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Updated: 12 Jun 2021

Episode 4: Japanese Sword Appraisers in Modern Times (NBTHK / NTHK )

【Episode 4】Japanese Sword Appraisers in Modern Times: NBTHK / NTHK

Given these pieces of information in the previous episodes, you might have wondered: 
“Is there anyone who can authenticate or appraise antique Japanese swords?

Today, we would like to touch on this subject.

First of all, authentic Japanese swords often have a copy of the Authentication Paper, which is often called ORIGAMI(折り紙; Folded paper) in Japanese.  If the sword has a Origami, it means that the artifact has been proved to be authentic.  In case you found the sword without its authentication paper, that does not necessarily mean that the sword is fake.  We assume that the sword’s previous owner may not have been too interested in getting one.

The origin of the term Origami dates back to the Samurai times, as the Japanese sword sharpener family HON-AMI was selected as the Government’s official sword appraisal agency.  Since they folded the authentication paper, it was called Origami, with the first ‘Ori’ meaning ‘Fold’ and the latter part ‘Gami’ meaning ‘Paper.’  Thus, the broad definition of the word Origami could range from the ones during that era to those in modern times, which might largely differ.  The ones we intend to address here are the Origami in the present day, Japanese sword certificates of historical value in general.
While Origami themselves have always been a big subject for all collectors/merchants around Japan, these below are officially known as the two most reliable organizations at the moment.

I: NTHK (It’s an NPO; Non-Profitable Organization) or Nihon Touken Hozon Kai (日本刀剣保存会; The Japanese Sword Preservation Society)

NTHK is the oldest organization for authentication of Japanese swords. It was established in 1889 during the post-Samurai era. The founder UKOH TAKASE published a history book called ‘Sword and History’ in the 43rd of the Meiji period, which gradually led to the establishment of NTHK.

   In the NTHK appraisal today, authentication papers are issued in four different ranks.

  1. Sai-Yushu Saku (The most valuable)
  2. Yushu Saku (Valuable)
  3. Kanteisho (Appraised)
  4. Shinteisho (Authenticated)

【An Example of Kanteisho Paper issued by NTHK】
 

 The authentication papers issued before 1979 had more ranks, which were a bit too complicated, so they changed the valuation basis in that year.  The ranks that had existed before 1979 are listed below if you would like to find out.

    ・Sai-Yushu Saku
   ・Yushu Saku II / Yushu Saku (Today’s Yushu Saku rank)
   ・Shu Saku II / Shu Saku / Yu Saku (Today’s Kanteisho rank)
   ・Yu Saku (Equals today’s Shinteisho)

 

   II: NBHTK or Nihon Bijutsu Tohken Hozon Kyoukai (日本美術刀剣保存協会; The Japanese Art Sword Preservation Committee)

NBTHK is currently the most active organization for authentication of Japanese swords.  The foundation of NBTHK dates back to the post-WWII era, following the establishment of the current Japanese Government, when Japanese swords were on the verge of extinction.   When the American operational unit GHQ (General Head Quarter) tried to confiscate all sorts of Japanese weapons from the country, the founders of NBTHK thought to protect the history and everlasting beauty of the Japanese sword as an antique collection by organizing a governmental entity.  NBTHK started operating in the year 1948 and has issued the largest number of Origami for Japanese swords.

   

When it comes to NBTHK’s appraisal, there are four  given ranks for valuable Japanese swords.

a. Tokubetsu Juyo  (Very important)

b. Juyo  (Important)

c. Tokubetsu Hozon (Specially Preserved)

d. Hozon (Preserved)

*These three ranks were also used by NBTHK from 1948 to 1981.
-Koshu Tokubetsu Kicho *No longer issued
-Tokubetsu Kicho (Special Rare) *No longer issued
-Kicho (Rare) *No longer issued

 【An Example of Tokubetsu Hozon Paper issued by NBTHK 】

【An Example of Hozon Paper issued by NBTHK 】

It is sometimes hard to determine the authenticity of signatures or unsigned swords, even for Japanese sword appraisers.  There can be different opinions among NBTHK and NTHK when it comes to appraising the Japanese swords.  However, we firmly believe that these Origami papers help you understand the mysterious world of the Japanese sword and its history at a deeper level.

Above are the two organizations for sword authentication in Japan. We hope this article helps you resolve the question in this episode. Almost all the antique Japanese swords we sell have the actual certificate by either NTHK or NBTHK. You may also take that into account if you are beginning to imagine having an everlasting, refined piece of the Japanese sword.

Thank you so much for reading the article. See you in the next episode.

Samurai Museum
Address:2-25-6 Kabukicho Shinjuku-ku Tokyo Japan 160-0021
Email: order@samuraimuseum.jp
TEL:+81 3 6457 6411

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