Menu Close

Japanese Sword Glossary

Updated: 4 Jun 2023



Ara-nie(荒沸) Large nie crystals
Ashi(足) Literally legs, usually nioi, extending from the hamon towards the cutting edge.
Ashi-kanamono(足金物) Fittings attached to the saya that attach to the obi-tori.
Ashi-kawa(足革) Fixed length leather obi-tori straps in the case of ito-maki-tachi koshirae.
Ashi-ma(足間) The space between the two ashi-kanamono.
Ayasugi-hada(綾杉肌) Undulating grain pattern in the ji resembling a Japanese cedar grain pattern.


Bakufu(幕府) Tent government
Bakumatsu(幕末) An era in the late Edo period 1853-1867
Banzashi-daisho(番差大小) A pair of swords in matching mountings. The scabbards were plain black lacquer with horn fittings. The handle had a horn pommel, and the base had a shakudo-nanko fitting (fuchi), with plain black brocade wrap over a white ray-skin base. Other fittings, sword guard, the decorative handgrips (menuki), and other utensils (kogai and kozuka) were also made out of a gold and copper alloy called shakudo.
Bizen(備前) Archeaic province of Japan, modern day Okayama prefecture
Bizen-to(備前刀) Swords produced in Bizen
Bizen-zori(備前反り) Deep curvature close to the tang area of the sword; also known as koshi-zori
Bo-hi(棒樋) Long groove, carved into the blade, often mistakenly referred to as a blood groove
Bonji(梵字) Sanscrit characters carved into the blade invoking Buddhist deities.
Boshi(帽子) The hamon formed within the kissaki
Bo-utsuri(棒映り) A straight formation of usturi
Bu(分) Japanese imperial form of measurement (10 bu = 1 sun)
Bushi(武士) Another term for samurai – the warrior class


Chikei(地景) A curved line of nie, seen in the ji
Choji abura(丁子油) Clove oil, used for preserving blades
Choji ashi(丁子足) Clove-shaped ashi
Choji midare(丁子乱れ) A hamon consisting of choji shapes, but the overall line of the hamon has no definable form.
Choji midare komi(丁子乱れ込み) A choji midare hamon that continues into the kissaki
Choji utsuri(丁子映り) Utsuri in the pattern of choji
Chokuto(直刀) A straight sword, but similar in construction to the tachi
Chu-kissaki(中切先) A medium sized kissaki, in relation to the overall size of the blade
Chu-suguha(中直刃) A medium-sized straight hamon


Daimyo(大名) Provincial samurai lords
Daisho(大小) A pair of swords in matching fittings worn together: dai- being the long sword, and sho- being the shorter companion sword. Only the samurai were permitted to wear daisho during the Edo period.
Dewa(出羽) Archaic name for region in present-day Akita & Yamagata Prefectures
Dogane(胴金) Tubular fittings on the tsuka or saya.


Eto(干支) Zodiacal calender often used for date inscriptions on swords, originally from China.


Fuchi(縁) A decorative reinforcing collar attached to the base of the tsuka.
Fudo Myo-O(不動明王) Buddhist deity, the immovable King of Light. Patron deity of swordsmen. Commonly used for horimono.
Fukusa(袱紗) The curve of the cutting edge of the kissaki.
Fukurin(覆輪) A gold, silver, or bronze band attached to the tsuka and saya on both the mune side and the ha side to secure the ji-ita.
Funbari(踏ん張り) Used to describe a blade when it noticeably tapers between the base of the cutting edge and the tip, or tapers noticebly in the base of the blade.
Futasuji-hi(二筋樋) Two parallel grooves carved into the blade


Gendaito(現代刀) Japanese swords produced after 1876
Goban-kaji(御番鍛冶) The swordsmiths summoned to work for the retired emperor Gotoba
Goka-den(五箇伝) The five original traditions of swordmaking from the koto period
Goki shichido(五畿七道) The five home provinces and seven main roads. Originally used for units of governmental administration. Currently used for classifying swordsmiths by region and style.
Gomabashi(護摩箸) A horimono in the form of the ritual chopsticks used in both Shinto and Buddhist rites.
Gunome(互の目) A type of hamon that undulates in a series of semi-circles


