Work in Progress (Translation)

ART and Attraction

Art and Attraction


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 Sōshū-mono (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.



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-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).



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.



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).



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.



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


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


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


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 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.


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.


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