(Authentication/Appraisal Papers)
Compiled Information by Shibui Swords (Japanese Sword Guide, Ron Hartmann, Tom Helm, etal.)

Very few westerners have the expertise to judge accurately whether a signature is authentic or not. To be reasonably certain as to the maker of a specific sword, it is necessary to submit the sword for shinsa (judging) by one of the Japanese sword study associations (NBTHK, NTK or NTHK). These organizations will judge the sword and issue appropriate certificate (origami) attesting to the swords authenticity and/or historical importance. It is extremely rare to find a false certificate, for obvious reason that just one such Origami forever ruins the reputation of the man or group who accomplished it and renders valueless all that he/they have written in the past and any that he/they may write in the future. To further confuse the issue, the Origami are written in Japanese (Kanji/Hiragana/Katakana) and are therefore un-readable by the owner. I being the owner of five different appraisal groups origami, have taken it upon myself to translate (to the best of my ability) each one.

The NBTHK and NTHK tend to stress different qualities in judging a sword. The NBTHK tends to judge rarity and historical importance as major factors whereas the NTHK judges condition of the sword as the primary factor. A sword to be submitted for shinsa should be in good to excellent polish; the higher the rating applied for, the better the polish must be. There are also various privately issued origami done by recognized Japanese scholars and individual sword authorities (NTK, Kotoken Kagihara, Fukunaga Suiken, Fujishiro). These can be beneficial in authenticating a sword, giving a different opinion of appraisal and issuing origami. The NBTHK, NTHK and NTK also issue origami for tsuba (sword guards), kodogu (fuchi-kashira or menuki) and koshirae (full mountings).


Dr. Fukunaga Suiken is an expert in sword appraisal and author of many works on Japanese swords, one being one of the most popular appraisal manuals in Japan. There is also his magnum opus the 'Nihonto Daihyakka Jiten' a five volume encyclopedia of the Japanese sword. Fukunaga Sensei was very active in many of the sword groups including the NTHK under Yoshikawa Kentaro Sensei as well as the NBTHK, he is known for his scholarship and his past contributions to their publications and Shinsa. He issued his own appraisals for a time along with some written directly on the plain scabbard; sayagaki. He has in recent years re-joined the NTHK as an emeritus advisor.

The example of a Fukunaga Suiken Kanteisho states the following information (reading from right to left) about a Kunishige blade:

column 1: Certificate number, No. 63
column 2: Kan tei sho,
column 3: Mei Bun, Mizuta Kunishige
column 4: Nagasa (length): 1 shaku 5 sun 3 bu
column 5: "Absolute Guarantee" the sword is genuine,
column 6: Date of Shinsa Showa 53 yr, 2 mth, 10 day (Feb. 10th, 1978)
column 7: Appraiser name Suiken Fukunaga (seals)
Remainder (left) of Kanteisho in English

Example of a Fukunaga Hakogaki Kanteisho:


Honami Koson was born in 1879 into a sword polishing family. His father was Kawaguchi Magotoro, whose name was formerly Sadakichi. Kawaguchi was retained as a sword polisher to the Matsudaira Family of the Maebashi clan. When Koson was 12 years old his family moved to Tokyo and when Koson reached the age of 19 years he apprenticed himself to Honami Ringa. He completed a 10 year apprenticeship under a very tough taskmaster, and then he became independent. When the Mito Honami master died, Honami Ringa used his influence to get Koson to be adopted into the Komi family and he became Honami Koson. . Koson believed that the exclusiveness of the Hon-ami family ‘secrets of kantei’ had hampered the development of the sword society. With a mind to disseminating information on the Japanese sword, he wrote and published a sword book titled NIHONTO in 1914. He wrote many sword books in his life, such as TOKEN KANTEI KOWA, NIHONTO TAIKAN, and NIHONTO NO OKITE TO TOKUCHO. Hon-ami Koson was the most famous and influential sword appraiser in the pre-war age. Albert Yamanaka studied under him and Nagayama Kokan was his most able apprentice.

Example of a Hon'ami Koson Sayagaki and Origami


Inami Hakusui started issuing origami in 1927. This occured after he and others had founded the Japanese Sword Research Society (or the Hakusui Association), the only organized group in Japan engaged in the study of Nippon-to and Nippon-to makers. Hakusui realized that the strong belief in the reliability of certificates of appraisal for swords meant that a piece is absolutely genuine, or is whatever it is claimed to be.

