TOKOHAN Glossary

A: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Akagane
Japanese term for copper.
Amakuni
Famous sword smith of old. Said to be the smith who first developed the single edged, curved nihonto. Some believe that he was an entirely fictional character while others believe that this smith actually existed around 700AD.
Ashi
Literally "legs", term used to describe nioi extending from the hamon to the cutting line of a nihonto.

B: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Bashin
Small double edged blade used to prop up severed heads for formal viewing. They can occasionally be found in the saya in place of a kozuka. Some say that basin were actually used for horse bleeding (believed to be beneficial to a horses health). The term can be read as "horse needle".
Boshi
Area of the hamon that resides within the kissaki. This term really describes the shape of the hamon in the kissaki.
Bu
An old Japanese measure of distance roughly equal to 0.1 inch.

C: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Choji abura
Clove oil used in the maintenance of nihonto (Japanese sword blades).
Choji ashi
Clove shaped ashi on a nihonto.
Chu
Japanese term meaning medium or middle size.

D: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Dai
Japanese term means large or big.
Dai-mei
A sword smith student signing the name of his teacher onto a blade forged by the student. A not uncommon (or unethical) practice in old Japan.
Doran
Set including a kiseru case and a tobacco pouch. The pouch tied to the kiseru case make up the doran.

E: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Edo
The period in Japanese history from 1603 to 1868. Generally, a peaceful time and and time when Japan was an isolated society largely cut off from the rest of the world.

F: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Fuchi
Metal collar that sits on the handle (just under the tsuba) of a Japanese sword.
Fuchigashira
Matching set of fuchi and kashira.
Fukurin
A (typically metal) covering on the rim of some tsuba.

G: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Gankubi
Tobacco bowl on a kiseru. Literally means "goose neck", which the upwards curvature of a kiseru tobacco bowl resembles.
Gimei
False signature. A signature on a nihonto of another (more famous) sword smith than the one who actually forged the blade. This was not uncommon in old Japan and was not always considered a bad or nefarious thing. One sword smith may sign the name of another smith to show respect for that person.
Gin
Japanese term for silver.
Gunto
Japanese sword made during WWII or just prior to WWII.

H: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Habaki
The collar piece that is used to hold a sword in it's scabbard via friction. There are usually made from a type of copper alloy but silver is also common. This is the only piece of a nihonto that is "married" to the blade, as all other pieces are interchangeable with other blades. Each habaki is made to fit one particular blade.
Hada
The grain of the folded steel seen in the skin of a nihonto.
Hadagane
Japanese term for the outer skin layer of steel on a nihonto.
Hadori
The whitening of a nihonto that comes from final polishing.
Hakogaki
Calligraphy writing on a wooden storage box.
Hamon
The visible (often wavy patterned) temper line along the cutting edge of a nihonto.
Hiogi
A fan shaped yatate, believed to be the oldest variety of yatate.
Hirazogan
Japanese term for inlay that is flush with the base surface.
Hishaku-gata
Yatate in the stick and bowl, one piece construction. The most common form of yatate found today. These yatate look similar to a water dipper and appropriately so as "hishaku" is the Japanese term for "dipper".
Hitsu-ana
Openings placed on a tsuba to allow for kozuka and/or kogai.
Horimono
Carvings on a nihonto blade.

I: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Inome
Japanese term for a certain shape of decorative hole in a tsuba. Said to resemble a boars eye, but to most westerners it resembles a heart shape.
Inro
Japanese pill box, hung from the obi and used to carry many small items such as personal seals, cinnabar ink for such seals, as well as pills and other small items. Quality inro are highly Collectible and generally very costly.
Inro-gata
Yatate style where the brush holder and ink basin are separate pieces connected by a string, cord or chain.
Ishime
Decorative carving technique meant to replicate the surface of stone. Often used on tsuba, kozuka and other tosogu.

J: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Ji
The surface area of a nihonto between the hamon and the shinogi.
Jinie
Visible martensite crystals in the ji area of a nihonto.
Joko
Excellent artist (AA) rating for a tsuba maker. Comes from the book: Kinko Meikan

