Juyo Token Heian Aritsuna


Heian ARITSUNA is recorded as working in Hoki Province (present day Tottori prefecture) during the Jowa Era ( 834-848). According to historical records Aritsuna is said to be the son of Moritsuna and the grandson of Yasutsuna. He is also dated to the eras Ninna (885-889) and Owa (961- 964) in old sword documents. 

Artisuna worked in O-itame hada with a tendency to Nagare, ko-midare in Ko-nie-deki, as well as sunagashi, nijuba and O-sujikai-yasurime. There are existing Aritsuna blades signed with tachi-mei,but he also signed with katana-mei which was quite uncommon for his time. He is ranked JoJo saku (Superior - Superior Made) in the Fujishiro ranking system, which is reflected in the excellence of the workmanship seen in his blades. Interestingly it is said that some of the great swordmakers such as Masamune and Norishige were inspired by Aritsuna‚Ä™s work.

More recent research places Aritsuna a little later at circa 1000 - 1050 AD. Regardless of this slight difference in age, this blade shows all the characteristics of very early Hoki workmanship circa 1000+ years ago.  It remains in an almost perfect state of preservation which indicates that it has been treasured and cared for by multiple generations, remaining as healthy today as the day it was made. 

Blades such as this are extremely rare and sought after.  
Heian ARITSUNA  is recorded as working  in Jowa Era ( 834-848), Hoki Province located in present day Tottori prefecture. According to tradition Aritsuna is said to be the son of Moritsuna  and the grandson of Yasutsuna. He is also dated to the eras Ninna (885-889) and Owa (961- 964) in old sword documents.

He worked in O-itame hada with a tendency to Nagare, ko-midare in Ko-nie-deki, in addition sunagashi or also nijuba, O-sujikai-yasurime,

He also signed with a katana-mei which was uncommon for his time, but there also exist blades with a tachi-mei.

He is ranked JoJo saku (Superior - Superior Made) in the Fujishiro ranking system, emphasizing the extremely superior make of his blades.

Interestingly it is said that some of the great Swordmakers such as Masamune and Norishige were inspired by Aritsuna.

More recent Research places Aritsuna a little later at circa 1000 - 1050 AD. Regardless of this slight difference in age this blade shows all the characteristics of very early Hoki workmanship from circa 1000 + years ago.  It remains in almost perfect state of preservation and has obviously been treasured and cared for by multiple generations being as healthy today as the day it was made.

Blades such as this are extremely rare to find. 

Juyo Zufu page Translation

Juyō-token at the 20th juyo shinsa held on June 1, 1971

Katana, Mumei: Aritsuna

Tōkyō, Submitted by Makino Yoshio

Measurements Nagasa 71.3 cm, sori 2.0 cm, Motohaba 2.8 cm, Sakihaba 1.9 cm, Kissaki-Nagasa 2.9 cm, Nakago-Nagasa 18.4 cm, only very little nakago-sori

Description Keijo: Shinogi-Zukuri, Iori-mune, despite the o-suriage a relatively deep sori and some funbari present,

Kitae: Standing-out Itame with Ji-nie and fine chikei Hamon: nie-laden chu-suguha-chō that is mixed with ko-midare, ko-ashi, and many sunagashi and kinsuji


Boshi: Sugu with a ko-maru-kaeri

Nakago: O-suriage, kirijiri, katte-sagari yasurime, two mekugi-ana, mumei.

Explanation This is an o-suriage mumei katana which was handed down as work of Hoki Aritsuna. Aritsuna is said to have been the son of Yasutsuna. They’re very few niji-mei-signed works of him extant which show a rather standing-out itame that features plenty of ji-nie and fine chikei and a classical hamon that is based on ko-midare and that is mixed with sunagashi and kinsuji. It is said that Sōshū Masamune and Norishige  were inspired by this workmanship when they established the Soshū tradition. The Jiba of this blade is of an excellent deki and we agree with the period attribution to this smith.

