Shinsa literally means “examination” or “screening”. The term is applied to
more than just one official procedure or process,
but in general for each application, it is the process by
which a sword or fitting is examined to establish some or all of the following criteria;
Confirm it is an example of acceptable traditional craftsmanship
Ascertain or verify period of manufacture, and/or maker of note
Evaluate qualitative representation
Judge condition relative to age.
It can be a little confusing, because “shinsa” applies to
both a procedure required for import and export by Japanese Customs,
as well as the separate and unrelated evaluation of them
as art objects by the NBTHK. ALL swords must be licensed
and registered for importation into Japan, and the physical
license card must accompany the sword blade at all times.
To receive this license, sword blades are required to be presented
to officials for evaluation in order to receive licensing for entry into
Japan at a session which is also called a Shinsa. Once a sword
has been licensed and registered, it can then be forwarded to the
NBTHK for submission to the shinsa held there for authentication
papers. The sword must again complete the same process for
export from Japan as it did upon importation when the
license it carries was issued.
For export, the license must be surrendered, then the sword must
immediately be packed and shipping set into motion for it to leave
the country. Fittings such as menuki, tsuba, and even entire sets
of mountings (as long it contains no actual sword blade) do not require
a license for importation into Japan, but do often require a knowledgeable
person to receive them upon import if Japanese Customs officials
have questions, or specific information is required about the items.
Therefore it is highly recommended that the services of an experienced
and knowledgable broker be secured for importation of swords or
fittings, so that any difficulties or requirements can be immediately
addressed and prevent costly and unsettling delays or returns.
Will Shinsa establish a monetary value for my sword or fitting?
One may occasionally hear the term Shinsa translated as an
“appraisal” which generally carries the connotation of establishing
a monetary value, but there is no extension of monetary value
quoted or established in any of the Shinsa processes. A formal
appraisal for value is an entirely different matter, and such services
are neither offered, nor performed, by the NBTHK.
How do I obtain authentication papers from the NBTHK?
Non-members may submit items for all levels of shinsa, but will pay an additional fee as non-members. The additional fee for non-members is shown on the shinsa fees schedule. Sword blades must also have and carry a current license.
Items are submitted for shinsa based on a monthly schedule, and must
be presented in person. Items cannot be directly mailed to the NBTHK
for submission. Once the item is submitted, it will be examined and a
judgment made for one of the following results:
Item passes for the particular shinsa it was submitted (Hozon,
Tokubetsu Hozon, Juyo, Tokubetsu Juyo), and the appropriate papers will be issued.
Item does not pass for the particular shinsa it was submitted, or is not
upgraded. No paper will be issued.
Item is determined to require more research in the future. No determination
of authenticity can be firmly established or denied. No paper will be issued.
This is a “tiered” system of evaluation, meaning that in order to receive
successively higher papers, the item must have received paper for
each of the preceding levels. As an example, a sword or fitting cannot
be submitted for the Juyo shinsa without having first passed the Hozon
and Tokubetsu Hozon levels beforehand.
What is the shinsa schedule?
NBTHK shinsa are held in alternative months for swords and fittings.
The schedule is:
Hozon and Tokubetsu Hozon Sword Shinsa
Hozon and Tokubetsu Hozon Fittings and Koshirae Shinsa
Juyo Sword and Kodogu Shinsa
Tokubetsu Juyo Sword and Kodogu Shinsa
Every other April. (April 2016, April 2018, etc)
How do I get my sword or fitting to the NBTHK for submission to shinsa?
If the item is outside Japan, it must be shipped and imported
into Japan for submission to occur. This process for swords is complex
and ever changing. Documentation and licensing procedures are
something best handled by a broker or representative that is familiar
with the procedures and informed of the most current requirements.
The NBTHK does not offer import or export services, nor can items be
mailed directly to the NBTHK for submission. There are a number of
individuals outside Japan that handle shipping to Japan with import
and export services including the licensing arrangements. Check with
dealers of Japanese swords outside Japan, and they may recommend
some contacts. Brokers charge a fee for this service, which
varies from broker to broker.
How long after I submit to shinsa will it be before I know the results?
Results are usually distributed at the end of the month following
the shinsa, but delays do happen for various reasons, and results
may take longer depending on the particular circumstance.
How long after I receive papers will it be before I receive my item back?
It can vary depending on the broker's schedule, the individual
shinsa volume, and even very special occasions when a sword
or fitting will be displayed at the NBTHK Museum for a few weeks.
In general however, 4-6 months is the average turn-around time,