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

Other important Nihonto books for after the above books

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.

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.
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. Richard 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. This book is 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. This is Sasano's first venture into his work on sukashi tsuba in English. In his later book, Masterpieces from the Sasano collection Part 1, he openly admits that this book has flaws and he learnt a lot between the two being published. Still, it is a fine book with excellent examples of early Iron and Sukashi tsuba. 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. A good addition to any tosogu collection. 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

Various books dealing with the Japanese language, Samurai and history.

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 book sellers

AFU RESEARCH. Harry ( Afu ) Watson offers his fantastic English translations of the Nihonto Koza Series as well as JSSUS books and other publications.

Afu Research

BRIDGE OF DREAMS. Craig Harris is based in the US and his company, Bridge of Dreams specializes in rare books about and from Asia, especially Japan, and fine books in select other fields. Craig has many excellent titles relating to Nihonto and Tosogu. His service is first class and he is very easy to deal with.

Bridge of Dreams

ALAN BALE. Alan Bale is based in the UK and offers a wide range of hard to find books on Swords and Fittings at great prices in both English and Japanese. Ask Alan for his full catalogue.

Alan Bale

SATCHO. Michael Harris runs Satcho and they have a huge range of hard to find and out of print books on Nihonto, Tsuba, Polearms, Amour, Samurai and much more. Very friendly and excellent service.


HIGO KINKO no SEIKA. The Glory of Higo Metalwork. Mitsuru Ito has published justtwo books so far, but they are two of my most treasured. Works of NISHIGAKI KANSHIRO and Works of HIRATA and SHIMIZU are filled with excellent images and examples of some of the best Higo guards in collections from Japan. The books are in Japanese but have Englsihcaptions. I have an extensive write up on both books at the blog (

Mitsuro san speaks Englsih and is only to happy to help you out.

Higo Kinko no Seika - H̐

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.

Tokensibata - ēc

KOSHOYAMA. Japanese Nihonto Book store with a huge selection on all things Nihonto. The site is in English and Japanese, the prices are great but shipping can be expensive, they speak English as well


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

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