How to read Nihonto Meikan

This page will be updated with helpful tips on how to read swordsmith records in Nihontō Meikan [1]. I hope it may be found helpful by readers who didn't yet master Japanese well enough to read Meikan and other important sword books without referring to dictionary.

Meikan records are concise and well structured. When I put the book aside for a couple of months, I sometimes have to re-read the first few pages to regain the knowledge of its format. Hence I created this page as a quick reference and reminder.

Components of swordsmith record

(in the order they may appear in the book)

Smith records start at page 101. They are split by the first mora, and then by name. Each name is displayed in kanji in bold, and then in hiragana (in brackets). It's followed by the list of smiths bearing that name, ordered by period, then province, then era.

Period symbol: ◯ △ □

Circle corresponds to Koto, triangle - Shinto, square - Shin-Shinto. Double-border shapes are displayed for prominent smiths with extant important works.

Signatures 「 」

Signatures (optional) are displayed in quotes 「 」.


This section contains a list of recorded production dates in the format [era][list of years].

Example: 応永元、三、六。- Ōei 1, 3, 6 (1394, 1396, 1399)

References ( )

Reference codes are displayed in brackets. Go to page 8 to find the list of sources and their reference codes.

Comments <注>

General comments about smith's background.

Comments by Dr. Honma <(薫山)>

Comments by Dr. Honma himself.

Frequently used phrases

という - it is said that.... Example: 応永という - it is said [he worked in] Ōei era.
同人 (どうにん) - same as. Example: 二代正信同人 - same as Nidai Masanobu.


  1. Nihonto Meikan, Honma, Junji, and Ishii Masakuni , Tokyo, p.1618, (1976)