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#166627 What's All This Then?

Posted by Brian on 01 January 2015 - 08:14 PM

Welcome to the newest incarnation of the Nihonto Message Board.

First things first.....Don't Panic!

It all looks confusing, but trust me you will be fine. Most of it is fairly logical and easy to navigate, so don't stress.


I have taken this opportunity to explain a few things though, and to make the transition as simple as possible.

This software has some huge improvements over the last one, and there are a ton of things that we will get the benefit of over the coming months. Already there are  alot of nice features, but this is just scratching the surface.


Posting is fairly easy, as is navigating. You might find it a little slower. Please bear with us, as we are going to have to upgrade hosting to gain some resources.


Here is a list of some of the nice new features:


  • Calendar - There is a nice new community calendar. You can check all the upcoming events there. You can also add events, but they will need to be moderated before showing. This will be of great use, and I encourage everyone to add events or let us know what to add.
  • All your old links are still there, nicely formatted along the top. Research leads to the main ones. FAQ is a work in progress, that we will add to as we publish more articles.
  • Adding attachments is now even easier. When posting, you will see how to do it. There are 2 systems of uploading. See which suits you. As before, upload the attachments, and only then submit the post. We now have nice thumbnails that can be clicked on to size the photos, making for larger size limits.
  • When reading a post, you will now find a quick reply box at the end of the thread. Much easier when replying. While doing that, if you should need to attach something, you need to click the box marked MORE REPLY OPTIONS. This will open a more advanced posting box, where you can upload your attachments.
    Modern forums don't allow for regular cut and paste for security reasons. However if you have cut something and want to paste it, you can find the paste options at the top right of the posting box. Or even easier....just use CTRL V to paste the text. Easy ;-)
  • Go to your profile. You will find a ton of features there, including adding friends, changing ignore settings, viewing your attachments and other settings. You can update your status too.
  • Please note, there are a ton of preferences that are worth setting there. Please click on your name, and go to settings, then notification options.
    You are going to want to go through all of them, and see what notifications you want sent to you every time something happens. Either emailed notifications or inline ones (like when you receive a pm)
  • All posts now have a "like" feature and the number of posts that have been liked appears in your profile.
  • There is a new and strict automated warning system. This is something much needed, and will take away some of the personal feelings involved in penalties. Different offenses have points allocated to them. Mostly one point, for things like spamming, excessive self-promotion, rudeness, abusive behavior and others. These warnings are given by mods and admin, and once you have a few points, there are automatic penalties. 2 Points and you cannot post for an hour. 3 Points and you cannot post for a day. More points lead to suspension of accounts for a week, a month, or permanently.
    Of course points also expire...so better behavior gets you back to zero points again. They usually expire in 30 days.
    This system will be modified as we go along, but it will be enforced.
  • Where is the "preview topic" or "go to last post"?
    Don't worry. They are still there, only in a different format. When you go into a section like General Nihonto Discussion, look just to the left of the number of replies/views. There is a little arrow there. Click on it for a preview of the first and last post. You can also click first or last and go to that post. Fancy!
  • TAGS - these are nifty little tags that you can add when you post, that will allow you to find more topics with the same subject later on. There is a set list of tags you can use. I can add more if needed. So if your post is about restoring a wakizashi...then you can add the tages "wakizashi" and "restoration" and it will immediately give an idea of what the topic is about, and you can search for similar topics.
    I am going to enforce using the eBay tag for posts about eBay.
  • Adding media is now much easier. Just paste a picture or Youtube link or whatever, and it does all the hard work for you!
  • Ok...so all the topics are now showing as unread from the last forum. No problem. Just go to the bottom of the forum, and click on "mark Community Read"and then choose all posts, or everything on the forum.
  • While there, click on "Help" to get better advice than I can remember to type here.
  • Hover over someone's name to get a popup profile for them. You can send them a pm directly from there.
  • On the topic of PM's. The messenger is now far better in that it is "conversation based" and not just a bunch of individual messages. This allows you to follow a conversation. And even better, you can add other people into the pm conversation. Just check the options to the left when in messenger.
    You can store about 150 messages before you need to start clearing some out. Remember to delete old ones if not needed.
  • CHAT. Yes..we now have a live chat, allowing up to 25 people. Only way to explain it is to say try it out. Middle click CHAT to open in a new window full screen. Then chat away. I don't have to warn anyone about behavior there do I? The usual rules apply. You can tell how many people are in the chat from the main forum page. Bit slow for now..we will work on that. Can be a very handy feature.
  • Bottom left of the forum, you can change themes. I find the default to be the best, but will add others for those who want a different style/color theme.
    Also, this forum has a great look when browsed by cellphone. Those using cell more and more should find this far superior.

More to be added as I go along. Enjoy, and use the Test forum for that purpose or to chat about the new look.


Have fun!



  • Thierry BERNARD, Jean, uwe and 22 others like this

#180797 What Is Happening To Nihonto Message Board?

Posted by Brian on 05 September 2015 - 09:36 AM

If I had to censor a word here, it would be "elitist"

Lots of people have left various online forums and activities due to being labelled elitist. No such thing here. Doing things the proper way, having the required respect, and not compromising the way things are supposed to be done is not elitist. It is just what some are prepared to do, to maintain the high levels this subject requires.

I'm not going to go into that further, it has been covered in depth. Many of the long (longest) time members here don't have big collection, major works in their collections, or sometimes barely enough to cover monthly expenses. I could name them, but they know who they are (myself included) but still stick around giving advice and showing the proper way to do things.

I suppose the elitists are the ones who, I have been told, regard forums as beneath them, and online study as a waste of time. They find the effort of educating others to be too taxing and the fact that people don't bow down before them to be disturbing. We don't have them here. Some have made brief appearances and then found it too much effort. Others want things their way or no way.

The fact is that people come and go. Some take 1 month and some take 10 years. Show me an online forum with most of the founding members 10 years later?

Peter, NMB doesn't need to be saved. As long as there are those with some knowledge to pass on, who are prepared to stick around and persevere, it will save itself.

It is frustrating, I know. Beginners pop in, last a few months, and then move on. But a few stick around. Some of them will still be here in 5 years as dedicated collectors.

It is hard...trust me I know. But to ask if this can be saved just requires me to ask one question: "I don't know....are you prepared to help save it?"

  • Guido Schiller, Henry Wilson, paulb and 18 others like this

#223371 Vale Laurie Allen - Arrowhead Collector

Posted by Bazza on 17 March 2017 - 01:48 PM

Laurie Allen died on Thursday 15th December 2016 at 76 years of age in Sydney, Australia.  Laurie was a devoted student and collector of Japanese Arms and Armour.  He was known to many around the world by correspondence, but not on NMB because he was only, in his old age, just coming into the world of the computer and internet helped by one of his savvy grandsons.  I did my best to keep him up to date with arrowhead happenings on NMB.


Laurie was a widely liked and respected collector in Australia for his great knowledge and friendly and generous manner.  At a gathering he could be relied upon to come up with a pearl of wisdom unknown to others.  He was a great general conversationalist with a great sense of humour as well and our meetings were liberally lubricated with beer, wine and good food.  For all these and more reasons I did not want to see him slip into obscurity, so here I am to shine a light on our dear mate and share his accomplishments with you all.  The photo below left shows his ready smile, the Laurie we all remember, and the other his obvious pride in being a grandparent.


A younger Laurie.jpg    'Pop' Laurie.jpg


The photo below shows Laurie late last year, enjoying himself at an art show with a beer in his hand.


A more recent Laurie.jpg


Laurie started collecting around 1964 and I got in contact with him shortly after, even though we lived some 650 miles apart.  We have been firm friends for just over 50 years, visiting each other through the years and meeting with other collectors in our home bases.  I’ll let him tell his own story as it was in December 1972 - see attachments from the To-ken Society of Great Britain “Programme”.


Over the years Laurie had many good pieces of tosogu and Nihontô, numbers of which were sold as business exigencies arose.  I was fortunate to be able to acquire some of these and in turn pass them on as my own finances became stressed!  The time came when nearly everything was sold and Laurie offered me a karimata yanone by the Shinshintô Satsuma sword smith MOTOYASU, MOTOHIRA’s brother.  I was enjoying this piece when Laurie asked if I would send it back to him as he had decided to collect yanone.  That was the beginning of an odyssey that occupied Laurie for the next 30 years or more.  At its peak his collection comprised around 300 yanone, while at his untimely death he had some 40 yanone.  Sadly, as was always the case, better pieces had been sold to keep his business afloat.


Laurie had a voluminous correspondence with people all over the world.  In the United States Dr Charles E. Grayson, George Vitt, and Paul Goodman, whose collection was sold at Bonhams’ a couple of years or so ago.  He had a correspondent Mr G van Brug in the Netherlands and in Japan a Professor with an interest in archery.  He was a corresponding member of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries in Great Britain from Volume 1, No. 1 of its Journal.  He was also well aware of some of the great early collections – Morton L. Smith, and the James Goodspeed collection, the latter once described as “...the finest private Japanese arrowhead collection in the Western world.”


A great concern of Laurie’s was the poor condition of many of the arrowheads he encountered.  He approached a polisher in Japan who polished an arrowhead Laurie had in the form of a miniature magari yari, but declined to do any more.  From his knowledge and experience Laurie understood there were no shortcuts when it came to polish.  However, to “see” his arrowheads better he devised his own techniques through his understanding of sword polishing.  He was rewarded with success when hada, hamon and yakiba could be clearly seen.  A visiting professional polisher from Japan on seeing Laurie’s work expressed surprise and complimented Laurie on his achievement.  The picture below shows one of his successes among many.


Motonao yanone closeup.jpg


Unable to buy traditional racks to display his arrowheads, Laurie designed one and had a retired cabinet maker turn them out.  Thus in his last years Laurie could sit in his lounge room watching television and seeing three racks of arrowheads on his entertainment unit.  Here are photos of those.


LH rack.jpg


Centre rack.jpg


RH rack.jpg


He also had the retired cabinet maker turn out custom boxes in Japanese oak for his better arrowheads - there were a lot of boxes!!!


Laurie had other strings to his bow...  He developed an interest in kabura-ya, Whistling Arrowheads.  From research and drawings he made a few of these and fitted them to shafts.  He also had a strong interest in Sôhei, the Warrior Monks of Old Japan, and undertook research into their history.  His remaining passion that I can recall was the Mongol invasions of Japan.  On one trip to Japan he made a point of visiting Hakata Bay just to behold the wall the Samurai built to forestall the Second Invasion of 1281.  A favourite possession was a diptych of one of the invasions with Samurai fighting the Mongol warriors.


Our good mate Laurie is sadly missed by all.  A bright note is that his entire collection was bought from his family by a good and worthy friend in collecting.


Barry Thomas

aka BaZZa.


Laurie's TSGB letter page 1 of 2.jpg


Laurie's TSGB letter page 2 of 2.jpg

  • paulb, Stephen, Jean and 14 others like this

#188937 Acid-Etched Sashikomi?

Posted by kunitaro on 17 December 2015 - 11:56 AM

Using acid for polishing Japanese sword is not good for preservation as we know.

You can not really see it (especially with good polish) but, it will damage the steel in a long term.
But, In fact, it is very popular today. we can find a lot of discussion about modern polishing techniques in Japanese article and forum sites. some are very hard discussion (include some of master polisher's names...). some said the acid and machine polish is the main stream in modern polish. it is not only cheap polish, high ranking (or mukansa) polishers are also doing it. 
We can see some Japanese polisher complains on "Facebook Time line" page or own website about (acid) rust/polish.
Our polishing workshop also often receive such blades as well. 
They looks like normal rust, but the rust (mainly dot shape) by acid is very deep that could not polish off. sometime we had to return without polish.
and our master polisher Mr.Eto said that he sees more stronger acid treated blades in the market today, he doesn't know what....

