Nihonto and Samurai Books and Films

Recommended books on Japanese Swords and Fittings

There are hundreds and hundreds of books available on Nihonto but the books listed below are some of the best to begin your journey with. As you go on in your studies, you will learn about more advanced books but as they are mostly written in Japanese, I suggest you start with these.

Below is a list of books that are recommended as a must have for beginners.

Books available through Amazon


100 Masterpieces from the Compton Collection published by Christie's
Whilst this may seem a little pricey to the novice, it has outstanding photographs and
lets you see great swords up close and personal. ( out of print but not hard to find )

Art and the Sword, (8 volumes) by Japanese Sword Society of the US ( JSSUS )
Excellent series of books with important and educational information on many of the great
sword schools. Available through

The Arts of the Japanese Sword by BW Robinson. Informative book with many charts
that are used by hundreds of collectors daily in translating mei, nengo etc. Out
of print but you can find it around, it is well worth the hunt, try Michael at

Japanese Swordsmiths by Hawley. A huge listing of swordsmith names with Kanji, locations
and dates of literally tens of thousands of swordsmiths. Some consider this book a must have whilst
other people believe it has too many mistakes in it. There are several editions and the
latest is the best. I find it a very useful tool and do recommend it.
Available though Hawley Publications

Here is a list of Intermediate and advanced books that are recommended
( some of these books are in Japanese but I have tried to list books with English translations )

The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords by Nakayama Kokan. Probably the most
informative book on swords, their structure, features and the schools that employ these features
that you can buy in english. It can be a lot of work for the new collector but is well worth the effort.
Definite must have Available through


Nihon Toko Jiten Koto and Shinto by Matsuo Fujishiro Translation available by Harry Afu Watson.
Written in Japanese and fondly referred to as Fujishiro's, this book offers hundreds of oshigata and
Information on many smiths from the Koto, Shinto and ShinShintô periods. Definite must have
( Temporarily out of print ) NOTE:Harry Watson's translation is a must have companion if you do not
read Japanese. Though these are now out of print, you do see them available from time to time and
are well worth picking up. ( note: I can get these books from time to time form Japan second hand so if
you are after these, drop me a line and I will see if I can find you a set. Rich Turner )


Nihon-To Koza ( Currently 6 volumes available) Translated by Harry Afu Watson. The collection
includes 3 books covering the Koto period, a book each for the Shinto and ShinShintô periods, 1 book
on Kodôgu and another on the way, this is a huge collection of information on the greatest smiths and
artisans of their respective times. Definite must have Available through

Toko Taikan by Tokuno Kazuo. There are two editions of this book, the current reprint from 2001
and an earlier edition from 1977. This Japanese Language book is excellent and is used by many
collectors at Sword shows and the likes. It has a great deal of information on many smiths from the
earliest Koto times through to Gendai and offers a Yen Value ( current only to the time it was printed )
as well. It also has many oshigata though they are small and sometimes hard to make out.
There is also an Index in English available from Dr Rich Stein at Toko Taikan Index
Generally a available through

Shin Nihonto Kantei Nyumon by Yuichi Hiro & Kazuo Iida. I love this little book and use it everywhere.
It contains major smiths and clear oshigata of their mei, has great information on Gimei signatures
with clear examples. It has Kantei skill pages that will definitely test your skills of Kantei. It is available
from many online Japanese sword stores as well as Satcho. Also note there is an English Translation
available from Afu Research on CD. This book is one of the most used books in my Library.

Other books that are general information, school specific or deal with kodogu etc.

Early Japanese Sword Guards - Sukashi Tsuba by Masayuki Sasano. The definitive guide to
Sukashi Tsuba with clear photographs and excellent descriptions. Each section is broken up into
schools and at the start there is a double color page of the schools typical work. There is a clear
space to place a tsuba of your own on the page for comparison, pretty neat. Definite must have
Out of print but not hard to find, try Michael at

The Sword and Samé by Henri L Joly. This book is really made up of two old Japanese books,
The Sword Book in Honchô Gunkikô by Arai Hakuseki and The Book of Samé - Kô Hi Sei Gi by
Inada Tsûriô. Arai Hakuseki lived between 1657 and 1725 and this is an excellent account of Nihonto
from days gone by. Inada Tsûriô's book is an excellent account of Samé, or the Ray/Shark skin that
is used in Koshirae. It covers nearly everything there is to know about this subject. This book is a great
read. Out of print and a little hard to find but try Michael at

The School of Hizen Tadayoshi by Roger Robertshaw. The most definitive english language
book on Hizen Tadayoshi swordsmiths. ( Out of print but well worth hunting down )

Mino-To by Malcolm Cox. Excellent english language book specializing on the swordsmiths of Mino
province. Available through

Masamune: A Genius Swordsmith and his Lineage - A fantastic catalogue on the Masamune
school by the Sano Art Museum. Written in Japanese but has an English Index.
Available through the Sano Art Museum

An Early Style of a Japanese Sword - sub titled in search of the origins of the curve. Another
wonderful exhibition catalogue from the Sano Art Museum. Written in Japanese but has an
English Index Available through the Sano Art Museum

Japanese Swords and Fittings in the Western Australian Museum by G. Trotter. Catalogue
of the Swords and Fittings of the Museum of Western Australia. Available through the WA Museum

Japanese Swords and Sword Fittings from the Collection of Dr. Walter A. Compton Christie's
Catalogue (3 volumes). Out of print but well worth the effort to hunt down. These excellent catalogues
display some of the nicest Fittings and Swords in any collection.
Out of print and a little hard to find but try Michael at


The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary. The Bible in Japanese Kanji and
Kana. This book is essential if you want to learn to decipher Japanese text, names. This is an
advanced text but once mastered, you will find it indispensable.

Samurai: An Illustrated History by Mitsuo Kure. Excellent book on the History of
the samurai, armour, arms, the samurai at the end of their reign and much much more.
Excellent photographs and well written.

Samurai: The Weapons and Spirit of the Japanese Warrior by Clive Sinclaire
Excellent account by renowned British Nihontophile, Clive Sinclaire on the Samurai, their
weapons and their way of life. Wonderful photographs and another great read on
an amazing time and place in history.


Recommended Nihonto Book Sellers

Afu ResearchHarry ( Afu ) Watson offers his fantastic english translations of the
Nihonto Koza Series as well as JSSUS books and other publications.


Satcho Michael at Satcho has a huge range of hard to find and out of print books on
Nihontô, Tsuba, Polearms, Amour, Samurai and much more.


Alan Bale Alan is based in the UK and offers a wide range of hard to find books on
Swords and Fittings in both English and Japanese ( email only )
. Excellent range and service.
Email for a catalogue


Tokensibata Japanese based book seller that has a large selection of books
at very reasonable price. The site is in Japanese but the owner speaks good english
so just email and ask.


Koshoyama Japanese Nihonto Book store with a huge selection on all things Nihonto.
The site is in English and Japanese, the prices are great and they speak english as well


Cowboy Bob's Books & Things Bob Rossman runs this excellent service from his
base in Japan. His book finding service is second to none and I highly recommend him.


Samurai Films
Some of my favorite flicks to enjoy if you are into all things samurai

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