the NBTHK American Branch presents this primer on sword care and etiquette.

SWORD CARE TOOLS

A small brass hammer, mekugi nuki, is used to remove the pin (mekugi) from the sword’s handle. Choji oil, specially made for swords, is used to protect the sword from rust. Uchiko is a fine powder contained in an inner wrapper of paper and an outer wrapper of silk, used to clean oil from the sword. The paper and silk serve as a filter to allow only the finest uchiko particles onto the blade. There are different grades of uchiko; only the best should be used on blades in polish and the uchiko ball used on blades in polish shouldn’t be used on blades with any rust. Nugui gami (sword paper) is used to wipe uchiko and oil from the blade. This should be thoroughly crumpled before use to remove any coarse fibers.

Clean, unscented, white facial tissue that hasn’t been made from recycled fibers can be used in place of the nugui gami.

EVERYDAY SWORD CARE

When a sword isn’t being viewed it should be enclosed in a sword bag, which will prevent the blade from coming loose in or falling out of the scabbard. Japanese swords are best stored horizontal and in a dry environment (not a damp basement).

When carrying a mounted sword, whether in Samurai mounts or plain wooden mounts (shira-saya) always keep the handle higher than the scabbard. At all times, when the sword is mounted, it must have the pin (mekugi) through the hole in the handle and tang of the sword. Without the mekugi the blade can move inside the scabbard and become chipped or scratched. manners and ca

Never touch the polished portion of the blade; the slightly corrosive sweat of your fingers can etch fingerprints onto the blade’s surface. Never touch the polished part of the sword to your clothing. To do so is considered bad manners and can damage the polish.

Unsheathing the Sword:

Grasp the scabbard (saya) near its mouth from below with your left hand. Grasp the handle (tsuka) from above with your right hand. With the sword held horizontally and pointing away from you, edge facing the ceiling, gently withdraw the blade from the scabbard. Edge to the ceiling allows the blade to ride on its back (mune) and lessens the chance of scratching the polish or chipping the edge. Don’t stop part way to examine the blade, as this also can damage the edge. When the blade is almost completely withdrawn, lower the far end of the scabbard a bit and finish.

Removing the Handle:

First the pin (mekugi) must be removed. Determine which end of the mekugi is smaller and gently push on this end with the mekugi hammer. Mekugi are easily lost so keep track of where it is when out of the handle. Hold the bottom of the handle in your left fist, with the blade angled up past your right shoulder and the edge pointing away from you. Strike the top of your left fist with your right fist, gently at first blow and with added force on subsequent blows until the sword comes loose in the handle. Once loose, a few gentle taps on your fist should advance the blade enough for you to get your fingers on the tang (nakago) and lift the sword from the handle. If the sword isn’t loose don’t try to force it; a few more taps on your fist are in order. Force applied at the habaki can damage the habaki or chip the beginning of the sword’s edge (hamachi).

One note of caution: tanto and short wakizashi can have small nakagos. Be very gentle with the first blow on your fist, or the blade might go flying.

Once free of the handle you can slide the tsuba and washers (seppa) off the tang. To remove the habaki grasp it by its sides and pull down gently.

Examining the Sword:

With the nakago in one hand you can rest the upper portion of the sword on a soft, clean cloth or sword paper in your other hand. As you examine the sword, be aware of your surroundings. You don’t want to bump into a lamp or person or put the blade into the ceiling.

Reassembling the Sword:

Slide the habaki onto the tang and replace the tsuba and washers in their original order.

Hold the handle vertical and lower the nakago of the sword into the handle. Maintain the sword in the vertical position and tap on the bottom of the handle with the heal of your free hand. A few taps should be sufficient to firmly seat the nakago in the handle. Replace the mekugi through the hole in the handle.

Replacing the blade in the scabbard is a reverse of the removal process. With the scabbard held in your left hand, far end slightly lowered, lay the back of the sword tip in the mouth of the scabbard, edge to the ceiling. As you gently slide the blade in, raise the far end of the scabbard until you feel it to be in the right plane. Continue until the habaki seats in the mouth of the scabbard.

Passing a Sword from Person to Person:

If the sword is in its mounts the passer holds the sword horizontal with the edge facing himself, one hand at the end of the handle and the other towards the other end of the scabbard. The receiver places one hand on the handle and the other on the scabbard and acknowledges control before the pass is made. If the blade is bare or mounted in the handle only, the passer grasps the blade either at the top of the handle or the top of the nakago (but below the polish). The blade should be vertical, and the edge should face the passer. The receiver grasps the nakago or handle below the passer’s hand, acknowledges control, and takes the sword.

Note: always during the pass the edge of the sword faces the person passing. It is considered bad manners to pass a sword with the edge facing the recipient.

Oiling the Sword:

When the sword isn’t being viewed it should be protected with a very fine coat of Choji oil. The 1st few months after a sword is polished, due to latent water from the polishing process, is a time when the oil coat is especially important.

Place 2 or 3 drops of the oil on a clean piece of tissue. Remove all the mounts from the sword. With the paper folded over the back of the blade, starting an inch above the nakago, gently wipe up the blade to the tip. You don’t want to start at the top of the nakago because doing so risks dragging rust particles from the nakago over the sword’s polish. This last inch at the bottom of the sword is wiped downward to the nakago after the rest of the blade has been oiled. At this point the polished part of the sword is coated in oil, probably too much.