The history of Acid polish (modern sashikomi?)  was established in WW2 time.
They were doing Kanahada nugui to make Ji dark and use acid to make Ha white. 
that is why we used to call such polish "Gunto-togi". mr.Eto is still calling them "Gunto-togi".
He is saying that many swords will not survive next 100 years.

in middle of 1980', Mr.Eto was requested sending a polisher to France.
He sent one of his student and he lived in Paris for 3-4 years.
When he start to live and polishing swords in France, he told his master Mr.Eto that the most of clients were ordering acid (Gunto) polish. 
Mr.Eto told him not to do it. but, If he doesn't do it, he has no job, so he was doing it.
When people in the west start to see and collect Japanese swords was after WW2 and 60'.
so, those polishing style became kind of standard of Japanese sword polishing said mr.Eto.
When I came to the Netherlands and jointed NL Tokenkai in 1995.
I saw many acid polished blades in their collection.
I understand why it is so popular, because, you can see clearly activities of Hamon and damascus style of Ji-hada that make looks wild and fancy.
but, those are not what we should see. you will miss real actives and beauty of old steel.

Modern Polish with Kanahada-nugui and Hadori polish is called "Kesho-togi" after Hon-ami Ringa established in Meiji period.
the name "Kesho" is meaning of "(cosmetically) make up", so, some people says "I don't like too much make up on lady's face. so are swords. but, we don't want to see acid on lady's face...
I had some NMB member who were asking Modern sashikomi polish,
so, I tried to explain the fact, but, he didn't want to listen or think about it. Every time I try to tell him, he keep changing subject or run away from the conversation.
and he sent me a copy of some book of Japanese sword polishing.
"Because it wont state they use acid in the book"
"I am curious about the polishing process but i have nothing to win or lose regardless of what methods the polishers use.
Just interesting information."
said him.
That was the last word I hear from him.
Mr.Eto told me that it doesn't help if I try to tell people.
If I(we) don't do acid polish, people will go to someone who does it. and the polisher doesn't need to tell their clients how they do polish, they don't need to tell their secrets. the craftsmen does work how their clients wants. They have to earn money to live.... 
Many swords won't survive next 100 years. 
When the level of collector's eyes/demand goes down, the quality of craftsman's work also goes down.
If the owner of the sword wish high quality work and if he has eyes, the craftsman must work with his level, unless he doesn't get a job.
Judging/choosing by own liking without knowledge and understanding or just following market principle are very dangerous.
This kind of mentality will destroy Japanese sword in the future. 
Putting tomato ketchup on Italian dishes or mayonnaise in sushi and say "Because I like it" is fine. but, acid on sword is not okay.
I can not explain too much details on public, because it might harm someone's business, but, I am trying to explain to our clients with private mail.
The sword has long life but it is only with proper care by people.

  • Mark C, pcfarrar, paulb and 14 others like this

#220678 Nanbokucho Sugata

Posted by Darcy on 10 February 2017 - 07:18 AM

Going to be listing this soon. I thought it makes for a good idea of how brutal some of these Nanbokucho swords were in comparison to the period beforehand. This is attributed to Hasebe, and the comparison sword is a Juyo Token Rai Kunitoshi. It's wider at the yokote (3.2cm) than most swords are at the machi. Kissaki is just shy of 8cm.


It looks like lunchtime.



  • paulb, Jean, Carlo Giuseppe Tacchini and 13 others like this

#193015 Thanks For Making The Effort And Sharing

Posted by b.hennick on 07 February 2016 - 07:26 PM

I was reading the thread

"A Very Strange Tsuba!"


and did not want to hijack that thread. It occurred to me that we are indeed lucky to be in a community that shares so much. 

Many times members here take the time to go through their resources to find an answer to a question. The breadth of people who help is wonderful. Take the opportunity to offer thanks to those who contribute so much in a positive way to further learning. I am going to suggest the you take an opportunity to make the Year of the Monkey a year of thanks. So I will start and hope that you add a personal thank you to someone(s) who helped you.

Thank you Brian, John and Jean for keeping this place on track and offering so much of your time and effort to make this a happy place of learning.

Thank you Darcy and Ford for the thoughtful, often inspiring posts that bring your wealth of knowledge to us.

Thank you Guido, Pete Klein and Curran who all contribute in positive ways to move things along. Each of you brighten my day frequently with just the right comment at the right time. 

Thank you to Stephen (Oyabun) and Steve who both help so often that I think that this place may be the S and S help line.

Thank you to Morita san and Moriyama san who read things that just seem impossible for the rest of us. Your patience and efforts are so so appreciated. 

Thank you to those who take the time to welcome new members and answer their questions even when you have answered the same question numerous times before. 


I expect the forum to be a little more mischievous in the New Year (Monkeys do that) but I'm sure that the admins will keep this the happy place that I enjoy visiting daily. Please add to my list of thank yous. 



#214541 Nihonto Market Trends

Posted by Darcy on 20 November 2016 - 05:23 PM

Note...typos. On the iPad and fly in a few hours and can't fix them all....


I don't see high end as $10k ... and top end is not $50k.

There are guys who only collect Tokuju and are always in a $100k plus mode. There are guys who only collect ubu koto blades. In Japan some are pursuing jubi and jubun and if you want to sell to them they want your blade to sit well with these or kokuho. Even some people when I was selling the mitsutada were saying well I want one that is signed and flamboyant -- if this existed it would need to be in a new level above kokuho.

Part of the problem is that collectors live on islands and on these islands is a echo chamber where they get their thoughts reflected back to them like 10k is a high end sword. I have had in my hands a Masamune worth $800k now in the Mori museum, a Hisakuni worth $1M, three others worth well more than $1M. Some others that may be priceless. This is the pinnacle of collecting. High end is below that but not at 10 percent of that.

When you get into swords where the sword is less than the value of the restoration and papers etc you are in the low end of the market and that by definition includes $10k swords. Low end of the market is not "what is expensive to me" but is the bottom part of the overall economy. So the top two tiers, the guys regularly buying six figure blades and those handful of gods getting the best and the true Meito need to fit in. There are more islands out past the horizon.

I have said before that in these fields the safe places are with elite things as rare and special never go out of style and in the bottom as there is no downside and always will there be guys who's love reaches deep and their pockets are shallow. Danger is when people think they are guys rare high grade items at 10k and they are firmly in the commodity band with untold amounts of supply out there. Supply being poured into the market as fast as possible by certain agents will destroy the value of what you have. Especially when people focus on value (bang for the buck) instead of focusing on how important or unique something is (collectibility). Value focus is what gets you burned because the firehose does not stop and every day there are 10 more for your "but it was a good deal" purchase to compete with in the market. Your good deal melts away.

Those that set criteria and stick to them like say ubu koto elevate themselves out of the spray of the firehose. Better to raise your criteria out of the commercial grade band or not care or stay at the very bottom. The problem as mentioned is perception.

A blade gets posted here and people who do not truly know jump up and say it's a sure Juyo when it has no chance and is deep in the commodity range but the perception is that it is rare treasure... that is where the damage is done. So when confused look to the old ways I think.

If I were to partition the market it would be:

- blades not worth a polish at all - junk
- blades worth polish but will not gain in value by the price of the polish
- blades worth less than all of the other expenses combined

Those three are low end.

Then the mid grade market is set by the price of mid grade smiths.

High end market you I want have access to famous smiths work of high quality.

Top end market contains the best works of the top smiths.

Assigning prices is hard in our world where currencies rise and fall 20 percent in a year. But if you look at the work as described and then check the prices. You will see the work defines the markets rather than the dollars define the markets.

Guys in the real high end market do not get a low end blade any more often than a guy who wears a Patek will be buying Timex. The prices then track supply and deman of the tastes of these people.

This community saw the end of a one time event which was the repatriation of a massive haul of war loot that was not priced with full knowledge of what it was. The community is still suffering adjustments from this. Then it had the return of those same blades that went out got restored and papered and returned and sold on the back of the papers. There is still not adequate understanding of attribution coming first in valuing things and why. So people labour under the equivalence of papers being equivalent value. Those that know better don't offer up education... just me here banging the drum. But what they did for decades both ways over the Pacific Ocean was arbitrage. What defeats arbitrage is universal acceptance of ideals which comes from education and exposure.

Prices have been adjusting on people as they have found out that no, that chi-jo Saku wakizashi they were told to spend $5k on as a starter is not worth that because the world is drowning in them. That same problem plays itself out over and over again.

The safe areas are at the extremes. Rare and special or common and cheap, when you have common and expensive now you are going to end up on the wrong side of the pricing adjustments. With rare you can buy so high that you go above anyone else who would ever buy and it's another problem. But a $20 tsuba will not ever hurt you. The trick is to try to balance it all. That in itself is an art.

But education is the key that unlocks it all.
  • paulb, Jean, b.hennick and 12 others like this

#209939 Disputed Attribution: Unjuy Korekazu/takei Naotane

Posted by Darcy on 15 September 2016 - 09:00 PM

It's very pretty work.


This is a great example to show the breakdown in understanding between how you should be understanding opinions and how we tend to understand opinions. 


I do not see any disagreement in the two attributions. 


(Paraphrasing from memory), Sato Kanzan wrote, "Yukimitsu, Norishige, Masamune, they are three ways of saying the same thing."


Nobuo Ogasawara in Selected Fine Japanese Swords from European Collections writes some very practical advice. He says in there (at some point, again paraphrasing), "there is no disagreement in the judgment of appraisers who may appraise a sword to Bungo, Ko-Mihara, Uda, etc." ... that is really badly paraphrased but he was making the point that the third and fourth tier koto schools are somewhat fungible and if two appraisers give you different answers within this set, they are not in disagreement. 


To the western brain we are looking at an appraisal as the answer to a question that requires a time machine to accurately answer. We want to know who made this thing. What Ogasawara san is trying to say is that the further you fall away from the peak of the mountain, the less clear the view is and the more fungible the answers are. Truly great work will distinguish itself to a very narrow band, or in some cases, to an individual. As you fall to the third and fourth tier not only does it become impossible to differentiate reliably, he's saying that the differentiation doesn't mean so much. I try to bang home the statement that attribution is the first form of quality assessment, above the level of the paper. If you have a mumei sword attributed to Awataguchi, this is a Tokuju form of thing in and of its own, because the school carries forward the highest reputation possible for quality. The sword has to be in keeping with that reputation to get that assessment. If you have a mumei sword attributed to Bingo something or other, this means that the sword did not elevate itself when it was examined. If the fourth tier schools made blades in general that were competitive with the first tier schools, then they would be first tier schools. And weaker work would not be attributed to them.


In this case with this blade, they are two top tier Shinshinto smiths and Shinshinto is not exactly a time with highly distinguishable work. Two appraisers may disagree on the fine details but it doesn't matter, what they are coming back with is saying that this is in line with the reputation of the finest smiths alive at the time. 


Consider the game when we were kids where you could guess the amount of candy in a jar. If I am the only one who really knows how much candy is in there and I never tell, all you can really do is try to make a reasonable guess. If it is a full jar and someone says "5" then maybe it's because they are blind and can't see. This is what we have when people think their rust bucket from ebay is the Honjo Masamune. Good candy eyeballers are going to say "647" or "721". If I never actually reveal the number, those answers are equivalent if from all angles and ability to subjectively and objectively measure that jar's contents without ever breaking it open and counting, says that they are within some range of error. 


This is what you have with your sword. 


If you paper it again you will get another top ranked Shinshinto smith maybe if not a repeat of one of the two existing answers. Most likely, they will look at the green paper and say well that is a reasonable stab at it, and for consistency sake just verify the attribution there. You won't find out anything new. Send it to the NTHK and you may be able to add a third smith to your list.


