Readings of smith names in Hawley's Japanese Swordsmiths

Reading Japanese names is not easy. Reading a name from 500 years old sword tang is significantly more difficult. But even when the kanji is read, what is the correct way to pronounce it and, subsequently, put it in romaji? Not just various Kanji symbols may have different readings in names, but some smiths preferred non-standard readings, or Chinese form instead of Japanese form. Is it Akitoshi or is it Myoju? (an example from Hawley himself) It may be a source of great confusion, especially for non-Japanese students with good, limited or even no knowledge of the Japanese language.

Luckily, specialized reference literature helps to find answers. The reader may just open Hawley's book and look up the right name. But is it as unambiguous and easy? The answer is no. Even the same name in kanji may have different readings (and records) in Hawley's and they won't be the ones which are easy to find either. First of all, we shouldn't forget that Willis Hawley was using paper notes, cards and a typewriter to compile his monumental book. It didn't allow machine validation which we enjoy in present days, insertion and modification was difficult and error-prone. Some duplicate records were added (and then found). Then, Hawley himself may have (consciously or unconsciously) put some records multiple times under different pronunciations. And finally, some smiths may have changed their names themselves leaving the honour of recording it to Nihonto historians.

Once Kanji names in Swordsmith Index were populated, I was able to do a simple comparison between Kanji and Romaji representations of the names in order to find different readings of the same name. You may find the results in the table below. Please note that these results are provided 'as is' and they would need to be verified manually as there may still have errors in either Kanji or Romaji forms. Please also note that the records may change by the time you read this article.