Take a clean piece of tissue or crumpled sword paper and gently wipe the oil off the sword. The tiny amount of oil that is left on the blade is sufficient to protect it. If too much oil is left on the sword it can collect inside the scabbard and create a gummy mess.

Cleaning Oil from the Sword:

In order to clearly see the grain and temper of a Japanese sword, the oil must be removed. Begin by wiping with a clean tissue, from an inch above the nakago up to the point and then that last inch down to the nakago. Hold the blade in your left hand with the edge facing away from you and strike the back (mune) of the blade with the uchiko ball. Half dozen strikes with the ball over the length of the mune should be sufficient. Sometimes the uchiko ball can let loose coarse particles that could scratch the polish. If you strike the mune these particles will fly by the blade and only fine particles will settle.

With the sword paper or clean tissue wrapped around the back of the blade gently wipe as before, up to the point and down to the nakago. Be careful not to exert heavy pressure and never go back and forth over a particular spot; gentle, continuous strokes are called for.

Sword Terminology

Papers and Terminology

Juyo Shiteisho

Keijo –  形状
RomanjiKanjiDescriptionApplied to
Chisakatana  小さ刀 short katanaKeijo
Chokoto  直刀 prehistoric straight swordsKeijo
Chukan-sori
中間反りdeepest point in sori is in the middleKeijo
Chu-sori中反りmedium soriKeijo
Daito 大刀 long sword (over 24 inches)Keijo
Fukura Kareru脹枯れるthe fukura is rather flat, and not fully roundedKeijo
Fukuro Yari袋槍socket yariKeijo
Funbari踏ん張りblade is noticeably wider at the base than at the tipKeijo
Habaki Moto section of the blade for about three inches above the habakiKeijo
Hagire  刃切れ perpundicular cracks in the edge of  hamon (fatal flaw)Keijo
Haki omote佩表 the side facing out when the sword is slung ha down, as with a tachiKeijo
Haki ura佩裏 the side facing in when the sword is slung ha down, as with a tachiKeijo
Han藩 a feudal clanKeijo
Hira zukuri  平造 blade without a shinogi (flat blade)Keijo
Hira niku平肉  hira niku is flatKeijo
Hira niku oi平肉多いhira niku is curved or fullKeijo
Hira niku Sukunai平肉少ないhira niku is flatKeijo
Hon zukuri本造shinogi-zukuriKeijo
Ihori Mune  庵棟 peaked back ridgeKeijo
Ikubi猪首ikubi kissaki – stout, resembling a boar’s neck with a straight edgeKeijo
Jumonji十文字cross shapedKeijo
Kakemono角留 square stop on a grooveKeijo
Kasagi-Sori笠木反same as chukan sori or torii soriKeijo
Kasane重ね thickness of bladeKeijo
Kasane Usui重ね薄いthin kasaneKeijo
Katakiriba片切り刃blades sharpened on one side onlyKeijo
Katakiri-bori片切り彫groove engraved with a flat borderKeijo
Katana  刀 sword worn in the obi, cutting edge upKeijo
Katana Hi刀樋 groove that is shaped like a katanaKeijo
Katana Mei刀銘 sword worn with the edge up, the mei is on the side facing outwardKeijo
Ken  剣 straight double edged swordKeijo
Kitae鍛え structure of the blade and the manner of forging Keijo
Kodachi  小太刀 small tachiKeijo
Koshi腰 the area a few inches above the machiKeijo
Koshi-zori腰反りsori is towards the bottomKeijo
Machimune関棟 back edge of the machi, which are unlikely to have rust re-applied in the event of tampering with the nakagoKeijo
Maru Mune  丸棟 round muneKeijo
Maru Dome丸留 round stop on a grooveKeijo
Mihaba身幅 width of sword blade at the machiKeijo
Mitsu Mune  三つ棟 threeKeijo
Mono Uchi文字 the section of the blade about six inches below the tipKeijo
Moroha諸刃 double edgedKeijo
Moto元 baseKeijo
Moto Choji元丁子choji ha at the baseKeijo
Moto Haba元幅 blade width near habakiKeijo
Moto Kasane 元重 blade thickness near habakiKeijo
Moto uchi元打ちarea of the ha near the baseKeijo
Motte以ってmeans “made by” or “made with”Keijo
Mune  棟 back ridge of sword bladeKeijo
Mune machi 棟区 notch at start of muneKeijo
Munezuru棟蔓 a very long return on the boshi, like mune yakiKeijo
Musori無反りno soriKeijo
Nagamaki 長巻 halberd weapon mounted as a swordKeijo
Nagasa 長さ blade length (from tip of kissaki to munemachi)Keijo
Naginata 薙刀 halberdKeijo
Naginata Naoshi薙刀直しsword made by grinding down a naginata in this case, the boshi is frequently yakizumeKeijo
Niku  肉 meat (blade having lots of fullness)Keijo
Osoraku Zukuri恐らく造りtanto form in which the yokote is at about the middle of the bladeKeijo
Saki先 tip, front, or endKeijo