Put this piece in the koto period and the likely candidates narrow for the skill level and regional styles and steels make for greater differentiation, and so easier to nail a maker. Give me a beautiful sword in thick rolling nie deki with chikei, jewel like steel, suriage mumei and 70cm, proud Kamakura sugata and ichimai boshi on a chu kissaki.... I will say Go Yoshihiro, you will say Go Yoshihiro, Honami Koson will say Go Yoshihiro, the NBTHK will say Go Yoshihiro and the NTHK will say Go Yoshihiro. Even though we have no signed Go Yoshihiro to compare against, this is the definition of Go Yoshihiro and the picture is crystal clear to anyone. 


Make it rolling even notare, extended kissaki, add utsuri, straighten it out a bit and make it wide from top to bottom, with precise forging and a flame like boshi and small sunagashi throughout. Every one of us will say Kanemitsu. 


Give us your blade and there is no reliable answer to fall onto. As long as the answers are not directly opposed, they are in agreement. If someone says Muramasa, another says Ko-Bizen Yoshikane, and another says Naotane, now you have conflicting assessments that require some explaining or having one or two thrown out.

  • Brian, Guido Schiller, Jean and 12 others like this

#194995 Need For Sayagaki?

Posted by Darcy on 02 March 2016 - 10:36 AM



1. There is a nice utilitarian aspect of the fact that it lets you know what's inside if you have a good number of blades.


2. I think the calligraphy is beautiful and it looks very nice on display. If you're lucky enough to have koshirae and can put them on a stand side by side it's very complimentary. 


3. It's nice to have the thoughts and comments of Tanobe sensei on the blade as an independent observation and confirmation of what's inside over and above the papers. 


4. People do lose the papers. It's hard to lose a sayagaki. So it's kind of a backup plan for the sword if you're in it for the long haul, get hit by a bus, and your heirs end up with your swords and no descriptions of anything were left for them. 


5. It's another judgment and some people can and do disagree with a paper from time to time,  so if you have multiple judgments it does help to slam dunk the answer.


About his commentary... 


"Chin-chin cho-cho" is an ongoing topic.


The history on this is that some people started noticing a correspondence between this phrase and Juyo blades and started thinking it was a code. People always want to think there are short cuts. It started going around that this meant that it was somehow above Juyo. Bob Benson talked to him about this and I talked to him in person about it some years ago.


The "if your house is on fire, this is the thing you should grab before you leave" is indeed something he has said about chin-chin cho-cho. 


But he will say this is what Juyo means as well. 


He also says he likes to mix things up so if he doesn't say chin-chin cho-cho, it doesn't necessarily mean that the blade is inferior to one that does have it (though it could be). He will use various phrases or indicate through the commentary that the blade is special without referring to a stock phrase. I think that chin-chin cho-cho mostly comes into play when he thinks that the blade is a good Juyo, he's not sure what else to say other than to just state that it's very special,  and it also helps him balance out the two columns of commentary with just the right amount of space used.


He also has a particular taste in blades... he likes very much very dignified koto blades. So his tastes will run to Heian and Kamakura Yamashiro, Aoe, Ko-Bizen and Bizen Nagamitsu, Sanenaga, Kagemitsu... blades that are very noble. More flamboyant works I feel are not to his taste, he will prefer I think Yukimitsu working in Shintogo style to Yukimitsu in Masamune style. This is not so much from what he has said to me as what he has shown me that he is working on that are discoveries and how he has responded to blades that I've had in for sayagaki and shown him.


He also likes Shinto Satsuma.


But anyway back to chin-chin cho-cho, it needs to be understood as a rule of inclusion. If it's not there it doesn't mean anything necessarily but if it is there it means he is praising the blade. Chin-cho may be there and from what I can understand it's not necessarily different from chin-chin cho-cho though it's not doubled up. 


What I settled on after all the years was trying to understand the context of his comments. When I had a strong feeling that the blade was outstanding at Tokubetsu Hozon or Juyo and felt like it could go to Tokubetsu Juyo, and have brought him the blade it has come back with very long commentary and detail. In a couple of rare instances, he has run out of room on a full length blade and has gone to the other side of the saya. This has no chin-chin cho-cho or anything like that in it. But the effort and detail show his state of mind when viewing the blade.


On one of these he took pains to compare the blade to a specific Tokubetsu Juyo blade. If he is doing that, the effort and detail of thoughts I felt was a lot stronger than tossing in a chin-chin cho-cho at the end.  


In comparison, a "commercial" level Shinto work that was a decent blade but nothing special, just won't have the detail because he really doesn't have anything to say on it other than that it's authentic. If you send in a standard blade you're going to get back a standard statement that the blade is authentic, signed and comes from a certain period, and nothing more. 


Here are examples of his commentary and I think that it's good for understanding the subtext.




This blade was once a signed naginata of this smith which was shortened in the Muromachi period by Osafune Sukesada who added this information via a kiritsuke-mei. Kunimune worked in a flamboyant choji-based hamon, and in a gentle suguha-based hamon mixed with some Aoe characteristics. This blade belongs to the latter category and matches very well a tachi of Kunimune which passed Tokubetsu Juyo at the tenth shinsa. The deki is excellent and the work is very tasteful.
It is shortened and unsigned. The period is Nanbokucho.
The blade has an o-suriage nakago but which bears a kinpun-mei attribution to this smith by Hon’ami Tenrai. Tenrai was an expert from the Mito branch of the Hon’ami family who was active from the Meiji to the Showa era. The blade shows a suguha-cho that is mixed with saka-choji and saka-ashi and layers of linear utsuri can be seen as well as a jifu-utsuri. In combination with the sugata, we do not only recognize the characterstic features of the Aoe school from the end of the Kamakura period but can agree that the attribution of this masterwork to Yoshitsugu is spot on.
The blade is o-suriage and unsigned but the jiba shows the characteristic features of Rai Kunimitsu and the deki is highly dignified. Chin-chin cho-cho.
Although shortened and unsigned, this is judged an excellent work of Norishige. The jihada and hamon clearly show his characteristics. Chin-chin cho-cho. 
The last two are typical chin-chin cho-cho examples. He has not gone on at length but the smiths and the work are excellent and Juyo and he has rounded them out with chin-chin cho-cho for highest praise and left it at that.
But the examples in 1. and 3. though lacking chin-chin cho-cho are clearly not inferior when read. The detail and effort made are consistent with the blades being very important. Example number 3 is only Tokubetsu Hozon but I think it will easily pass Juyo and potentially go higher. Example number two is something that if you get one of these you know that you don't have to submit it to Juyo. 
Another example might be where he will say something like: The nakago is ubu and bears a seven character signature. The period is later Edo and this is the work of the second generation. 
I think in these cases when he veers more into subjectivity of any sort, whether that is a lot of effort or by putting in the standard praise words, it's because he likes the blade a lot. When he chooses not to offer the subjectivity then by omission you can classify where the blade stands.
This is why I say chin-chin cho-cho is a rule of inclusion: there are multiple ways of getting to that point, so if it's not there, it doesn't mean that the blade is at a lower level than one he's said it on. When you're completely lacking anything with subjectivity and it's just a short recitation of the facts, then this is something that is equivalent to Tokubetsu Hozon with no chance of going any higher. It's a worthy blade or else he wouldn't do sayagaki at all.
So the fact that he has put a sayagaki on it means that the blade is above Hozon qualifications. It used to be that you needed to have Tokubetsu Hozon to come to him and ask (not sure how that got established but that's what I was told, when he was an employee of the NBTHK he didn't want to be a separate independent judge). Now that he's retired he will make his own judgment without it being papered.
If he's gone off the beaten path somehow with his comments, then my impression is that the blade is equivalent to Juyo. If he has gone excessively off the beaten path then you have got something very special.
Whenever he has gone into long detail, I've found that the blade is one of these strong dignified works -or- the blade is unusually and particularly precious. The canonical example is the sayagaki that he put on Ralph Bell's Hiromitsu tachi which is the only signed tachi left by the smith. This is as follows:
The blade is dated Bunna two and signed and is thus the only signed authentic tachi of Hiromitsu I know, although there are many signed tanto and ko-wakizashi extant. Thus it is a extremely precious reference piece and also very precious because it shows us that Hiromitsu bore the honorary title Saemon no Jo. The blade has a very dignified sugata and a perfectly healthy jiba and must so be regarded as one of the greatest masterworks of this smith. It was once a heirloom of the Echizen-Matsudaira family, is published in the Imamura-oshigata, and was once designated as Juyo Bijutsuhin.
So, we know the level of this blade is clearly one of the most important blades in the world. There is no chin-chin cho-cho or anything like that, but the pattern is the same as the first and third examples above. He has gone into detailed commentary and for me, I think that this then is the template for the kind of thing that has affected him on a personal level as someone who loves swords and not just as a judge authenticating a piece. 
It's my opinion then that if anything is to be taken as a short-hand "code", it's to simply example the work that he's done and make a call about how much effort has gone into it. Chin-chin cho-cho is just a way for him to say that the work is really outstanding but he hasn't been triggered to go into one of these long commentaries. Maybe it is just really typical and so typical that there is nothing other to say than "it's really really great!". Intellectually I think it is probably equivalent but my gut feeling though is that the examples of long commentary shows his emotions better than the praise words because the praise words, though they mean something very significant, are standard and the full context is inspired. 
Additional thoughts are that he will sometimes have a data nugget to throw in that you cannot find anywhere else. I found out that the Nidai Hasebe Kunishige's personal name is Rokurozaemon and I cannot find that piece of information anywhere else. Or, if the NBTHK could only settle on something like "Ichimonji" then he may clarify and do his sayagaki to Fukuoka Ichimonji. There is an ebb and flow with the NBTHK judgments that change as the judges change over the almost 60 years of Juyo... where some they may be happy to be very specific and in other times you can see they took a turn for the conservative and it changes like the tides. Some commentaries, like recently, they go into a fair amount of depth but half of it is cut and paste boilerplate for the background of the smith and school... it's still a lot better than a lot of the late 60s early 70s stuff where they in some cases put just one or two sentences into the commentary. Just depending then on the year something went through, you could get radically different approaches to what is an effective commentary and judgment from the NBTHK. They will not be varying in terms of the ultimate goal, which is to give a judgment that they stand by, but they will be of different utility as a learning tool because when they go terse and conservative they don't really throw you much of a piece of meat to sink your teeth into.
So this is another nice thing to get for sayagaki because ultimately he is a scholar and a teacher and you are receiving his opinion.
If the NBTHK could only settle on a vague statement: Awataguchi or Ko-Kyo or Ichimonji or Hasebe, and he has clarified that to Kuniyoshi or Gojo Kuninaga, or Fukuoka Ichimonji or Hasebe Kunishige, this is useful for us as a learning tool. It's a judgment, his judgment and it is worth whatever you respect him for. 
And you never know what you're going to get out of the process, you just ask if he will do it, he will inspect the blade and then let you know if it's possible. And if it's possible you thank him and wait to see what he's going to write. If you're lucky he will confirm what your feelings are on the blade somehow. If you're not, he won't and then probably you will have some head scratching and study to understand why (or maybe you will never understand). Or maybe you will find out that he liked it a lot more than you thought he would. 
So in conclusion you just want to remember that you should really get these things translated and so to understand his thoughts and how he arrived at the sayagaki. It isn't reasonable to expect him to do a Hiromitsu style sayagaki like on Bell's on your every day Tokubetsu Hozon shinto piece. If he offers anything subjective at all on a shinto piece then that is really good for a shinto piece. You need to put that in context that he has seen 10 quintillion equivalent polished Jo-saku shinto swords in his life and he is not going to leap out of his chair for the next one. That's what makes these long sayagaki something special then or even chin-chin cho-cho, because he's singled it out after seeing so many and it should give some context to the blade. Because in some of these cases the blade is really unique.