Kanji Reading1 Smiths Reading2 Smiths Reading3 Smiths
兼洞 Kanetani KAN2479, KAN2482, KAN2478, KAN2480, KAN2481 Kanedo KAN704, KAN705, KAN706 Kanehiro KAN917, KAN918
昭平 Akihira AKI39, AKI40, AKI41 Shohei SHO7
有法 Arihou ARI13, ARI14 Arinori ARI151
長圓 Choen CHO3, CHO4, CHO5, CHO6, CHO7, CHO8, CHO9 Nagakazu NAG240, NAG241, NAG242
富士 Fuji FUJ1, FUJ2 Tomishi TOM7
藤四 Fujishi FUJ28, FUJ29, FUJ30 Toshi TO60
一秀 Isshu ISS10, ISS5, ISS6, ISS11 Kazuhide KAZ4
壽命 Jumyo JU30, JU45, JU22, JU31, JU32, JU41 Toshinaga TOS342
順慶 Junkei JUN2, JUN3 Noriyoshi NOR494
Kado KAD2, KAD3 Hiro HIR176
兼陸 Kaneatsu KAN674, KAN675, KAN676, KAN677, KAN678 Kanemichi KAN1415, KAN1416, KAN1417, KAN1418
兼大 Kanedai KAN702, KAN703 Kanemichi KAN1389
兼開 Kanehira KAN819, KAN895, KAN920, KAN921 Kaneaki KAN649
兼主 Kanekimi KAN1181, KAN1182, KAN1183 Kanemoto KAN1598, KAN1599
兼岸 Kanekishi KAN1184, KAN1185, KAN1186, KAN1187, KAN1188 Kanegishi KAN811, KAN812
兼白 Kanekiyo KAN1194, KAN1195, KAN1196, KAN1197, KAN1198, KAN1199, KAN1200 Kaneshiro KAN2293
兼言 Kanenobu KAN1784, KAN1785, KAN1786 Kanekoto KAN1227, KAN1228
兼師 Kanenori KAN1944, KAN1945, KAN1946, KAN1947, KAN1948 Kanemoro KAN1555
金重 Kinju KIN13, KIN16, KIN17, KIN24 Kaneshige KAN538
詮秀 Masahide MAS1751, MAS1752 Akihide AKI129
正峯 Masamine MAS467, MAS470, MAS472, MAS474 Senho SEN28
宗寛 Munehiro MUN87, MUN87.1 Sokan SOK1
長壽 Nagatoshi NAG459, NAG460, NAG461 Choju CHO11
長吉 Nagayoshi NAG499, NAG500, NAG501, NAG502, NAG503, NAG504, NAG505, NAG506, NAG507, NAG508, NAG509, NAG510, NAG511, NAG512, NAG513, NAG514, NAG515, NAG516, NAG517, NAG518, NAG519, NAG520, NAG521, NAG522, NAG523, NAG524, NAG525, NAG526, NAG527, NAG528, NAG529, NAG530, NAG531, NAG532, NAG533, NAG534, NAG535 Chokichi CHO12, CHO13
長義 Nagayoshi NAG537, NAG538, NAG539, NAG540, NAG541, NAG542, NAG543, NAG544, NAG545 Chogi CHO10
日乗 Nichijo NI12, NI13, NI14, NI15, NI11 Akinori AKI10, AKI11
信英 Nobuhide NOB181, NOB182 Nobuteru NOB504
信心 Nobukiyo NOB244, NOB245 Nobunaka NOB403
徳廣 Norihiro NOR501, NOR534 Tokuhiro TOK69
則耀 Noriteru NOR355, NOR356, NOR357, NOR358, NOR359 Norikaga NOR103
大光 Omitsu O10, O11 Daimitsu DAI56
貞幸 Sadayuki SAD905, SAD908 Sadayoshi SAD906
實阿 Sanea SAN398, SAN397 Jitsua JIT1
祐慶 Sukeyoshi SUK990, SUK991 Yukei YU5
忠正 Tadamasa TAD102, TAD103, TAD104, TAD105, TAD106, TAD107, TAD108, TAD109 Tadashi TAD340, TAD8
忠香 Tadataka TAD226, TAD227 Tadaka TAD61
忠次 Tadatsugu TAD239, TAD240, TAD241, TAD242, TAD243, TAD244, TAD245, TAD246, TAD247, TAD248, TAD249, TAD250, TAD251, TAD252, TAD253, TAD254, TAD255, TAD256, TAD257, TAD258, TAD259, TAD260, TAD261, TAD263, TAD59 Chuji CHU3
鷹湛 Takanobu TAK224, TAK225 Taganobu TAG1
爲道 Tamemichi TAM66, TAM67, TAM68 Tamemitsu TAM69
辰房 Tatsubo TAT3, TAT4, TAT5 Tokifusa TOK59
友英 Tomohide TOM30, TOM31, TOM32, TOM33 Tomoteru TOM223
朝郷 Tomosato TOM471, TOM472 Asago ASA4
藤林 Torin TO53, TO54, TO55 Fujimori FUJ18
藤三郎 Tosaburo TO56, TO57 Fujisaburo FUJ20
才光 Toshimitsu TOS2, TOS3, TOS4, TOS5 Tomomitsu TOM15
世安 Toshiyasu TOS10, TOS7, TOS8, TOS9 Tokiyasu TOK1, TOK3
女光 Yoshimitsu YOS3, YOS4 Chikamitsu CHI16

I have checked few examples from this list and some records with different readings were indeed for the same smith.

The building on the Index continues and I hope I'll be able to find out more about each individual case in order to link related records together.

Kind Regards,
Stan Nazarenko (DUBLIN)

A little late to be

A little late to be commenting on this topic, forgive me... :-)
Regarding the pronuciation of "art names", there is really nothing firm in many cases. It has been explained to me by folks with knowledge of Japanese literature (etc., such as my father-in-law) that to really know the pronunciation you have to ask the person who had the name (hmmm, could be difficult!). The readings of some katana-kaji names found in various texts are really just "assumptions". And of course, Hawley didn't have any way to tell one reading from another, either. When it comes to the Kodogu makers (tsuba, fuchi-kashira, etc.), the readings are even more obscure.

Meanwhile, regarding Romanization of the names: I think that this is relatively clear. There are a couple of "standard" ways to Romanize Japanese words (such as the Hepburn system), and they are quite consistent and un-ambiguous if used correctly.



