TIPS ON READING SWORD SIGNATURES (MEI)

The signatures on Japanese swords vary in style and complexity. The simplest is a two character mei which is just the smith’s name. If there are three characters, the third will usually be saku, which means “made this”.

special kanji

Longer mei are more difficult. In longer signatures (reading from the top down), there may be the place of residence (province) – usually two characters ( Japanese province Kanji) – the second character is commonly shu, followed by the character ju or kuni meaning “resident of”. That may be followed by an honorary title such as kami or daijo. Next may be the smith’s family or clan name such as Taira , Fujiwara , Tachibana or Minamoto. The last characters in a long mei will normally be the smith’s given name and may be followed by saku (made this).

Also, please be aware that for WW II era swords, a signature is no guarantee that the blade is hand forged. Many WW II era swords were machine made or only “partially” forged but may still bear a mei.
EXAMPLE MEImei1
Nagamitsu saku (made by Nagamitsu)

mei2 Soshu ju Masahiro saku (made by Masahiro of Soshu)

Don’t be disheartened or too frustrated if you can’t translate the signature easily. Experts are sometimes confused and find it difficult. Reading mei is like trying to read someone’s sloppy handwriting written in a language that you don’t understand .

kanji a-d

kanji e-fkanji g

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