NBTHK America

Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK)

Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Sword

On February 23, 1948, the NBTHK was established for the purpose of preserving Japanese Art Swords. Since its founding over 65 years ago, it has been the leading organization solely devoted to the study and preservation of the Nihonto or Japanese Sword.

Dr. Junji Homma aka: Kunzan (left) and Dr. Kanzan Sato (right), Co-Founders of the NBTHK
Dr. Junji Homma aka: Kunzan (top) and Dr. Kanzan Sato (bottom), Co-Founders of the NBTHK

One of the primary purposes of the Society is to preserve Japanese Art Swords that are registered with the Japanese government. Every hand forged sword in Japan that has artistic merit is registered and issued a Torokusho by the government. This small (about 3” x 4”) laminated paper gives a registration number, date, place of registration, name, length, and other identifying details. There are thousands of Torokusho registered and each year, the NBTHK adds more to the permanent registry, classified according to the merits of each sword.

The Society not only classifies swords, but each year holds contests for sword making, sword polishing, shirasaya making, and habaki and kodogu (fittings) making. They also hold classes for the study of sword polishing.

The general offices and most of the activities are in the Token Hakubutsukan (Sword Museum), which is currently located in Yoyogi, Tokyo. In May of 1968, the construction of this building was finished and the Society moved from the Tokyo National Museum into their new headquarters. The Museum is a four-story reinforced concrete building with a total of 17,000 square feet.

The current NBTHK headquarters and Museum in Yoyogi, Tokyo

The NBTHK, with the support of the National Treasury and Hitachi Metals, Inc., also supervises the operation of the Tatara (iron smelting furnace) in Yokota, Shimane. This furnace is crucial to the production of Tamahagane, the traditional raw steel used in the creation of true Nihonto. Every year, the Tatara produces several tons of Tamahagane to be distributed to licensed swordsmiths for the crafting of beautiful contemporary Japanese Art swords.

Tatara in operation, Shimane Prefecture

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