Nakamura Notebook Background

Volunteer Translator Credit
Darcy Brockbank, Jussi Ekholm
David McDonald, K. Morita
Robert Mormile, Wim Vanspeybrouck

A handwritten notebook, dating circa 1840,  presumably created and maintained by a nihonto (traditional Japanese sword) craftsman of some type.


The front page of the notebook contains the following text (translated):  “This is the property of Old Man Nakamura Nayoa”, thus the book’s name.  The notebook contains more than 400 labeled oshigata  — rubbings of the hilts (nakago) of nihonto — which capture the smith’s signature, dates of forging, and other information incised on the hilt which can allow identification of the smith and school of smithing.   It is believed the craftsman who kept this notebook did so as a record of the swords they had worked on.

At this point more than 300 oshigata have been identified, with known smithing dates of 900 CE to 1867.  Included in these rubbings are the images of three presently-existing Japanese National Cultural Treasures.  Additionally, more than a dozen swords classed as Juyo Token (highest quality blades) — as judged by the NBTHK, the modern Japanese national organization tasked with appraising nihonto —  have been identified, as well as many still existing blades this organization now considers “Most Worthy of Preservation”.   Thus through this book we have  Some general information on the Notebook is available below

While there is no precise date written in the manuscript, its age has been bracketed as being from between 1820 and 1867, as there are blades contained in the book with known late dates of forging, or old blades shown in original form which underwent specific alteration on known dates.

Further research has strongly suggested the physical interior pages are actually a much older Edo period scroll converted into book format (see this blog post for details). Conversion of older scrolls was relatively common for important academic works during Edo period, but very expensive.

The pages of the notebook are presented in standard Japanese order (from back to front, as Westerners would say); the preface page (image appearing below) is not included in the overall page count. Note that oshigata page images are in high definition and appear at 90% actual size.

You can move through the pages by selecting a page number from the column at the left, or by using the page-turn arrows found at the top-and-bottom corners of the white background. Special features like Search and the site Blog will be found under the left-hand CONTENTS column: Click SPECIAL PAGES to open the sub-menu holding these and other features.

All oshigata images are numbered, even obvious omote / ura pairs, to allow those performing translation to definitively identify the pair. The placement of numbers again follows the old Japanese tradition of reading from right-to-left
(i.e. 3, 2, 1).

On each page, below the picture, will be text areas listing the oshigata by number. Clicking on the line for a particular oshigata number will open a comment box in the column to the right where comments, analysis, links etc. can be posted. Alternatively you can look in the right hand column for the “COMMENTS ON OSHIGATA #” line and click on the appropriate number to open the same box..

Once a comment is entered, only registered members will be able to see it. If someone wishes to discuss an entry, they can use the Reply button in the comment to create a threaded discussion in the Comments column.

When the analysis for an oshigata is confirmed, the final description from the comments will be posted on the appropriate oshigata number below the page image. Should an oshigata be determined as unidentifiable, that will also be noted.


Title Page

The title page of the notebook contains the following information, kindly translated by NMB member K Morita.

In a discussion between K Morita and Markus Sesko about this page (in sequential posts on NMB), they came to the conclusion the book at one time was in the personal library of Mitsuya Miyamatsu ( 三矢宮松 ), a well known scholar of swords who lived in the very late 19th – early 20th centuries.

Unfortunately, the identity and profession of the actual author of the notebook, Nakamura Naoya or “Old Man Nakamura”, has remained a mystery. Research on the topic has proved fruitless.



Any further information will be added as it becomes available.

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Source: http://hidensho.com/nakamura-oshigata-notebook/nakamura-notebook-background/