wakazashi - possibly Meiji period

I have another wakazashi where I am having trouble deciphering the tang signature and consequently the age of the blade. I'm told it's Meiji period. Have added photos in a PDF showing tang with signature and also signature on kozuka, which is different.
There area few minor pitted holes in the blade and a couple of nicks on the edge. Virtually no yokote discernible visually, whether this is a specific of the design or from previous polishing I am not clear, but I understand that shorter blades are more likely like this - what is classified as shorter? My other two wakazashi have definite yokote.
Some nice grain/tempering. Tang quite heavily pitted for what is supposedly a relatively young blade if Meiji period? Length of blade 44cm.
Lovely bronze tsuba but no signature here.

Also, one thing that is not nice is the fact of a gap between the habaki and the tsuba of about 8mm, when the hilt is fixed back onto the blade. This would suggest to me that the hilt has the mekugi-ana in the wrong place for the tang rivet hole - as such a large gap cannot be accommodated by adding seppa. Is this why we see multiple rivet holes in some tangs or in this case is the hilt the wrong one for the blade as the hole doesn't correspond to a tight fit when put back together?
I can photograph to show this if anyone interested?

Any help appreciated.



tang_signature.pdf1018.77 KB
tang_signaturea.pdf319.48 KB
blade_details.pdf819.71 KB
hamachi.pdf291.64 KB


The name is Nobuyoshi.
Looks older than Meiji to me.
Hamon style could be called "choji midare", but it's a rather subjective thing.
No yokote: Very common on tanto, becomes less common as the blade gets longer.

Gap between tsuba and habaki:
It's not impossible for seppa to fill an 8mm gap, especially if you currently have no seppa at all. The "rivet hole" is called mekugi-ana (mekugi is the bamboo peg, ana is hole).
In general, blades can have multiple holes to allow mounting a new tsuka (handle).
It's possible that your tsuka is not original, and is not a good fit. Try to verify if the interior shape of the tsuka is a good match with the shape of the nakago. A tsuka that was made for a specific blade will be a very close fit (allowing for shrinkage of the wood over time).

Perhaps add a picture of the overall blade, with everything removed.



Hi Pete,

Once again, thank you for your input and translation.
I have looked very closely at the nakago again, under different lighting and with a magnifying glass.
There is certainly some very bad pitting which has partly obliterated two of the kanji characters.
But I've looked through all of the Nobuyoshi smiths on the database and have finally come to a conclusion as to the closest match.
He appears to be the third son of Shodai Nobuyoshi, as listed here. And the blade would appear to be 1655-1703, EDO period and Settsu province.


I have also added another image file as PDF showing the kanji on the tang and my conclusions, including the two characters which you confirmed as Nobu and Yoshi.
Where there is some bad pitting at the bottom of the nakago there is one other character which I can see is for Saku.

I'll upload some images of the blade tomorrow when the light is better.

Thanks again for your help.


Blade and fittings

Hi Pete,

I've uploaded another PDF with three slides. One slide shows the full blade length without fittings and a few details.
The other two slides illustrates the gap between the habaki and fuchi.
Basically, when the tsuba(3mm) and the 2 No. seppa (2mm) fitted, there is a 6mm gap remaining so that the tsuba rattles around between habaki and fuchi. The hilt seems to be a good fit with the tang but you can see that the hole in the tang is not correct for this hilt. Apart from making up the difference with 6 No. further seppa, it would mean changing the hilt or cutting another hole in the tang - both holes would be very close together so wouldn't be practical or something I'd want to do in any case.

One other thing I've noted - where the signature is located, there is an area where there is no dark grey/black patina - as if it has been rubbed at this point - possibly a previous owner mistakenly doing this to better reveal the signature?!
Having looked at a lot of tangs on the internet, I haven't seen any so far that are so badly pitted as this one. They always seem to appear in clean condition.

All a steep learning curve but I'm happier that the blade appears to be a better provenance that I first thought - though there are issues as noted above and some pitting and minor nicks to the edge.

