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#309143 Ford Hallam has had a heart attack and is hospitalized

Posted by Ford Hallam on 21 November 2019 - 11:02 PM

You didn't really think you'd be so easily rid of me, did you?  :laughing:


I've been home 48 hours now, still a bit tender and delicate but gently settling in to this thing they insist I endure, recovery. 4 weeks of enforced idleness before rehab even starts. :dunno:


But I must be honest and say that as a sobering warning this was effective. It was a pretty nasty shock to the system and one I won't be treating lightly. I still have far too much to do.


Thank you all for your very kind words of encouragement and support. And your contributions to the 'survival fund' that was set up by my students to ensure I'd be around for some time to come.


I'll be taking things very gingerly for while yet, keeping my blood pressure and heart rate low and adjusting to a bucket of pills a day, but I'll no doubt be unable to resist the odd post here pretty soon.


kind regards to you all



#307221 Swords of Japan - YouTube channel

Posted by Ray Singer on 04 November 2019 - 04:00 AM

I have started a new YouTube channel (Swords of Japan) to feature videos of different swords that I have owned or handled. Please see below for a feature on a Bingo Chu-Mihara katana owned by John Yumoto, and feel free to subscribe to see future videos.



#283946 Sharing

Posted by IanB on 23 February 2019 - 01:29 PM

Having been a member of this Forum for years, I thought it long overdue to write a short note of thanks to Brian and all of those other members who freely contribute by sharing their knowledge and experience with others. The study and appreciation of Japanese arms and armour is a complex subject, the study of which is complicated by a labyrinthine terminology, and to most of us, a complex foreign language. I well remember my early days of collecting when the only source of information available to me was Basil Robinson's 'Primer of Japanese Sword Blades' and how I struggled to understand something of what was being described in its pages. Forums like this have opened the door for so many on a wonderful world of study and interest.


Ian Bottomley


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#280753 Gassan Sadatoshi Katana Modern November 2018

Posted by Guest on 23 January 2019 - 02:01 PM

Hi ladies and gentlemen



Just wanted to share a post on the delivery of a new Gassan Sadatoshi (November 2018 reg) and say a big thank you to Paul Martin for helping to make this a reality. The sword is beautiful and I am completely ecstatic! Paul Martin was, as always, great to work with in order to make this happen. 



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Gassan Sadatoshi Nov 2018 Ryu no Yume Box.jpg

Gassan close up.png


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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!



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#326891 New discovery Natsuo kozuka...

Posted by Ford Hallam on 13 April 2020 - 11:47 AM

I was showing this beautiful kozuka to my partner, also a goldsmith, this morning. She commented similarly to others here that the silver could do with a bit of cleaning. This then prompted me to ramble off on an impromptu 'lecture' on some specifics of Japanese aesthetics.


For what it's worth I'll try and condense what I was saying to add a little food for thought. 


The first point I'd make is that unlike the situation in Europe from the 16th century ( ish) and the rise of the notion of artists as independent creative individuals the distinction between what we understand as craft and fine art was only something that started to take hold in the very late 19th century in Japan.


What this means is that almost all items we'd regard as art were conceived, in Edo Japan, as being firstly artefacts. That is to say cultural objects. As such what happens to these objects over the course of their existence becomes an integral part of the object itself. Any obvious decorative aspects or artistic expression remains, is altered in appearance and is added to by time. We might even say the work matures.


So what we then have is a multilayered object to experience.


And at this point it will be obvious that the teachings of wabi and sabi are at play.


But wabi and sabi are too often reduced to simplistic adjectives that give the impression that the matter has been adequately described whereas in truth the words themselves put a stop to a deeper understanding. Incidentally, this is why I almost wince whenever I read those trite terms.


To more adequately delve into this aesthetic it's necessary to go to the actual source of these impulses as they are expressed in Japanese art. This is in poetry, literature and Buddhist philosophy.


