Hatakeda Sanemori KatanaHatakeda Sanemori

periodMiddle Kamakura (ca. 1275)
designationNBTHK Tokubetsu Juyo Token Katana
ratingJo-jo saku
nakagoo-suriage, mumei
nagasa85.3 cm
sori2.8 cm
motohaba3.4 cm
sakihaba2.4 cm
kissaki4.05 cm
nakago nagasa24.9 cm
nakago sori0.2 cm
price -sold-

During the middle of the Kamakura period, Bizen swordmaking was dominant, and saw the rise of great smiths in Fukuoka (Ichimonji), as well as Osafune (Mitsutada and Moriie). Mitsutada is considered the founder of the Osafune school which would last into the Shinto period. Moriie is the founder of the Hatakeda school though he seems to have worked in Osafune as well. Hatakeda is a town adjacent to Osafune or else a subdivision of Osafune itself. Moriie is ranked at Sai-jo saku by Fujishiro for grand-master skill levels, and is rated at 2,000 man yen in the Toko Taikan. These place his level as equal to Rai Kunitoshi and Rai Kuniyuki.

Moriie is called ‘Hatakeda Moriie’ since he lived in Hatakeda of Bizen Province, though there is no extant work of Moriie of which signature includes ‘Hatakeda Ju’. [However, there are] some extant works with ‘Osafune Ju’. Therefore it appears that Hatakeda was a section of Osafune Village or the Hatakeda school was merged with the Osafune school afterwards. It is natural that Moriie demonstrated a similar (and gorgeous) workmanship to those of Mitsutada and Nagamitsu of the Osafune school, but gunome and distinct kawazuko-choji are more emphasized in his hamon. NBTHK Token Bijutsu

Both Moriie and Mitsutada worked in similar forms to the Fukuoka Ichimonji smiths. They make a florid choji midare hamon with utsuri, and the sugata is masculine with a squarish ikubi kissaki and a wide body throughout the blade. Moriie is famous for a particular style of choji where the head of the choji separates off from the body underneath it (tadpole choji, or kawazuko). His forging follows a style of itame that stands out clearly.

Moriie is a representative smith of this school [Hatakeda], and is a famous person who should be compared in stature with Mitsutada. [...] It is said that the large mei are the shodai, and the small mei are the nidai, but even if it is one with a small mei like the one in the Tokyo National Museum, they are splendid works that are not inferior to those with a large mei. [...] As for the mei on the pieces that are thought to be by the shodai, there are three types: Moriie, Moriie Tsukuru, and Moriie (kao). Nihonto Koza

Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Hatakeda Sanemori Katana

Moriie's father is said to be a smith called Morichika of the Fukuoka Ichimonji school, but this smith's works are now lost. Moriie would give his name to several following generations, as well as teaching other master smiths such as Sanemori and Morishige. Sanemori left dated work of 1277 and 1289, and is supposed to be a son or grandson of Moriie. Morishige's student was Motoshige, the second generation of which would also be very famous and is thought to be one of the Sadamune Santetsu (three great students of Sadamune).

As for Moriie, there are some arguments as there usually are between first and second generation work, with some advocating for one smith and others for a two smith theory. The difference is that the second generation is sometimes thought to mostly sign in a smaller signature. Tanobe sensei does not necessarily agree with this partitioning only on the size of the signature. However it is more strongly held that a long signature style starting with Osafune ju is certainly work of the second generation.

It seems evident, therefore, that the size of the mei does not necessarily determine as to which generation Moriie's works belong to. Some say the different sizes all represent one and the same smith at different times. This point needs clarification pending further research. Tanobe Michihiro, NBTHK Token Bijutsu

There are dated works ascribed to the second generation which place him close to 1280, so the first generation or at least the first period of Moriie corresponds to a time around 1259 as is found in old books. Some have three Kamakura generations of Moriie, and in that case his work may begin as early as 1232. Second generation work can also be singled out by a slender shape to the sword as well as a hamon based more on gunome than on choji. These are features more similar to Nagamitsu, with the Shodai's work being more similar to Mitsutada. The NBTHK has in the past separated Moriie generations by denoting works of Moriie (implicitly the first generation), then explicitly noted second generation, and all others are marked as a group of later generation works.

Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Hatakeda Sanemori Katana

Hatakeda Sanemori

85 cm Sanemori vs. 70 cm Kuniyuki
85 cm Sanemori vs. 70 cm Kuniyuki

Sanemori (not to be confused with Ohara Sanemori) is sometimes said to be the son of Hatakeda Iesuke, who was a son or grandson of Moriie according to some books. This information does not appear to be correct, as these authors did not have access to dated works and were handing down traditional knowledge.

His workmanship shows as a flamboyant chōji-midare which is mixed with gunome and chōji but also suguha is seen. Generally, he applied mostly a slightly more lenient workmanship than his father Moriie. NBTHK Juyo Token Nado Zufu

As can be seen from the reference above, current scholarship has corrected his time period and he is now considered to be a son of Moriie. This is confirmed by have dated works from the Koan (1278-1288) and Shoo (1288-1293) eras. Specifically these swords are a Juyo tachi with a 1277 date, and a Tokubetsu Juyo tachi with a 1289 date. These dated works place him about 30-40 years earlier than some books have. This conclusion is actually backed up by the oldest sword books such as the Funkiron which names him as the second son of Moriie as do some other books. Currently the two generation theories are being disassembled over many smiths, including Moriie with the understanding that style changes are evolution during a smith's life rather than abrubt transfer of the name to a new generation.

From the chronological point of view, the presence of a tachi of Moriie (dating from Bun'ei 9th - 1272) and its confirmed attribution to Moriie's Nidai seems to make it reasonable to consider Sanemori contemporary of Nidai Moriie, and thus supports the proposition in Funkiron that Sanemori was a son of shodai Moriie.

It is most interesting to note that of Moriie's mei consists of two types: ones with extended chisel strokes with the last dot cut crossing the transverse stroke just above it and others in compact chisel cut without the last cut touching the transverse stroke. The latter type happen to closely resemble the letter MORI as inscribed by Sanemori. Tanobe Michihiro, English Token Bijutsu

He signed similarly to his father, with Sanemori Zo and in simple nijimei as Sanemori, but two long signature works exist that gives us his personal name Samanosuke (左馬允, this can also be read as Samanojo). One blade is signed Bishu Osafune ju Samanosuke Sanemori, and it also shows how the Hatakeda smiths got absorbed into the Osafune school. The blade is similar in form to Nagamitsu, and is dated, but unfortunately the nengo cannot be read due to erosion. The other is one of the dated works, 1289 which aligns with the period of Nagamitsu and also shows a Nagamitsu style of hamon. This blade is signed Bizen Kuni Osafune Junin Samanosuke Sanemori zo. So these seem to represent the end period of his work, due to the style change matching what was happening in Osafune at the type, as Nagamitsu moved from Mitsutada's choji style into gunome and suguba.

Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Hatakeda Sanemori Katana

Sanemori's earlier work though looks like his father and is based in choji midare, some of it is o-choji but more of it is in smaller patterns with intense activities in the hamon.

Fujishiro ranked him as Jo-jo saku for highly superior skill, but a step below the grand master Moriie. Today we have 43 works of his that passed Juyo, four of which went on to Tokubetsu Juyo. Of those Tokubetsu Juyo, three were owned by the Shimazu, the Kishu Tokugawa, and the Iyo Saijo Matsudaira. There are another 5 Juyo Bijutsuhin, 6 Juyo Bunkazai, and two of those were actually Kokuho in the pre-war period. Of these blades, one of the Jubi was owned by the Kuroda, one of the Juyo Bunkazai belonged to the Honda, and another to the Asano. All of this is testimony to very advanced skill and high regard for his work as well as a fairly rare representation among swords available to collect.

Koshirae LeftKoshirae Right
Tokubetsu Juyo Token Hatakeda Sanemori KatanaHatakeda Sanemori Katana Tsuba

Tokubetsu Juyo Token Hatakeda Sanemori Katana

This blade tends to be greeted with shock and awe from the moment it leaves the bag, and is still in its shirasaya. Grasping the shirasaya feels like grabbing the fat end of a baseball bat. The blade is monstrous and in perfect proportions, so that simple photographs do not tell the tale of its size. It is a former property of the Shimazu daimyo from Satsuma, one of the major clans in Japanese history. Due to the size it may have been intended to use from horseback, possibly a precursor of the later massive Nanbokucho swords.