What do you think?

Can I ask how/why you can read kanji so well? Did you have to learn as part of this interest or had you learned Japanese before that?
Any tips or good reference material for learning how to read/learn/remember kanji/Japanese characters?

Cheers and thanks again - appreciate your help.

Kind regards



Based on your new pictures:
Weak yokote: This blade is supposed to have a yokote - it is not a tanto-style shape as I suggested yesterday. The polish is not much good, I think.

Difficult to see in the pictures, but it appears that perhaps the hamon drops off the edge before reaching the hamachi. If so, that's usually a bad thing. It could mean that the blade was re-tempered, such as after being damaged in a fire. Re-tempering typically causes the hamon to become "weak" (not crisp, lacking crystalline features such as nie, etc.).
The heavy pitting on the tang could fit this story also.
I have a very old blade by Masaie that was destroyed in a fire 30-some years ago. The habaki is partially melted on to the blade. The exposure to fire and water caused major pitting.

Another possible explanation for the "tsuba gap": the hamachi/munemachi may have been moved up, in an effort to get rid of some issue, perhaps tied in with fire damage???

This is all just guesses, of course!

Learning Japanese:
I took some lessons many years ago to learn some basics. But more importantly, my wife is a Japanese citizen, so that forces me to get exposure on a regular basis (we watch mostly Japanese TV every day). My fluency is very limited, but I can usually recognize a Kansai (southern Japan) accent when I hear it.
For just reading stuff that appears on sword tangs, there are only perhaps 300-ish kanji that you are likely to see, and some that appear over and over (such as KANE). See this list, which I made in the late 1980's:
To move to a higher level, it's very helpful to learn how to write kanji. When you know how to write the basic radicals, then you can look at someone else's "handwriting" and start to recognize things.



Thanks Pete,

I'll take a look at those aspects you've highlighted and post again if I have anything I can add or comment on.
Thanks for the link to your document - I'll print off as a reference. Not sure my brain is up to such a feat of memory.



Yokote and Hamon

Hi Pete,

I admit I am quite fascinated by the details and all the possibilities that you've suggested.
I've had another close look at the blade and can confirm the following.

The hamon does continue past the hamachi, though not as well defined but definitely there, more as a 'matt shadow,' like a satin finish on stainless steel and straight, (chu-suguha) rather than choji-midare.

I have posted another image (hamachi.pdf) which shows the area of the mune-machi and a definite line where the polishing finishes up to the ridge line. Is it possible that this was the original line of the mune-machi and hamachi and, as you say, it has been moved for some reason? Having said that, I've looked at images of other tangs online as a reference point, and the polish line is not something that seems to coincide with mune-machi/hamachi line in any case.
And one other thing comes to mind - if you're going to go to the trouble of making fine adjustments to the blade, as it might be worth saving, assuming there was some issue along the line, then why wouldn't you make sure that the tsuka fits to suit, by either making another hole in the nakago or changing the tsuka or?.......

As to the yokote - Visually there is no definite line as I've seen elsewhere on other blades, but putting a cotton glove on and rubbing my fingers over the kissaki, there is a 'hump' or a slight raised area of rounded nature between the kissaki and main surface of the blade. Does this then suggest some 'amateur' polishing that has removed the yokote in the process? If it had been polished professionally I would expect the yokote to be redefined or retained - just my thoughts based on my limited knowledge, but looking for rational explanations. It's like detective work trying to get to a reasonable conclusion as to historical events in the blade's life.

Cheers and thanks again.



Hi, as you say, the polish under the habaki is not typical, so it MAY support the theory of the hamachi being moved.
I'm sure you've seen a lot of this already online, but here is a very "normal" example:
This is my blade, and it is for sale on consignment on Ed's yakiba.com site. Feel free to buy it, or the companion wakizashi! :-)

Yokote: My best guess is that it's just a low-quality/low-cost polish, maybe done a long time ago.
Possibly related: Google "kazu-uchi mono" - a term for lower-quality blades produced in large numbers in the Sengoku era.