TRANSLATING SWORD SIGNATURES
SWORDSMITH KANJI "A to G"
There are literally thousands of Kanji characters which were used by swordsmiths to carve their signatures (mei) on the tangs (nakago) of the swords they made. These pages contain only a few hundred of the more common Kanji found on sword tangs. Normally there are several possible Kanji for a single Romanji (English) syllable and vice versa, there are normally several ways a given Romanji (English) syllable can be rendered in Kanji. These pages ignore accent and diacritical marks; thus tou is found as to, etc. It is hoped that this will not cause excessive confusion. Reading the mei (signatures) of Japanese swords is a very difficult task even for experts. It is hoped that the following tables may aid in translating the signatures of swordsmiths.
The signatures on Japanese swords vary in style and complexity. The simplest is a two character mei which is just the smith's name. If there are three characters, the third will usually be saku, which means "made this".
Longer mei are more difficult. In longer signatures (reading from the top down), there may be the place of residence (province) - usually two characters ( Japanese province Kanji) - the second character is commonly shu, followed by the character ju or kuni meaning "resident of". That may be followed by an honorary title such as kami or daijo. Next may be the smith's family or clan name such as Taira , Fujiwara , Tachibana or Minamoto. The last characters in a long mei will normally be the smith's given name and may be followed by saku (made this).
Also, please be aware that for WW II era swords, a signature is no guarantee that the blade is hand forged. Many WW II era swords were machine made or only "partially" forged but may still bear a mei. See the gendai swordsmith page for more details. If both sides of the nakago are inscribed, the reverse side is normally a date inscription stating when the sword was made. To learn how to translate date inscriptions, go to the reading date inscriptions.
Nagamitsu saku (made by Nagamitsu)
Soshu ju Masahiro saku (made by Masahiro of Soshu)
Don't be disheartened or too frustrated if you can't translate the signature easily. Experts are sometimes confused and find it difficult. Reading mei is like trying to read someone's sloppy handwriting written in a language that you don't understand . There are also many ways to write the same Kanji. See these various forums at: Kanji Forms. Click on the specific Kanji to see the various ways it can be written.
[ Kanji H-M ] [ Kanji M-T ] [ Kanji T-Z ] [ Provinces Kanji ] [ Date Kanji ]
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