Juyo Certificate No 3738
Certificate Translation
 Katana, Mu
mei: Aritsuna
Nagasa 71.3 cm, sori 2.0 cm Shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, chū-kissaki, the kitae is an itame with ji-nie The hamon is a chū-suguha with komidare, presence of small ashi, sunagashi,
kinsugi, clear nie and utsuri is present and the bōshi is sugu with a ko-maru-kaeri. The nakago is ō-suriage, has a kiri-jiri, katte-sagari yasurime, and two mekugi-ana
According to the result of the shinsa committee of our society we judge this work as authentic and rank it as Jūyō-tōken.
June 1, 1971
  Nihon Bijutsu Tōken Hozon Kyōkai, NBTHK
[President] Honma Junji (

Sayagaki by Tanobe Sensei
Dai nijū-kai Jūyō-tōken shitei-hin Hōki no Kuni Aritsuna Jiba tomo ni koyō narite fukaki ajiwai o jōsei-shi Ko-Hōki-mono ichirui no midokoro o kengen-su koshu no Aritsuna no shoden wa datō nari. Korai yori Masamune, Norishige ra Sōshū-jōkō ga shōkei o daki sanshaku-seshi wa Ko-Hōki naran to no setsu wa hontō no jiba o jukuran suru ni masa ni shikō-sare sōrō. Hachō 2 shaku 3 sun 5 bu kore aro Toki kanoto-u fumizuki Tanzan Hendō shirusu + Kaō
Designated as Jūyō-tōken at the 20th jūyō-shinsa Hōki no Kuni Aritsuna Both ji and ha of this blade are highly classical and very tasteful and represent very well the characterisic features of Ko-Hōki works, whereby the particularly classical elegance does speak for Aritsuna within this group. According to an old tradition, Masamune, Norishige and other great early Sōshū smiths aspired and tried to emulate to a certain extent the Ko-Hōki style, an approach which c
an be agreed with when carefully looking at this blade. Blade length ~ 71.3 cm.

Writen by Tanzan Hendō [ Tanobe Michihiro] in July of the year of the hare of this era (2011) + kaō

Listed below another Aritsuna which is  Juyo Bunkazai owned by Tokyo Fuji Museum and NBTHK Description

Yasutsuna Father / Teacher of Aritsuna

The name of ‘Hoki no Yasutsuna’ has been listed as a great smith of the Daido Era (806-809) in many swordsmith directories from old times. Though we cannot accept the theory that he was active just after the Nara Period when considering considerable numbers of his extant works such as meibutsu ‘Doji-giri Yasutsuna’, which has the refined sugata of the Japanese sword and the hamon of ko-midare in thick nie-deki. The workmanship of this tachi resembles to that of Ko-Bizen smiths who were active after the middle of the Heian Period but looks a little older. At a glance, his sword looks like one by Ko-Bizen smith but his jihada with chikei stands out more, many sunagashi are seen inside the hamon and jigane looks black. Generally speaking, Yasutsuna is a little inferior to top-class Ko-Bizen smiths in skill. Ohara Sanemori who was a son of Yasutsuna, is also famous, but he is inferior to his father in skill considering the extant works of both smiths. Meanwhile, Yasuie and Aritsuna who belong to the Yasutsuna school are skillful smiths and left fine swords that are superior to Sanemori’.NBTHK SWORD JOURNAL


April, 2016 

Meito Kansho

Examination of Important Swords

Juyo Bunkazai

Important Art Object 

Type: Tachi

Mei: Aritsuna

Owned by the Tokyo Fuji Museum 

Length: 2 shaku 3 sun 5 bu 3 rin (71.3 cm)

Sori: 9 bu 1 rin (2.75 cm)

Motohaba: 1 sun 6 rin (3.2 cm)

Sakihaba: 6 bu 7 rin (2.05 cm)

Motokasane: 2 bu 1 rin (0.65 cm)

Sakikasane: 1 bu 3 rin (0.4 cm)

Kissaki length: 1 sun 2 rin (3.1 cm)

Nakago length: 7 sun 7 bu 2 rin (23.4 cm)

Nakago sori: 1 bu (0.3 cm)


This is a shinogi zukuri tachi with an iorimune, a standard width, and the widths at the moto and saki are a little different. There is large sori, the tip has sori, and there is a short chu-kissaki. The jihada is itame mixed with abundant mokume, and the hada is visible in places. The bottom half has jifu type jihada. There are ji-nie, frequent chikei, and mizukage below the machi. The entire hamon is low and is primarily komidare mixed with ko-gunome. There are ashi, thick uneven rough nie, kinsuji, niesuji, sunagashi, and in some places, nijuba type yubashiri and tobiyaki. The boshi is straight, and the omote has togariba with a komaru and return; the ura is straight mixed with kuichigaiba, and the tip is yakizume. The horimono on the omote and ura are bo-hi carved through the nakago. The nakago is ubu, the tip is is slightly ha-agari with a shallow kurijiri, and the yasurime are o-suji-chigai. There are two mekugi-ana, and on the ura under the first mekugi-ana which is the original mekugi-ana, there is a deep two kanji signature made with a thick chisel.

