Shizu Kaneuji Katana

Shizu Kaneuji

periodMiddle Nanbokucho (ca. 1350)
designationNBTHK Juyo Token Katana
ratingSai-jo saku · Ryo-wazamono
nakagoo-suriage mumei
nagasa69.1 cm
sori1.8 cm
motohaba3.15 cm
sakihaba2.25 cm
kissaki4.1 cm
nakago nagasa20.0 cm
nakago sori0.1 cm
price -sold-

Aside from Sadamune, I believe Shizu, Samonji, and this Go should form the top three among the ten [great students of Masamune]. Dr. Honma Junji

Shizu Saburo Kaneuji is a grand master swordsmith working from the end of the Kamakura period into the beginning of the Nanbokucho period. He was highly influential, and is the founder of the Mino tradition - one of the five major traditions. His path through life lead him from his beginnings in Yamato as a Tegai smith (most likely working under Kanenaga), to study under Masamune in Kamakura, and finally settling in Mino. He settled in a place called Shizu (which gives him his nickname), and here his mastery of Yamato and Soshu techniques merged to seed the Mino tradition.

Though he signed as Kaneuji (兼氏), he is most often referred to as Shizu (志津) for the place in Mino province (also called Noshu) in which he settled. Prior to his move to Kamakura he signed with Kaneuji (包氏) which is read the same but written differently. It's thought that he changed his name but preserved the reading in this manner in order to mark his transition from Yamato to Soshu style.

Swords from his time period in Yamato are designated as Yamato Shizu. The work after his time with Masamune are simply referred to as Shizu. This makes for some points of confusion, because the students he left behind in Yamato are collectively referred to as Yamato Shizu which overlaps with his own work. So, some care is necessary in dealing with Yamato Shizu designated work to determine whether or not they are by Kaneuji or by his students.

Detail of Juyo Shizu Kaneuji Katana

Best scholarship today indicates there was a Nidai Kaneuji (包氏) working in Yamato after he left. The students who followed him in Mino are called Naoe Shizu, as they moved and settled in Naoe, in Mino province. These Naoe Shizu smiths are known individually as Kanetsugu, Kanenobu, Kanetomo, and Kanetoshi and may also have been sons of his. Among them was a second and third generation Kaneuji (兼氏), though signed work is hard to find, there is at least one signed Juyo Bijutsuhin Mino Kaneuji that is thought to be the third generation.

Meibutsu Inaba Shizu Jubun
Meibutsu Inaba Shizu Jubun

Since the students typically made Nanbokucho style sugata that have been cut down, their signatures are mostly lost. It is particularly difficult to establish enough differences in their work to make specific determinations between the Naoe Shizu smiths. This leads to the frequent use of the school classification when attributing to them instead of individual designations. Shizu or Den Shizu attributed swords however always by the grand master Kaneuji.

Although mu-mei, the Inaba Shizu is undoubtedly [Shizu's] work. It is definitely the best among all his works, and I can dare to say with this single work alone we could verify his immediate relationship with Masamune. Dr. Honma Junji

While Shizu was not the first swordsmith in Mino province, the work style of the smiths who preceded him was lost in the Soshu revolution he brought with him from Kamakura. Work from earlier periods is not found, though the names of older smiths in Mino survive in old books. It's possible that some of the older work generally attributed to Yamato schools like Senjuin may be from some of these documented smiths. What we do know however is that Shizu's style and the students he left became the dominant force in swordmaking in Mino province, and Mino would be the primary influence in the Shinto tradition which followed the Koto period.

Juyo Bunkazai Kaneuji
Juyo Bunkazai Kaneuji

In spite of his fame as founder of the Mino tradition, his own work style when classified as Shizu is almost entirely Soshu with inspired contributions from Yamato. As such it tends to be a hybrid of the two. It is only with the passage of time that the work of his students and school passed through an evolutionary process to become distinct from Soshu and differentiate into what we now call the Mino tradition.