Hi Pete,

I absolutely agree with your comments. And I'm sure there are numerous cases when modern pronunciations of certain smiths' names would be totally different from what they were calling themselves. However in terms of sword research the pronunciation is an interesting but not that important detail. The point I tried to raise was that there may be (or there are should I say) multiple records for the same smiths just because of the different ways their names could be pronounced, especially in the literature which primarily uses romanized versions of smiths' names. As a general approach I'd like to avoid duplications in the smith directory (where possible).

As for Romanization in general, while it's reasonably straightforward in academic and specialist circles, it becomes a little bit more complicated for resources with international audience with different levels of familiarity with the world of Nihonto. Some balance is required between correctness and usability. And when I mention usability I mean searching and ease of typing, most of all. 90% of all search requests on Nihonto Club website are about smiths and their signatures, mostly in some romanized form. And hewre we are facing all the typical issues of Romanization:

1.Treatment of long vowels would be one of the issues. For instance depending on whether 'ō' or 'ou' or even 'o' is used, some people would not be able to find what they were looking for. When I started working on the Swordsmith Index, a decision was made to transform all the long vowels into their short forms ('o' in the case of long ō/ou) as the most search-friendly version. Even though I personally prefer 'ō' as other macrons as it doesn't deprive the meaning as short 'o' does, and doesn't produce as long and inelegant version of words as 'ou', 'uu' and others do. Not surprisingly though, neither of these conventions work well for native Japanese speakers who (due to obvious reasons) produce the widest variability of irregular (for English speakers' eyes) romanized forms which are completely out of sync with the most popular notations used in the West. I'm constantly monitoring the site usage in order to make things easier and I know for sure that there are many search requests being made which won't fetch any results due to, I wouldn't say wrong or exotic, but different romanization convention. Searches for Umetada Myoju would come as: Myoju, Myouju, Myōju, Myoujyu, Myojyu etc. The situation becomes even worse for our Russian friends as Cyrillization of Japanese is seemingly based on (or close to) Nihon-shiki convention. Modern technologies, Google search in particular, have advanced significantly in dealing with these issues, but in my opinion we are still not there overall to disregard these peculiarities.

2. Archaic pronunciations, 'ye', 'iye', suye', 'kiyo' etc. This is what Hawley used, as well as probably 50% of English-speaking researchers after him due to the wide-spread use of his 'Japanese Swordsmiths' directory. This is what I originally decided to use on this website as well. All the data coming from different sources was meticulously transformed to adhere to the chosen convention. To be honest I'm really tempted now to make a u-turn and switch to the modern form (e, ie, sue, etc) before it's too late. This isn't decided yet, mostly due to lack of free time for a reasonably big transition, but also because I'm still not completely sure about it myself. Advice of a more knowledgeable person would be helpful here. In the end, Nihonto studies deal with names and events from long time ago and archaic forms may be more appropriate. But again, there should be a balance between tradition, present state of affairs and future outlook. I'm currently reading Japanese Names and How To Read Them: A Manual for Art Collectors and Students. Hopefully it will shed some more light on the subject.
3. Variations in treatment of s/z, n/m, h/b etc. (e.g. Sukesane vs. Sukezane, Honma vs. Homma). In my opinion it's not the particular convention we choose, but, most importantly, the consistency throughout the website what makes a difference. Data quality is my primary concern when working with the Swordsmith Index and I'm trying to make sure that there is as little ambiguity as possible and that the same personal or geographical name, nengo and term appears in exactly the same form and that the approach is uniform across the resource.
This is why I thought that it would be an interesting observation that same smiths (may) appear in Hawley's a number of times just because of the difference in pronunciation (on top of traditional name changing practice). I think (please correct me if I'm wrong) that there were cases that smiths changed pronunciation of their names without changing the Kanji form, and vice versa, swapped Kanji, but leaving pronunciation intact.