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    Japanese Sword Terminology

    I've put together this information to give a basic background on the Japanese sword and the terminology used in its study.
    The work is not mine and due credit has been given to the source of each section.


    Adapted from 'The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords' by Kokan Nagayama

    These are the main periods concerned with sword production.

    Heian - 794 AD to 1185
    Kamakura - 1185 to 1333
    Nambokucho - 1333 to 1392
    Muromachi - 1392 to 1573
    Momoyama - 1573 to 1600

    Edo - 1600 to 1867

    Meiji - 1868 to 1912

    Taisho - 1912 to 1926
    Showa - 1926 - 1989
    Heisei - 1989 to present day.

    * Koto, Shinto, Shinshinto and Gendaito represent general periods of sword production and the dates shown are an indicator of when that period started and not specific dates.

    Parts of the Japanese Sword

    Reprinted by kind permission of Ed Marshall of:

    Sword Terminology

    Reprinted by kind permission of Paul Martin of:


    Ara-nie Large nie crystals

    Ashi Literally legs, usually nioi, extending from the hamon to the cutting edge.

    Ayasugi-hada Wavy grain pattern in the ji resembling a Japanese cedar grain pattern.


    Bakufu (lit. Tent government)

    Bizen Archeaic province of Japan, modern day Okayama prefecture

    Bizen-to Swords produced in Bizen

    Bizen-zori Deep curvature close to the tang area of the sword; also known as koshi-zori

    Bo-hi Long groove, carved into the blade, often mistakenly referred to as a blood groove

    Bonji Sanscrit characters carved into the blade invoking Buddhist deities.

    Boshi Literally ‘cap’, the hamon formed within the kissaki

    Bo-utsuri A straight formation of usturi

    Bu Japanese imperial form of measurement (10 bu = 1 sun)

    Bunkacho-chokan-sho The Agency for Cultural Affairs Chairman Award given at the annual swordsmiths’ exhibition.

    Bushi Another term for samurai—the warrior class


    Chikei A curved line of nie, seen in the ji

    Choji abura Clove oil, used for preserving blades

    Choji ashi Clove-shaped ashi

    Choji midare A hamon consisting of choji shapes, but the overall line of the hamon has no definable form.

    Choji midare komi A choji midare hamon that continues into the kissaki

    Choji usturi Utsuri in the pattern of choji

    Chokuto A straight sword, but similar in construction to the tachi

    Chu-kissaki A medium sized kissaki, in relation to the overall size of the blade

    Chu-suguha A medium-sized straight hamon


    Daimyo provincial samurai lords

    Daisho A pair of swords in matching fittings worn together: dai- being the long sword, and sho- being the shorter companion sword. Only the samurai were permitted to wear them during the Edo period.

    Doryokusho The Award for Effort at the NBTHK’s annual swordsmiths’ exhibition.


    Eto Zodiacal calender often used for date inscriptions on swords, originally from China.


    Fudo Myo-O Buddhist deity, the immovable King of Light. Patron deity of swordsmen. Commonly used for horimono.

    Fukura The cutting edge of the kissaki

    Fukusa Special handkerchief-like cloth used for handling blades during viewing

    Funbari Used to describe a blade when it noticeably tapers between the base of the cutting edge and the tip.

    Futatsuji-hi Two parallel grooves carved into the blade


    Gendaito Japanese swords produced after 1876

    Goban-kaji The swordsmiths summoned to work for the retired emperor Gotoba during his exile to Oki island

    Goka-den The five original traditions of swordmaking from the koto period

    Goki shichido The five home provinces and seven main roads. Originally used for units of governmental administration. Currently used for classifying swordsmiths by region and style.

    Gomabashi a horimono in the form of the ritual chopsticks used in both Shinto and Buddhist rites.

    Gunome A type of hamon that undulates in a series of semi-circles

    Gunto Military blades

    Gyo no kurikara (see kurikara)


    Ha The cutting edge of the blade

    Habaki The small metal collar (often decorated) that buffers the tsuba and secures the blade into the saya

    Habaki-moto The part of the blade that sits under the habaki

    Habuchi The line that divides the hamon and the ji, commonly called the nioi-guchi

    Hacho Length of the cutting edge (also see nagasa)

    Hada The steel skin of the blade, also called jihada

    Hadori A polishing technique which highlights the hamon, also known as kesho

    Hagire A crack in the blade rising up from the cutting edge

    Haitorei The law administered in Japan 1876, banning the wearing of swords in public

    Hakikake Similar to sunagashii, ashi resembling brush strokes.