SAKI ZORI  先反りcurvature in the top third of the bladeKeijo
Saki sori先反りthe highest part of the sori is towards the sakiKeijo
Shinae  撓え ripples in steel due to bending of bladeKeijo
Shingane心鉄 core steelKeijo
Shinogi 鎬 ridgeline of the bladeKeijo
Shinogi Ji  鎬地 sword flat between the mune and shinogiKeijo
Shinogi Suji鎬筋shinogi lineKeijo
Shinogi zukuri鎬造 made with a shinogi, as opposed to a flat, or hirazukuri bladeKeijo
Shobu zukuri菖蒲造blade construction in which the blade resembles the iris leaf in shapeKeijo
Soebi添樋 additional hi alongside main hi which is smaller that the main hiKeijo
Sori  反りcurvatureKeijo
Sugata姿  form, body implies more than just shape, overall appearanceKeijo
Sun-nobi寸延びlonger than normalKeijo
Sun-zumari寸詰まりslightly shorter than normalKeijo
Tachi太刀 long swords which were slung at the waist with the edge downKeijo
Takai高い highKeijo
Tamahagane  玉鋼 raw steel for making swordsKeijo
Tanto  短刀 blade less than 12 inchesKeijo
Torii zori  鳥居反り sword curve in the middle of the bladeKeijo
Tsukuri/ zukuri  造込 swordKeijo
Tsukuri komi造込みgenerally speaking, the overall construction of the swords in regard to shapekitae
Uchigatana  打ち刀 two handed katanaKeijo
Wakizashi 脇指 short sword (blade between 12 and 24 inches)Keijo
Yanone矢の根arrowheadKeijo
Yari  槍 spearKeijo
Yokote横手line separating the point from the rest of the bladeKeijo
Zukuri 造りswordKeijo
Kitae – 鍛 Forging, Jihada – 地肌 Patterns in Steel, Jigane 地鉄 Surface Steel (Both part of Kitae – 鍛)
RomanjiKanjiDescriptionApplied to
i
Are荒れ coarse or roughjigane
Ayasugi Hada綾杉肌a wavy grain especially used by gassan and satsuma naminohira smiths  jigane
Bo utsuri  棒映り straight utsurijigane
Chikei地影 dark lines that appear in the ji similar to kinsuji or inazumajigane
Dan utsuri段映りtwo types of utsuri seen on a swordjigane
Fukure  脹れ flaw; usually a blister in the steeljigane
Hada 肌 grain in steel, pattern of folding the steeljigane
Hada Arai肌荒いrough grain of the hadajigane
Hadame肌目grainjigane
Hada mono肌物pattern in the hada, but even more outstandingjigane
Hada tachi肌立ちgrain in the hada stands out, looking like the raised grain in a piece of wood, but it is not actually raisedjigane
Hagane  鋼 steeljigane
Hikari光 light reflectionsjigane
Itame板目 wood grain pattern in the surface steeljigane
Itame Nagareru板目流れるhada of itame kitae is flowing (nagareru) with a hint of masame,jigane
Itame Tachi板目立ちdistinct itame pattern having a raised lookjigane
Itame Tsumi板目詰みtight itame patternjigane
Jiit can be seen from context whether this refers to the ji 地 of the blade or tsuba or is the common term 字jigane
Jigane地鉄 surface steeljigane
Ji hada地肌 surface pattern of the hadajigane
Ji nie 地沸え islands of nie in the jijigane
Jiba地刃abbreviated term meaning both the ji 地 and the ha 刃jigane
Jifu地斑 black speckling resembling utsuri in the jijigane
Jitetsu地鉄 steel of the jijigane
Katai堅い tight or hardjigane
Kawagane  皮鉄 skin or surface steeljigane
Kobuse甲伏せconstruction in which soft steel is covered by hard steeljigane
Konuka Hada小糠肌hada with a grainy appearance like rice bran and rice germ produced in milling rice, typically used to describe Hizenjigane
Masa柾 used as short for masamejigane
Masame柾目 straight grain pattern in the steel on the surface of the bladejigane
Masame Nagareru正目流れるwhen the entire hada of masame kitae is flowing (nagareru), this is called masame nagarerujigane
Matsukawa Hada松皮肌hada resembling pine barkjigane
Mokume杢目 burl wood grain hadajigane
Mokutachi杢立ちmokume which stands out with a raised look this is an abbreviated wayjigane
Mujitetsu無地鉄no grain in the jijigane
Muku Kitae無垢鍛えmade of one kind of steeljigane
Nagare流れ flowingjigane
Nashiji Hada梨地肌hada which resembles pear skin in appearancejigane
O-hada大肌hada with large and loose grain structurejigane
Ryutachi粒立ちgrains stand out ryu 粒 means grains, as in sandjigane
Satetsu砂鉄 sand iron, iron made from black sandjigane
SHIMARI締まりgenerally means tight or restricted nioi shimari means a narrow nioi linejigane
Shimi染みthe color of the steel fading, usually due to over polishingjigane
Shirakke Utsuri白け移りutsuri which has faint whitish or cloudy appearancejigane
Sumi澄 small black splotchesjigane
Tachi立ち literal meaning is “stand up ” jigane
Tansotetsu炭素鉄carbon steeljigane
Tsuru蔓  vinejigane
Uruoi潤い watery lookingjigane