Ha(刃) The hardened part of the blade along the cutting edge.
Habaki(鎺) The small metal collar (often decorated) that buffers the tsuba and secures the blade into the saya
Habaki-moto(鎺元) The part of the blade that sits under the habaki
Ha-buchi(刃縁) The line that divides the ha and the ji
Ha-cho(刃長) The Length of the cutting edge, determined by measuring in a straight line from the mune-machi to the tip of the kissaki. See Nagasa.
Hada(肌) The pattern in the steel skin of the blade, also called jihada
Hadori(刃取り) A polishing technique which highlights the hamon, also known as kesho
Hagire(刃切れ) A hairline crack in the blade rising up from the cutting edge
Haitorei(廃刀令) The law administered in Japan 1876, banning the wearing of swords in public
Hakikake(掃掛) Similar to sunagashi, ashi resembling brush strokes.
Haki-omote(佩表) The side of a sword that faces outwards when worn with the cutting edge facing downwards (see tachi).
Ha-machi(刃区) The notch where the cutting edge of the blade begins
Ha-mon(刃紋) The crystalline structure which forms along the cutting edge of a blade as a result of the hardening process
Ha-saki(刃先) The cutting edge that runs from the ha-machi to the tip of the kissaki.
Hataraki(働き) The various activities within the hamon, created during the hardening process
Ha-watari(刃渡り) See Nagasa
Heian Period(平安時代) 794-1185
Hi(樋) A groove carved into the blade for weight decreasing or decorational purposes
Hikae-mekugi-ana(控え目釘穴) A second hole close to the nakago-jiri, sometimes added for a second retaining peg.
Hira-ji(平地) The surface area of the blade between the shinogi and the cutting edge.
Hira-dukuri(平造り) A sword made without any ridgelines, flat on both sides
Hiro-suguha(広直刃) A wide suguha hamon
Hitatsura(皆焼) A type of hamon with tobiyaki liberally spread across the width of the blade.
Horimono(彫り物) Decorative or religious blade carvings
Hyogo-gusari Koshirae(兵庫鎖拵) A very durable and practical type of tachi koshirae that was popular with high-ranking samurai warriors of the late 12th Century. Hyogo-gusari koshirae ashi are constructed from chain.


Ichimonji School(一文字派) A 13th C. school of swordsmiths working in the Bizen tradition
Ichi-no-ashi(一の足) The ashi-kanamono closest to the saya mouth.
Ikubi kissaki(猪首切先) A stout kissaki which is shorter in length than it is wide.
Inazuma(稲妻) (lit. lightning) A line of nie inside the hamon resembling lightning
Iori-mune(庵棟) A two-sided mune resembling the roof of a house
Ishiduki(石突) The scabbard chape attached to protect the saya-jiri.
Itame-hada(板目肌) A wood grain type pattern in the skin steel of the blade
Ito-maki-tachi-Koshirae(糸巻太刀拵) A type of tachi koshirae that has the wrapping on the handle repeated on the upper part of the saya (watari-maki)


Ji(地) The surface area of the blade between the shinogi and the hamon.
Jifu(地斑) Patches of dense ji-nie
Jifu-utsuri(地斑映り) Discontinuous utsuri
Ji-gane(地金) The steel of a constructed blade
Ji-hada(地肌) The surface area of the blade between the hamon and the shinogi, see hada
Ji-ita(地板) A thin plate of gilded or carved metal applied to the saya and tsuka and fixed in place by the fukurin.
Ji-nie(地沸) Nie in the ji
Ji-tetsu(地鉄) See hada and jigane
Juka-choji(重花丁子) Multiple grouped choji pattern


