Does a Torokusho matter?
You can tell a lot about your sword by a Torokusho.
Unlike certificates, a TOROKUSHO(登録書) doesn’t gain much attention, but some veteran collectors like to read through it before purchasing a sword.
As a Torokusho is issued by the Japanese government, there’s neither fraud nor forgery of a Torokusho and it gives you an idea where and how a sword came from. This article highlights which points you should check and what information you can get from a Torokusho.
If the registered place is the same as the place the maker worked, it means that the sword must have been kept by one family as a family heirloom for a long time. Most swords are usually registered in a different prefecture.
If the place was a prefecture in which an international airport is located, such as Tokyo, Chiba, or Osaka, a sword could have been imported from outside of Japan.
A sword with a Torokusho issued in 1951 is referred to as Daimyo Toroku(大名登録). Some of these swords could be from the people of the high social rankings, but most of such historical value swords are now possessed by museums. Remember that all the swords with Daimyo Toroku are masterpieces, in other words, any Daimyo Toroku swords that appear on the market are probably less likely to be considered special.
Newly issued Torokusho
The law concerning the issue of a Torokusho has continued since 1951, and every year a lot of swords get registered. You may be surprised that there are still thousands of unregistered swords hidden in Japan. However, just because a Torokusho is issued over the past years it doesn’t mean a sword was discovered recently. The following points are the possible reasons for a newly issued Torokusho.
1. The sword has undergone an alternation.
This is a common reason. Collectors and dealers often try to get better attribution by removing a signature from a sword. Such an altered sword must be re-registered, as there should not be any difference between the sword and the registered information. So, an unsigned sword with a new Torokusho means that it might have undergone an alternation. In such a case, maybe the original signature may have been false or a sword was made by a less popular swordsmith.
2. The sword has returned from overseas.
This is also a common reason. When I was working for a sword shop, nearly half of the orders were from outside of Japan. After an owner died his family often asks a dealer in Japan to buy the sword back and then it should be newly registered once it arrives in Japan, as the original Torokusho was already lost or discarded. Since a sword arrives at an international airport, the registered place should be Tokyo, Chiba, or Osaka.
3. The sword has lost its original Torokusho.
This is quite a rare case, especially when it comes to a good sword. If an owner knows the value of a sword, how could he lose the Torokusho?
I have heard that some evil dealers intentionally discard the original Torokusho when their swords fail to get a certificate from the NBTHK. This is because all the screening results and the swords’ information are recorded as a means of tracking a sword. So, if the dealers get a new Torokusho, the NBTHK can’t know whether they have screened the sword before.
4. There were errors in the original Torokusho.
Maybe the most common reason, I can say that 1 of 20 Torokusho has some kind of error. Examiners of the sword registration are usually familiar with a Japanese sword, but some of them are not so much that they can’t read an inscription on the sword correctly and fail to measure the length and the Sori accurately.