Utsuri 1移り “reflections” in the ji these may or may not be the same as the hamonjigane
Utsuri  2映り reflection of temper line in jijigane
Uzumaki渦巻きswirl, like the patterns in burl woodjigane
Ware 割れ opening in the steeljigane
Yotetsu洋鉄western steeljigane
Yowai弱いweak or less thanjigane
Yubashiri湯走りconcentrated nie in sections of the jijigane
Zanguriざんぐcoarse pear skin-like hadajigane
Hamon 刃文
RomanjiKanjiDescriptionApplied to
Ara nie荒沸coarse niehamon
Ashilegs (lines of nioi pointing down toward the edge)hamon
Ashi iri足入りashi insertedhamon
Ashinaga choji足長丁子choji with long ashihamon
Choji丁子 clove-like hamon patternhamon
Choji midare  丁子乱れ irregular choji hamon (temper line)hamon
Chu suguha  中直刃 straight, medium width temper linehamon
Deki出来 a generic term meaning “contruction in style of”hamon
Fuji no hana nie藤の花沸nie that is clumped niehamon
Fukai深い generally means deep or widehamon
Fukame深め to be made thick, as in nioi or nie hamon
Fukura脹 cutting edge from the yokote line to the kissakihamon
Fukuro袋 bag sometimes elements of the hamon are bag-shaped, and this is referred to as fukurohamon
Fushi節 pointed knot-like breaks in suguba hamon
Gunome五の目half round patterns in the hamonhamon
Gunome midare五の目乱れirregular gunomehamon
Gunome Tsuranaku五の目連らなくthe gunome is not continuous, and is broken up in sectionshamon
Gunome Tsure五の目連れthe gunome is continuous, instead of being broken up in sectionshamon
Ha 1派 group or schoolhamon
Ha 2刃 hardened edge of the blade, the cutting edgehamon
Ha Shizumi刃沈むindistinct hamonhamon
Habuchi刃縁 border between the ji and the yakibahamon
Habuchi Hotsure刃縁ほつれstray lines between the ji and the yakibahamon
Habuchi Shimari刃縁締まりvery fine habuchihamon
Hadaka Nie裸沸 nie which has a black lusterhamon
Hahaba刃幅 width of the hamon see also yakihabahamon
Hako ha箱刃 box-like hamonhamon
Hako midare箱乱 irregular boxlike hamonhamon
Hamachi 刃区 notch at the beginning of the cutting edgehamon
Hamon 刃文 temper pattern along blade edgehamon
Ha saki刃先the edge of the bladehamon
Hataraki 働き activities  within the hamon or temperlinehamon
Hira  平 area extending from the shinogi to the ha or cutting edgehamon
Hiro suguha 広直刃 wide, straight temper line hamon
Hitatsura皆焼full temperhamon
Hososuguba細直刃narrow sugubahamon
Hotsureほつれstray lines along the hamonhamon
Inazuma稲妻lightning short jagged streaks of kinsujihamon
Iri入り added to, means in or inserthamon
Ito sugu糸直 thin, thread like hamonhamon
Juka choji重化丁子double choji, often overlapping hamon
Juzu ha数珠刃hamon shaped like a monk’s prayer beads also, juzubahamon
KAKUBARI Gunome角張り五の目squarish gunome see hako hahamon
Kakubari Sahagokoro角張り逆心squarish, with a slight angularityhamon
KaniNo Tsume蟹の爪hamon pattern which resembles a crab clawhamon
Kashirathe heads of the choji , or the cap on the tsukahamon
Kasudatsu粕立つa condition of the nie in the hamon(light reflections)hamon
Kata Ikari肩怒square shoulderedhamon
Kataouchi Gunome肩落ち五の目sawtooth shaped hamon hamon
Kawazunoko Choji蛙の子丁子choji which looks like tadpoles also called kawazukohamon
Kikusui a菊水刃hamon which has an appearance of flowers floating on a stream sometimes requires a bit of imagination to seehamon
Kinsuji 金筋 whitish line along hamonhamon
Ko-ashi小足little ashihamon
Kobushigata拳形fist-like refers to a hamon in which the valleys of the choji are clustered like knuckle boneshamon
Ko-Gunome choji小五の目small gonome with chojihamon
Koi厚いthick can also be read atsui,hamon
Ko-midare小乱れsmall irregularities, no consistent patternhamon
Koshi no hiraita gunome腰の開いたslope between the peaks and valleys of the hamon is longhamon
Koshiba腰刃 hamon in the area a few inches above the ha machihamon
Kuichigai Ha喰い違い刃hamon line is broken in crisscross lines of nie and nioi nibbled awayhamon
Kusamura Nie叢沸 nie clustered togetherhamon
Kuzure崩れ breaking up, such as an interrupted yakibahamon
Majiri交じりmixed in, usually used in combination of two hatarakihamon
Marumi丸み a touch of roundnesshamon
Midare乱  irregularhamon
Midareba乱刃 irregular hahamon
Mimigata  耳形 ear shaped hamonhamon
Mizukage 水影 hazy line in ji commonly due to rehamon
Mune Yaki棟焼the mune is tempered (yaki)hamon
Nezumi ashi鼠足rat’s feet small numerous ashihamon
Nie 沸え bleft crystals in hamon or jihamon
Nie Deki沸出来hamon that is composed principally of niehamon