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#210836 10 Years And Going

Posted by Brian on 28 September 2016 - 08:42 AM

You know, I was looking back at the first posts here, and looks to me like we just passed the 10 year mark for the NMB. Wow. If you had asked me back then if we would still be here, offering free and invaluable advice on Japanese swords and stuff 10 years later, I would probably have laughed at you, and asked how many internet forums survive that long. And when you take Rich S and Rich T's part into it too...we have done something remarkable here. Not always 100% successfully, not always making everyone happy. Not always being right even. But we try, and we do it so that others can do what we do, or started to do back then.

I'd like to think that there have been a lot of friendships made on the NMB. Or through it. Some will have met in person, some only online. Some will have met clients or dealers or friends here. Some will have arranged further studies through the forum, or made arrangements for travel because of us.

Makes me glad when i think about it. Wish some of the old guys would return, and realize that there is more to this than just one or 2 persons on the other side of the world in cyberspace causing them to hold back. Some will, some won't. That's the nature of the internet.
But while I can, I will keep trying to do what we do, and when I can't..will try and pass it on to someone who can continue what Rich and Rich and Myself and those before them did.
It's not easy, and of course I would, and could, not do it without the help from Jean and John. And the members who spend so many hours helping others out there.

So while this isn't an official "10 YEARS" party...I was just replying to the birthday post in the Izakaya and it led to these thoughts. Which I think I'll move to GD so not only members can see it.


Have a good one all, and many more years here. Those who have suggestions on how we can improve or bring more people on board are welcome to pm me. Stagnant we are not.
And to those of you who have been here the whole 10 years, from the beginning of this forum incarnation, I raise a glass to you. :beer:


Best to all,



  • Henry Wilson, SteveM, b.hennick and 11 others like this

#202290 Tell Them Why This Is Fake...

Posted by Drying Pole on 01 June 2016 - 01:49 PM

Local auction site. I informed the seller that this was neither old, nor Japanese, nor real. He insulted me and told me to stay away from his auctions.

I notified the site, but as would be expected, they asked for proof it isn't as described. Of course, I should probably just leave it alone as I don't care much. But the principle is bothering me, as is the fact that someone is going to buy this. One of the worst looking fakes I have ever seen. Probably not even worth the cheap $20 odd it is currently at.

Anyways, I don't have the energy to type all the reasons that we have gone through countless times before, and since it isn't an exact match for one of the fakes in the guide above, I wanted to point them to this thread.
So....who wants to tell them that this is a fake, and why?



Hi Brian


Thank you for spotting this.


My name is Alex and am a category manager at bidorbuy. You can contact me directly at alex@bidorbuy.co.za - I have an interest in Japanese swords but I am no expert. I have asked the seller to give an account of this items authenticity by COB today.


I doubt he will be able to provide as this does not look original to me.


Please if you spot anything else pertaining to swords or weapons on our site that are "not as described" or counterfeit please let me know. It is a never ending struggle limiting these sort of products on bidorbuy.


  • Thierry BERNARD, Stephen, Jean and 11 others like this

#193856 A Sword I Am Looking At Right Now... (Take 2 - Sword In Hand)...

Posted by Darcy on 18 February 2016 - 03:31 AM

I don't think Sukehiro would fool anyone into thinking his work was koto Yamashiro. He made suguba and it is very good. I had one by the first generation. Osaka shinto usually makes itself stand out very much in the bright and tight jihada and hamon, and thick nioiguchi. It's hard to state it all in text but the effect is very sparkly and beautiful but it's not something that you would confuse with Rai. It gives an impression of newness throughout.


The Umetada argument... honestly I have no idea where you guys are trying to come from like this. If this is shodai or nidai Tadahiro it is coming with a huge gap between the time that shodai Tadayoshi learned under Umetada. If his signature was going to follow or be influenced by the signing habits of Umetada then that would come from his time immediately under Umetada. Not suddenly out of nowhere at the end of his life.


This is the classic case of putting the cart before the horse. You're starting with the conclusion that this thing is legitimate and then arguing for ways that it could possibly end up being legitimate. This is not how the game works. We start from a conservative or at best neutral position and then allow the sword to speak, and then follow Occam's razor where it leads us.


Every time the sword does something awkward or unusual in its conversation with you, you are presented with a fork in the path. Each time you have to take the path with the marker that says "unusual" the greater the chance you end up at the destination "gimei" and this increases exponentially. One is a pass it's probably ok, two is uh oh and three is: bzzzzt. You have to let the work lead you, and if you insist on leading the work you will almost always end up in the wrong place because you can make up arguments for almost anything. 


I have a Norishige for sale on my site which is a good learning experience because it too has an unusual signature. However, this one is dead on knockout for Norishige work. The NBTHK makes a point of hammering that one home. The signature passed their examination for being the correct period. What is left is just one unusual thing and that is that the style of signature is somewhat unusual for Norishige. Now, if the work were not correct and looked like Yukimitsu and the tanto were 32cm and not correct for Norishige and then the mei was the wrong style, now you have a problem. You've quickly moved into very shaky territory. But since everything else is bang on what it does is argue to expand the definition of what the signature styles of the smith are. It helps that there is another just like it in the Juyo so it's not standing alone. 


If you had to bet money on the Tadahiro (and honestly you are betting money on these when you buy them) then over the long haul your money is best played with the odds not against them. If every time a sword comes up that is not right, that has a big name on it, and you consistently side up with the "buts" and "maybes" 3-5 times in the conversation with the sword then you're going to end up being burned 19 times out of 20. 


It's not an opinion it's just math. 


I don't see any reason for cautious optimism even. All I can say is that none of us have a record of being uniformly correct and I am not above the NBTHK or NTHK and so maybe they would disagree. That is just butt covering boilerplate and stating the obvious, that I'm not a top scholar or a perfect judge. But I don't see why anyone would find there to be a reasonable hope that this one is correct. 


All there is is a real outside shot because the mei has some serious mistakes in it and the quality is not up there with what it should be for Shodai or Nidai Tadahiro. It's not a bad sword but what is going on here is exactly why they made these things. It's just enough to confuse someone into believing it when they want to believe (in my opinion). 


Hope is just not a good way of doing analysis. If this were a dead ringer for Shodai work and the mei were closer and stronger and more ducks lined up then there would be more hope.


If this was a smith that we had 20 good signatures of then there would be more hope for edge cases.


But Hizen swords have thousands of available works to call on. So when one doesn't match the book, you have a serious problem and arguing but and maybe is not as strong a stance as when you have a really old koto blade. Starting to overlap and I think I stated the case, what I had to say is to absorb or discard at this point for what it's worth.


(Also please note that the hope card on these unpapered "edge case" blades is what creates a market for them. Some of the "sensei" have put stuff like this on ebay and their websites and littered the ground with sparkly glimmers of hope, but careful parsing of their descriptions reveals all kinds of legal back doors that they have carefully engineered to say, "well I never explicitly said it was good" ... but they have created an environment which was crafted to give hope that it was good and in these cases, especially when or if they have easy access to papering services, it leaves it an open question about why they would sell such a thing with no papers when papering it removes all doubt and would let them sell it for much more... perhaps they just like the cut of your jib or the look of your face or feel like donating a few thousand dollars or more of value to you today because it's sunny out... then again maybe they know it's no good and carefully craft an environment where you can believe and they can have a back door to escape down... however they do it it's actually a misunderstanding of how fraud laws work because you don't have to explicitly make a fraudulent claim to be guilty of fraud... purposefully withholding information or letting someone lead themselves to the wrong conclusion based on partially sharing information or putting such an item within the glow of authenticity is fraud. Some of these guys have histories of quietly distributing bad stuff that would surprise you. This one not Nanbokucho as stated. This one not sho-shin gendaito as stated. And so on. But each time someone played the hope card on themselves and fell into the trap.


We have all been there, and when I got started I bought a sword with a sayagaki by Kanzan to Sadamune... sold to me by someone in my city who I thought to be a friend. I thought Sadamune would be too much to hope for especially at the price of $10k as offered, but I could hope for someone Soshu and in the Nanbokucho period and the doors were open for something good. Well after I bought it an expert in Japan (and a real expert) said the sayagaki was a forgery. It eventually came out that the guy who sold it to me submitted it for papers. When I had come back to him with it being a forgery he defended it by saying look, this is a good blade because it received Tokubetsu Hozon papers when I sent it in.


To Kaifu school.


Which the guy deliberately held back to create the impression that it might be something better than Kaifu.


Though he made no lies, he presented this in the air that it was something that it was reasonable to have an open question about, and he figured he could sit on the mental fine print of me not asking if he actually had papers for it or not, and that he could hold them back and let the sword sell as the potential for something more. He knew something that I didn't and let me speculate that it could paper to something better. A lot of sword guys think this is OK and it's not. They think it's paying your dues. But its fraud and victimizing someone.


If you have a gold coin and find out that it's copper, and then turn around and sell it to someone as this coin you found and it sure does look like gold, you're defrauding him by letting him believe that it might be gold when you know it's not. And this is how a bad signature sword goes around and around and around. Because every time someone finds out it's actually no good they are the one that's burned and instead of eating it and removing the signature they will feed it back into the market and try to recover their money. There is an Ichimonji that I keep encountering (though not for a while) that has been to the NBTHK god knows how many times and a Rai Kunitoshi with no boshi that people keep submitting to Juyo.


Condell was tired of people asking him about this Rai Kunitoshi by the time I saw it first well over a decade ago. I got tired of seeing it jump from table to table and people asking me about it. I told one friend who asked me about it who wanted to buy it that it had no boshi and Condell knew about it long ago and the blade had been tried a million times at Juyo and kept failing because it has no boshi. But it wasn't enough to squash the hope and he bought it anyway. Pretty sure he sold it again some time after when it failed to pass Juyo, because it has no boshi.


What people fail to understand is that an otherwise fatal flaw is dealt with in stages depending on how important the smith is. If you have something that is like Ko-Hoki Yasutsuna it could possibly pass Juyo with no boshi provided it is ubu and zaimei because it is an incredibly important thing and the age gives it a pass on no boshi. This same thing won't work if the blade is end of Kamakura and mumei. But that blade could get Hozon or Tokubetsu Hozon considering. Move to the Shinto period and no boshi is now a horrific situation that will stop all papers. Go back to the Koto period and but a no boshi on a Kozori work and it's not going to fly at Hozon either. This is what is out there and what they have arrived at based on the relative importance of the work though I can't say for sure they would do the same thing today. 


The point I am hammering here is that hope is somewhat close to greed in that the combination of the two makes people take chances they otherwise wouldn't take. Hope is not an investment strategy (so people usually find out) nor is it a gambling strategy or a marriage strategy or a kantei strategy. Sometimes it turns out OK just because it was the 1 time in 20 that the stars aligned. And often that's enough for people to take the chance again later on. Hope is not your friend though, it's your enemy. That's why we don't listen to it and start from the position that such and such a blade is sho-shin and then argue for ways for it to be sho-shin. Because there will always be a way. 


Maybe this week Masahide broke his hand and Naotane was sick and so Masahide had to get his grandmother to come in and finish the sword for him and this is why the quality is not so good and the hamon is unusual and the mei is not right, but I'll sell it to you for cheap and if it papers then you really come out on top. Hook line and sinker someone will take the gamble because they want to believe and they want to win and it's more exciting than actually going out and spending the money on a legit one.


