Getting your sword appraised and certificated in Japan



Q. If I send my sword to Japan will they confiscate it as a National Treasure?

A. No. There many myths about this. In the turmoil following the Second World War a number of important swords were lost. However, all swords had their designations removed and were then reassigned along with some swords that were given additional designations. Therefore, the missing swords are no longer classified as current National Treasures or other important designations.

Q. Is my sword eligible to be sent to Japan?

A. Under current Japanese law, any sword that does not meet the requirements of being classified as an art object made using traditional methods and materials is not able to attain a sword license (torokusho). These means, any swords made outside of Japan, and any swords that were not made using traditional materials and methods. I.E. mass or semi-mass production Second World War swords. If you send your sword to Japan and it is judged to be a mass-produced blade, or one not of Japanese manufacture, or not made using traditional method and materials. It will not be automatically destroyed, you will be given to chance to have it sent back.
One way to discern if your sword is not eligible is to check on the tang, close to, or under, the retaining collar (habaki) to see if it has an arsenal stamp. It is possible to find some licensed blades in Japan with these stamps already, but these days ones coming in from abroad are not accepted. The only exception is an empty five-pointed star stamp. If you are unsure, please contact us here (contact page).

Q. How much does it cost?

A. As appraisal, admin and any restoration work all takes place in Japan, all prices are in Japanese yen (JPY). Please select as applicable.

Admin costs per blade is 25,000 jpy
License fee (required by Japanese Law) is 6,300 jpy
Appraisal fees at the NBTHK Sword Museum

Appraisal fees at the NTHK-NPO
Pass 17,000 jpy
Fail 7,000 jpy

Q. How long does it take?

A. Once we are notified of receipt of your blade by Tokyo International customs, we have to apply one month in advance to have the blade licensed (not applicable to fittings) in situ at the International Post Office in Tokyo. After your blade has been licensed, we will submit it into the next available appraisal session/institution of your choice.
The sword museum appraisal schedule (in Japanese) can be found here (link to sword museum schedule: (刀剣: means blade shinsa, 刀装具: means fittings). For the Hozon and Tokubetsu-Hozon appraisal sessions, it usually takes about three months to get the results and about a week later to get the blade/mountings/fittings back from the time your item(s) is/are submitted as per the calendar schedule. However, in the case of a ‘pass’, it takes a further three months to receive the issued certificate.
In the case that you have your blade submitted to one of the NTHK groups, these appraisal meetings are held once a month, around the second full weekend of the month, and the results and blade/fittings will be returned within a week.
Once the blade(s) have been returned, we have to apply for an export permit (not applicable for fittings under a certain declaration value) from the Agency of Cultural Affairs. This process takes approximately three weeks, after which your blade will be sent to you via the Japanese EMS service (approximately five days by normal standards).

Q. How do I send my blade?

A. It is advisable that blades are sent using the EMS service. If they are sent using another service (Regular Airmail/Fed Ex/DHL), they will arrive at an international postal port outside of Tokyo. If this happens, they may be stuck there for up to three months before they can be transferred to Tokyo.

See the list below for the best postal service for your country.

France: Colissimo International EMS
Singapore: Singpost Speedpost EMS
UK: Parcelforce Global Priority (Not Express)
USA: USPS Global Priority Express (EMS)
Australia Post International Express (EMS)
New Zealand Post International (EMS)

Q. Anything else I should know before sending?

A. Declaration worth and taxes.

If you declare a package at a worth of over 200,000 jpy (including the postal costs), the package will be held in customs for an extended period until the relevant tax forms are submitted and processed. If it is declared under this amount (including postage costs), we will receive the blade the following day, or two days later.

A. Blades under one hundred years old.

Blades under one hundred years old are subject to the same tax regulations as blades declared at a worth of over 200,000 jpy, and will be held in customs until the relevant tax forms are submitted and processed.

A. Packing

As we have to unpack and repack your blades in front of the licensing panel while others in line are waiting, please pack safely but simply. Please wrap in bubble-wrap or something similar tied with string. Also, please do not use packing peanuts.

A. Return Shipping

Blades will be sent back using the Japanese EMS service at a declaration worth of your choice. However, if you declare at 200,000 jpy or above, you will be subject to an export tax of 3000 jpy in addition to the shipping fee.


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