When it passed Tokuju it still had the old torokusho with a Showa 27 date as can be seen on the origami below. Showa 26 and 27 the daimyo submitted their swords for licensing so the family most likely still owned the sword as recently as this.

The NBTHK usually uses the word magnificent in these cases and they do so with this blade. The length has been preserved so well that most of the original tachi shape remains with the blade. At 85.3 cm in nagasa, this is balanced by a very wide motohaba of 3.4 cm. Finding fuchi to fit a blade of this kind of width at this point in time is quite difficult.

The outrageous size is matched by supreme skill in construction. The hamon is in ko-nie and is composed of choji and gunome, but these are tied together with many activities: yo, sunagashi and kinsuji. The kitae is beautiful and the blade was written up as kenzen which means perfectly healthy. Furthermore there is strong midare utsuri mixed with jifu up and down the blade as can be seen in the photos.

I once tried to buy this blade years ago before it became Tokubetsu Juyo and I was unable to get it. More recently one of my clients traded to obtain it after Tokubetsu Juyo, and after some time I traded him to get it. It is one of my favorite swords I have encountered, as it tells the tale quite vividly of what the great sized tachi of the Kamakura period looked like.

Many of Sanemori's work that exist at Juyo and Tokubetsu Juyo even are more modestly sized tachi that take their lead from the gentler shapes from the end of Nagamitsu's career. Some of these retain signatures at lengths in the 70 cm range and so his target seems to be tachi in the range of 72-82 cm most times. The two longest ubu blades are a Juyo Bijutsuhin tachi at 79 cm and a Juyo Bunkazai tachi at 83 cm. There are no blades as long as this one though, so from what we have left this is his largest work.

The NBTHK said that this one is a masterwork among all works of the smith, and stated that it's construction is similar to the Juyo Bunkazai work owned by the Asano daimyo. Being compared directly to Juyo Bunkazai works is about as good as you can ask for.

The shocking part overall is that the blade is suriage and so was likely at least 10 cm longer than it is now.

There is an old gakumei in the nakago which was filed over at some point. It is the right size for a two character signature. Sometimes this happens when the signature was considered no good. This blade however came handed down from the Shimazu daimyo, the powerful family that ruled in Satsuma. When it came to Juyo it retained an old shirasaya with Bizen Sanemori on it indicating that this was the understanding of the Shimazu. At the time of Juyo, the accompanying Honami origami was already lost but it confirmed Sanemori. So, this gakumei then had to either read Sanemori at the time it left the ownership of the Shimazu or else it was erased during their time. There are situations where a signature is erased by an owner because they were told it is gimei and after the maker is confirmed to be what the signature was, and this could be the case on this blade. But will remain a riddle.

However the case may be, it is very unusual to be able to get your hands on a Kamakura sword of this size and impressive construction, and its presence in the Shimazu collection is a major bonus. It's highly recommended for any collector, and in particular one who would like an example of imposing stature and dominating presence.

Tsuka LeftTsuka Right

This sword is accompanied by koshirae that were partly disassembled and in fair condition. It still has its Shimazu mon tsuba which they were fond of using. Someone however removed the futatokoromono and replaced them with a mismatched pair. This often happens in Japan as an owner decides he likes the kozuka and/or kogai and keeps them, or separates them to keep in a drawer and dies and they do not come back together, or they are removed and sold to raise some money, or a dealer separates them, boxes them and sells them for a high price to a tosogu collector while the koshirae goes with the sword. In all cases it is frustrating but they seem to show some carelessness in this regard.

So I have dealt with the situation and replaced the replacements with proper replacements. They are attributed to the Kaga Goto school and high quality dragon style which match the rest of the koshirae. The match was... uncanny as they fit absolutely perfectly to the point that I feel like this was the original set. Normally kozuka and kogai like this will come with matching dragon menuki or themselves be split into singles, so it is a bit weird to the point that I wonder if these were actually the originals from the koshirae in the first place. Anyway it is possible to buy the sword without the kozuka and kogai as I put them together and they were substantially expensive, so and can take them apart to discount the sword by their value. But I think it is an excellent match and completes the idea of the koshirae. The box they came in will be included with the purchase as well as their origami attributing them to Kaga Goto. As an aside Kaga Goto were a branch of the Goto family in and around the 9th generation Teijo who mostly worked for the Maeda daimyo.