Kabuto-gane(兜金) A pommel cap for the tsuka.
Kaen(火焔) A type boshi that resembles burning flames
Kaeri(返り) The part of the boshi that turns back towards the tang, along the mune
Kaeri-duno(返り角) A small hook on the saya to stop the saya coming out of the belt.
Kaiken(懐剣) A small concealable dagger
Kaki-toshi(掻通し) A groove that ends by tapering within the tang
Kaki-nagashi(掻流し) A type of groove that continues through to the end of the tang
Kaku-tome(角止め) A groove end that is square, usually stops just before the habaki
Kamakura Period(鎌倉時代) 1185-1333
Kanbun Shinto(寛文新刀) Blades made around the Kanbun era 1661-1673
Kanitsume(蟹爪) A type of gunome resembling crabs claws
Kanmuri-otoshi-dukuri(冠落とし造り) The backridge of the blade is beveled like a naginata
Kara-tsuba(唐鐔) Originally Chinese style formal tsuba for kara-tachi.
Kasane(重ね) The thickness of the blade
Kashira(頭) A decorative pommel attached to reinforce the end of the tsuka.
Kata-ochi gunome(片落互の目) Flat topped gunome that slant in the same direction like saw teeth
Katana(刀) Curved blades worn with the cutting edge up, when thrust through the sash
Katte-agari yasuri(勝手上り鑢) File marks on the tang that slant downward to the left
Katte-sagari yasuri(勝手下り鑢) File marks on the tang that slant downward to the right
Kawara-gane(瓦金) A small strip of metal (or horn) used to reinforce the mouth of the kogai-hitsu.
Kawazu-ko choji(蛙子丁子) Tadpole shaped choji
Kazari-tachi koshirae(飾太刀拵) Richly decorated formal tachi koshirae that were popular during the peak of the aristocratic government in the Nara and Heian eras.
Kazu-uchimono(数打ち物) Mass produced blades of little artistic quality
Ken(剣) Straight ritual Chinese style sword, often associated with Fudo Myo-O
Keicho era(慶長) 1596-1615
Keicho Shinto(慶長新刀) Blades produced around the Keicho era (1596-1615) at the start of the Shinto sword period
Kesho(化粧) See Hadori
Kinsuji(金筋) (Lit. Golden line) a small shiny line of nie inside the hamon
Kiriha-dukuri(切刃造) A sword made with the shinogi close to the cutting edge
Kiri yasuri(切り鑢) File marks on the tang that are horizontal
Kissaki(切先) The tip of the blade, from the point to the yokote
Kissaki-moroha-dukuri(切先諸刃造り) A blade made with a double edge in the monouchi area
Ko(小) Prefix, meaning small (ex. Ko-nie – small nie)
Ko-ashi(小足) small ashi
Kobuse(甲伏) The most common type of blade manufacture, in which the steel used for the cutting edge is wrapped around a lower carbon steel, then hammered out into the shape of the blade
Kobushi-gata-choji(拳形丁子) Fist shaped choji
Ko-dachi(小太刀) A small tachi
Kogai(笄) A bodkin like implement with a small scoop on the end. Used for fixing a samurai’s hair and cleaning his ears.
Kogai-hitsu(笄櫃) The pocket on the obverse of a saya where the kogai is kept.
Kogatana(小刀) Utility knife
Koi-guchi(鯉口) The mouth of the saya
Ko-itame(小板目) Small wood grain pattern
Kojiri(小尻) A decorative fitting on the bottom of the saya.
Ko-maru(小丸) A type of boshi that turns back in a small smooth circular motion
Ko-nie(小沸) Small nie particles
Konuka-hada(小糠肌) A term used mainly for Hizen blades, commonly referred to as rice grain hada
Koshi-ba(腰刃) A flamboyant section of hamon at the base when compared to the rest of the blade
Koshi-bi(腰樋) A short type of groove carved in the blade close to the tang
Ko-shinogi(小鎬) The part of the shinogi that runs from the yokote to the tip in the kissaki
Koshi-no-hiraita(腰の開いた) Wide based undulations that slope gently, usually with choji.
Koshirae(拵え) A full set of sword mountings.
Koshi-zori(腰反り) Swords with the deepest part of the curve near to the tang
Koto(古刀) (Old swords) Swords made prior to the Edo period
Ko-wakizashi(小脇差) A short wakizashi
Koduka(小柄) A term used to refer to both a decorative handle for a small utility knife and for the complete handle and knife assembled together.
Koduka-hitsu(小柄櫃) The pocket on the reverse of the saya where the kozuka is stored.
Kuchi-kanamono(口金物) A metal fitting that protects the mouth of the saya.
Kuichigai-ba(食い違い刃) An over-lapping break in the hamon, common in yamato-den blades
Kuri-jiri(栗尻) Round-ended type of nakago, similar to the shape of a chestnut
Kurikara(倶利伽羅) A horimono of a dragon wrapped around a ken, a representation of Fudo Myo-O
Kurikata(栗形) A nodule with a hole affixed on the outside of the saya to attach the sageo.