I cannot for the life of me understand why people would go out and buy fake Omori work for 30% to 50% of the price of legitimate Omori work. Everyone wants to say, well, the signature is not legit but it's really Omori school work. And probably it isn't. It's probably just someone later on down the road faking it and cloning the style, and if you had real Omori in your hand beside it then it would look like a laughable POS. Absent the real thing it's just close enough to get by and someone will buy it thinking 30% is a good price for Omori school... but if you look at a fake Ferrari vs. a real Ferrari the price is not 30%. A fake Rolex vs. a Real rolex and the price is not 30%. A fake Micheal Jordan rookie card vs. a real one and the price is not 30%. So why are people going out and spending 30% for the fake Omori and presumably making this decision over and over again and building these collections based on hope while they let a real one sit there unbought? Because it's too expensive relative to the fake one?


All other examples in the world indicate that the fake one at 30% of the price of the real one is the one that is REALLY expensive because it needs to be compared not against the real thing but against what it is: anonymous mediocre work by someone who couldn't get by making his own stuff so he made a cheap knockoff. 


It's the same as buying SONNY from Shenzen instead of SONY from Japan. That's what it needs to be compared against. 


Tell me what you see. 

This was a pretty random stumble to find, in this case they are both reflections of the same thing but they're done at different skill levels. The top one should not be argued as work of the hand of the bottom one though in any way shape or form. Though they look the same and are the same design, it's not right to say that well, maybe but then possibly in this case blah blah. It's just not the same guy no matter how you cut it and getting confused between top and bottom examples means that you'd need to learn more and see more. 

Trying to put a spike through the heart of the hope argument here. Maybe and but and hope are enough to submit something for papers to make sure that you're not wrong. That's about as far as they take you. And this sword in question, if the belief is so strong that it's masterwork, then there should be no question about spending the money to send it in for papers. 

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#189829 Thanks For Another Great Year!

Posted by b.hennick on 30 December 2015 - 06:20 PM

Dear fellow forumites (if that is a word):

Thank you for making this a great year. Your participation and contributions have made Nihontomessagoard a must visit daily.

A special thank you to our Admin team who keep things on the right track Thanks Brian Jean and John.

A special thank you to those who help with translations - so many help, I fear leaving anyone out of a list. Having said that Morita san and Nobody san must be individually thanked.

Some posters bring joy with their shared humour, others with their well thought out long posts that not only answer questions but peak interest and raise new questions. I appreciate especially respectful back and forth. 

I have asked some members here to contribute their work to the Japanese Sword Society of the United States (JSSUS) Newsletter and they have. This spreads not only their thoughtful post but also spreads the word on the benefits of Messageboard. Thank you to those contributors.

Thank you to those who contribute to the New Year's draw - both prizes and cash contributions will help to keep this board functioning well. 

A special thank you to those who take the time to welcome new members. Making this a welcoming place where newbies will want to stay and learn will only serve to advance our hobby. 

Some great posters have sadly left us this year. I miss them and only wish them well. I thank you for your contributions and hope that the New Year will bring you back - think of it as a time of New Beginnings. Thank you for the time you shared with us. 

Feel free to add to my far too short list. All of us have some things to be thankful for and grateful for - Nihontomessageboard is one of mine.


#211970 Sword polishing service in Japan

Posted by kunitaro on 14 October 2016 - 05:22 PM

This is an old article about sword appreciation and master polish.

Sword appreciation <polishing>

  I visited the exhibition of Soshu master pieces at 2nd floor of Japanese sword museum.
There was a Wakizashi which is one of the most famous master piece of Soshu Sadamune, But, the blade was re-polished and the beauty of Sadamune's Jitetsu was destroyed, it looks like low rank blade.  Tear is almost coming out from my eyes.
And the sword made by Kunihiro which is one of the greatest shinto smith, was re -polished that looks like a Koto...
When I remember those swords were originally polished by Hirai Chiba, What it has done on this swords is out of discussion !
I don't know who polished those swords...  It is abusing a master pieces....
<P77 "Nipponto wo Togu" by Nagyama Kokan>

 This is the quote of Nagayama Kokan in Showa 28 (1953). 
"Hirai Chiba" in this story is one of the most famous master polisher in Taisho-Showa period. the legend that he could make any swords even low class blade turn to  looks like "Meito/master piece" blade.
Professionals in this field says that "Don't touch/polish the sword polished by Hirai Chiba, because, the sword will become worse, and never get back to same again.
We can recognize from this story that the Kunihiro blade was polished originally by Hirai Chiba.
He was very good/genius in emphasizing  Horikawa school style Jitetsu. 

Then, who did polish those master pieces after Hirai Chiba ?
In the quote, Nagayama said that "one of the most famous master piece of Soshu Sadamune".
So, it must be "Tokuzenin Sadamune (Kokuho/national treasure)"....
Ordinary/regular polisher has no chance to polish such an important blade.  
The polisher must be Hon-ami Nisshu (Kokuho/living national treasure).
His polish is very unique, difficult to say good or bad, its confusing... You can recognize that quality/technique of the polish is very high level and he doesn't use acid or any chemicals, It is completely traditional way of polishing, however, Jitetsu is closed and very smooth and shining surface... It is almost looks like expensive knives instead of Japanese sword....

 It was an exhibition of Bizen Ichimonji school, there was one sword in many master pieces which looks like polished by Hon-ami Nisshu. 
The blade doesn't looks like Ichimonji at all !!  
The Bizen Ichimonji school is famous for its beautiful Choji Hamon, however, the Jitetsu is kind of rough. but it emphasizes the beauty of Choji hamon. 
But, the Jitetsu of this blade looks very smooth that makes it look like Gendai (modern) blade.
However, This is the true value of his special polish.
To understand his polish, we must completely change the concept of viewing sword. His polish is that making all jitetsu smooth and all activities would reflect on surface of smooth Jitetsu. It looks like that seeing reflection of mountain view on completely flat surface of lake in deep mountain. however, you can see this only in your hand with bare eyes. 
It is very special and nobody could do the same.
 When you see it straight through glass on exhibition, it looks just shining. when you see it from side way, it looks like low class modern blade as Nagayama expressed. Even when you see it in hand, it is difficult to see those fine activities if you are used to see the polish that emphasized Jitetsu and Hamon like Nagayama style.
I use to have a friend polisher who is a student of Nagayama Kokan school. so, I also used to see the polished blade which emphasized Jitetsu. 
When I had Hon-ami Nisshu's polish on my sword at first time, I couldn't understand and didn't know how to view, I thought about "re-polish" many times..but, when I progress my sword study, I started to understand the secret of Hon-ami Nisshu's polish.

When you think about Jitetsu from the perspective of information, our brain recognize Kitae-hada as base of Jitetsu that become the guideline, together with Martensite makes “Keshiki/Scenery in the brain.
We think that the blade has Chikei or Hataraki in Ha, but, in fact, our brain are creating this scenery. the material itself what we are seeing activities of the blade is particle of crystal/martensite. Our brain is recognizing it as regionalpoints of sword viewing appreciation.
Therefore, when we see the polish that suppress Kitae-hada, all activities/hataraki are reflecting on surface of smooth jitetsu. the brain couldn’t not recognize the Jitetsu as the guideline, so it couldn’t be recognized the Hataraki/activities following Kitae-hada. 

On the other hand, Nagayama Kokan’s polish is that emphasize contrast of Kitae-hada and martensite. we can see Activities/Hataraki clearly. This, you need Chemical (special polishing/nugui material in the book).
Hon-ami Nishu doesn’t use “special material”, uses only iron oxide. He also has some secret however, it is complete different way of Nugui technique from Nagayama style. 

It is difficult to say which is better,,, Nagayama Style is popular for average collectors and Hon-ami style for more advanced collectors who communicate with the object.
Some people  blames Nagayama school for using acid, however, Do those people understand Hon-ami school's polish ? The most of them do not.
We are initially viewing the sword in the passive information configuration capability of the brain. 
in this case, Nagayama style that using chemical (acid polish) is easier/better to recognize the activities, because it clearly distinguished.
But it come to the level of appreciation from the mere information processing stage that to interact with the sword.
The stage to hear the voice of the sword, 
Nisshu style of polishing is far better.
Because, the activities/the work of craftsmanship in the steel reflects the movement of his own mind.
Regarding to the appreciation of Japanese sword/blade today, we all start by looking at them in a rather passive way. 
This initial approach is pretty much supported by the Nagayama School of polishing which makes use of chemicals that optically enhance certain features, i.e. the kitae-hada and the martensite activities in the steel become so very obvious.
As we move on however and improve, we gradually leave mere data processing and start to enter a dialogue with the sword.
When the level of viewer goes up, the level of craftsmen(or polisher) must go up.
In this sense, the reflections of the activities in the blade reflects the activities of our own minds.
<End quote>***********************************************
As in the story, there are three polishers, Nagayama Kokan, Hirai Chiba and Hon-ami Nisshu.
And explaining different polishing styles between Nagaya Kokan style and Hon-ami Nisshu style.
In the past, I had a complain from one of our clients who didn't like the polish. he said that the polish is not good, the Ji is just shining and Ha is too white.
so, I tried to explain and try to advice how to view the blade. he told me that he knows how to view the blade because he has 5 Juyo blades. and his friend told me that he knows what is good polish because he has a blade polished by Fujishiro Matsuo.
Fujishiro Matsuo was famous for "Haya-togi" that is meaning "Quick polish". He use to polish one sword in one day. It is famous story.
He was expert of using acid. Fujishiro shoten was working for Gunto in war time, polishing many swords. people used to call "Gunto polish"  and start sword shop and Catalog sale after the war. They had a big workshop and many polishers were working.
Nagaya Kokan is famous for using chemical (acid) and machine polish, he was founder and developer of polishing machine.
in 1968, Nagaya Kokan started a school for polishing Japanese sword called "永山美術刀剣研磨研修所/Nagayama Bijutsu Token Kenma Kenshujo".  the modern school system, the students could pay the fee and go to the school from home. 
Many polishers graduated from this school.
Maybe not many people know or heard about those stories ?
It is common information in Japan. and experienced collectors and professionals know that using acid and other chemicals for polishing sword is the main stream. so do the  majority of the sword what we see in the market today, however, there are many different style of master works. 
Owning Juyo sword or liking polishing by Fujishiro Matsuo are not meaning that they understand the polishing. 
We should train our own eye to understand, not depend on paper or brand name.....
How to view Japanese sword ? 
When you look at a sword, mr.Eto advises that DIVIDE every 10 -15cm of the blade, and STARE at each section for at least 5 MINUTES.
Observe Hamon and Ji with good light and different angles. 
5 minutes is a long time for staring. when you do it, you will see much more in the blade.
you will be able to communicate with those activities and listen to the voice of the sword.
You will understand about the sword and polishing much deeper with this way of viewing.
Under the candle light in the dark room, you can see what Samurais were seeing in Edo period.
In this way of viewing, you can see much finer activities with our workshop's work.
Mr.Eto's style is the most close to the traditional Hon-ami main line style. not using acid or other chemical. he and his students are doing their own technique and selection of stones. mr.Eto have maybe the biggest collection of polishing stones. 
To maintaining for our polish. we advice traditional proper way with Uchiko. the sword will looks better and better, and the end (after 50-100 years), it will become same like an old Sashikomi from Edo period.
If you have any question about polishing, always welcome !
Best regards 

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#201166 Tokubetsu Juyo 2016 Results

Posted by Darcy on 19 May 2016 - 01:30 AM

Thanks Darcy for the list.
What I noticed is that there is only 3 wakizashi. No yari, naginata... Only katana, tanto and tachi.



Here's the primer on Tokubetsu Juyo. First, it's supposed to be the model of the "best of the best". Quoting Tanobe sensei "it's the upper half of Juyo Bijutsuhin." The smith's reputation, the health of the blade, especially in areas we may overlook (boshi and niku) is extremely important.


Period is also very important as you can see in this issue 92% were koto. 8% were shinto. 0% were shinshinto.