Polish and Photos

The previous Japanese owner left the blade at the end of his life without proper care. It is something that happens fairly frequently as the collector gets old and his children care more about their phones. The blade is in need of a shiage now, it was in old polish previously to begin with, but with the hazing and rust it needs to be addressed before the rust sets in. I will include this with the cost of the sword, and I have it scheduled already. After the shiage is complete I'll redo the photos.

As well the photos show some uchiko scratching. This is from uchiko embedded in the shirasaya after not being entirely removed during cleaning. Everyone who likes uchiko says the same thing, but I use it right however, this is always the end point of uchiko use since it takes just one mistake or old eyes and then uchiko gets into the shirasaya. As a result I have an ongoing war on uchiko, and I will include a high class sword care kit with this sword as can be seen on my homepage. Without uchiko.

As for polish, previously Tanobe sensei has selected sashikomi polish several times on Hatakeda works so I will follow his example and have this done in sashikomi. When the new polish is done I'll make a complete photoset.

Hatakeda Sanemori Katana Shimazu Mon

Shimazu Daimyo Ke

Saigo Takamori
Saigo Takamori

The tsuba of the koshirae shows the Shimazu mon which is a cross in a circle. It predates the arrival of Christianity in Japan, though the Shimazu had some flirtation with Christianity as they were located in Kyushu where Portuguese traders had access to the Japanese shores. They were outsider daimyo but they were the most powerful of the clans that remained in opposition to the Tokugawa, controlling 700,000 koku of production.

Their origin goes back to the early Kamakura period, where Shimazu Tadahisa was a son of the Minamoto Shogun Yoritomo. He conquered Satsuma, Hyuga and Osumi and the Shimazu reigned there for centuries. They went on to conquer Okinawa as well, at the time this was a completely foreign country of Ryukyu. Over the centuries they proved to be able leaders in civil and military affairs, having a strong economic base and high degrees of loyalty among their retainers.

They of course are famous for their role in the Boshin War in which samurai clans from the south who supported the re-establishment of the Emperor lead to the eventual collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the eventual modernization of Japan under the Meiji Emperor.

One of their most famous samurai was Saigo Takamori, who accepted the surrender of Edo Castle during the Boshin war that wrapped up the Tokugawa Shogunate. During the Meiji period Saigo had some philosophical problems with the modernization of Japan. After conflicts with other elements of the Meiji government, he resigned his positions and moved back to Satsuma. After some time and ongoing conflict the locals had with the Meiji government, Saigo ended up leading a revolt in Kagoshima. This revolt ultimately failed, and Saigo was wounded and committed seppuku on the field. The events of this story are dramatized in the movie The Last Samurai. A famous statue exists in Ueno Park of Saigo and his dog.

Hatakeda Sanemori Katana Oshigata

Juyo Katana

Appointed on the 20th of June, 1971

Katana, Mumei, Den Sanemori


shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, wide mihaba, despite of the ō-suriage a deep sori, chū-kissaki, magnificent tachi-sugata.


ko-itame that is mixed with some nagare and that features ji-nie and a midare-utsuri.


overall rather densely arranged chôji-midare in ko-nie-deki with a wide nioiguchi that is mixed with ko-gunome, ko-midare, ko-ashi, yō, sunagashi, and kinsuji.


midare-komi with a ko-maru-kaeri and hakikake.


on both sides a bōhi that runs with kaki-nagashi into the tang.


ō-suriage, kirijiri, shallow katte-sagari yasurime, three mekugi-ana (one plugged), mumei


This blade is ō-suriage mumei and has a magnificent tachi-sugata. The jiba is kenzen (perfectly healthy) and the ha features gorgeous hataraki. The chōji is mixed with ko-midare, gunome, and plenty of ashi and midare-utsuri appears, thus we see the typical jigane of this smith. The blade was once a heirloom of the Shimazu (島津) family, the daimyō of the Satsuma fief, and comes with an old saya that attributes the blade to “Bizen Sanemori” and that states that once an old origami existed. We agree with the period attribution.