    Hamachi The notch where the cutting edge of the blade begins

    Hamon The crystalline structure which forms along the cutting edge of a blade as a result of the hardening process

    Hataraki The various activities within the hamon, created during the hardening process

    Ha-watari See Nagasa

    Hi A groove carved into the blade for decoration or weight decreasing purposes

    Hira-zukuri A sword made without any ridgelines, flat on both sides

    Hiro-suguha A wide suguha hamon

    Hitatsura A type of hamon with tobiyaki liberally spread across the width of the blade.

    Horimono Decorative blade carvings


    Ichimonji School A 13th C school of swordsmiths working in the Bizen tradition

    Ikubi kissaki A stout kissaki which is shorter in length than it is wide.

    Inazuma (literally, lightning) A line of nie inside the hamon resembling lightning

    Iorimune A two-sided mune resembling the roof of a house

    Itame-hada The wood grain pattern in the skin steel of the blade.


    Ji The surface area of the blade between the shinogi and the hamon.

    Jigane The steel of a constructed blade

    Jihada The surface area of the blade between the hamon and the shinogi, see hada

    Jifu-utsuri Discontinuous utsuri

    Jigane The steel used for making the hada

    Juka-choji Multiple grouped choji pattern

    Ji-nie Nie in the ji


    Kaen A type boshi that resembles burning flames

    Kaeri The part of the boshi that turns back towards the tang, along the mune

    Kaiken A small concealable dagger

    Kaki-nagashi A groove that ends by tapering within the tang

    Kaki-toshi A type of groove that continues through the tang to the end

    Kakudome A groove end that is square, usually stops just before the habaki

    Kamakura period 1185-1332

    Kani no tsume A type of gunome resembling crabs claws

    Kanmuri-otoshi-zukuri The backridge of the blade is beveled like a naginata

    Kanzan oshigata A collection of four scrolls of oshigata drawn by the late Sato Kanzan.

    Kanzan-sho The (Sato) Kanzan Award, one of the first prize awards given at the NBTHK’s annual swordsmiths’ exhibition.

    Kasane The thickness of the blade

    Kataochi gunome Flat topped gunome that slant in the same direction like saw teeth

    Katana Curved blades worn with the cutting edge up, when thrust through the sash

    Katte agari yasuri File marks on the tang that slant downward to the left

    Katte sagari yasuri File marks on the tang that slant downward to the right

    Kawazuko choji Tadpole shaped choji

    Kazu-uchimono Mass produced blades of little artistic quality

    Ken Straight ritual Chinese style sword, often associated with Fudo Myo-O

    Keicho Shinto Blades produced during the Keicho era (1573-1643) at the start of the Shinto sword period

    Kesho See Hadori

    Kinsuji a small shiny line of nie inside the hamon, similar to inazuma

    Kiriha-zukuri A sword made with the shinogi close to the cutting edge

    Kiri yasuri File marks on the tang that are horizontal

    Kissaki The tip of the blade, from the point to the yokote

    Kissaki-moroha-zukuri A blade made with a double edge in the monouchi area

    Ko Prefix, meaning small (ex. Ko-nie—small nie)

    Ko-ashi small ashi

    Kobuse The most common type of blade manufacture, in which the steel used for the cutting edge is wrapped around a lower carbon steel, then hammered out into the shape of the blade

    Kobushigata choji Fist shaped choji

    Ko-dachi A small tachi

    Kogatana Utility knife

    Koiguchi The mouth of the saya

    Ko-maru A type of boshi that turns back in a small smooth circular motion

    Ko-nie Small nie particles

    Konuka-hada A term used mainly for Hizen blades, commonly referred to as rice grain hada

    Koshi-ba A flamboyant section of hamon at the base when compared to the rest of the blade

    Koshi-bi A short type of groove carved in the blade close to the tang

    Ko-shinogi The part of the shinogi that runs from the yokote to the tip in the kissaki

    Koshi no haraita Wide based undulations that slope gently, usually with choji.

    Koshirae A full set of sword mountings.

    Koshi-zori Swords with the deepest part of the curve near to the tang

    Koto (Old swords) Swords made in the pre-Edo period

    Kuichigaiba A break in the hamon, common in yamato-den blades

    Kurijiri Round-ended type of nakago, similar to the shape of a chestnut

    Kurikara A horimono of a dragon wrapped around a ken, a representation of Fudo Myo-O

    Kuzan-sho The (Honma) Kunzan Award one of the first prize awards given at the NBTHK’s annual swordsmiths’ exhibition.


