Varieties of Mei

Terminology for Various Kinds of Mei


Zai Mei

This term is used to indicate that a blade has an intact original mei

Mu Mei

A blade which is mumei bears no signature at all

Gi Mei

A gimei blade is one which bears the name of a smith on the nakago who did not make that blade. Such signatures are considered fakes. Gimei inscriptions were usually added to enhance the value of a mumei blade or the work of a lesser smith.

Tachi Mei

In general the signature on a sword is inscribed on the side of the nakago which faces outwards when the sword is worn. A sword in tachi mounts is worn edge down. When a sword is held point upwards it has a tachi mei if the signature faces you when the ha (sharp edge) is to the right.

Katana Mei

A sword in katana mounts is worn edge up. A signature is katana mei if the signature faces you when the ha is to the left when the sword is held point upwards.

Omote Mei

The omote mei is the inscription including the swordsmith's signature on the 'front' (outward facing when worn) surface of the nakago.

Ura Mei

An ura mei is an inscription on the inward facing surface of the nakago. This is usually the date the blade was made, but could also be a cutting test or the orderer of the blade.

Niji Mei

This term indicates that the mei consists of the two characters of the swordsmith's given name.

Naga Mei

A naga mei is a long signature which may include the province, title, family name and given name of the smith.

Sanji Mei

This term is similar to niji mei except the third kanji 'saku' - 'made' is included.

Zury˘ Mei

The zury˘ mei is the title given the smith by the Imperial or Provincial courts. Examples are Suke, Kami, Daij˘ etc.

Kaki Kudashi Mei

This is the term used when the province, signature, date etc., occur on one side of the nakago

Tameshi Mei

A tameshi mei is an inscribed report of a sword's sharpness in a cutting test. Such inscriptions are often inlaid with gold.

Kiri Tsuke Mei

This is a memorial inscription. It may note the history of the sword, it's owner, the name of the person who shortened the blade, the name of a cutting tester etc. etc.

Dai Mei

This is a signature of a smith which is chiselled on a nakago by his family or students, with his permission. It is regarded as a genuine signature.

Dai Saku Mei

Swords made in a smith's style by his students with his permission were often signed personally by the smith. This is called dai saku mei and is regarded as genuine.

Orikaeshi Mei

Sometimes when a blade is shortened, the original mei is preserved by folding it back to form part of the newly formed nakago. When viewed the signature appears upside-down. This is an orikaeshi mei.

Gaku Mei

In the case of an ď suriage (greatly shortened) sword, the original mei is sometimes cut out and let into the newly-formed nakago. This is called gaku mei.

Shu Mei

This is a red lacquer inscription applied by an appraiser attributing an ubu, mumei blade to a particular swordsmith.

Kin Z˘gan Mei

A kin z˘gan mei is an attribution inscription in gold inlay on an ď suriage nakago by the Honami family

Gin Z˘gan Mei

This is similar to kin z˘gan mei except the inlay is in silver. Less often seen.

Kinpun Mei

This is an appraiser's attribution inscription written in gold lacquer (gold powder mixed with lacquer).

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