Yoshida Kenko ( b.1283 ) writing in his 'Essays in Idleness' advises on the most suitable decoration for a tokonoma in a tea room. He makes it very clear that a freshly created and 'perfect' hanging scroll, lavishly mounted, would miss the whole point. For Kenko the scroll becomes 'right' only once it has aged some, the paper or silk a little faded and worn, the tassels perhaps showing signs of becoming threadbare, a worn hem a tiny tear etc.


Kenko seems to be telling us that the fresh, clean and new is almost an affront to nature. Even the most fresh things born in nature, flowers or blossoms for example, are only in that instant of unsullied perfection for a very brief moment. Any intellectual attempt to freeze that moment is utterly artificial and at odds with the very essential cycle of existence. This is why the underlying and vital scent of Japanese aesthetics is inevitably one of yearning, a melancholy longing. 


A big bold 'new moon' in the night sky is impressive, it might evoke a feeling of awe, 'aware' even, but in its impressive boldness it can also silence our own, more subtle. emotions. It might run the risk of being seen as art to impress, and not art to commune with.


But when a cloud drifts in front of the moon and partially obscures it we are offered a multitude of possibilities in terms of how we might experience the scene before us. By introducing the elements of uncertainty and ambiguity our minds are freed to drift to their own inclinations rather than being directed by more overt 'statements' in the art.


Kano Natsuo is known to have been a very cultured man, and especially so as he got older. He was evidently very much influenced by Heian period culture so he almost certainly knew the writings of Kenko intimately. As such I think it's safe to say he was well aware of what time would add to his work and I imagine he knew that it would only 'mature' to being 'correct' long after he was gone.


We can easily imagine the kozuka newly made, the silver reflections gleaming stark and bright in the misty shibuichi water. But the reality now is that that memory is now overlaid by the effects of time. We could step in and reverse that subtle process and restore the silver to its pristine original appearance, and lose the traces of its life....OR we can hold that memory present and at the same time allow what is to offer its own beauty to us. It's hard to properly see the present beauty though, if we are hankering for the original 'perfect' shiny silver effect.


There are countless poems that tell of parted lovers, separated by distance or time, whose power rest precisely in the expression of loss and longing, that melancholy desire....but if somehow those feelings of longing for what is no more were suddenly resolved, the missed partner magically returned, the poem would become mundane and lose all of its content, and power to move us. 


Natsuo knew how his moon would change, and become something else. I think he'd be well satisfied with what we now can contemplate. Time had added additional layers of meaning, and through that process perhaps offers hints toward more profound contemplations of our own existence.

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#316671 Collection Question

Posted by mdiddy on 22 January 2020 - 06:09 AM

I do. Katana, wakizashi, and tanto by Chounsai Tsunatoshi. Bonus, check out all of the doranba!

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#237748 Do Not Respond To Private Offers Of Swords Unless You Know The Person

Posted by Brian on 06 September 2017 - 06:55 PM

New members joining and immediately sending offers of swords to people via pm.
Do NOT fall for it folks.
Please let me know if you get any suspicious offers from unverified members. Ask them to prove their location or give you known Nihonto community members who can vouch for them.
And DON'T trust email addresses that seem to be known. They can have an extra digit or something making them seem like a known email.

Today we have someone new with the above activity.
I am looking into it. IP address seems to go back to Nigeria, so not looking good. But please always be aware.
I'll be taking this all the way to his ISP....South Africans know how to deal with Nigerian 419 scammers ;-)

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#314365 Information in the research of two swords that I have recently purchased.

Posted by Darcy on 06 January 2020 - 01:11 PM

To clarify on these things put on one paper as a daisho, if that was attempted with the NBTHK they would not paper them as such.

In order to paper as a daisho, they need to be made by the same smith, on the same day, and intended as a pair for each other.

By definition two koto swords cannot be papered as daisho since that idea of one smith making two blades as a set does not appear to have occurred to anyone until after the Momoyama period, after daisho became popular at the end of the Muromachi period.


