NBTHK certificate ranking and criteria

What is the NBTHK?


The NBTHK (short for Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai) was founded in February 1948 as an authorized foundation by the government with a mission to preserve the Japanese swords.
Although there are some Japanese sword associations issuing a certificate,
the NBTHK still has the largest influence on the value of the Japanese sword. The NBTHK ranks Japanese swords as follows:

  • 特別重要刀剣 = Tokubetsu Juyo Token(Especially important), i.e. BEST
  • 重要刀剣 = Juyo Token(Important), i.e. EXCELLENT
  • 特別保存刀剣 = Tokubetsu Hozon Token(Especially worthy of preservation), i.e. VERY GOOD
  • 保存刀剣 = Hozon Token(Worthy of preservation), i.e. GOOD

Pass criteria for each certificate


Hozon Token

Swords to be considered as the NBTHK Hozon should:

  1. have the correct signature. if the sword is unsigned, the sword’s period of creation, region, and school should be recognizable.
  2. have not a HAGIRE(刃切れ) and a SAIHA(再刃). But only a historically-valued sword can be the exception to this criterion.
  3. For modern swords produced after the Edo period, they must be in good condition and must have the signature and unaltered Nakago.

Tokubetsu Hozon Token

Swords to be considered as the NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon should:

  1. have the NBTHK Hozon Token certificate already.
  2. look better than the sword with the Hozon Token certificate.

Juyo Token

Swords to be considered as the NBTHK Juyo should:

  1. have the Tokubetsu Hozon Token certificate already.
  2. be preserved well and look better than the sword with the Tokubetsu Hozon Token certificate.
  3. not be made after the Edo period.

Tokubetsu Juyo Token

Swords to be considered as the NBTHK Tokubetsu Juyo should:

  1. have the Juyo Token certificate already.
  2. be as highly qualified as the important cultural properties designated by the Japanese government.

 

Old certificates


From 1948 to 1981, the NBTHK issued 3 types of certificates; Kicho Token(貴重刀剣), Tokubetsu Kicho Token(特別貴重刀剣), and Koshu Tokubetsu Kicho Token(甲種特別貴重刀剣). In today’s market, there are still many swords with these certificates but they are no longer valid because of the collusion between some dealers and the NBTHK in that period.
But don’t be concerned so much,
just because your sword has the old certificate, it doesn’t mean your sword is worthless. In fact, there’re some swords with the old certificates which met the current NBTHK’s criteria and got the certificate. Since the collusion often occurred at the local NBTHK offices, the certificates issued at the headquarter are considered to be a bit more reliable. Such certificates have the stamp of “本” on the back.

 

What’s written on the NBTHK certificate?


Hozon Token and Tokuebetsu Hozon Token certificate

nbthk certificate standard

Above is an illustration breaking down the specs of the NBTHK Hozon/Tokubetsu Hozon Token certificate.

Some non-Japanese speakers have the impression that detailed information about the sword must be written on the certificate but in fact, the certificates don’t say a lot. The Juyo or Tokubetsu Juyo certificates have the information about the sword and the smith/school but the other papers only say that “The NBHTK certifies that A is an authentic genuine Japanese sword made by B and rates the sword to D on E.”.

A: Item classification(KATANA(刀), WAKIZASHI (脇差), TANTO (短刀), etc.)
B: Inscription in the NAKAGO(茎) *if the sword is unsigned, attribution is given to a school or a particular smith.
C: Blade’s length
D: Certificate ranking(Hozon or Tokubetsu Hozon)
E: Date of issue of a certificate
F: Picture of the Nakago
G: Certificate ranking
H: Serial number
I: Registration card’s information
J: Certificate number

Juyo Token and Tokubetu Juyo Token certificate 1-2 NBTHK juyo certificate japanese sword

Above is an illustration breaking down the specs of the NBTHK Juyo Token certificate(front).
The certificate says that “The NBHTK certifies that B is an authentic genuine Japanese sword made by C and rates the sword to the Juyo ranking on K.”

A: Certificate number
B: Item classification(KATANA(刀), WAKIZASHI (脇差), TANTO (短刀), etc.)
C: Inscription in the NAKAGO(茎) *if the sword is unsigned, attribution is given to a school or a particular smith.
D: Blade’s length
E: Shape of the blade
F: HADA(肌) of the blade
G: HAMON(刃文) of the blade
H: BOSHI(帽子) of the blade
I: Carving *if the blade had
J: Nakago of the blade
K: Certificate ranking(Juyo or Tokubetsu Juyo)
L: Date of issue of a certificate
M: Name of the NBTHK chairman
N: Registration card’s information
O: Serial number

Juyo Token certificate 2-2

NBTHK juyo certificate japanese sword

Above is an illustration breaking down the specs of the NBTHK Juyo Token certificate(back).

P: Date of issue of a certificate
Q: The time of the Juyo appraisal session
R: Certificate ranking(Juyo or Tokubetsu Juyo)
S: Item classification and the inscription in the Nakago
T: Name of the owner
U: Detailed explanation of the sword
V: Item classification and the inscription in the Nakago
W: Picture of the Nakago
X: Oshigata of the sword

Kicho Token certificate

kicho token paper japanese sword

Koshu Tokubetsu Token certificate

toshu kicho token paper japanese sword

Tokubetsu Kicho Token certificate

tokubetsu kicho token paper japanese sword

A: Item classification(KATANA(刀), WAKIZASHI (脇差), TANTO (短刀), etc.)
B: Inscription in the NAKAGO(茎) *if the sword is unsigned, attribution is given to a school or a particular smith.
C: Blade’s length
D: Date of issue of a certificate
E: Owner’s name
F: Oshigata of the Nakago
G: Serial number

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