Among Ko-Hoki works, Yasutsuna is first on a list of master smiths, and there are several blades with signatures such as Sanekage, Sanemori, Sadatsuna, Yasuie, and Kunimune, and Aritsuna is one of these smiths. According to the sword book “Nihonto Meikan”, there are five primary smiths, and their active periods were Tentoku (957-61), Yowa (1181-82), Shogen (1207-11), Tempuku (1233-34) and Shougen (1259-60) which is at the end of the Heian period to around the mid-Kamakura period which is a long interval. Aritsuna’s signed blades are very rare, and besides this one, there is a tachi classified as Juyo Bunkazai owned by the Oyamazumi shrine, one Juyo Token classified blade, and two others.

Aritsuna’s “Ari” kanji shapes are all similar, but the “Tsuna” kanji has two different shapes (examplesj and k). This could be because there is either one smith who signed differently in different periods, or another smith began to sign this name after the original Aritsuna stopped working, and this point requires further study. Except for one blade signed on the omote side, all others are signed on the ura side with strong and thick chisel marks, using many gyaku-tagane strokes (inscribed in the reverse direction from the usual written direction), and the yasurime are osuji-chigai. From these characteristics, Dr. Honma Kunzan used to say, “this is just like Ko-Aoe work, it is classified as Juyo Bunkazai and listed as Hoki work, but the jihada and hamon, rather than being like Yasutsuna’s work, are more like Ko-Aoe work”. Other Ko-Hoki smiths only signed on the omote side. Even if Aritsuna was a Ko-Hoki smith, his work was a little different from the main line of the school, and there seems to be a possibility that there was some relationship with its southern neighbors, the Bichu Aoe smiths.

This tachi’s jihada is itame mixed with a relatively large number of mokume, and the entire jihada is a fine and visible hada. At the koshimoto some places have a jifu type muji jihada and this is characteristic of Ko-Aoe jihada. Also, the yasurime and mei show Ko-Aoe characteristic points, and Dr. Honma’s opinion is naturally understandable. The kissaki is short, the boshi’s yakiba is narrow, but there is a standard width koshizori and sori at the tip, and this is an original dynamic tachi shape. The komidare type hamon is natural, and there are hataraki, such as kinsuji, niesuji, and sunagashi. This produces an interesting appearance with a rustic beauty, with a natural appearance, and is a really well executed work.

Recently, one of Aritsuna’s two other blades was found by the Kyoto National Museum’s Mr. Inada Kazuhiko, and the Kyoto museum is studying it.

Also, this tach is being exhibited at the “1000 years of Token (sword) Work and Beauty” exhibition at the Tokyo Fuji museum in Tokyo’s Hachioji city (March 29 to July 3).      

Commentary and photo by Ishii Akira.

HOKI OHARA – lineage

YASUTADA TEMPYO-HOJI 757       ________               

_________                      TAKEYASU DAI-DO 806   KURAYOSHI JU

YASUTSUNA "JINSHI" DAI-DO      ___|___           

__|_____               806     NICHIJO SHO-WA 834 

SANEMORI KA-SHO 848            ___|___                    _______

  |________________________    GETSUJO GEN-KEI 877        ARIKANE

__|______              ____|____                          ___|___


  |__________________ _____________ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _________|

__|______         ___|____      ___|____        ___|___   ___|___


  | SHO-HYO 931   KAN-KO 1004   ___|_____                 ___|___

  |                             TAMEYOSHI EI-EN 987       IYENAGA

  |                             ___|____              KAN-KO 1004

  |                             TAMESUKE KAN-KO 1004

  |____________________ __________________ _____________         

__|______           ___|____           ___|____      ___|____    


__|______              |__________     TEN-ROKU 970  KAN-KO 1004  

YOSHIMORI           ___|____   ___|____      _______


_____________       O-WA 961   CHO-TOKU 995  ____|_____          

HOKI MUNEYASU                _________       SHIGETOSHI EN-GI 901

___|____                     SADATSUGU       ____|____           



More information on the Hoki School Lineage. This Aritsuna is the last Aritsuna listed on the page below the Kokuho example

Personal Research by Wataru Hara



Markus Sesko


Tokyo Fuji Museum

Wataru Hara


Copyright 2006