Naginata are often as well made as swords so pass but they are rare to find in older periods. Yari are not usually as well made so they don't tend to pass so well. Only one ever went. For a long time these were also considered disposable so a good record of old yari and naginata is hard to come by.


Tanto, many master smiths of the Kamakura period worked in tanto primarily so we see a lot of tanto.

Wakizashi are generally a Shinto thing. They do pass for smiths like Sukehiro, Kotetsu, etc. who may have taken a special order from a rich merchant and so made lights out work. Before the Shinto period a ko-wakizashi in Soshu style is the kind of thing that is completely fine to pass. But a tachi shortened into a wakizashi is a really big modification so removes something that's very important in passing Tokuju: sugata.


Everything is a balance of the merits and ideally everything is perfect or as close as possible, then there is a competitive aspect where you need to beat out others in order to get in. There is some balance of Yamato to Yamashiro to Bizen etc. and there is some balance of Koto to Shinto. 


Some facts:


1. Katana (mumei suriage tachi and zaimei katana) are 40% of what pass

2. tachi are 30%

3. tanto are 11%

4. wakizashi are 7% (and these are mostly nanbokucho type things)


After this are koshirae and tsuba with everything else really being small and exceptional.


Looking at the data another way:


1. Kamakura are 48%

2. Nanbokucho are 23%

3. Edo are 10%

4. Heian are 6%

5. Momoyama are 7%

6. Muromachi are 4%


Edo is bumped up by the fact that tosogu are mostly Edo.


Everything else is split... Kofun stuff passes but is so rare to find so it's small. Meiji can pass if it is extreme.


So your ideal item to submit is a signed Kamakura tachi by a well known smith. 


In general they are looking for true archetypes of some sort and Edo wakizashi is not something very high on the list. I try to learn from this and model what I do based on what they're putting emphasis on. 


It's not about a nice blade, it's about the most important out of the important blades. My Yukimitsu passed this year as it is a dead ringer for Shintogo work and is very healthy with excellent niku and great activity and jihada. It also tells a story which shows that Yukimitsu learned this style which is based on Awataguchi from Shintogo and this happens before the midareba Soshu revolution. 


Picking Juyo is hard but picking Tokuju is harder. It needs to really abandon the "nice sword" thoughts that pervade people's imaginations about why something is a candidate. It can be nice as you want but it's not what they're looking for. Important is important, so the best smiths will dominate Juyo. When you get to Tokuju levels the best of the best dominate the rest.


What follows below is a tradition chart of Juyo vs. Tokuju works. Koto Bizen dominates both, being almost 30% of Juyo but it's 41% of Tokuju. So the best of the best tends to be Bizen. This is also though based on frequency: there are a lot of Bizen masterpieces to pick from. 


Soshu is 10% of Juyo but is 15% of Tokuju. So while Bizen has a 33% boost going into Tokuju, Soshu has a 50% boost. This implies that Soshu is quite rare but punches very high at Tokuju. Yamashiro also boosts , 12% of Juyo up to 17% of Tokuju.


What this tells people is that the three main areas of the peak importance are Bizen, Soshu and Yamashiro schools.


Yamato on the other hand falls from 9% of Juyo to 5% of Tokuju. The work is not competitive when you raise to filter for the top works. Shinshinto falls from 2% of Juyo to 0.18% of Tokuju. A 10x drop. Shinto is 14% of Juyo but 8.7% of Tokuju. 


It tells you if you want to seek the best swords for collecting, you concentrate on Bizen, Yamashiro and Soshu koto. If you keep the quality up you will increase your chances too that they will go higher in terms of papers. But this shouldn't be about papering, it's about what the top experts think are the most important things. It is kind of a money is no object thing to be talking about great Bizen, Yamashiro and Soshu smiths but that is the thought, that if you are to pursue greatness, this is where it's concentrated, as together they represent 72% of all the Tokuju that pass.


What you need to take home from this is that most Edo wakizashi don't really register in the top brackets as art items. Muromachi is also hard as is Shinto and Shinshinto. Exceptional pieces in all of these will also be exceptional pieces period. Of the Gokaden there is a clear heirarchy and that is Bizen, Soshu and Yamashiro at the top, Yamato and Mino and then Majiwarimono (hard to classify), and Shinto below. At the bottom, Shinshinto. In terms of how we view importance. 



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#191083 Tokubetsu Juyo Rai Kuniyuki

Posted by Darcy on 16 January 2016 - 11:30 AM

Yeh, I did mean Paul (not Curran) regarding the protecting investment statement.


Okay. Here is the challenge, Curran. Everyone on this board contributes a bit towards a ridiculously large pool of money. You provide us with the names of those two shops in Japan who are holding back, just because they don't really value money all that much. They would much prefer that their best swords find a nice Japanese "forever home". Sorry, that's an irritating term that the doggy breeders use frequently. 


I'll take the pile of cash to Japan with me (flying first class, of course), and walk into both of these shops. I'll slap the great wad of cash down on the counter and say, "show me your best sword". When I get home, after I have spent any remaining dollars on Sake and escorts, we'll submit the sword to an impartial expert and see what he says. The sword will then be sold for a net loss on eBay, and every member will receive a small portion of his original contribution back as a token of gratitude.





I am sure it's a joke, but if you were to do this all you'd do is overpay for something not great and because you couldn't tell the difference they'd leave the best thing in the back and you'd never even be aware of it. You'd buy something sure, they wouldn't let you walk out with your money. 


You'd be left with the perception you want but everyone who knew a thing or two about swords would groan and put their head in their hands.


They test you over there because they want to know who you are so they know what to sell you. If you are one kind of customer you get one kind of blade. They don't want to waste your time or their time. So they will figure you out and sell you what you need and bow and wave and say thank you, maybe invite you to lunch if you spent a lot. 


Keep in mind that there is a kind of guy who wants a flawless blade so complains about koto. So he gets shown a shinshinto and then he may complain about it being young. So he gets shown a shinto and then he reads on the internet that Juyo is important so he says it's OK but I want a Juyo, so he sees one and says wow it's so expensive because it's Juyo and I should get an older blade for this much money.


Then he opens up a book and quotes one of the authors praising a sword and he says that he wants a wide powerful blade with an ikubi kissaki and a lot of activity in the ji, not so much flaws, he wants it to be koto and so good that it might pass Juyo but don't worry about the paper and keep the price down (he thinks the paper causes it to be expensive you see, not the sword itself). Signed is preferred.






If he were so lucky as to be shown this sword he would react by saying, this is too short for me I want a longer one. D'oh.






So you give it to him and say, and lucky for you, it's not Juyo!!!!!! 


Now nobody wants to go through trying to educate this guy. He wants something for nothing like a lot of people. Dealers over there are smart and they want to know if you are going to help their business or not. If you want to spend a lot of money they will sell you something but you won't get the best sword because you can't identify it. And they know it. They will size you up and test you and you will get what you will buy, but what you think is what you're going to buy is not necessarily what you are really buying. They will just do what is necessary to make you happy and won't try to educate you. Unless you have built a good relationship or they are really generous. Then they will educate you a bit. 


I have gone into dealer's shops with money to spend and I have been told this while the room was filled with boxes of swords, "I don't have anything to show you." 


That is a great relationship to have. 


And basically here are the keys to getting the good relationship:


1. don't waste time (you need to know your subject matter)


2. don't waste time (you need to not make unrealistic pricing proposals)


3. don't waste time (you shouldn't talk about how cool you are and how you have all this great stuff and how one day you're going to buy the sword that sings to you... basically pretending to be a buyer of something that you are not, though you would pick it up off of a dead samurai's body and proudly display it if you had a chance)


4. don't waste time (your desires and your budget need to be in line with each other or else don't open your mouth)


5. don't waste time (pay your bill now, or tomorrow if possible)


6. don't waste time (know enough to be able to evaluate a sword and make a decision on it without involving months of advice of 37 other "friends" and "connections" who probably don't know any more than you and/or some of whom are also dealers and will tell you everything else is crap but they will make you a sweet deal)


7. don't waste time (don't back out of your purchases the next week because you got cold feet, keep your commitments ** this is not saying that you should never back out, ultimately you need to do what makes you happy, but the kind of guy who says go then stop one time usually says it multiple times and this degrades your reputation and relationship with your counterparty, so when you do it you need to weigh out how much that relationship means to you (possibly nothing) vs. the need to back out...)


8. don't waste time (don't return the blade in 3 months or 9 months because you discovered a kitae ware or because a friend of a friend told you it's not good and offered to take your money from you once you got your refund)


9. don't drop a sword, don't spit on a sword, don't touch anything without asking


10. have enough knowledge to show reverence if someone whispers "shintogo" or "yasutsugu" or "sanjo" or "awataguchi" in your ear while handing you something that you just got the keys to the inner sanctum and if you do not trigger on this, either by understanding what was said or even better, what is in your hands, then you will never know that you had the keys and lost them at the same time


Edit: And number 10 is not something that can be understated. It shows that you're ready. When you can get nervous or excited about picking something up or both at the same time. When you're humble, the top collector I ever knew is the only one who consistently bowed to his swords every time. That is impressive to me and I am not Japanese even. He does that and he demonstrates that he's ready. The first sword he bought from me he came to see it and it had some flaws in it but was Tokubetsu Juyo. So I was gritting my teeth and just waiting for the comment "but it has a flaw". And instead he looked at it and put it away and he said, "Ah, there is nothing like a Kamakura sword." And I knew he got it. When that happens, you can connect. It's like a secret club. He gets it, he gets it! You can show him anything now, that's how you feel and maybe some of what they feel. Not to mention the pride both personal and cultural as well as making sure that the horrible of horrible does not happen, which is that a good sword ends up in the hands of a doofus. 


Money is just one aspect of a relationship. It's required at some point to further the relationship. But the guy who thinks that money is everything in the relationship will never quite get the best relationship.


There is a guy in Tokyo who owns more Juyo Token than every collector in the world outside of Japan combined. He buys more than you can imagine. One dealer told me, "I don't show this one to him because he will just bug me about buying it."


So that is something to really think about, that last statement, why it was said and what it means. 

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#180795 What Is Happening To Nihonto Message Board?

Posted by paulb on 05 September 2015 - 09:18 AM


I don't doubt unitentionally but you have hit about every raw nerve I have regarding the board. Like Peter I have been here since God was a boy, even before Rich Turner took over from Rick Stein. We have debated this time and time again and there is no doubt that the character of the board is changing as more people dip their toe in and try and understand the subject. You just look at the range of the content to see that a much higher proportion of the board is taken up by discussions on military swords and Gendaito. it also has its share of people who have become used to the instant gratification of asking on the board rather than attempting to find out through study.

The problem is that study and research takes time and effort and therefore the proportion of detailed work appearing here is bound to be less than the questions about a latest ebay purchase.

What seriously hacks me off (please substitute a strong expletive, I thought it would censored if I wrote it) Is the comments such as dont have the money, time and education as being a limit to studying a subject. Also labelling someone who puts such effort in as "Elitist" as though they had some social desease is equally galling. Some facts:

1. I dont think any of the serious students who contribute here and spend large chunks of their lives studing this subject would be considered wealthy, or of unlimited funds, they make choices as to what they spend their money on and work with what they have. Jean has just posted inmages of his collecion that is the result of 40 years effort not unlimited funds.


2. Time. Everyone I know who contributes research here has other calls on their time, they make the time available to do the work it is again choice.


3. Education- Read the biography of one of the most learned people who writes here, Paul Martin, He started life as either an electrician or security guard (I forget which it was) in the British Museum to give himself the chance to study a subject he loved. He worked his way to becoming an assistant curator and to the point now where he is a go to authority. This was because he was passionate and made the effort.