With Shinto blades on a monthly basis people are trying to get their "daisho" that they assembled of two swords made by the same maker, sometimes even with the same date, passed as daisho token. These inevitably fail because they were not purpose made sets. 

Bearing in mind that two swords as long as they are made within six months of each other will have the same date on their nakago, because smiths had a habit of only dating February and August as dates on blades. So when a blade says February it is probably within +/- 3 months of Feb. It isn't clear to me if the date used though is the last date (i.e. is the left fencepost, so the Feb date covers Feb-August and the August date covers August-Feb) or if is the center post of the span (Sep-March then for Feb date). Probably a modern swordsmith would know. 

Anyway point being is that people constantly try to game this and you can see afterwards when they sell their "daisho" that the dates of the papers and serial numbers are consecutive on the two swords in the daisho, they probably submitted together for one paper the the NBTHK issued two because the swords are not a daisho (i.e. purpose made as a pair).

They are still a daisho (i.e. long and short swords mounted together for use) when in the koshirae. But you just need to understand the different contexts (any two swords you put in matched koshirae become a daisho for the purpose of wearing, but two swords are daisho token sans koshirae only when intended as a pair and this is where the high degree of rarity comes in). 

Since any collector can put together a self-made daisho there is no combination value bump when you do so. If they were mismatched swords together historically and the daisho koshirae exists from when this happened in the Edo period, now you have a valuation bump. And if the swords were made together as a set intended for each other, you also have a valuation bump. If that set of swords retains its original koshirae you have another valuation bump. 

In this case the swords are probably united now by a collector or dealer and so are just two swords.

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#326729 New discovery Natsuo kozuka...

Posted by masakatsu on 12 April 2020 - 05:23 PM

Hello All.  Just thought I would pop this up here for discussion...  Came out of hiding last year and was papered directly to Tokuho in Reiwa 1.





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#319323 Just some eye candy

Posted by Brian on 12 February 2020 - 04:27 PM

This was posted on FB by someone in another discussion, and I grabbed this pic purely to post it for us to look at and enjoy.
No discussion even needed. It is just some very pleasant eye candy. I know the "old iron" guys don't see them the same way, but I'm sure they appreciate the art and technique in doing this.

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#265963 In The Defense Of Shinsa & Papers

Posted by Jussi Ekholm on 17 August 2018 - 09:43 AM

Well I've been planning to let some steam out regarding this for a while now. I have seen a notion on recent years where collectors are starting to "go against" shinsa results (regardless of the organisation) and it often happens when the attribution is not favorable or what one thought it would be. I've actually thought of making a small ranting topic on defending the shinsa for a while but never got around to it until now. You often hear the common phrase shinsa panels are just human and people make mistakes but they are still experts whose opinion at least I hold at high value. Those experts have the ability to see minor details in the blade (or fittings) that regular collectors miss. I was reading Kantei explanation by Hinohara Dai of May issue of Token Bijutsu where he went bit off from kantei sword to ramble a bit how some experienced collector noticed the very minor detail in curvature of near identical swords from Kamakura and early Muromachi on display and that raised many questions from other collectors there at present.


This comes down to what he explains that professional appraisers and sword dealers handle many blades on a daily basis. I could personally add to this group even active collectors in Japan as there are so many opportunities for that in Japan. I think all that he wrote applies to tsuba and other stuff as well. The experts see and handle so great number of items that average collector do not come even close to that. Yes we have some great opportunities even in Europe and US but we cannot compete with Japan.


But then there are those cases where it is not clear at first glance if it is a Kamakura or an early Muromachi tachi. In such a case, one sometimes hears comments like “how can an expert not recognize at least the period immediately?” That is, an expert should at least know right away if he is handling a Kamakura or a Muromachi blade. Well, from my own experience and handling somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 blades, I can confirm that these cases exist and that they are not rare at all. But here it is recommended to bo back from examining the jiba to the sugata, the first traditional kantei point, and after studying the shape again more closely, eventually return to the jigane and the hamon. Often, the initial gut feel was right but that feel should either be substantiated or dismissed to arrive at a well-founded opinion.