Machi(区) The notches that mark the end of the mune (mune-machi) and the end of the cutting edge (ha-machi)
Maru-dome(丸止め) A carved groove end that is rounded
Maru-mune(丸棟) A mune that is rounded
Masame-hada(柾目肌) A straight grain pattern in the hada
Mei(銘) Signature or inscription on the tang
Mekugi(目釘) The bamboo peg used to secure the handle onto the tang
Mekugi-ana(目釘穴) The hole on the tang where the mekugi is inserted
Mekugi-nuki(目釘抜き) A tool for removing the mekugi
Menuki(目貫) Decorative hand grips affixed to both sides of the tsuka
Midare-komi(乱れ込み) A boshi where a midare hamon continues into the kissaki
Midare(乱れ) A hamon of irregular form. All hamon are midare except suguha
Midare-utsuri(乱れ映り) irregular utsuri
Mihaba(身幅) The width of a blade: measured from the mune to the cutting edge.
Mitsu-gashira(三ツ頭) The place where the Shinogi meets the ko-shinogi and the yokote
Mitsu-kado(三ツ角) The point where the yokote, ha-saki, and fukura meet.
Mitsu-mune(三ツ棟) A mune with three sides
Mokume-hada(木目肌) A grain pattern in the hada similar to itame, but more rounded
Mune-machi(棟区) See machi
Monouchi(物打) One-third of the blade from the yokote towards the tang
Moroha-dukuri(諸刃造り) An asymmetrical blade with a cutting edge on both sides
Mune(Also mine)(棟(峰)) The back of the blade
Mu-zori(無反り) A blade with no curvature


Nagare-hada(流れ肌) A hada that flows along the blade like a flowing stream.
Nagasa(長さ) The blade length; measured from the tip to the mune-machi
Naginata(薙刀) A Japanese halberd
Nakago(茎) The tang of a blade
Nakago-jiri(茎尻) The tip of the tang
Nanatsu-gane(七ツ金) Metal fittings used for adjusting the length of the obi-tori. There are three on the ichi-no-ashi, and four on the ni-no-ashi.
Nanbokucho Period(南北朝時代) 1333-1392
Nashi-ji(梨地) Pear Skin
Nezumi ashi(鼠足) Very small ashi
Nie(沸) Small martensite crystals individually visible to the naked eye
Nie-deki(沸出来) A blade with a predominantly nie hamon
Nihonto(日本刀) Japanese swords
Ni-no-ashi(二の足) The ashi-kanamono furthest away from the saya mouth.
Nioi(匂) Martensite crystals not individually distinguishable to the naked eye. Similar to the milky way in appearance
Nioi-deki(匂出来) A sword with a hamon consisting mainly of nioi
Nioi-guchi(匂口) The dividing line between the hamon and the ji
No-dachi(野太刀) Long swords popular during the Nanbokucho period
Notare(湾れ) Gently undulating hamon


O(大) Prefix, denoting large (ex. O-gunome – large gunome)
Obi-tori(帯執) Leather straps for a belt to be passed through for a tachi.
O-busa(大房) Large rising choji
O-dachi(大太刀) A tachi with a cutting edge that exceeds 3 shaku (91cm).
Omote(表) The front side of the blade (differs between tachi and katana).
O-seppa(大切羽) Large sized spacers (seppa) that match the shape of the tsuba.
Oshigata(押し型) A rubbing taken of the tang and outline of a blade. The hamon and activities are then drawn by hand.