This idea of creating an Elitist section where all the rich elitists can communicate without having to deal with the run of the mill never originates from those who put effort in and make commitment. If this were to happen who will be there to answer the questions? or do we just spend our time talking up the latest Ebay showa-to national treasure we bought from Ebay. (at least that way we are unlikely to learn the truth and can live in our fantasy world.)


Sorry for the rant but it is a concern that we are slipping away from serious study and discussion and focussing increasingly on lower end pieces. We all start there, Most of us have to, but if we dont put the effort in to study more and develop collections that is where we will stay. For some that may suit for others not, the important thing is that each is able to reach their own potential and target and those that choose not to put that effort in should not deride those who do or belittle their effort with the mistaken belief it is because they had more money, leasure time or education than those who have chosen not to.



Sorry for the rant, but this ongoing belief that buying and studying good blades is a result of having limitless funds and time belittles the considerable effort that many ordinary people put in to this subject.

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#169821 Juyo Shikkake In Germany

Posted by Darcy on 07 March 2015 - 03:23 PM

1. Knowledgeable, knows what he wants, but blessed with so much money that it doesn't matter if it is overpriced. 2. Naïve, but trusting. Buying into the hype provided by a dealer about sword "A", and made to believe that it is the pick of the litter and very exclusive. He's flattered and encouraged to return. As with type 1., he has so much money that it never occurs to him to seek other expert opinions about his recent acquisition. He will only find out the hard truth when it comes time to sell his sword, and no one wants to pay anything close to what he paid for it originally.



Not everything is a scam.


Sometimes it is indeed the pick of the litter. There was a Gojo in San Francisco last year that was in immaculate condition. The owner had a six figure plus-plus figure on it. Worth every penny. Pick of the litter.


Anyone who knows swords should want that sword. Few can or could afford it.


You have a depressing false dichotomy there that a buyer of high end items needs either to be rich and not care about wasting his money or else a fool who is easily tricked. Buyers of swords tend to be really thoughtful and quite smart with their money and come from fields that require a lot of education. I have never had a rock star or a guy fresh out of college who just signed an NFL contract and is pouring his wallet out come and ask me for a sword. 


It's been CEOs who run high level businesses, bankers, doctors, lawyers, scholars, martial artists, computer programmers, entrepreneurs and small business operators. Generally guys with smarts that earned them money and often with business backgrounds that are absolutely contrary to throwing cash away and/or being naive about making business deals.


Swords actually among collectables are pretty good in terms of them having a low multiple between commodity and highly desirable items. You don't see the same thing in diamonds where a 4% difference can generate the price being doubled. Or baseball cards say where very fine differences in condition create arbitrary categories into which items that are pieces of paper printed by machines become highly valued in increasing price buckets. 


With swords you have the option to buy something that is a commodity blade like a Chu-jo shinto wakizashi (it was made as a self defense tool and it is a commodity now) vs. something that is a historical artifact, like if you could have a good condition signed ubu Shintogo Kunimitsu tachi you would be in the possession of something which is an essential part of history and a cultural treasure as well as an artistic masterpiece.


Buyers perceive value then, if you can say own 10 commodity pieces vs. one high level art item... and I agree with them. Some guys would rather have 30 x $10k swords instead of one Tokubetsu Juyo Sadamune. This makes them happy to have a collection and that's what they want. The guy who buys the Sadamune though, neither of these guys can quite look straight at the other. The large collection guy says what a waste and a ripoff and a conjob to dump so much into "just a sword" and the guy with the Sadamune looks back and says, "how much time does that guy have to invest in oiling all that junk?" 


Exclusivity is something that people should be able to measure objectively. If you have a signed and dated Rai Kunitoshi you can count the others that are known in public and make some kind of decision about how relatively rare it is what you have. If you have one with a date that is earlier than written in every book going back 600 years then you might be able to make the conclusion that you have the earliest one that exists. And therein lies something special. Or if you have the one where he wrote he was 75 years old on it when he made it. That counts a lot. 


The same way that getting a D color diamond over an E color diamond counts a lot, but maybe the difference is lost on people who are not deeply involved in the subject matter.


What people are trying to do when they are going into the high end and rare items is that they are trying to set themselves criteria to decide if something is worth enjoying or owning. It is a limiter that says yes I really like that but it is not fitting what I need it to fit if I am going to own it. 


There are many other psychologies out there from tire kickers who just feel special when they're treated like a player, to the hunters who get a charge out of the finding and the acquiring but owning sadly sucks up his capital for the next hunt so needs to sell as often as he buys, to the remorseful buyer who immediately questions anything he buys and feels sadness and pain in ownership instead of joy. And there are the long horizon collectors who judge everything calmly and make decisions over years because they are in this for 40 and this is a pleasure to them to contemplate the purchase instead of rush in, the collector collector who enjoys owning before buying and selling so is chiefly concerned with just having what he has and enjoying it, to the art appreciator who is just infatuated with beauty and thinks about this first above everything, to the history buff who is excited because this sword connects him to some kind of past, maybe to a tangible past and real person who owned this sword and he can read about, to the investor who cares about nothing except that his exit price be higher than his entry price.


In truth everyone is a bit of a blend of these archetypes and they all factor in somehow to how we approach buying something. Some of course have more emphasis in one of these dimensions than in others and some of them are not so healthy to let take over your decisions. 


But the high end guy, it's very hard to argue against him if he wants to pursue the very best and will pay for them. As you get to the top of the sword pyramid there are fewer items to compare against. Each item starts becoming unique. 


How much should the Hachimonji Chogi be worth? I have seen more beautiful Chogi. But this blade is famous because someone is said to have cut a horseman in half with it (like the number 8 -> 八). It is huge and massive and the owner of that one is going to rejoice in the old story which we would have trouble believing now and that it has been well known and appreciated for such a long period of time. I had a chance to hold that blade and it feels like it could cut through a tank. But, not so pretty. 


So... can we plug the Hachimonji Chogi into a spreadsheet and calculate a proper value for it based on length and percentages and Sai-jo saku and so forth... nope. It is a unique object, it is an artifact and as a result, it will be a discussion between whomever owns it and whomever buys it and how they feel currently between their need to have the blade and their need to have some numbers in a bank account. 


Some of these items are universally desirable (or nearly so) but are not affordable. Like a guy who hauls a 10 kilo slab of gold into a village in Burma, maybe he can't get the price he wants for it from his immediate marketplace but this doesn't mean his price is necessarily too high, it is that the 10kg chunk of gold is not so liquid in his chosen market, or the entire market (you can scale that number up and as you scale the size up you will get less and less liquid no matter how big your market is). 


The items in question that brought up this discussion are 3 Shikkake blades and it seems that some have the perception then that one may be over priced, one under priced and I guess the other one is just right. Because there are three how can it be otherwise...


At the far end of the spectrum you have a combination of high supply and good quality (Omi Daijo Tadahiro is the man). With this, we get the closest we can get to the pricing models working well. There are enough around that you can price compare, condition is very similar with most blades unless it's been accidented somehow in its history. They are going to almost all be ubu and well made and you can start then plugging in these minor details and also you have so many examples around you can come to a conclusion about what "the price should be."


Western collectors tend to be guided by the papers very easily and in this case we have three Juyo Shikkake and I think the conclusion that they should all be the same price -or- that one is overpriced is not correct for a few reasons. 


For me, of the three the one I like best is the short one on Aoi because it has the nicest jigane and it appeals to me. But I know a lot of collectors who will not consider anything below 70cm. They would tell me I am a fool and flushing my money down the toilet, because the blade is not long enough to own. They would buy a longer one, for a higher price, with less visible quality in the ji. 


Who is wrong and who is right?


This is entirely subjective about what parameters are more valuable to an individual. I think the only thing that we could agree on, me and the theoretical long sword buyer, is that if I put my jigane on his long sword then it would be more expensive than either of ours. That is, the blade shifted up the exclusivity scale. It becomes progressively rarer, and in fact exponentially so, the more positive attributes you slap on a blade. 


Where we have many thousands of ubu zaimei Omi Daijo to choose from, just by doubling the age of the blade we end up in situations where there may be one or none. So as the blade gets older the number with positive properties plummets dramatically as you add it up. 


For instance the guy who neglects to buy a mumei Mitsutada because he wants a signed one, well he is going from something that is really rare (Mitsutada) to something that is almost impossible to buy (signed one, there are about 8 that may be legal to export). Now if he says too he really wants an ubu one so turns his nose up at the signed shortened ones, he's into just one blade. 


That blade may never be for sale during his lifetime.


What is its value? If it does hit the market, he's going to go oh no that one is wayyyy too expensive (implying it is overvalued by the owner). Well... it's unique. Where is the fencepost north of that blade that allows you to make the determination that this one, the only ubu one that you may buy that exists, is overpriced? 


It's just your gut at that point, or maybe it's just because it can't be afforded. But there is no relative means to compare that.


If you have the opportunity to buy the only signed Hiromitsu tachi then you are in the same boat. Ask me how much this sword is worth, ask Benson, ask other people, nobody is going to bet their life on the number that they give you. There is no fence post north of that sword. That one, is the end.




Not only is it the only signed Hiromitsu tachi it is the only Hiromitsu daito that is universally accepted as his work.


That's it.




Game over.


Now... is that hype or fact? If someone is going to sell you a mumei Kozori tanto and tell you that this represents the finest of Nanbokucho workmanship and is a treasure that your family will cherish for generations, that is hype. 


If you are going to be the owner and custodian of the last Hiromitsu tachi known to man, that you are a lover of swords, and Japanese culture, and of samurai and of steel, and you will be the one human being out of the 8 or 9 billion of us that is going to be entrusted with this... well... that is at an emotional level but it's also the truth. 


What is it worth?


It can't be answered. It's priceless. Today is going to be different from yesterday and depending on which two people are going to try to do a deal it's going to be a different number. 


So everything is on this spectrum that has a few dimensions: From high quality and high supply Omi Daijo to commodity blades that were just self defense tools for merchants (chu-saku waks from the Edo period) to high quality low supply good old koto blades like the Yamato Juyo types of things to stuff that is a historical artifact that could be on display in any museum in the world including any in Tokyo. 


Where something falls into there is what Dr. Tokuno is kind of getting at when he's laying out guidelines and then warning that they don't always apply literally. You can't value an ubu zaimei Shintogo Kunimitsu in never-used condition. I can't even guess. My guess will be different from someone else's.


I can though tell you that you an get a nice quality Omi Daijo katana around 69cm with passable mounts for around $20k plus or minus a bit without even knowing anything more about it. 


Where something falls is going to determine its value, the more rare it is, the harder it is to peg because we just don't have thousands around to make a fluid marketplace and make comparison judging. The supply and demand are not balanced with a high number of transactions giving us a de-facto situation we can point at and say this is it or it's wrong. 


So these Shikkake blades, I don't see anything about them that says they are out of whack. I can't say one is cheap or one is expensive they are what they are. Though the papers are the same and the school attribution is the same, they are almost certainly made by three different guys at three different times with three different skill levels and they are in three different types of condition. What is more appealing to one may be less appealing to another and as such they're just in a range that seems appropriate and any individual has an opportunity then to pick the one that presents the best value to them personally. 


There have been better ones in a lot of ways and there have been worse ones. More expensive ones and cheaper ones. It's all a reason why everyone should study and learn and handle as many good swords as possible and then buy based on both objective and subjective criteria. You need absolutely to buy one that makes you happy to have and there is no price that you can put on that. It's better to pay a little more than you might like to have the one that makes you thrilled every day then to save 10% and have one that you hate and regret. Pay a little more and have one that has a shot at papering higher than one that probably doesn't deserve the papers it has and wouldn't get them today... because then that is a simple valuation proposition that anyone can understand. If all things are equal, get the longer one. If length is equal get the one with better jigane. If jigane is equal get the one with better hamon. If you like them both and everything is identical then get the cheaper one or pay a bit more and get the one with koshirae.