That above is a direct quote from that write up by Hinohara Dai. Even though he writes about kantei of swords I think we can apply it to tsuba and other stuff too. When someone has handled and studied like 100,000+ items I wouldn't easily challenge his/hers opinion about this stuff. The shinsa teams are professional experts for a reason and they have so much experience to back it up.


I've just heard lately people from many medias stating that NBTHK made wrong call or NTHK do not know what they see etc. Perhaps it is the collector who might not see everything? I remember a bit funny thing from some years back when I took my tachi to NBTHK Scandinavian meeting, after seeing the sword Jan-Erik Svanberg told me few details of a sword I had had for multiple years that I had missed before. That was the first time I personally experienced how quickly experienced collectors can notice minor details and I was bit mindblown. Another great experience was at Utrecht 1 minute kantei session this summer. While I was at the right tracks I was amazed how much details experienced people picked up in just one minute.


So to sum it up if you think experts have got it wrong be sure to have lots and lots of research to back your own opinion and try to understand the expert opinion too. And if you think you can outsmart Japanese dealers it's a good idea to think twice as their knowledge level is very high and they handle and study very large amount of swords.

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#244941 Katchushi: An Amazing Journey

Posted by DaveT on 30 November 2017 - 12:38 PM

I've been working as an armour restorer since the early 1980's and committing to a full-time venture since 2011. During that time I have been professionally trained in the art of urushi by Kitagawa sensei of the Kyoto Prefectural University. However, the art of armour has been a self-taught process where I have deconstructed armours over the years in order to replicate the process. My business is good, I have a number of years of pre-bookings ahead and a proven track record by my client base. But I have never studied being a Katchushi in Japan.

This year I took it upon myself to throw myself into the deep end. I begged and ask favours from my friends to gain an audience with today's leading Katchushi masters. Scheduled around this years DTI I was able to visit each Katchushi on my list. There is a little bit of rivalry between the masters, however, I managed to steer free of any politics. My plan was a simple one, I had prepared a portfolio of my work to present and then take the critic onboard.

My first meeting was with Ogawa Sensei. Ogawa had just overcome a serious health problem that now prevents him from using traditional urushi. Ogawa looks like a true samurai, his hair tied into a bun with a beard and traditional Japanese shokunin clothing. Despite not being able to work with urushi his metal work was the best I'd seen during my entire visit. He crafts complete suits of armour and recently completed a copy of a famous KATO dou for a local museum. Ogawa introduced me to his workshop and showed me his tools and formers for creating armour. Chris Glenn was also in attendance and is the deshi of Ogawa, he has been a student for over 15 years. Ogawa gave me some fantastic tips and showed me a technique that only 3 people know in Japan.


My next meeting was with Toyoda Sensei. Toyoda subject is old armours, I must say that I was totally overwhelmed with this mans knowledge. He studies ancient texts in classical Japanese, he is the go-to guy for any archaeological finds. Toyoda is a very valued and skilled katchushi, I think I would be right in saying that he is one of a kind. I was invited to his workshop where he showed me three O-yoroi that he had been working on for 28 years. He has handcrafted the entire armours as 1:1 replicas of the originals. His commitment to detail and tradition is unparalleled as he even weaves the odoshi on his fingers. I spent many hours with Toyoda Sensei, we talked about the manufacture and reproduction of traditionally printed egawa and how the templates were made together with how rawhide is used in armour construction. The information received was most valued. 

After Toyoda I visited Nishioka Sensei who in the west is certainly the most well known. Nishioka runs the most commercial workshop with four full-time deshi working away on clients armours. I didn't have much time with him as he is extremely busy, however, he did take time out to tell me the secrets to making kirisuke from kokuso, dyeing techniques and he spent one-hour one-on-one correcting a lacing technique that has eluded me for years.