NieFukai, Fukaku沸深い or 沸深くthick nie line on the hamonhamon
Nijuba二重刃double hamonhamon
Nioi Deki匂出来hamon that is prinicipally composed of nioihamon
Nioi Fukaku匂深くwide nioi line in the hamon also written nioi fukai 匂深いhamon
Nioi Saeru匂冴えるnioi line is clear hamon
Nioi SHIMARI匂絞まりvery fine nioi linehamon
Nioi Shimaru匂絞まるsee nioi shimarihamon
Nioi Shizumu匂沈むnioi line is indistinct shizumu means to sinkhamon
Nioiguchi匂口the part of the nioi line next to the jihamon
Nioiguchi shimari匂口絞まりvery fine nioi linehamon
Notare湾れ wave like hamon, gradual undulationshamon
Notare Midare 湾れ乱れ irregular wave like hamonhamon
O Midare 大乱れ large irregular hamonhamon
O-Choji大丁子large chojihamon
Saeru冴えるclear and distinct – usually referring to nioihamon
Saka  逆 slantedhamon
Saka ashi逆足 ashi slanted toward the saki or tip of the bladehamon
Saka choji逆丁子choji slanted toward the saki or tip of the bladehamon
Samishii寂しいsparse additional features showing in the hamonhamon
Sanbonsugi  三本杉 “three cedars” (hamon with repeating three peaks)hamon
Shirajimi白染みwhitishness that appears in the ha also pronouonced shirojimihamon
Sudareba簾刃 rattan blind shaped lines along the hamonhamon
Sugu Yakidashi直焼出suguba for the first inch or so up from the hamachihamon
Suguba直刃straight hamonhamon
Sunagashi砂流しliterally, flowing sand patternhamon
Tamayaki玉焼きin hamon which tend to midare, tama, or round spots, occur in the ji also, hamon in which the kashira are roundhamon
Tani谷 valleyhamon
Tatsu立つto stand up or to stand out hamon
Tobiyaki 飛焼 islands of tempering in the jihamon
Togari ha尖り刃sharp pointed patterns in the hahamon
Toranba 濤瀾刃 high wave like hamonhamon
Tsume爪 clawhamon
Tsuno Yakiba角焼き刃the kashira of the yakiba look like steer horns peculiar to fujishimahamon
Tsure連れ connected or cotinuoushamon
Uchinoke打ちのけsmall moon shaped patterns of nie in the hamonhamon
Urumi-Gokoro潤み心watery looking hamon misty see also ha shizumuhamon
Yahazu矢筈 hamon pattern resembling arrow notcheshamon
Yakemi焼け身burned swordhamon
Yaki Ire  焼入れ fast quenching of sword (tempering)hamon
Yaki Kukure焼崩れbreaks in hamon hamon
Yaki otoshi焼き落とhamon runs out into the ha saki an inch or so before the ha machi hamon
Yakiba 焼き刃 hardened, tempered sword edgehamon
Yakidashi焼出しportion of hamon two or three inches above the basehamon
Yakigashira焼き頭heads on the hamon pattern on the ji side of the hamonhamon
Yakiba焼き幅width of the tempered portion hamon
Yakikomi焼き込みthe hamon of the yakidashi goes in toward the shinogihamon
Yo葉  small patterns in the hamon which look like leaveshamon
Zumi積みpiled up or packed tightly “tsumi” becomes “zumi”hamon
Boshi 帽子
RomanjiKanjiDescriptionApplied to
Boshi帽子 temper line in kissaki (point)boshi
Chu-kissaki 中切先 medium sized point (kissaki)boshi
Hakikake掃き掛けswept boshiboshi
Ichimai Boshi一枚帽子the whole boshi is temperedboshi
Jizo Boshi地蔵帽子boshi pattern resembling the head of jizoboshi
Kaen 火焔 flame shaped boshiboshi
Kaeri 返り turnback (refers to the boshi at the mune)boshi
Kaeri yoru返り寄leaning kaeri the turnback in the boshi dips towards the haboshi
Kissaki  切先 point of bladeboshi
Ko-maru Agari小丸上がthe tip of the ko-maru boshi is near the point of the bladeboshi
Ko-maru Sagari小丸下がthe tip of the ko-maru boshi is well away from point of the bladeboshi
Midare Komi 乱込み uneven pattern in boshiboshi
Mishina Boshi三品帽子boshi with hakikake and a slight tarumi (slack) in the ha sideboshi
O-kissaki大切先 large kissakiboshi
Saki agari先上がりthe tip of the boshi is near the point of the bladeboshi
saki   先幅 blade width at yokoteboshi
Saki sagari先下がりthe tip of the boshi is well away from point of the bladeboshi
Togari尖り pointed also refers to the shape of the boshiboshi
Yakisaeru焼き下げるthe tip of the boshi is down from the kissaki or the return on the boshi moves down the mune boshi
Yakizume焼詰boshi line with no turnbackboshi
Horimono 彫物
RomanjiKanjiDescriptionApplied to
Bohi棒樋 wide shaped groovehorimono
Bonji梵字 sanskrit characters horimono
Dokko独鈷 single prong vagrahorimono
Fudo Myoo不道明王Buddhist wisdom king, one of JusanbutsuHorimono
Futasujibi二筋樋two grooves side by sidehorimono
Gomabashi護摩箸grooves which look like a pair of chopstickshorimono
Hachiman Daibutsu八幡大菩薩God of Warhorimono
Higrooves carved in swordhorimono
Hoju宝珠Buddhist magic jewelhorimono
Kurikara倶利伽羅sword or ken with dragon wrapped around ithorimono