    Machi The notches that mark the end of the mune; mune-machi and the end of the cutting edge; ha-machi

    Marudome A carved groove end that is rounded

    Marumune A mune that is rounded

    Masame-hada A straight grain pattern in the hada

    Mei Signature or inscription on the tang

    Mekugi The bamboo peg used to secure the handle onto the tang

    Mekugi ana The hole on the tang where the mekugi is inserted

    Mekugi nuki A tool for removing the mekugi

    Midare komi A boshi where the a midare hamon continues into the kissaki

    Midare A hamon of irregular form. All hamon are midare except suguha.

    Midare utsuri irregular utsuri

    Mihaba The width of a blade: measured from the mune to the cutting edge.

    Mitsukado The place where the Shinogi meets the ko-shinogi and the yokote

    Mitsumune A mune with three sides

    Mokume-hada A grain pattern in the hada similar to itame but round

    Munemachi See machi

    Monouchi One-third of the blade from the yokote towards the tang

    Moroha-zukuri An asymmetrical blade with a cutting edge on both sides

    Mukansa A grade awarded to swordsmiths whose work is recognised to be above the regular ranking systems

    Mune The back of the blade

    Mu-zori A blade with no curvature


    Nagare-hada A hada that flows along the blade like a flowing stream.

    Nagasa The blade length; measured from the tip to the mune-machi

    Naginata A Japanese halberd.

    Nakago The tang of a blade

    Nakagojiri The tip of the tang

    Nanbantetsu general term for foreign steel.

    Nanbokucho Period 1333-1392

    Nezumi ashi Very small ashi

    Nie Small martensite crystals individually visible to the naked eye

    Nie-deki A blade with a predominantly nie hamon

    Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai The society for the preservation of Japanese art swords and the Japanese art sword museum in Yoyogi, Tokyo. The recognised governing body for Japanese swords in Japan

    NihontoJapanese swords

    Nioi Martensite crystals not individually distinguishable to the naked eye, like the milky way in appearance

    Nioi-deki A sword with a hamon consisting mainly of nioi

    Nioi-guchi The dividing line between the hamon and the ji

    Notare Gently undulating hamon

    Nyusen The NBTHK’s award for accepted entrants at the annual swordsmiths exhibition.


    O Prefix, denoting large (ex. O-gunome—large gunome)

    O-busa Large rising choji

    Odachi A tachi with a cutting edge that exceeds 3 shaku (91cm).

    Omote The front side of the blade

    Oshigata A rubbing taken of the tang and outline of a blade. The hamon and activities are then drawn by hand.

    Osoraku-zukuri Blades made with a very large kissaki that is longer than the lower half of the blade


    Saka ashi Slanted ashi

    Saka choji Slanted choji

    Sakihaba Width of the blade at the yokote

    Saki-zori When the curvature is noticeable in the upper part of the blade

    Sambon-sugi A type of hamon that resembles three cedar trees repeated along the blade.

    Sashikomi An older style of Japanese polish where the area between the ridgeline and the hasaki is polished in the same finish (as opposed to kesho).

    Saya Scabbard

    Shaku Japanese imperial form of measurement (1 shaku = 30.3cm)

    Shinogi The ridge line that that runs from the yokote to the end of the nakago

    Shinogiji The area between the shinogi and the mune

    Shinogi-zukuri A sword manufactured with the ridgeline near to the mune

    Shinsaku-meitoten The annual exhibition/competition of newly made blades, held at the sword museum in Tokyo

    Shinsakuto (newly made swords) Swords made by contemporary smiths

    Shinshinto Swords made between 1781 and 1868

    Shinto Swords made between 1600 and 1781

    Shirasaya A plain wooden sleeping scabbard and handle to protect the blade.

    Showato Swords made between 1926 and the end of WWII

    Soden-Bizen Bizen swords displaying soshu-den traits

    Soe-bi A smaller carved groove that runs parallel to the large groove

    Sori Curvature of the blade

    Soshu-den The tradition of swordmaking originating from the archaic Sagami province.

    Sudare-ba A hamon that resembles brush strokes, or a bamboo curtain.

    Sugata The shape of the blade

    Suguha A straight hamon

    Sujikai yasuri Acutely slanted file mark pattern on the nakago

    Suken Also known as a ken, short straight ritual Chinese style sword, often associated with Fudo Myo-O

    Sun Japanese imperial form of measurement (1 sun = 3.03cm, 10 sun = 1 shaku)

    Sunagashi An activity in the hamon that resembles sweeping sands

    Sunobi tanto Oversized tanto

    Suriage Blade that has been shortened from its original length


    Tachi Swords made to be worn with the cutting edge down, suspended from the belt Tachi-mei A blade signed on the side of the tang that faces outward when worn with the cutting edge downward

    Takamatsu-miya-sho One of the first prize awards given by Prince Takamtsu at the NBTHK’s annual swordsmiths’ exhibition.