Dr. Tokuno's work is really good and is something that people should try to internalize. Similar statements have been said to me, "Katana, samurai. Tanto, samurai. Wakizashi, businessman." That helps sort out why things are how they are. Past that the subjective stuff will guide how much it's worth to *you* as well as objective stuff like history and koshirae and provenance and reputation of the smith being a bit different in practice from how it's in the books, but even so everyone needs to value how much that means to them. A lot don't give a damn about the history they want the best blade. Some do not care if it's a fake signature and will never paper because the sword came with some story. Who is right and who is wrong? There is no absolute answer to that, there is just the side that you tend to agree with. And those differences of opinion are what sets the demand side of the supply and demand and ultimately affects the market price.


But because one guy doesn't care about something doesn't mean that the next won't: so what appears over valued or under valued is often a matter of perspective and perception. 


Some of that we see working out on a daily basis as dealers in Japan actively destroy koshirae to remove the kodogu and put them in boxes. It's because fittings collectors and sword collectors come at this with different perspectives. The fittings collector devalues the sword and the sword collector devalues the fittings. Both groups view it to some degree as a "nice to have" to have the complimentary part there.


The result?


High end koshirae is often empty and high end swords have no koshirae or poor koshirae.


I just saw some fittings that were taken off of a koshirae for a Juyo blade, they were very high end old work. The dealer said, "too good for the sword." A Juyo sword! What he was saying really is if he leave it together a fittings collector won't buy it at all, and a sword collector will pay for the sword then mentally add about $5k in his head as a buffer in which he will accept the fittings.


The solution is to shred the koshirae, put the fittings in a box, sell them for top dollar to a fittings collector who wants his stuff in boxes, take some other low class fittings that the fittings guy won't buy, put them onto the koshirae to drop its value, return the koshirae to the sword now with low end stuff on it. As a result you max the value of all the items and take advantage of the different perspectives of these two groups. Now you have a 60% return vs. where you were starting out with them together, plus you got ride of some unsaleable junk.


It is... heartbreaking. 


And every day it makes any sword that is both a high end sword and has high end koshirae that much more rare. And so more valuable. But it requires a bit of education so that people understand the situation. Not hype. 


I have examples now where I can look back and see what has been done to some blades. I see a solid gold two piece high quality Aoi mon habaki ... and then it has a zoo of mismatched low quality fittings. On a black lacquer saya. Well... this probably had something like Yoshioka school menuki, kogai and kozuka that matched the habaki in quality and style... they got ripped off and put in a box, and then all this other stuff mounted up in its place. 


All of that because if one guy paid the value that the fittings guy saw in the fittings, plus paid what the sword guy sees in the sword, and bought it as a set for the value of the parts BOTH GROUPS would tell him he overpaid. For different reasons. But he would be using the fittings guy's knowledge and experience to judge the fittings and the sword guy's knowledge and experience to judge the sword. 


So really... it is not a very straight forward thing when it comes to that really simple question of, "What is it worth?"


My own opinion is always that people should try to consolidate, to have fewer and better things, go vertical instead of horizontal and that every bonus to the item you are buying makes it more desirable. The more desirable, the more value, but the more value harms the liquidity (how fast you can sell it). So each person needs to make a decision about what their time horizon is (forever? one year?) and how much liquidity matters, how much owning something matters (does it bring you joy or regret) vs. having the money. Everyone will answer it differently. Ultimately though it's just better to buy the one that you really want and will STILL want after you buy it, even if it costs you a little more, though it's nicer to get it for a little less if you're lucky.


So these Shikkake in conclusion (this got long and I rewrote it once!), I think are just what they are. Three different Shikake, three different prices, nice for Yamato buyers because it gives them some choice and also potentially negotiating leverage if the one they want is the most expensive of the three! Bonus.

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#224200 Sad News

Posted by Markus on 25 March 2017 - 11:20 PM

Very sad news indeed. Thierry had always been highly supportive of my work and backed every single joint project we did here on the NMB. To give you an example of his kindness, Thierry just donated to the Gendaito Project on Thursday the 15th, the day before he presumably died, as Jean meantioned in his initial post. That makes me very sad and the very least I can do to pay tribute to Thierry's enthusiasm is to dedicate the finished Gendaito book to him. Rest in peace.

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#222819 Indulge Me With This Kantei

Posted by Darcy on 10 March 2017 - 10:27 AM

Thanks Darcy, Its those non general ones that sometimes give you a ? :)  http://www.nihonto.ca/hasebe/



Yeah that Hasebe is an odd case because the NBTHK came down pretty firmly but whenever I show it there is a reaction to Chogi.  In other years it may have passed as Chogi, or so I have been told. If I was a big fish I could try to ask them to reconsider the judgment but it is pretty firm. As Chogi it almost doubles the price.


Anyway this is why Kanzan wrote that "Masamune, Norishige, Yukimitsu, these are three ways of saying the same thing." (paraphrased). 


Attribution is the first part of quality appraisal and getting it into the right arena is the key thing, not because we have a time machine and can verify anything specifically, but because you need to be evaluating quality and putting it to a smith with the right quality reputation. A big huge Soshu style suriage tachi of excellent quality has to go to a smith with a reputation for that quality and the style. When you deal with such a blade, it can't go to Hiromitsu or Akihiro because of the very few signed examples (i.e. one, and half the signature is gone), so they won't do that. But maybe mixed into the Hasebe and Sadamune attributed blades are some Akihiro and Hiromitsu. But it's not a good answer to name them because of no verified examples other than the one. 


And with that one, pre-NBTHK some people thought it to be Sadamune. The NBTHK couldn't possibly attribute it to Sadamune with only half the signature on it and declare it to be the only signed work of Sadamune, so they have to put it to a more acceptable answer with Hiromitsu.


Getting back to Kanzan, with Norishige, Yukimitsu and Masamune, each has habits that would let us put a blade to one of the three. Lots of Matsukawa hada, go to Norishige. Absolute top quality, to Masamune. More classical or even in Awataguchi/Shintogo style, go to Yukimitsu. But there is a zone where the three smiths overlap and an answer to any of them could be correct.


There is one tanto that Honami Kotoku (#1 judge all time) put to Yukimitsu and Honami Kochu (#2 all time) polished then put to Masamune. This blade went to Juyo and accepted as Masamune. The owner of that blade put it to Tokubetsu Juyo and it passed easily... and got the attribution changed to Soshu Yukimitsu at that time by Kanzan (who by everything I can find in his writings and opinions, believed firmly that Yukimitsu is peer level to Masamune and probably that his best works have been suctioned over to Masamune the way this tanto was by Honami Kochu). 


Given Kotoku and Kochu basically arguing over Yukimitsu vs. Masamune, it gives ground for anyone thereafter to take a side. If those two disagree on this particular work, none of us can be expected to have an authoritative opinion. 


When Kanzan died, this blade returned to the NBTHK and the NBTHK reissued it as Tokuju to Masamune. This is the only sword that exists that has two Tokubetsu Juyo papers, and you can see why once you know the full history. 


Coming around then, who made it? Well, I have seen the blade in my hands, at the time I didn't know the history and I didn't know a lot about swords. But when it was shown to me I realized that I loved Soshu and I was looking at something very special. Of all the Masamune I have seen in my hands (not a ton, but I think around 7 now), this one was the best. And of every one I looked at in photos (all the Tokuju, Kokuho, Jubi and Jubun) this one is still the best. 


So it is either represents the very best work of Yukimitsu or it is the very best work of Masamune, and so has to be one of the very finest of all Soshu works. If you can come to that conclusion while handling the blade, the label that goes on it is not so important. This blade doesn't take its value from the name of the smith associated with it.


Rather a blade like this gives value to the name associated with it. Because it is so good that's why Kochu said it can only be Masamune and why the NBTHK agreed twice with that. Kanzan just had the opinion that it could be at the very pinnacle of the mountain and still be Yukimitsu. 


So with my Hasebe, I am actually very happy to think about it as Chogi, but I can't really punch at the weight of the NBTHK and say this is what it is. If it had hitatsura all over it could rule out Chogi but as it doesn't, Chogi is not ruled out. What it is at the end of the day is a top line Soshu katana of massive size from the mid 1300s. Good answers would be Hasebe and Chogi, and if we could find useful signed work, it would let us say Hiromitsu or Akihiro. Because that may indeed be the truth of it. 


Similarly the NBTHK won't put a mumei Shintogo style katana to Shintogo Kunimitsu, these always go to Yukimitsu. There is one example in the Juyo and that blade could only be done because it had I think a Honami Kochu paper with it so it gives them safe harbor to say so. Otherwise they won't stick their necks out on Shintogo. I was shown about 10 years ago a beautiful wakizashi that I was told had papers to Shintogo but I never saw the papers and it never appeared at Juyo though it looks like it would pass. So I don't know what to make of that. 


Back to Norishige, when it is one that shows a textbook feature like this, its easier to answer as Norishige. The alternative of Yukimitsu is easily ruled out by the hada. The alternative of Masamune is not a place to go to as an easy answer. So in the method of the NBTHK judge, once you're in the right arena (Kamakura period Soshu of high quality, use this to cut down to a list of suspects to put into a lineup) you then look at the features and make a balance of probabilities call as to who it could be. And in that, there is a bit of flexibility and the use of DEN assists in massaging an answer a bit. 


DEN is an ongoing thing that I look at and try to improve my knowledge. One of the recent things I dug up just out of studying old books, for instance looking at the old Kokuho plates, was that it seems to have been used in the early 20th century in association with all mumei blades. Basically meaning attribution. Today Tanobe sensei has said that it means plus or minus 5% in terms of features departing from the book. The literal meaning of a mumei "attribution" without DEN would be to read it like an artwork in a museum... "An unsigned painting by Leonardo da Vinci" vs. "An unsigned painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci." They are both technically attributions but one is a bit softer. It seems from the 20th century plates of the early Kokuho, that a mumei blade must be attributed so they all became DEN meaning, attributed. There is no way around it. 


So, DEN was introduced it looks like around that time as the Honami never used it. Perhaps it was implied in all judgments that it was indeed a judgment. The only specific use of DEN that wasn't completely implied previously then was when it was used with signed works. Where you had something like a signed Kunitsuna and you think it is probably Awataguchi Kunitsuna but you're not slam dunk certain, you'd call that signed blade DEN Awataguchi Kunitsuna (and we still see these sometimes). This kind of uncertainty has been dealt with sometimes on signed blades by adding a second generation (there is a Juyo Nidai Norishige for instance), and in some of those cases we now dismiss that there ever was a nidai Norishige. That just means an unusual signing style for Norishige that someone didn't want to expand the book on Norishige with, the work was acceptable for Norishige, and the mei was provably from the right age of the sword and not added on top. So creating the nidai Norishige out of thin air is a politically acceptable thing to do. Better to use DEN or sometimes to-mei-ga-aru which is a statement that the mei is not false but is not within slam dunk acceptability. A lot better than erasing mei as it gives time to build the book more.


Anyway some later point it looks like some boldness may have entered and some judges dropped DEN on mumei swords as a way of expressing their certitude. 


So when we come along we get this mix of DEN and no-DEN and it seems like DEN is the add-on, where really it is something that is implied anyway and in the context of modern attributions was used across the board when introduced. 


That said my Hasebe has no DEN so the judges had no uncertainty. But I have my opinion as do some others. Mine can embrace Hasebe and Chogi and I am OK with that because after all this time, I accept that we don't have time machines and what the attribution is trying to say at the root of it. And I know that is their opinion, and theirs is certainly better than mine.

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