Raden(螺鈿) Mother of Pearl
Ryo-shinogi-dukuri(両鎬造り) A shinogi on both sides.


Sageo(下げ緒) A cord attached to the kurikata to help secure the sword in the belt.
Saka ashi(逆足) Slanted ashi
Saka choji(逆丁子) Slanted choji
Saki-hada(先肌) Width of the blade at the yokote
Saki-zori(先反り) When the curvature is deepest in the upper part of the blade
Sanbon-sugi(三本杉) A type of hamon that resembles three cedar trees repeated along the blade.
Saru-te(猿手) A ring for the attachment of a ude-nukio.
Saya(鞘) Scabbard
Saya-jiri(鞘尻) The bottom of the outside of the saya
Seoi-dachi(背負い太刀) Swords worn across the back
Shaku(尺) Japanese imperial form of measurement (1 shaku = 30.3cm)
Semegane(責金) A decorated metal band that supports the saya between the ni-no-ashi and the ishizuke.
Sengoku jidai(戦国時代) Age of the warring states 1493-1573
Seppa(切羽) Spacers that fit between the tsuka and the tsuba, and between the tsuba and the habaki to ensure the tsuka fits perfectly.
Shinogi(鎬) The ridge line that that runs from the yokote to the end of the nakago
Shinogi-ji(鎬地) The area between the shinogi and the mune
Shinogi-suji(鎬筋) A ridgeline that runs the from the nakago-jiri to the yokote, separating the hira-ji from the shinogi-ji.
Shinogi-dukuri(鎬造り) A sword manufactured with the ridgeline near to the mune
Shin-shinto(新々刀) Swords made between 1781 and 1868
Shinto(新刀) Swords made between 1600 and 1781
Shirasaya(白鞘) A plain wooden sleeping scabbard and handle to protect the blade.
Soden-Bizen(相伝備前) Bizen swords displaying soshu-den traits
Soe-bi(添樋) A smaller carved groove that runs parallel to the large groove
Sori(反り) Curvature of the blade
Soshu-den(相州伝) The tradition of swordmaking originating from the archaic Sagami province.
Sudare-ba(簾刃) A hamon that resembles brush strokes, or a bamboo curtain.
Sugata(姿) The shape of the blade
Suguha(直刃) A straight hamon
Sujikai yasuri(筋違鑢) Acutely slanted file mark pattern on the nakago
Suken(素剣) Also known as a ken, short straight ritual Chinese style sword, often associated with Fudo Myo-O
Sun(寸) Japanese imperial form of measurement (1 sun = 3.03cm, 10 sun = 1 shaku)
Sunagashi(砂流し) An activity in the hamon that resembles sweeping sands
Sunnobi tanto(寸延短刀) Oversized tanto
Suriage(磨り上げ) Blade that has been shortened from its original length