My final visit was to Katchushi Andy Mancabelli. Andy has been the deshi of Miura Sensei, who is a true master of masters. I visited Andys new workshop where we talked shop and examined armour all day. Andy has a splendid workshop and store, it's really impressive. We actually had some differnces a few years ago, but we overcame them and I'm happy to now call him a friend.

Well, the outcome. Being self-taught. I'm happy to say that nothing negative came from this. In some cases I witnessed complete amazement, in others, I was told that my restoration standard is equal to that in Japan. I can confidently say that I will stand my restorations against anyone outside of Japan.

The Katchushi were amazing, they have extended a friendship and warmth that has really touched my heart. Introducing me to their workshops, sharing trade secrets, offering continual guidance has frankly exceeded my expectations. I owe these people complete gratitude and remain humbled by their kindness and honesty. 

I have been invited to return and study armour making in more detail spending a few months each year in Japan. My restorations are pretty much at the standard they need to be, but in order to be a real katchushi, I need to be able to make complete suits of armour. That now is where my focus is, I really can't wait to get back there and hammer metal.

Now some oddities:

I managed to have tea with Mr Tokugawa Iehiro
Sit in the favourite chair of the late katchushi Myochin 
Muneyuki at a local Sushi Cafe.
Be included in a Japanese TV programme about my visit with Tokyo TV



Finally, at the DTI I met with a lot of dealers. I learned a new word "
Sugoi" or wow, super! They were very pleased and surprised with my standard and speed.
I have now been appointed the preferred restorer for two of Japans leading armour sellers. 

So a dream come true Ive met the masters and can return and further my study, I had my standard validated by the most qualified katchushi on the planet and bagged a restoration contract with Japanese dealers. 

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#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?"

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#326851 Crossed off my Bucket List: The Holy Grail

Posted by Guido Schiller on 13 April 2020 - 07:41 AM

papers2.jpg papers1.jpg


Some background info on the katana-kaji:


Mishina Hiromichi 三品廣道, real name Mishina Tōemon 三品藤右衛門, was a smith who belonged to the Mishina-ha 三品派. He was either the son or the younger brother of the 9‘th generation Mutsu no Kami Daidō 九代目陸奥守大道, records are somewhat conflicting. He worked mainly in Ise province 伊勢国 , but also in Iga 伊賀国. He was active at least from Kaei to Keiō (1848 - 1868), and was succeeded by his first son Mishina Hanbei Hirofusa 三品半兵衛廣房, and second son Mishina Tōkuro Hiromichi 三品藤九郎廣道.


At that time the Kuwana domain 桑名藩 was ruled by Matsudaira Sadaaki 松平定敬, a descendant of Tokugawa Ieyasu's brother. Sadaaki was the Tokugawa shōgunate's last Kyōto-shoshidai 京都所司代 (the shōgun's deputy in the Kyōto region, responsible for maintaining relations between the shōgunate and the imperial court, and controlling access of the daimyō to the court) until 1864, the year these swords were made.


And finally, here’s the restored wakizashi-koshirae:





It’s a pity that the katana-koshirae got lost, but at least having a koshirae (sans some fittings) that is contemporary - and even original - to the blade isn’t something one encounters too often.


Last but not least: a huge thanks goes to Bob Hughes, who’s not only a good friend, but who also can make the impossible possible for you. He certainly doesn’t need yet another endorsement, but I do that gladly anyhow. Quite a few items in my collection come from him, and he also sold some for me when I felt the itch to upgrade. Also, his prices are *very* fair and competitive!


I hope you enjoyed going with me on this little sword journey, all comments are welcome. If you own a “true” daishō, please post it here. Regarding daishō-koshirae, I’ll open another thread in the tōsōgu forum soon.