Naginata hi薙刀樋naginata grooves on all types of swordshorimono
Rendai蓮台carving representing lotushorimono
Ryudragon carvinghorimono
Sankoken, Sanko Tsuken,Sankozuka三鈷剣engraving of a sword with buddhist vajra handlehorimono
Soe-bi添樋thin hi carving typically under a bo-hihorimono
Shin no Kurikara真の倶利伽羅 style of carving is the most life-like dragonhorimono
Tsume, kozumiclaw handle at the end of a swordhorimono
Vajra金剛Buddhist tool and favored weapon of King of Tenbuhorimono
Nakago 茎
RomanjiKanjiDescriptionApplied to
ATO MEI  後銘 signature added at a later datenakago
CHUMON MEI注文銘name of the person who placed an order for a sword to be madenakago
FUNAGATA  舟形 ship bottom shaped nakagonakago
GAKUMEI額銘 original signature inlaid after being cut-off or sword shortenednakago
GASSAKU合作 something made jointly by two or more peoplenakago
GIMEI偽名 false signaturenakago
GISAKU偽作 item intentionally made as a counterfeitnakago
HA AGARI刃上がりtype of nakago end slants up (agari) towards the hanakago
HAMUNE刃棟 the edge of the nakago on the ha side, unlikely to have rust re-applied in the event of tampering with the nakagonakago
HIDARITE SAGARI左手下がりyasurime slanting down to the leftnakago
HIGAKI檜垣 cross hatched pattern throughout the yasurimenakago
HORI DO SAKU彫同作horimono was made by the same person that made the swordnakago
HORI DO TSUKURU彫同造horimono was made by the same person that made the swordnakago
HORI MEI彫銘mei of the person who made the horimononakago
JUNIN MEI住人銘signature meaning  “resident of “nakago
KAKINAGASHI HI掻き流し樋groove which goes past the machi, but do not extend to the nakagojirinakago
KAKITOSHI HI掻き通し樋groove which extends all the way to the nakagojiri, and is open at the endnakago
KAKUBARI角張り when referring to the saki of a nakago, it means that the sides are not tapered,nakago
KANI BOTAN蟹牡丹crab peony, which is a flower sometimes found engraved on nakagonakago
KATTE AGARI勝手上がりyasurime slanting up the rightnakago
KATTE SAGARI勝手下がりyasurime slanting down to the rightnakago
KENGYO  剣形 triangular or pointed nakagonakago
KESHO YASURIME  化粧鑢目 decorative file marks on nakagonakago
KIJIMOMO雉股 opheasant’s thigh shaped nakagonakago
KINAIBORI記内彫engraving done for echizen yasutugunakago
KINZOGAN金象嵌gold inlay appraisal mei by the honma family are in kinzogannakago
KIRI切り horizontal file marks or nakago cut, straight acrossnakago
KIRITSUKE MEI切付銘a mei which replaces the mei when the nakago is osuriage, and in effect, the person who signs as having done the shortening is certifying that it was the original meinakago
KURIJIRI  栗尻 rounded nakago jirinakago
MACHI区、匸、division between the nakago and the blade itself,nakago
MACHI OKURI関送りmachi has been redone and moved up slightlynakago
MEI  銘 swordsmith’s signaturenakago
MEKUGI  目釘 sword pegnakago
MEKUGI ANA  目釘穴 hole for mekuginakago
MUMEI  無銘 no signature (unsigned blade)nakago
NAGAMEI長銘 long meinakago
NAKAGO茎 tang of the bladenakago
NAKAGO JIRI  茎尻 the end or but of the nakagonakago
NAKAGOJIRI茎尻 tang endnakago
OMOTE 表 signature side of the nakagonakago
ORIKAESHI MEI折り返し銘mei in which the original nakago is cut and folded back nakago
OSHIGATA  押形 rubbing of the signature on the nakagonakago
O-SUJIKAI大筋違いyasurime which is at a steep angle to the nakagonakago
SAKIBARI先張  nakago it means that the sides are not taperednakago
SENSUKI詮鋤yasurime that is parallel to longitudinal axis nakago
SHINOBI ANA忍び孔an extra mekugi ana, place near the tip of the nakagonakago
SHIPPARI尻張 nakago – it means that the sides are not taperednakago
SHUMEI  朱銘 red lacquer signaturenakago
SOEMEI添銘 additional mei or inscriptionnakago
SOSHOMEI草書銘mei in grass writing very difficult to read without special studiesnakago
SOTOBA GATA卒塔婆形 a nakago shape which resembles the sotoba, or grave markernakago
SUJIGAI筋違いyasurime which is at angle to the nakago literally, “different lines “nakago
O SURIAGE  大磨上 nakago is cut short – no signaturenakago
SURIAGE  磨上 shortened tangnakago
SURIAGE MEI磨上銘signature of the smith who shortened the swordnakago
TACHI MEI  太刀銘 signature facing away from body when worn edge downnakago
TAKANOHA鷹の羽hawk’s feather yasurime lines slant downwards to both sides from the centerline or shinogi of the nakagonakago
TAMESHIMEI試銘 cutting test meinakago
