Blade Characteristics

Characteristics of Nihont˘ Blades

Kantei or sword appraisal consists of building a complete and very detailed description of all the various characteristics and features of a particular blade, then matching this description first with a period and school of swordmaking and then if possible with a named swordmaker.The examination sequence which follows is taken (with several minor additions) from To-ken Kantei Dokuhon by Nagayama Kokan (translated by Kenji Mishina).

Manner of Appreciation

"........Look at each part carefully in the following sequence; T˘shin or Sugata (whole sword shape/form), Ha Watari (Length), Sori (Curvature), Fumbari (flaring of blade width near Machi), size of Kissaki, height of Shinogi Ji, type of Mune ,Kasane (Thickness), Niku Dori (modelling of the 'meat' of the blade) and Horimono (Carving). These usually reflect the time in which it was made. As appreciators gain confidence, they tend to show more interest in Jigane (surface steel), Jihada (surface 'grain') and Hamon, without closely watching the shape. If you neglect the shape, you cannot expect deep appreciation."

"To appreciate Jigane and Jihada, bring the blade close to you and position it horizontally under your eyes. Look at the Jigane and Jihada with the light direct and bright on the surface, you will be able to see them easier if you support the blade with either Fukusa (silk cloth) or softened Japanese paper. To appreciate the Hamon, look along the blade toward the light. Beginners tend to take the Hadori (the whitening of the final polish) for the Hamon. It is difficult to confirm the shape of the Hamon, activities inside the Hamon or the condition of the Nie, Nioi and Utsuri unless you look towards the light and make it reflect on the part you wish to appreciate."

"You cannot have good conditions without good lighting. The best light for the Hamon is a naked (non-'pearl') electric bulb. Flourescent is no good for appreciation."

"The Hamon has great variety and deep fascination and shows faithfully the features of its school, and displays the swordsmith's techniques and characteristics respectively. During this time carefully note the Yaki Dashi (end of Hamon as it meets the Ha Machi) and presence of Mune Yaki (hardened areas in the Mune)."

"It is said that the B˘shi is the most difficult part of the swordsmith's technique, so it is likened to the face of a human being. Accordingly it is a reflection of the swordsmith who made it, in addition to the composite judgement......."


"..........The Nakago (Tang) is an important point too. The shape of the Nakago, Nakago Jiri (Tang Tip), Yasurime (File Marks), Mekugi Ana (Peg Hole) and Rust Colour should all be carefully inspected whether a signature is carved or not. Never grind or polish Nakago indiscriminately as it's rust provides a clue in judging the age of the sword."

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