Since ancient times the signatures (mei) on the tangs (nakago) of Japanese swords have occasionally been carved by individuals other than the swordsmiths themselves. In some cases one swordsmith would carve the mei of another working with him. Sometimes a student would carve the mei of a sword made by the master swordsmith. At other times the master swordsmith would carve his name on an exceptional blade made by one of his students. These types of signatures are referred to as "dai mei" and "dai saku mei". During the Showa era (WW II period) it was a wide spread practice for a group of swordsmiths to have their mei carved by a single individual. Sometimes this was done by one of the swordsmiths in the group; other times it was a separate individual. When one individual carves the mei of several swordsmiths, such carved signatures are termed "meikirishi mei". This practice was particularly wide spread in the Seki area (Mino/Noshu region). Seki was the principle region for sword production during the Showa era. Below are several oshigata demonstrating this practice.


Pay special attention to the carving of the "mitsu" and "saku" Kanji. The style of the "mitsu" Kanji is quite unique. On the Ken Kiyohisa oshigata note the carving style of the first Kanji compared to the "mitsu" of the others and the style of "saku". I believe all are carved by the same hand. These oshigata are examples of the use of meikirishi mei carvers employed in the sword production region of Seki during the WW II period. Some blades bear Seki or Showa stamps while others show evidence of being fully hand forged and water tempered. Apparently the use of meikirishi mei carvers does not indicate whether a blade is a true gendaito or a non-traditionally made blade (Showato). As with all sword blades, each must be judged individually on its own merits.

Noshu Kawasaki Nagamitsu (no relation to Ichihara Nagamitsu), Nobumitsu, Kanemitsu and Hiromitsu are all thought to be separate swordsmiths. Does this mean that these smiths worked in the same shop? Obviously they were working in close relationship to each other and employed the same signature carver. The wide spread use of meikirishi mei carvers makes the determination of exactly which style of signature was in fact carved by the swordsmith personally a most difficult undertaking. A large number of oshigata by a wide range of swordsmiths must be carefully studied to make such a determination. In many cases I suspect this will never be determined with great certainty.

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