Hatakeda Sanemori Katana Tokuju PhotoHatakeda Sanemori Katana Origami

Tokubetsu Juyo Token Katana

Appointed on the 27th of April, 2016 (24th session)

Katana, Mumei, Hatakeda Sanemori


shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, wide mihaba, not much taper, thick kasane, long nagasa, deep sori that increases again towards the tip, chū-kissaki.


overall rather dense itame that is mixed with mokume and with nagare in places, in addition ji-nie, chikei, and a jifu-utsuri.


based on ko-chōji in nioi-deki and mixed with ko-gunome, angular elements, ko-midare, togariba, ashi, and yō, ko-nie appear at the base and the lower half shows kinsuji, also tobiyaki-like elements appear above of the yakigashira in places.


widely hardened midare-komi with a yakitsume-like bōshi on the omote and a rather pointed ko-maru-kaeri on the ura side, both sides feature some hakikake.


on both sides a bōhi that runs with kaki-nagashi into the tang.


ō-suriage, kirijiri, katte-sagari yasurime, three mekugi-ana (one plugged), mumei


Late Kamakura period


Shimazu family from Satsuma province.


It is said that Hatakeda Sanemori (畠田真守) was the son of Moriie (守家) and as we know blades dated with the eras Kenji (建治, 1275-1278), Kōan (弘安, 1278-1288), and Shōō (正応, 1288-1293), his active period is relatively clear. Sanemori mostly signed in niji-mei but there are also some nagamei like “Bizen no Kuni-jūnin Samanosuke Sanemori zo” (備前国住人左馬允真守造) known. As for his workmanship, Sanemori follows the style of his father Moriie, which is basically a varied yakiba in chōji-midare that has an emphasis on kawazu no ko-chōji. In direct comparison however, Sanemori’s midare elements are by trend somewhat smaller than those of Moriie.

This blade is wide and long, does not taper much, and is with the thick kasane of a grand and magnificent shape. The sori does not decrease towards the tip which means that the blade sticks to the shape that was dominant in the previous era, i.e. the mid-Kamakura period. The jigane is not only finely and excellently, but also very uniformly forged, which testifies to the great skill of the smith. The hamon is also typical for Sanemori, i.e. it does not show conspicuous ups and downs but is composed in a highly varied manner, producing so many highlights, an approach that is also seen on the jūyō-bunkazai blade that was once a heirloom of the Asano (浅野) family from Aki province. The condition of the blade is outstanding, what gives it even more dignity, and so we have here one of the greatest masterworks among all blades attributed to this smith. In feudal times, it was a heirloom of the Shimazu (島津) family, the daimyõ of the Satsuma fief of the province of the same name.

Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Hatakeda Sanemori Katana
Hatakeda Sanemori Katana Sayagaki


This sword bears an inscription by Dr. Honma Junji who was one of the founders of the NBTHK and one of the great scholars of the 20th century. He did not write long commentary on his sayagaki.

  1. 畠田真守
    Hatakeda Sanemori
  2. 大磨上無銘
    Ō-suriage mumei
    Shortened and unsigned.
  3. 刃長二尺八寸余
    Hachō 2 shaku 8 sun yo
    Blade length 85.6 cm.
  4. 大島津家伝来之一口也
    Ō-Shimazu-ke denrai no hitokuchi nari
    And heirloom of the great Shimazu family, daimyo of the Satsuma fief.
  5. 重要刀剣認定
    Jūyō-tōken nintei
    Designated as Juyo Token
  6. 昭和壬戌年文月為吉田定市氏
    Showa mizunoe-inudoshi fumizuki Yoshida Sadaichi
    July of the year of the dog of the Shōwa era (1982), for Yoshida Sadaichi.
  7. 薫山誌「花押」
    Kunzan shirusu + kaō
    Written by Kunzan (kao)
Detail of Tokubetsu Juyo Hatakeda Sanemori KatanaDetail of Tokubetsu Juyo Hatakeda Sanemori Katana