    Tamahagane Purified steel, used for the manufacture of Japanese swords, indigenous to Japan

    Tanto Blades made shorter that 30cm

    Togariba Pointed shapes protruding from the hamon

    Toranba A type of hamon that resembles the waves of the sea

    Torii-zori A blade with an even curve

    Tsuchioki The clay applied to the blade before the hardening process

    Tsuka The hilt

    Tsurugi Alternate Japanese word for sword.


    Ubu Original, usually used when referring to the nakago.

    Ubu-ha An area of the cutting edge from the hamachi, which has not yet been sharpened. This is typical with new blades.

    Uchigatana Blades produced for one-handed use during the Muromachi period

    Uchigumori One of the last stones used in the foundation polishing process

    Uchiko A fine powder, made from one of the stones used in sword polishing, used for sword preservation

    Uchinoke Small crescent shapes appearing like niju-ba in the ji close to the hamon.

    Uchi-zori The back of the blade curves toward the cutting edge

    Ura The back side of the blade

    Utsuri (Reflection) A white misty formation that runs parallel to the hamon in the ji.

    Utsushi-mono Copies of past masterpieces (not to be confused with forgeries)


    Wakizashi Blades over 30 cm in length, but shorter than 60 cm. Often a companion sword to the katana.


    Yakiba The hardened area of the blade

    Yakidashi A part of the hamon which starts off straight at the hamachi, but turns into a different hamon several centimetres along the blade

    Yakihaba The width of the Yakiba

    Yaki-ire The hardening process of the blade when it is heated, then quenched in water

    Yakiotoshi A hamon which starts further along the blade, about 3-5cm from the ha-machi.

    Yakitsume A type of boshi without a turn-back.

    Yari A Japanese spear usually mounted on a long shaft.

    Yamagata Mountain shaped

    Yasurime File markings (on the tang)

    Yo An activity in the hamon that resembles falling leaves

    Yokote The dividing line between the kissaki and the body of the blade (mainly on shinogi-zukuri swords)

    Yoroi-doshi Armour piercing (tanto)

    Yubashiri A concentration of nie in the ji

    Yushusho The Award for Excellence at the NBTHK’s annual swordsmiths’ exhibition.


    Zaimei A blade with an original signature
    Zen Nihon Toshokai Kaicho Sho The All Japan Swordsmiths Association Chairman’s Award given at the NBTHK’s annual swordsmiths’s exhibition.
    Last edited by Lee Bray; 14-09-10 at 03:10 AM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    Thank you. Made a sticky for future reference.
    Well, everybody in Casablanca has problems. Yours may work out.

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    This is a great reference item and will will a hugh help to people like myself who are trying to learn more about thier swords, And many thanks for your contributions to my many queries Lee been very helpfull
    kind regards

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    Yah, good skills Lee
    Eric & proud!

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    Many thanks Lee, that's excellent.


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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    Indeed, superb work.

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    & Lee, please pass thanks to the kind gentlemen that allowed their hard work & expertise to be shown on another 'site, 'tis appreciated
    Eric & proud!

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    My pleasure. Glad to help.
    I shall forward your gratitude.

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    For those interested in real Japanese swords (Nihonto), check out the Japanese Sword Guide at:

    Most anything you would want to know getting started and over 200 links to most every Japanese sword site around.


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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    Blade Shapes & Cross-Sections:

    with illustrations
    in my dream i had a new knife .. so i put it under my pillow for when i awoke ..

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    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."
    in my dream i had a new knife .. so i put it under my pillow for when i awoke ..

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    I have been to Kamakura and visited the big Budda statue. About 1963
    Last edited by Gene Chapman; 23-12-10 at 12:03 PM. Reason: misprelling
    Gene Chapman
    Oak and Iron Publishing

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    A cross reference guide to the signatures of many smiths, it won't make you an expert overnight or give dates or locations etc but I've found it useful at times.

    Last edited by Moonz; 23-12-10 at 01:27 PM. Reason: typo
    "Knowledge without wisdom is as books carried on the back of an ass"...Japanese proverb

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    Some of the more common lamination patterns used...

    "Knowledge without wisdom is as books carried on the back of an ass"...Japanese proverb

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    Re: Japanese Sword Terminology

    i have a sword my dad brought back from ww2 can someone tell me what it says on the tang here is a link for a pic of it
    that is a pic of the tang



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