K: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Kaeri
Hook on a saya used to prevent it from slipping upwards in the obi when the sword in unsheathed.
Kaku gata
Tsuba with rounded corners. One of the three most common tsuba shapes.
Kami-kiri
Small knife often kept inside yatate. Used to cut paper (and some say to shape brush bristles) or other basic utility purposes.
Kankyuto
Another term for "bashin". "Kankyuto" means "sword to pierce head".
Kashira
Metal cap on the pommel of a Japanese sword.
Katchushi
Tsuba make by armor makers. Often older and simpler in design than other forms of tsuba.
Kawagane
(a.k.a "steel skin") The harder, thinner outer layer of steel on a nihonto.
Kin
Japanese term for gold.
Kinko
A tsuba made from a soft metal. Often used to describe tsuba made in the 19th century for export or display purposes only. Since these tsuba were often not actually used, they lack sekihane and the slight hammer marks around the nakago-ana often seen on tsuba which were actually mounted on nihonto.
Kinko Meikan
Popular Japanese text used to rate the quality of tsuba.
Kiseru
Japanese tobacco pipe. Click here for more in-depth information on kiseru.
Kiseru zutsu
A case for a kiseru. Zutsu means "tube".Click here for more in-depth information on kiseru cases.
Kissaki
Tip of a nihonto from the absolute point to the yokote. Often one of the first areas examined on a nihonto.
Kizu
A flaw of any variety. Japanese term roughly equivalent to "scratch" or "ding".
Kodogu
Japanese term used to describe any Japanese sword fittings aside from the tsuba.
Kogai
A skewer type device often seen opposite a kozuka in a saya (Japanese sword scabbard). The handle end often had a small hook used for ear cleaning. The main portion was commonly used as a hair pick.
Kogai hitsu ana
Hole on one side of a tsuba which allows a kogai to pass through.
Kogatana
The blade portion of the utility knife kept in a saya. Meant to be inserted into a kozuka. Click here for more indepth information on kogatana.
Konie
Small nie particles seen on the edge of some nihonto.
Konuka hada
A term used to describe a common hada pattern on Hizento (nihonto from Hizen Provence, modern day Saga), a.k.a rice grain hada or white rice bran hada.
Koto
Japanese term meaning "old". Often used to describe nihonto forged before ~1596 AD.
Kozuka
Decorative handle for the utility knife kept in a saya. Works in conjunction with the kogatana to form the whole utility knife. Click here for more indepth information on kozuka.
Kozuka hitsu ana
Hole on one side of a tsuba used to allow a kozuka to pass through.

M: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Maru-gata
Round shaped tsuba. One of the three most common tsuba shapes.
Machi
Notches at the beginning of a nihonto (Japanese sword blade).
Meijin
Superior Master rating (AAAA) for a tsuba maker. Comes from the book: Kinko Meikan
Meiko
Great Master rating (AAA) for a tsuba maker Comes from the book: Kinko Meikan.
Mekugi
Bamboo peg used to secure the tsuka (Japanese sword handle) to the blade.
Mekugi-ana
Hole in the nakago (Japanese sword tang) in which to secure the mekugi.
Menuki
Small ornaments placed under the wrapping of a Japanese sword handle.
Mimi
The external rim of a tsuba.
Mokko
Four lob shaped tsuba. One of the three most common tsuba shapes.
Mon
Japanese family crest.
Moxa
Raw silk, often used soaked with ink and used inside the sumitsubo of yatate to keep the ink from spilling out.
Mune
Spine of a nihonto (Japanese sword blade).

N: Japanese Antiques Glossary

nakago
Tang portion of a nihonto. This is the area where the mei (signature) would be written if it so existed.
nakago-ana
Hole in center of tsuba to allow the nakago to pass through.
Nanako
Decorative technique that creates an expansive surface of small beads resembling fish eggs (which is where the name comes from), often done in shakudo.
Neko gaki
Literally "cat writing", a form of parallel "scratch" lines of used to decorate tosogu.
Nie
Martensite crystals individually visible to the naked eye on a nihonto.
Nijuba
Double line hamon.
Nioi
Martensite crystals not individually visible to the naked eye on a nihonto. This creates a "milky way" type of appearance.
Nioi guchi
Line dividing the hamon and the ji on a nihonto.

O: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Obi
Belt of a kimono.
Ojime
Decorative bead used as a string stop in connection with inro. Can be made from many materials but pink coral is common.

R: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Rau
Stem portion of a kiseru, usually of a differing material from the mouth piece and bowl.