The example of a Hakusui Association origami states the following information (reading from right to left) about the Sukesada blade: (This origami is still under study)

column 1: Name of maker and home, Bizen Osafune Sukesada
column 2: Mei appears on Nakago or Mu-mei,
column 3: Era of the sword, age, 1624 - 1643, Kanei Era, Edo Period
column 4: length: ? shaku ? sun ? bu
column 5: "Absolute Guarantee" the sword is genuine, Hakusui seal for validity
column 6: Value of the sword in Koban (gold coins)
column 7: States "I certify that all of the foregoing is correct"
column 8: Signature of the person who wrote the certificate, with Kao
column 9: Year, ? month, ? day (1949)
column 10: Japanese Sword Research Society
column 11: "President Hakusui Inami" and personal seal or Kao


The following ratings can only be granted by the Japanese Ministry of Education. These ratings are seen only on items of great artistic, cultural and historical value. Swords with these ratings are not found outside of Japan.

JUYO BIJUTSUHIN - "Important Art Object"
JUYO BUNKAZAI - "Important Cultural Asset"
KOKUHO - "National Treasure"

Nihon Bijutsuhin Shinsakai


Kantei Club members are all board members of the Business Cooperative Association of Japanese Swords. Mr. Shibata Mitsuo is an appraiser of great distinction for swords and sword guards (see his kanteisho listed by name below).

According to the certificate, this tsuba was made by the founder Katsurano Sekibun, well-known as a master tsuba craftsman. Shown are the seals of appraisers such as Mr. Shibata Mitsuo, Arase Eiichi, Saito Mitsuki, Matsushima Toshio, Shibata Kazuo and Asakura Banko.



The Kotoken Kajihara origami for sword blades all have the same basic column pattern (see the example below) with Appraisal Report (in English) below.
This allowed non-Japanese reading collectors to understand the information given:

The example of a Kotoken Kagihara origami states the following information (reading from right to left) about the Masatoshi blade:

column 1: Kantei Sho
column 2: Tomei Masatoshi
column 3: Shubetsu: Katana, (length) 2 shaku 3 sun 2 bu 5 rin
column 4: Shingi GENUINE
column 5: Date of Shinsa Heisei 7 year 12 mth. (Dec. 1995)
column 6: Appraiser and seal
column 7: Oshigata of Nakago


The NBTHK (Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kai) has been issuing origami since the 1950's. They operate the Japanese Sword Museum in Tokyo. The NBTHK shinsa are held only in Japan. The nature and names of their origami have changed over time. The NBTHK issued the following types of origami starting in the 1950's.

KICHO (white papers) - "Important Work"
TOKUBETSU KICHO (green papers) - "Extraordinary Work"
KOSHU TOKUBETSU KICHO (blue papers) - "Special Extraordinary Work"
JUYO TOKEN - "Very Important Work"
TOKUBETSU JUYO - "Extraordinarily Important Work"

This ranking scale was changed in the 1980's. The current system of origami includes the following types of origami.

HOZON - "Worthy of Preservation"
TOKUBETSU HOZON - "Extraordinarily Worthy of Preservation"
JUYO TOKEN - "Very Important Work"
TOKUBETSU JUYO - "Extraordinarily Important Work"

To be awarded Juyo papers a sword normally has first received one or both of the lower grade origami .

Kicho (white paper)

Awase Sanmei tsuba
Tokubetsu Kicho (green paper)

Bushu school tsuba


The current NBTHK origami for sword blades all have the same basic seven column pattern (see the example below).
Reading the columns from right to left, the following information is given:

column one is "Kanteisho" (certificate of authenticity)
column two is the length of the blade (x shaku, x sun, x bu)
column three will start "ichi" then read either katana mei, wakizashi mei, tanto mei or mu mei depending on the blade.
This is followed by the signature on the nakago or an attribution to the school and/or smith if the blade is mumei (unsigned)
(attributions are commonly in parenthesis)
columns four and five will read -"This sword has been judged at the NBTHK to be Hozon"
(or Tokubetsu Hozon, Juyo Token or Tokubetsu Juyo depending on the level of origami)
column six is the date of the shinsa
column seven is the NBTHK name and seal
A photograph or oshigata of the nakago is attached at the far left of the origami.