In terms of his own work style, he spans a time period from the end of the Kamakura into the beginning of the Nanbokucho and this is seen in the changing sugata of his work. There are many features found in his swords. There are those with a chu-kissaki and much curvature to very straight seeming blades with O-kissaki, which are of course the remnants of the massive swords we find in the mid to late Nanbokucho period. At least one of these still exists with his signature on it. This particular sword is Juyo Token and also Juyo Bunkazai (one step below National Treasure).

Thus by looking at the sugata we can classify his work as being early or late in his own period, and by the style whether it comes before or after Masamune.

Shizu also made tanto fairly frequently and his signature exists on several. These are often with mitsu-mune and exhibit characteristics of the Soshu den. His work has in the past often been judged as Masamune due to the strong resemblance between their work styles. He is in general, the closest craftsman to Masamune in terms of style, and is usually considered one of one of the leading Masamune Juttetsu. His work in tanto is generally of a form closer to smiths like Masamune, Norishige and Yukimitsu rather than those that came a bit later like Hasebe, Hiromitsu, Sadamune and Akihiro.

Detail of Juyo Shizu Kaneuji Katana
Shizu Kaneuji Katana Juyo Bunkazai Reference 2

Hosokawa Heirloom Jubun Kaneuji

The works produced by Kaneuji bear emphasized Soshu characteristics in the ji and ha which supports the theory that he was one of Masamune's disciples.

On the other hand, his Yamato background is evident in the kitae containing straight grained elements as well in the hamon and boshi where other Yamato characteristics such as uniformly juxtaposed gunome and the short kaeri stand out. The large and smoothly rounded boshi with a short kaeri [i.e. o-maru] in particular is a common characteristic of all his signed works.

Although this example is small in size, this example showing typical Yamato traits such as gunome presented in the tsure-gokoro manner, kuichigaiba and nijuba, is quite impressive - the clearly visible bright nie grains in the ha are particularly admirable.

This example used to be a favorite possession of the late Marquis Hosokawa who generously donated it to the NBTHK congratulating its foundation. Token Bijutsu English

Detail of Juyo Shizu Kaneuji Katana

The o-maru boshi is one of the hallmarks of Kaneuji and seen on his signed work. Another of the traits that is common in the works of Shizu that is used to differentiate from Masamune is the presence of masame or straight grain near the ha and shinogi, with itame between. This leads to frequent sunagashi and kinsuji in the hamon, as these activities will follow the grain under the yakiba. His work is usually marked with togariba (pointed gunome), though in practice these are also seen in Masamune and not all Shizu blades bear togariba (pointed gunome). The hamon though is usually based in some type of mix of midare and gunome, in nie with these activities as mentioned. As well, when his blades are signed they are done so with a very rustic looking and lightly made signature. Fujishiro theorizes that this was a trait done to preserve the integrity of the sword during impact. He cites an example where a sword fractured in the nakago with a fault line running through the strokes of the mei. It's possible that the lack of signature on koto Soshu blades and the rustic looking and light signatures that do exist in the older period blades were in fact a feature meant to defeat this kind of failure. Fujishiro concludes that the various signatures of Choji, Kanemitsu, Samonji, and the fine small mei that are seen in the Muromachi Bizen blades at the beginning of this period, were in fact all design elements meant to preserve the integrity of the nakago as much as possible.

Detail of Juyo Shizu Kaneuji Katana

[In regard to a masterpiece Tokubetsu Juyo Shizu, it] has long been in the state of o-suriage and mumei. It was once attributed to Sadamune and was evaluated a worth 5,000 gan by Hon'ami Koyu, and then a later Hon'ami raised its rank to Masamune. The attribution to Shizu was made by Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai after extensive studies. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

Detail of Juyo Shizu Kaneuji Katana

Regardless of the period of work, he seems to have experimented, along with Sadamune, more than other smiths in the variety of shapes of sword he made. He was surely not conservative, with his mixed background and various styles of sugata he produced. We see every type of shape, kissaki, hi, horimono and sori in his work, but always they are linked somehow to a seed of Yamato and strong presence of Soshu traits in the ji and ha, with very clear steel and a wet, black and formidable look that is very pleasing.

