Japanese Language/tang translation


pic of my tang
pic of my tang  
QUESTION: Hi Michael, Saturday I bought a new sword. I am wondering if you can tell me what the tang says. I tried to give you a lightened up version also.
Thank you in advanced for your help.
Doyle Barnett
Santa Barbara, Ca.

ANSWER: Some of the characters are not clear and every time I see one of these swords that has writing that is "one-off", I wonder about authenticity issues. But in any case, talking about authenticity is not my specialty, but the writing appears to say 豊川高田住行長. The 行 is unclear as I've never seen it written this way, assuming that is what it is.

The alliteration would be Toyokawa Takada Sumiyuki-chō. Toyokawa being a city name, Takada being a family name, Sumiyuki being a first name, and "chō" meaning captain or leader.

This page seems to mention swords with similar names: http://www.seiyudo.com/ka-131212.htm

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your time and expertize. I am very new to sword collecting so I am at the mercy of others. I am sorry to be a bother but I am confused. Three sword dealers all said that my tang says ' Ho shu taka da ju yuki naga. Which translates to "Bungo takata ju Fujiwara Yukinaga" However, your choices of matching the typed Japanese/Chinese "豊川高田住行長" to the characters on my tang looks right on to me.
Sorry, but I don't know what you mean by "one-off" and If you could could break up the words " Toyokawa Takada Sumiyuki-chō into 7 parts like on the tang It may help me.
Thanks again,
Doyle Barnett

By "one-off", I meant where all but one or two characters seem to fit.

When your sword dealers say that "ho shu taka da ju yuki naga" means "bungo takata ju fujiwara yukinaga" they're just pronouncing the characters in different ways, and not altogether correctly either. Japanese borrowed these "kanji" (Chinese characters) and many characters retain both a Chinese pronunciation as well as a Japanese pronunciation. (In the case of Japanese not assigning a Japanese pronunciation to a character, it retains its Chinese pronunciation only). Nevertheless, the characters (assuming my analysis of them is correct), would contain the following possibilities:

豊 - "toyo", "hou", "bu", or "yuta"
川 - "kawa" or "sen"
高 - "taka" or "kou" (as well as others if used in names)
田 - "ta" or "den" (as well as others if used in names)
住 - "su", "juu" or "chuu" (in names it can be read as "sumi", "shi" or "ju")
行 - "gyou", "kou", "an", "i" or "yu" (in names it can be read as "iku", "nami", "name", "michi", "yuki" or "yu")
長 - "chou", "naga" or "osa" (in names it can be read as "o", "osha", "takashi", "take", "na" or "ha")

Despite all of these options, there are generally more common combinations, which is why we can be reasonably certain in our reading.

豊川 is commonly found together because there are cities with that name. "Toyosu" as you mentioned is not an option. If you wanted to write "Toyosu" it would be 豊洲, which looks similar, but is actually a derivative character in the second position (川 vs. 洲)

高田 is also a common family name so we can be reasonably certain that this is correct.

Likewise, 住行 together as a first name would more commonly read as "Sumiyuki" as opposed to another obscure combination from above like "Junami".

And finally the appellation 長 would likely be read in its Chinese form "chou" since it is a title. And all of this seems certain because this is a war sword (or pretends to be one at least) and any markings would thus take the form of: town, family name, first name, title.

Hope this helps.

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Michael DePaula


Anything pertaining to daily conversation, music, historical/modern forms of Japanese-character writing, computer/IT-related vocabulary, and aquatic sciences.


14 years of Japanese study with about 10 of those years in Japan.

Global Underwater Explorers, Okinawa Underwater Explorers, Okinawa Freethought Society

Degree in Music Performance, University of Southern California. 10+ years working the IT/computer programming world. 8 years of amateur translation assistance. 8 years in marine conservation/technical dive exploration in Japan.

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