TANAGO BARA たなご腹 fish belly shaped nakagonakago
TENSHO SURIAGE  天正磨上 swords that were shortened in the tensho period ( 1573 ) typically done for early daimyonakago
UBU  生 original, complete, unaltered tang (nakago)nakago
UMA HA  馬歯 horse teeth hamonnakago
URA  裏 side of the nakago facing toward the bodynakago
URA MEI裏銘 mei on the ura of the nakagonakago
URA NENKI裏年記date inscription on the ura, or back, of the nakagonakago
YASURIME鑢目 file marksnakago
YODOMI淀みtwo holes drilled from both sides to make the mekugi ananakago
ZAIMEI在銘 has a mei, the opposite of mumeinakago
ZOKUMEI俗名a name of the smith in addition to his regularly used namenakago
Other
Romanji KanjiDescriptionApplied to
O-大  largemeasurement
AGARI上がりrise or go upother
AIKUCHI  合口 a tanto with no tsubakoshirae
ASAI浅い shallowother
ATARI当たりcorrect kantaiother
BU  分 japanese measurement (approx  .1 inch)measurement
BUKE武家 samurai, warrior familiesother
CHAKUSHI嫡子 heirother
CHOJI OIL  丁子油 clove oil for the care of swordsother
CHOKOKUSHI彫刻師an engraver same as horimonoshiother
CHU  中 mediummeasurement
CHUMON-UCHI注文打ちitems made to orderother
DAI  大 great or largemeasurement
DAIMEI代銘 signed by a pupil or sonother
DAIMYO  大名 feudal lordother
DAISAKU代作 made by a pupil in the name of his masterother
DAISHO  大小 a matched pair of long and short swordsother
DAITSUKE代附 price assigned by honami ke in the early tokugawa periodother
DEN  伝 schoolother
DENRAI伝来Family ownership ( typically Daimyo familiy provenance)other
DOHAI同輩 contemporary seen gohai and senpaiother
DOZEN同然 smiths who are contemporary and similar, used in Kanteiother
GENDAITO  現代刀 traditionally forged sword blades by modern smithsother
GO号 professional name of smith other
GOHAI後輩junior classman other
GOKADEN  五ヶ伝 the five schools of the koto periodother
GOKOROa hint of whatever precedes the termother
GOTO豪刀 katana of around three shaku in lengthmeasurement
GYAKU逆 reverseother
GYOBUTSU TOHAKU MEITO OSHIGATA行物東博名刀押形oshigata of famous swords of the imperial properties of the tokyo museumother
HABAKI  はばき blade collarkoshirae
HANDACHI  半太刀 tachi mountings used on a katana or wakizashikoshirae
HARAMIRYU孕竜 dragon wrapped around a sword with its body away from the swordother
HITSU ANA 櫃穴 openings in tsuba for kozuka or kogaikoshirae
HON本  bookother
HONBAMONO本場物real or originalother
HONMONO本物genuineother
HORIMONO  彫物 carvings on sword bladesother
HORIMONOSHI彫物師carving specialist, engraverother
ICHIMON一門mon, or school, in japaneseother
JINAN次男 second sonother
JUYO TOKEN  重要刀剣 juyo swordother
JUYO  重要 very important workother
JUYO BIJITSUHIN  重要美術品証書 an old level of quality judged by the japanese government defining the sword or kodogu as important cultural assets replaced with juyo bunkazaiother
JUYO BUNKAZAI 重要文化財 new government designation after juyo bijituhinother
KAISHO楷書 printing style of writing, in which kanji are easily recognizedother
KAISHOMEI楷書銘mei in square style writing, approaching printing in appearanceother
KAJI  鍛冶 swordsmithother
KAKIHAN  書き判 swordsmiths or tsuba makers monogramother
KANJI  漢字 japanese charactersother
KANTEI鑑定 studying a sword, and making a decision as to its provenanceother
KANTEIKA鑑定家one who judges, or does the “kantei” of swordsother
KAO花押a special type of signature, used like a sealother
KARAKUSA唐草 arabesqueother
KEBORI毛彫 engraving using very fine lines ke means hairother
KEI系 system or line can refer to familial line or guild lineother
KEISOHEI軽装兵lightly equipped soldiers, light infantryother
KENMAKIRYU剣巻竜剣巻竜 dragon wrapped around a sword see kurikaraother
KENSAKU羂索 Abuddhist terminology, the means of capturing and taming evils ropeother
KERAI家来retainer, vassalother
KINDAI近代 recent times,other
KIRI AJI OR KIRIMI切味 feeling of sharpnessother
KIRI KOMI  切り込み sword cut or nick on the blade from another swordother
KIZU  傷 flawother
KO-古 in this translation, denotes early the kanji means oldother
KO-小 smallother
KO-BIZEN古備前early bizenother
KODAI後代later generationother
KODOGU  小道具 all the sword fittings except the tsubakoshirae
KOGAI  笄 hair pick accessorykoshirae
KOIGUCHI  鯉口 the mouth of the scabbard or its fittingkoshirae
KOJIRI  こじり end of the scabbardkoshirae
KOKUJI刻字 kanji carved in the bladeother
KOMEIKAN古銘鑑abbreviation for the name of a book on swordsmiths, or possibly, refers to old meikans in generalother
