Ara-nie Large nie crystals
Ashi (Lit. 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 at the base.
Futasuji-bi 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 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 straight hamon
Hitatsura A type of hamon with tobiyaki liberally spread across the width of the blade.
Horimono Decorative carvings made on the blade.
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 (Lit. lightning) A line of nie inside the hamon resembling lightning
Iori-mune 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
Kaku-dome 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
Kawazu-ko-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 Sidearm to a 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-had 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
Kuichi-gaiba 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 craftsmen whose work is recognised to be above the regular ranking systems
Mune The spine 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
Nakago-jiri 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
Nihonto Japanese 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
Saki-haba 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).
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
Shinogi-ji 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 Swords made by contemporary smiths (newly made swords)
Shin-shinto 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
Uchinok e 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 (Lit. 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.
Yaki-ba The hardened area of the blade
Yaki-dashi A part of the hamon which starts off straight at the hamachi,
but turns into a different hamon several centimetres along the blade
Yaki-haba The width of the Yakiba
Yaki-ire The hardening process of the blade when it is heated, then quenched in water
Yaki-otoshi A hamon which starts further along the blade, about 3-5cm from the ha-machi.
Yaki-zume 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.