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#326848 Crossed off my Bucket List: The Holy Grail

Posted by Guido Schiller on 13 April 2020 - 07:31 AM

I’m usually not much of a show-and-tell guy, but being more or less confined to my apartment recently, my mounting boredom finally drove me to make an exception. Or, more candidly: facing the choice over the Easter weekend between filing my tax return, another day of binge-watching, starting drinking at 9:30 AM, and writing something up for the NMB, my liver and brain convinced me to opt for the latter  ;-).


When I started collecting Japanese swords more than forty years ago, I set my sights on a daishō as the ultimate goal – after all, it’s often considered the epitome of samurai culture. But progressing in my studies, and losing quite a few romantic notions along the way, I realized that it wasn’t really that important to me anymore. My collecting focus had shifted to Sō-den kotō, and there are simply no “true” daishō from that period: some are from the shintō period, but the vast majority is from the shinshintō period – and all of them are hard to find anyhow, being few and far between.


I don’t want to go too much into what constitutes a true daishō, Darcy Brockbank already explained that in one of his excellent blog entries: https://blog.yuhindo.com/daisho/; he calls it jokingly “the holy grail for sword collectors”, but considering its rarity, this isn’t too far from the truth.

To summarize: the swords have to be obviously made as a pair in regard to the deki, carry the same date, have consecutive tōrokushō numbers, and both blades are on one kanteisho.


Other than swords and tsuba, I also collect and research koshirae, and over the years was able to add five daishō-koshirae to my collection; however, acquiring the blades themselves seemed to remain as elusive as ever. During my decades of collecting, I only saw a very few daishō up for sale, and those that were of a quality that I found desirable, were expectedly way beyond of what I was able or willing to pay.


Well, while going on a road trip to the North of Honshū with Robert Hughes about 1 ½ years ago, he told me that he had bought a daishō at a dealers auction the day before – which immediately piqued my curiosity. About a week later, I was able to inspect the swords, and really took to them. However, the katana came in a very old shirasaya (saya only), and the wakizashi in a koshirae that had the ito cut off, and was stripped of tsuba, kōgai, kozuka, and menuki. Both blades needed a polish, as well as new shirasaya and habaki, but already had tokuho papers.


And there it was, my new project to bring back this daishō to its former glory, kind of making an old, almost forgotten dream come true Bob even took the legwork out of getting the swords to the involved craftsmen for me, so I concentrated on having the wakizashi-koshirae restored. (Btw, the polishing was done by Ikeda Nagamasa.)

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#299078 Oei Bizen Yasumitsu

Posted by Jean on 13 August 2019 - 01:42 AM

The sword is sold to a dear NMB friend and will leave France tomorrow for its new home.

I am very glad to see it gone to such a good home.
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#286732 Captured WWII Sword

Posted by Darcy on 23 March 2019 - 04:24 PM

Tanobe sensei confirmed it as authentic. 


Interesting kantei point, he said the lack of shinogi on this kind of old nakago helps confirm the age. That the early Kamakura and Heian nakago lack shinogi. He said the mei was better than some of the examples that the NBTHK has had in the past. There is an equal one that is Juyo Bijutsuhin but the blade is suriage, though it is also kijimomo and you can still see that in it (that one belonged to the Shimazu daimyo).


There are only 5 other examples extant and published, one suriage in Juyo 13 (two character signature right at the bottom), one in Juyo 57 (two character signature but the tada is eroded away and it is attributed as DEN Ko-Ichimonji Munetada in spite of there being the one character visible, when you get DEN in combination with a signed blade it registers as very cautious). This one with the weak mei passed Tokubetsu Juyo which repeated the DEN Munetada and it's also suriage. That's it for the NBTHK blades.


There is a Juyo Bijutsuhin with a weaker signature, and suriage (mei right at the bottom), and then the Shimazu one mentioned which is suriage.


There is one Juyo Bunkazai that is ubu and owned by the Mishima Taisha. So that one is not leaving Japan nor will enter a collection. 