KOSAKU古作 made in the koto periodother
KOSHIRAE  拵え sword mountings or fittingskoshirae
KOTO  古刀 old sword period (prior to about 1596)other
KOTO MEIJIN TAIZEN古刀銘尽大全complete list of koto signatures, sometimes abbreviated as taizen, also read as koto meizukushi taizenother
KOZUKA  小柄 handle of accessory knifekoshirae
KUDARIRYU下り竜dragon going down the sword in other words, the head of the dragon is towards the machiother
KUNI国 orprovinceother
KURIKARA倶利伽羅dragon and sword also called kenmakiryu 剣巻竜 meaning dragon wrapped around a swordkoshirae
KUSA KURIKARA草倶利伽羅arabesque style of kurihara horimono see karakusa also read as so no kurikaraother
KYOGOKAJI京五鍛冶five principle kaji of kyotoother
MEIBUN銘文 the inscription in the mei in total, as opposed to just individual kanjiother
MEIGIRISHI銘切り師people who specialized in inscribing meiother
MEIJI明治meiji period (1868-1912) other
MEIKAN銘鑑list of people or artisan with bookother
MEITO名刀famous swordsother
MON門 formal school , physical locationother
MON紋 family crestother
MONJI文字 kanji engravings on the blade which are in the ordinary type of script, rather than the bonji 梵字, which are specific religious charactersother
NADO等 orthis means and so on, etcother
NANAKO  魚子 raised dimpling (fish roe)koshirae
NANBAN南蛮 southern barbarians, the europeansother
NANBOKUCHO南北朝時代period 1323-1394other
NANCHO南朝 southern dynasty during the nanbokuchoother
NENDAI年代age, epoch, periodother
NENGO年号era nameother
NENKI年記date inscriptionother
NENREI年齢age of tsuba or fittingskoshirae
NIHONBI二本樋double groovesother
NIJI二字two kanjiother
NINKANMEI任官銘official such as kami, daijo, etcother
NOBI延びextended- usually describing kissakiother
NYUSATSU入札kantei bidother
OITE於いてat ( as in made at this place )other
RIN厘 厘 one tenth of a bu 2 bu 3 rin may sometimes be written as 2 3 bumeasurement
RYU竜 dragonother
RYUHA 流派 schoolother
SAGEO 下緒 cord used for tying the saya to the obikoshirae
SAME  鮫 ray skin for tsukakoshirae
SAMURAI  侍 ( alt士 ) japanese warrior or the warrior classother
SASHI OMOTE指表 the side facing out when the sword is worn ha up, as with a katana, katana meiother
SASHI URA指裏 the side facing in when the sword is worn ha up, as with a katana, tachi meiother
SAYA  鞘 sword scabbardkoshirae
SAYAGAKI  鞘書 attribution on a plain wood scabbardkoshirae
SAYAGUCHI  鞘口 mouth of the scabbard (koi)koshirae
SENGOKU JIDAI戦国時代warring states period in japanese history specifically, 1490-1600other
SENPAI先輩 a term which can mean upperclassmanother
SEPPA  切羽 washers or spacerskoshirae
SHAKU尺 a unit of measure, which is slightly less than 1 footmeasurement
SHIMAME縞目 stripeskoshirae
SHIN SHINTO  新新刀 new ( new eriod starting after shinto during meiji restoration )other
SHINMEI真銘 genuine mei also called shoshinmei 正真銘other
SHINTO  新刀 new sword period (1596 to 1781) tokugawa period where smiths tried to recreate old school artist appearance of kamakura and nambokuchoother
SHIRASAYA 白鞘 plain wood storage scabbardkoshirae
SHODAI初代 first generationother
SHOGUN  将軍 supreme military leaderother
SO NO KURIKARA草の倶利伽羅dragon wrapped around a sword, carved in arabesqueother
SUN寸 a unit of measure, which is about 1.2 inches 10 sun equals 1 shaku, which is about 1 footmeasurement
TABAGATANA束刀 mass produced swordsother
TAGANE鏨 punch or chiselother
TAGANE KIZAMI鏨刻みmark made with a chisel or punchother
TAGANE MAKURA鏨枕 the metal which is raised around a punch mark other
TOKENSHO刀剣書books on japanese swordsother
TOSHO刀匠 master swordsmithother
TSUBA  鍔 sword guardkoshirae
TSUKA  柄 sword handlekoshirae
TSUKARE  疲れ meaning that this sword is tiredother
UCHIKO  打ち粉 fine powder used to clean sword bladesother
Jidai 時代 or other date terminology referenced in origami
Jidai時代Periodjidai
Heian平安 794 to 1185jidai
Kamakura鎌倉1185–1333jidai
Nanbokucho南北朝1333 to 1392jidai
Muromachi室町1392 to 1573jidai
Sengoku戦国1465 to 1615warring states period
Momoyama桃山1568 to 1600jidai
Edo江戸1603 and 1868jidai
Bakumatsu幕末1853 to 1867transitional period
Meiji明治1868 to 1912era
Taisho大正1912 to 1926era
Showa昭和1926 to 1989era
Heisei平成1989 to 2019era
Reiwa令和2019 to presentera
Shoki 初期(the beginning)within period
Zenki前期(the first part)within period
Chuki中期(the middle)within period
Atoki後期(late)within period
Sueki末期(the end)within period