S: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Saka
slanted, usually used when describing portions of a hamon.
Same
Shark skin or ray belly skin used on the handle (under the wrapping), and occasionally to cover the saya and/or tsuba. The word "same" actually just means "shark", but when discussing nihonto, the term is often used for both shark skin and ray belly skin.
Same-kawa
Japanese term for "Shark skin", although it is also used for "Ray skin" as well ("Kawa" actually means "skin"). This term is often just shortened to "Same". There are more than twenty varieties of ray or shark skin used and varying grades of quality. The addition of the skin is not only for aesthetics, as it also significantly improves the structural integrity of the handle (tsuka).
Sanjuba
A triple lined hamon pattern.
Saya
Scabbard of a Japanese sword.
Seido
Japanese term for bronze (copper and tin alloy.
Sekigane
Bits of metal used as shims to fit a blade to a tsuba. Usually placed at the corners of the nakago-ana.
Senryu-zutsu
A kiseru case done in an open design where gravity holds the kiseru in place. Usually wood but can be ivory, bone or other materials.
Sentoku
Alloy of copper, tin and zinc. Usually yellow or dark brown in color.
Seppa dai
The area on a tsuba, directly around the nakago-ana where the seppa rest.
Seppa
Washers used on both sides of the nakago-ana on a tsuba. Usually made from a copper or silver alloy.
Shakudo
An alloy of copper and gold (roughly 4% gold / 96% copper) that is wholly unknown outside of Japan.
Shibuichi
An alloy of one forth silver (sometimes only 15% silver) and copper or tin, lead or zinc along with or in lieu of copper. Usually gray in color but can be olive green or sky blue.
Shinchu
Japanese term for brass (copper and zinc alloy).
Shingane
Term for the softer, core steel of a nihonto.
Shinogi
Ridge line on a nihonto that runs from the yokote to the tang of the blade.
Shinogiji
Area between the shinogi line and the mune (spine of the blade).
Shinto
Japanese term used to describe a sword made after 1600 AD. The general lack of war in Japan during this time meant that fewer swords were needed and more time could be taken to make swords in a more artful way.
Shin shinto
Japanese term used to describe a sword made after 1781 (until the end of the Edo period in 1868).
Shishiaibori
Deep engraving or recessed carving.
Sori
Japanese term for the curvature of a nihonto (Japanese sword blade).
Suaka
Japanese term for pure copper.
Suikuchi
The mouth piece of a kiseru.
Sukashi
Tsuba in an open work design, i.e. 50% (or greater) open space in the tsuba design.
Sugata
The general shape of a nihonto.
Suguba
Another term for suguha, a straight style hamon.
Suguha
A straight style hamon, a.k.a suguba.
Sumi-ire
"ink pot"; A basin for ink, usually used to refer to the ink basin of a yatate.
Sumi-tsubo
A basin for ink, often used to refer to the ink basin of a yatate, but also to a carpenter's line marking tool (similar to today's chalk box).
Shu-tsubo
Same as sumi-tsubo but for red ink. This term most often describes a carpenter's line marking tool with red ink.
Sunagashi
Activity in a hamon that resembles a sweeping sands pattern.
Susudake
A smoked a seasoned bamboo often used to make mekugi.
Suzuri
A typical Japanese ink stone. Used to grind sumi ink and water into a usable liquid ink. Usually flat and black with a slant going down into a recessed area used as a pool for the water/ink.

T: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Tabako-ire
Tobacco pouch, usually associated with kiseru cases, a.k.a tabake-ire.
Takazogan
Japanese term for relief carvings.
Tamahagane
True Japanese forged steel. Term also used for Japanese raw steel.
Tanto
The true Japanese short sword. Actually only large enough to be called a dagger or knife (usually under 12 inches), but it is referred to as a short sword in Japan. Not the same as a wakizashi.
Tetsu
Japanese term for iron.
Tosho
Tsuba made by a sword smith.
Tosogu
Japanese term referring to sword furnishings (i.e. tsuba, kozuka, menuki and so forth).
Tsuba
Hand guard for a Japanese sword. Click here for more indepth information on tsuba.
Tsuka
The handle of a Japanese sword.
Tsuka-ito
Japanese term used to describe the material used to wrap the tsuka.
Tsuka-maki
Japanese term referring to the art of wrapping of the handle with tsuka-ito.

U: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Udenuki-ana
Holes on either side of the nakago-ana on a tsuba used to allow a strap to pass through. Not the same as kozuka-ana or kogai-ana).

W: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Wakizashi
Japanese term for a medium or middle sized sword, sometimes called a short sword (not to be confused with a tanto). Blade is usually between 12 and 24 inches in length.
Ware
A defect or damage (whether serious or not) to nihonto (Japanese sword blade).

Y: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Yamagane
Literally "mountain copper", an impure form of copper.
Yanone
Japanese term for arrow head, usually forged.
Yari
Japanese term for spear.
Yatate
A portable container for a fude (writing brush) and ink. An equivalent to a modern day fountain or ball point pen. Click here for more indepth information on yatate.
Yokote
The line dividing the kissaki and the main body of a nihonto (Japanese sword blade).

Z: Japanese Antiques Glossary

Zoge/Zogoe
Japanese term for ivory.
Zougan
Japanese term for damascening, art of inlaying different metals into one another, typically gold or silver into a darkly oxidized metal.
Zutsu
Japanese term for a "tube"