The example of a NBTHK Hozon origami shown states the following information (reading from right to left) about the Shimada Den blade:

column 1: Kantei Sho
column 2: Length: 1 shaku 1 sun 9 bu
column 3: Wakizashi Mumei (Shimada Den)
column 4,5: This sword has been judged at the NBTHK to be Hozon
column 6: Heisei 6 year, 3 month, 16 day
column 7: Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (seal)
column 8: photo of nakago


The NTB (Nihon Tosogu Bijutsukan) was an organization dealing primarily with sword fittings (tosogu or kodogu) - tsuba, fuchi/kashira, menuki, and full koshirae. The NTB operated a museum, now closed, in Tokyo dedicated to the study and preservation of sword fittings. They also, issued origami for swords. Even though the NTB is no longer functioning, its origami are still held in high esteem.

The NTB rating system was:

Bunka Shiryoo - "Cultural Item"
Tokubetsu Bunka Shiryoo - "Worthy Cultural Item"
Yushu Bunka-zai - "Important Cultural Item"


The example of a NTB origami states the following information (reading from right to left) about the Heianjo Zogan tsuba:

column 1: Origami No. 2086
column 2: Kanteisho
column 3: Description of Tsuba: Mumei: Shoami
column 4: Work Style: maru gata, tetsu ji, more
column 5: Judgement: Migio BUNKA SHIRYO Tosogu to Nintei Suru
column 6: Date of Shinsa: Heisei 12 yr. 4 mth, 30 day
column 7: Appraiser, (seal)
column 8: photo of tsuba


The NTHK (Nihon Token Hozon Kai) also issues origami which are held in high esteem. NTHK shinsa are occasionally held in the U.S. in conjunction with a special sword event. The NTHK sword rating system includes:

SHINTEISHO - "Genuine Work"
KANTEISHO - "Important Work"
YUSHU SAKU - "Very Important Work"
SAI YUSHU SAKU - "Special Important Work"


The origami issued by the Nihon Token Hozon Kai all follow a basic pattern. The example below shows a typical NTHK origami and the type of information given in each section (reading from right to left) about the Fujiwara Sadayuki blade.

Exterior of Origami

column 1: (origami rating) Kanteisho
column 2: (mei or mumei) Fujiwara Sadayuki
column 3: (top) Shoshin (genuine);
column 3: (bottom) Nagasa (dimensions of blade) 1 shaku, 2 sun, 7 bu (length)
column 4: Heisei 9th year 10th month 22nd day (date of shinsa)
column 5: Nihon Token Hozon Kai (seal)

Interior of Origami

column 1: Origami No. 10914
column 2: Meibun: Fujiwara Sadayuki
column 3: Kitae: Ko Itame
column 4: Hamon: Gunome midare
column 5: Boshi: Ko Maru
column 6: Chokoku (engraving) blank (none)
column 7: Nakago: One mekugiana / Yasurime: Katte sagari
column 8: Biko (remarks: province/era) Takada ?, goro
column 9: Appraisers seals
column 10: Oshigata of nakago with seal


The NTK (Nihon Tosougu Kenkyukai) appraiser is Makio Saruta dealing primarily with sword fittings (tosogu or kodogu) - tsuba, fuchi/kashira, menuki and full koshirae. He is known for his book 'TOSOGU no BI, Fine Japanese Sword Fittings: MENUKI (1994). The NTK is located at Musashiya Co. in Osaka, Japan.


The current NTK origami for tosougu all have the same basic column pattern (see the example below).
Reading the columns from right to left, the following information is given about the Kinai tsuba by 2nd family head:



The JTK (Juho Token Kenkyukai) appraiser is Kobayashi Yukinobu who deals only with swords. He is a known 'polisher'. The JTK is located at Musashiya Co. in Osaka, Japan.


The current JTK origami for blades all have the same basic column pattern (see the example below).
The following information is given about the Wakizashi: Mumei; attributed to Yamato Daijo Sukesada
Shotoku 1711-1716.