Tachi(太刀) Swords made to be worn with the cutting edge down, suspended from the belt
Tachi-o(Haki-o)(太刀緒(佩緒)) A thin, approximately three meter, cord belt that passes through the obi-tori. Used for tachi when worn during peacetime.
Tachi-mei(太刀銘) A blade signed on the side of the tang that faces outward when worn with the cutting edge downward.
Taiko-gane(Mon-gane)(太鼓金(文金)) A decorated metal stud used to fix the ashi-kawa. Often in the design of a clan mon.
Taiko-gawa(太鼓革) A leather ashi-kawa strap has a round shape at the base like a taiko drum.
Tamahagane(玉鋼) Japanese steel, used for the manufacture of Japanese swords, indigenous to Japan
Tanto(短刀) Blades made shorter that 30cm
Tawarabyo(俵鋲) Decorative pins originally used to secure the same-gawa on old tachi.
Togariba(尖刃) Pointed shapes protruding from the hamon
Torii-zori(鳥居反り) A blade with an even curve
Tsuba(鍔(鐔)) A Japanese sword guard.
Tsuchioki(土置き) The clay applied to the blade before the hardening process
Tsuka(柄) The hilt
Tsurugi(剣) Alternate Japanese word for sword.
Tsutsu-gane(Naga-kanamono)(筒金(長金物)) Cylindrical decorative metal fittings.
Tsuyusaki-gane(Shizuku-gane)(露先金(雫金)) Decorative fittings attached to the end of the ude-nukio.


Ubu(生ぶ) Original, usually used when referring to the nakago.
Ubu-ha(生ぶ刃) An area of the cutting edge from the ha-machi that has not yet been sharpened. This is typical with new blades.
Uchi-gatana(打ち刀) Blades produced for one-handed use during the Muromachi period worn thrust through the belt with the cutting edge uppermost.
Uchi-gatana Koshirae(打ち刀拵え) A general term for practical sword mountings of the Sengoku era. Later, katana-koshirae.
Uchi-noke(打除け) Small crescent shapes appearing like niju-ba in the ji close to the hamon.
Uchi-zori(内反り) The back of the blade curves toward the cutting edge
Ude-nuki-o(Te-nuki-o)(腕抜き緒(手抜き緒)) A cord for wrapping around the wrist to secure the sword in the hand.
Ura(裏) The back side of the blade
Ura-gawara(裏瓦) A small strip of metal, or horn, used to reinforce the mouth of the kozuka-hitsu.
Utsuri(映り) (Reflection) A white misty formation that runs parallel to the hamon in the ji.
Utsushi-mono(写し物) Copies of past masterpieces (not to be confused with forgeries)


Wakizashi(脇差) Blades over 30 cm in length, but shorter than 60 cm. Often a companion sword to the katana.
Watari-maki(渡巻) The wrapping that matches the tsuka-maki on an ito-maki-tachi that runs from the koi-guchi to just past the ni-no-ashi.


Yagura-gane(櫓金) A ring type fitting that allows the obi-tori to be attached to the yamagata-kanamono.
Yaki-ba(焼き刃) The hardened area of the blade
Yaki-dashi(焼き出し) A part of the hamon which starts off straight at the hamachi, but turns into a different hamon several centimetres along the blade
Yaki-haba(焼き幅) The width of the Yakiba
Yaki-ire(焼き入れ) The hardening process of the blade when it is heated, then quenched in water
Yaki-otoshi(焼き落とし) A hamon which starts further along the blade, about 3-5cm from the ha-machi.
Yaki-dume(焼き詰め) A type of boshi without a turn-back.
Yari(槍) A Japanese spear usually mounted on a long shaft.
Yamagata(山形) Mountain shaped
Yamagata-kanamono(山形金物) The mountain shaped parts of the ashi-kanamono
Yasuri-me(鑢目) File markings (on the tang)
Yo(葉) An activity in the hamon that resembles falling leaves
Yokote(横手) The dividing line between the kissaki and the body of the blade (mainly on shinogi-zukuri swords)
Yoroi-doshi(鎧通し) Armour piercing (tanto)
Yubashiri(湯走り) A concentration of nie in the ji


Zaimei(在銘) A blade with an original signature
Zencho(全長) The length of the sword, determined by measuring in a straight line from the tip of the nakago to the tip of the kissaki.

Antique Japanese Sword Tachi

Antique Japanese Sword Katana

Antique Japanese Sword Wakizashi

Antique Japanese Sword Tanto


Japanese Sword / Katana