Juyo Bunkazai Meibutsu Wakebe Shizu [den Shizu]
Juyo Bunkazai Meibutsu Wakebe Shizu [den Shizu]

This excellent example is attributed to Shizu. Thought it may not look like his work at first glance, close examination brings out traits convincing enough to accept the attribution...

The sobriquet Wakebe Shizu [on the famous sword of this name] was derived from the fact that it originally belonged to the Wakebe in Ise. Later, it fell in [Tokugawa Shogun] Ieyasu's hand to be worn by him. It was then transmitted to one of his sons, Kishu [Tokugawa] Yorinobu. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

These works of his have been treasured for centuries in Japan, and were held in high esteem by many daimyo and powerful families. Today his works rank from Juyo and Tokubetsu Juyo, to Juyo Bijutsuhin and Juyo Bunkazai. He is of course regarded by Fujishiro as Sai-jo Saku, the rating of a grandmaster swordsmith and he has also a high cutting test ranking of Ryo-wazamono.

Detail of Juyo Shizu Kaneuji Katana
Juyo Token Shizu Kaneuji Katana

Juyo Token Shizu Kaneuji Katana

This blade shows the final style of Kaneuji that would be handed down through the school, and be the primary influence of the Mino tradition until the end of the Muromachi period. Shizu worked until around the end of the Enbun period and we see the sugata in this blade, with a wide mihaba and elongated kissaki. Shizu was still a smith with roots in Kamakura so we see Kamakura style in his work. In this case the blade is close to original length, there is still koshizori in the blade and it tapers like Kamakura blades instead of the Nanbokucho monster types that originated in parallel with the end of his career.

This style of blade seen here seems to put an emphasis on sharpness and this is what the Mino tradition was known for, and Nosada in particular followed this kind of blade closely. The activities in the hamon are very fine sunagashi and kinsuji and there is nijuba throughout the blade. With the o-maru boshi and similar activities it is almost the exact same structure as the Juyo Bunkazai signed tanto shown above and described by the NBTHK in similar ways.

The hamon is relatively calm and based in notare from the Soshu tradition, and has very bright ko-nie with larger nie sprinkled on top throughout the hamon. The jihada shows his roots in the Yamato tradition with some running masame but is packed with ji nie and obvious chikei. This creates a beautiful wet look that I love, and overall the blade has a feeling of dignity as a result. Blades that feature masame often have some openings along the folds and this blade has a few, in spite of that the NBTHK remarked that it is kenzen which means in a perfect state of health or preservation. Also many blades get attributed to Shizu and there are several generations that those could fit if the scope is not narrowed as the name got handed down. Most of them will be by the first generation master Kaneuji, but this blade in particular the NBTHK made a very clear statement that this blades is representative of Shizu Saburo Kaneuji.

It has recently become difficult to find any katana by the Soshu masters, in particular Shizu Kaneuji and Norishige are at a peak of popularity among collectors and difficult to obtain.

koshirae leftkoshirae left
Omori Hidechika
Omori Hidechika

This sword also has a very beautiful koshirae that appears made for this blade in the later part of the Edo period. The koshirae is not papered but I guarantee it will pass Tokubetsu Hozon. It bears the signature of Hidechika and in this case it is a fairly rare maker: Omori Hidechika. Hidechika was the second son of Omori Eishu (Teruhide) and born with the personal name of Yazaemon and also called Yojuro. He later changed his art name to Hideuji and died around 1790, so this koshirae is most likely from the around 1775. Haynes notes that many of his works were changed later on to have the mei of Eishu to pass them off as his father's work probably in and after the Meiji period and the sword ban. He worked in Edo and this koshirae features shakudo fittings of clouds and daimyo mon.

The reference signature on the left is from a Tokubetsu Hozon koshirae sold by Bonham's and the signature on the right is from the fuchi of this koshirae and they are a very good match.

The gold shitodome are also very beautifully made and overall it is a tasteful koshirae. The mon in question are the cherry blossom (sakura) mon of the Inoue clan. This would be one of the branches and not the main branch but I can't identify which branch just yet. The other mon is bars (hikiryo) overlaid on melon (mokko) but I don't know which clan used this, so some more research is necessary. Rare mon though like these can help narrow down the ownership history of the blade. When two mon are on a blade like this it can be done because of a marriage between members of the clans.