Kanzan (Kan'ichi) Sato was born in Yamagata Prefecture in 1907 and until his death in 1978 was regarded as one of Japan's foremost experts on the Japanese sword. A graduate of Kokugakuin University, he worked in the section for National Treasures, Ministry of Education, and Tokyo National Museum. He was executive Director of the Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Swords and Vice-Director of the Sword Museum.

His many publications include works on Kotetsu and Higo metalworking. See his Hakogaki below.

Sato Kanzan endorsement.


Born in August, 1923, in Tochigi prefecture. Obtained a job at Fujishiro Sword Shop in 1939, then studied the Japanese sword under Fujishiro Yoshio. A prominent sword dealer who has dealt in many Kokuho (National Treasures), Juyo Bunka Zai (Important Cultural Assets), Juyo Bijutsu Hin (Important Art Objects) and fine swords. Wrote sword books for beginners to promote the understanding of Japanese swords among the general public. Has held various posts including being a member of the board of trustees of the NBTHK, judge of Toroku Shinsa (sword registration), sword assessor for the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the National Tax Administration Agency, Tokyo Branch, and the first chairman of the All Japan Sword Dealer Union.

He is regarded as one of the best appraisers of Shinto and Shinshinto today. His publications include Nihonto Nyumon ("An Introduction to Japanese Swords"), Shumi no Nihonto ("Japanese Swords for Enthusiasts"), Tsuba Nyumon ("An Introduction to Japanese Swordguards"), Toso Nyumon ("An Introduction to Japanese Sword Mounts"), and Nihon no Meito ("Japanese Sword Masterpieces").

Shibata Mitsuo Kanteisho.


This organization was founded and operated by Murakami Kosuke sensei, a student of Hon'ami Kozon, and once a member of the NBTHK Juyo Shinsa. The organization issued several levels of papers which are quite highly regarded. When Murakami sensei passed away some years ago the group disbanded.


The Fujishiro family began working as polishers in the early twentieth century, the founding member being Fujishiro Fukutaro. Fukutaro had three sons, Yoshio, Takeo, and Matsuo, all of whom were involved with sword polishing and appraisal.
Fukutaro’s oldest son, Yoshio (1902-1945), who was 12 years older than Matsuo, started working with his father at the age of 14, but eventually opened a sword business and became more involved with appraisal than with polishing. In the middle of the Taisho era, he became a member of the Nihonto Kenkyu Kai, presided over by Hon-ami Koson, and learned sword appraisal. Yoshio published many books, MINAMOTO NO KIYOMARO NO MEI, TOKEN BINRAN in 1932, EDO SANSAKU NO KENKYU in 1936, NIHON TOKO JITEN (SHINTO) in 1937, NIHON TOKO JITEN (KOTO) in 1938, and NIHONTO YORAN in 1940 and this last book created a sensation in the sword society. It was the first book to outline the changes in the Japanese sword from a historical perspective.
Matsuo (1914-2004) also began to work with his father when he was 14 years old.; he left junior high school in his second year to become a full-time polisher. Matsuo and his wife moved into their own home/shop in 1937 and became fully independent in 1943. He believed that his own strengths as a polisher developed because he was not forced to follow a rigid regime such as the systematic approach followed by other schools. Fukutaro and Yoshio both gave him suggestions and criticisms but left him with all the necessary freedom to experiment and learn on his own.

While not origami, the Fujishiro system of rating swordsmiths is widely used by collectors and students of Nihonto. It is based on the two volume set, Nihon Toko Jiten, by Yoshio and Matsuo Fujishiro. Fujishiro rated smiths of the Koto, Shinto and Shinshinto eras. This rating system applies to swordsmiths, unlike the NBTHK and NTHK origami which are awarded to a specific sword blade. In the Fujishiro rating system, the swordsmiths are rated:

Chu Saku - "Average Made"
Chu Jo Saku - "Above Average Made"
Jo Saku - "Superior Made"
Jo Jo Saku - "Above Superior Made"
Sai Jo Saku - "Most Superior Made"

Fujishiro lists only the better swordsmiths of each era; thus any rating by Fujishiro is considered very good. The Fujishiro books also show documented signatures (mei) of many of the swordsmiths listed, thus the books are widely used to compare swordsmith signatures (mei) for the purpose of authentication. Fujishiro also issues personal origami for sword blades. The example of a FUJISHIRO origami is difficult for me to translate.

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