Why the Nakago is so important?
Along with the sword shape, the sword characteristics, and the signature. You can get some ideas of the sword’s age and the maker from the NAKAGO(茎). The following 3 points are what you need to know when appraising a Nakago.
- Even if the signature and the characteristics of the sword seems correct, the signature might have been inscribed on the Nakago later on, especially if the TAGANE-MAKURA(鏨枕) looks new. In reality, some people erase the original signature and inscribe a new signature of the smith, whose style is similar to the sword.
- There are many swords that have a famous smith’s signature, but the writing style is different from the original and the rust color looks younger for the smith’s active time.
- Generally speaking, the color of the rust on the Nakago becomes blackish as time goes on. So an older sword has a blackish Nakago while a sword made from the late Edo to Showa period has a reddish Nakago.
- YASURIME(鑢目) style also indicates whether the sword’s signature or attribution is correct. If the style is different from the smith, or the school’s usual style, the sword should be made by another smith, even if the other points of the blade are correct. However, a new Yasurime is often made after SURIAGE(磨上) or O-SURIAGE(大磨上), so the old swords often have different Yasurime or 2 kinds of Yasurime; the upper part is the Kesho style and the lower part is the Kiri style.
- Other than Yasurime style, how much of the Yasurime remaining also indicates the age of a sword. The older the sword gets the lesser the Yasurime remains. It’s very unusual that an old sword has the Yasurime almost completely intact.