This is a very nice package for someone interested in one of the great smiths of the past, or trying to collect the Masamune Juttetsu. It's a lovely blade with a nice koshirae and I think you will enjoy it.

Shizu Kaneuji Katana OshigataShizu Kaneuji Katana Origami

Juyo Token Katana

Appointed on the 7th of November, 2019 (Session 65)

Katana, Mumei, Den Shizu Kaneuji


shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, wide mihaba, relatively noticeable taper, despite the suriage a koshizori, prominently elongated chū-kissaki


itame that is mixed with large amounts of nagare-masame and that features plenty of ji-nie and much chikei


nie-laden and gently undulating notare with a bright nioiguchi that is mixed with ko-gunome, ko-togariba, hotsure, nijūba, uchinoke, and fine kinsuji and sunagashi


very gently undulating notare-komi with a ko-maru-like kaeri that shows some nie-kuzure


on both sides a bõhi that ends in marudome


ō-suriage, very shallow kurijiri, katte-sagari yasurime, two mekugi-ana, mumei


Shizu was a place in Mino province, and as the Masamune student Kaneuji (兼氏) settled there, he was referred to as Shizu Saburō Kaneuji (志津三郎兼氏). That is, the term Shizu can be synonymous for Kaneuji. Kaneuji is traditionally regarded as one of the Ten Students of Masamune and as the student who displayed the workmanship most closest to the master.

This blade shows a jigane in itame that is mixed with a large amount of nagare-masame and that features plenty of ji-nie and much chikei. The hamon is a nie-laden and gently undulating notare with a bright nioiguchi that is mixed with ko-gunome, ko-togariba, hotsure, nijūba, uchinoke, and fine kinsuji and sunagashi. Therefore, we clearly recognize the characteristic features and aesthetic qualities of Shizu Saburō Kaneuji. The hamon in notare-chō is bright and clear and brimful of strongly sparkling nie and both ji and ha are perfectly healthy (kenzen).

Shizu Kaneuji Katana Sayagaki


This sword bears an extensive inscription (sayagaki) by Tanobe Michihiro sensei. He is the retired former head researcher of the Nippon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK).

  1. 濃刕志津
    Noshu Shizu
    Shizu from Mino Province
  2. 大磨上無銘也。雄勁ナル延文・貞治型ノ姿体ヲ呈シ板目ガ柾ガカリ流レル大模様ノ肌合ニ大ドカナ湾ヲ悠々ト焼キ申候。
    Ō-suriage mumei nari. Yūkei-naru Enbun-Jōji-kei no shitai o tei-shi itame ga masa-gakari nagareru ō-moyō no hada-ai ni ōdoka na notare o yūyū to yakimōshi-sōrō.
    The sword is shortened and unsigned. It is of a magnificent Enbun-Jōji-type shape and shows a large-structured itame that is mixed with masame-nagare and is hardened in a calm and gently undulating notare.
  3. 而互乃目ヤ尠シク尖刃・角互乃目ヲ交ヘ沸付キ湯走カカゝリ大丸風ノ帽子ニ結ブナド泰然たる風情ヲ醸シ同工ノ古傳ハ首肯サルノ優品也
    Shikamo gunome ya sukoshiku togariba, kaku-gunome o majie nie-tsuki yubashiri kakari ō-maru-fū no bōshi ni musubu nado taizen-taru fūzei o kamoshi dōkō no koden wa shukō-saru no yūhin nari.
    In addition, the ha is hardened in nie and is mixed with gunome, togariba, angular gunome, yubashiri. This, the ō-maru-style bōshi, and the overall composed appearance of this masterwork reflect the characteristics that are traditionally associated with this smith.
  4. 長弐尺二寸八分
    Nagasa ni-shaku ni-sun hachi-bu
    Blade length ~ 69.1 cm
  5. 于時戊戌極月探山識「花押」
    Toki ni tsuchinoe-inu gokugetsu Tanzan shirusu + kaō
    Written by Tanzan [Tanobe Michihiro] in December of the year of the dog of this era (2018) + monogram
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