THE POLISHER BASED ON "NAGASHI" AND "KESHO-MIGAKI"*
Alexander Takeuchi, Ph.D.
of North Alabama
examining a bare Nihon-to blade that has been fully polished traditionally,
novice enthusiasts often wonder the purposes of those “lines” placed by the
polisher on the spine near the tip and under the habaki (i.e., collar).
Much like the names of most other parts and artistic activities of
traditionally forged and polished Nihon-to, there are no known English words to
describe those “lines.” Therefore,
those who wish to their develop knowledge on Nihon-to must also learn ever
increasing number of Japanese terms in the nomenclature of Nihon-to.
In case of those “lines” placed on the blade by the polisher, they
are called nagashi or kesho-migaki in Japanese.
More specifically, nagashi refers to the actual lines created by migaki-bo,
whereas kesho-migaki refers to the "process of applying nagashi
lines" or the "state of (the particular section's) having nagashi
from the functions/purposes of those “lines” that have already been
discussed elsewhere, there has been a speculation among Nihon-to enthusiasts in
the Western world whether or not kesho-migaki on the polished Nihon-to
blade is a form of the signature of the polisher.
As far as I know, except for some of those very unusual kesho-migaki
that becomes post hoc signature of the polisher, identifying information that
each kesho-migaki offers about the particular polisher is little or vague
if any. Nonetheless, it is the fact that the number of nagashi lines in kesho-migaki
(on habaki-moto section) can provide some identifying information
about the polisher.
to Kohkan Nagayama (1994; 2000), one of Japan’s Living National Treasure togi-shi,
there should be three nagashi lines on each side of ho-saki along
the ridge, thus a total of six nagashi lines altogether in kesho-migaki
on ho-saki. On the other
hand, the number of nagashi lines in the kesho-migaki on habaki-moto
(i.e., under the habaki) varies depending on the individual polisher and the
school of togi (i.e., traditional polishing) that the particular polisher
case of Honami school, their okite (or traditional rule) dictates that
the number of nagashi lines on habaki-moto section must be an odd
number, and it is usually either nine or eleven on each side (Nagayama, 1994;
2000). For instance, one of my
Nihon-to has three nagashi lines on each side of mune (i.e., the
ridge of the spine) in the ho-saki section, and nine nagashi lines
on each side of habaki-moto. From
the particular kesho-migaki applied on this blade, I can tell that this
blade was most likely polished by a togi-shi (i.e., Japanese sword
polisher) who was trained in Honami school.
I do not have information as to how many nagashi lines on habaki-moto
that Fujishiro school specifies in their version of kesho-migaki.
However, in yet another Nihon-to reference book of mine (Shibata, 1995),
the author describes that the “normal number of nagashi lines is seven
or eight” along with a series of photos in which another Living National
Treasure togi-shi Matsuo Fujishiro is performing migaki.
While the author does not specify that this “standard number of seven
or eight” only applies to Fujishiro school, it *may be* case that Fujishiro
school usually has a couple of lines less than what Honami school (i.e., nine or
eleven) usually has.
way, the practice of kesho-migaki is relatively a recent phenomenon in
the history of Nihon-to: It became
more common after WWII when the use of migaki-bo itself became an
acceptable practice amongst highly regarded togi-shi (see Nagayama, 1994;
Kohkan. (1994). "Katana no kenma. [Polishing katana.]"
In Tadashi Oono (Ed.), Nihon-to shokunin shokudan. [The tales
from Nihon-to craftsmen]. (1st
Ed.). Pp. 9-39.
Tokyo, Japan: Kogei Shuppan. ISBN
Nagayama, Kohkan. (2000).
Nihon-to wo Togu: Togishi no waza, me, kokoro. [Polishing Nihon-to:
The skills, eyes and spirits of polishers].
Tokyo, Japan: Yuzankaku. ISBN4-639-01554-2.
Shibata, Mitsuo. (1995). Shumi no Nihon-to. [Nihon-to
for hobby.] Tokyo, Japan:
Kogei Shuppan. ISBN4-639-01026-5.
* Edited and reprinted from the author's original posts initially appeared in the
"Nihon-to Forum" of Sword
Copyright © by S. Alexander Takeuchi, Ph.D.