So this is the sixth known example and has the best nakago of them all including the Jubun one as that one is not kijimomo. 


This is going to await NBTHK confirmation still. Info on the other blades is from me not Tanobe sensei. He went over all the existing signatures and said this one has the proper common elements and is in his opinion authentic. Polisher has been suggested and agreed to and the owner is going to move it forward and see what happens. It can't get fixed up in time for the upcoming Juyo shinsa so it won't be in there but if it polishes OK I think Juyo is basic and then I think should be a strong contender at Tokubetsu Juyo. Still some ifs based on polish results.


All positive so far.

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#238177 Buy High Sell Low; Items For Sale

Posted by seattle1 on 11 September 2017 - 11:05 PM


 Another interesting thread, one where my position since its initial airing in the 1972 Dallas show and NBTHK shinsa, was made fairly clear through my essay published then, with the title "On Investing in Japanese Swords" in The Book of the Sword. The argument was laid out in fairly straight forward Econ. 101 terms that one should never expect to make an "investment" return on such storable tangibles as Japanese swords, which offer neither a monetary dividend or interest, in comparison with financial assets of the same  risk (!).  The argument was general and over a large population, and individual exceptions would be exceptions which might weaken the thesis, but not destroy it. The position was theoretical and not empirical, and the latter still generally awaits in the field of all arts.

 Anyway, since then what has impressed me is how much more "perfect," in the economic sense, the Japanese sword market has become. Many factors have contributed to that and the two biggest forces have probably been the widespread translation of some of the goldmine of Japanese language knowledge into Western languages, by facilitators like Harry Watson and Markus Sesko, but others as well, who can claim a real and lasting impact through their skills. The second dramatic change over time has been the internet. The impact of those events have come close, only close, to wiping out the huge market advantage once held by folks "in the know," a tiny percentage who knew price differentials East and West, sources of supply, who the deep pocket buyers were, etc., etc. These days the price for a narrowly defined representative sword, representing almost any period, school, smith level, etc., is virtually the same anywhere in the world net of taxes and transportation costs including "red tape."

 If a sword is bought today, given all the information out there and a reasonable bargaining skill balance between seller and buyer, it is likely that the price will be closer to a realistic market price than ever before. If the buyer thinks of the acquisition as something to profit from, that likelihood would be quite dependent of the time lag after purchase. To expect to buy for x dollars today and sell, for example x plus 10 % in the very near future would seem unrealistic to me, given the increasingly equal knowledge held by most prospective buyers. With the passage of time, which would allow primarily for changing tastes, that sword bought for x dollars might appreciate or depreciate in the view of prospective buyers and thus generate a gain, but perhaps a loss with equal likelihood. Once a substantial length of time between buying and selling one's "investment" has occurred it should be no surprise that the nominal selling price the owner gets might generally be expected to be higher than what he initially paid ,and that of course would be on account of the destruction of purchasing power of the dollar - we are abstracting from currency valuation issues of course - brought about by inflation. The seller might easily have sold for a higher nominal price with the same purchasing power value of cost of the item five or ten years earlier. Economists call that the money illusion and it is an endless slight of hand that makes us think we are better off when we are not.

 I think that as collectors we get a sort of psychic income from the pleasure of ownership and that is the compensation for a lower expected dollar return on a storable tangible like a Japanese sword in comparison with a higher dollar return demanded by the owner of a financial asset yielding a dividend or interest payment. Midas might differ on that view, but for most of us enjoying the beauty of a wonderful sword just has to trump counting up one's shares held by some brokerage.

 To digress on just one more point, I am not at all sure that the collecting community is shrinking. I think we should be optimistic about an interest in Japanese swords spreading to cultures and countries well beyond the usual site of Western buyers in North America and Europe, and further in our new electronic world physical presence in a person to person group is less pressing than it was decades ago. Finally it seems to me, perhaps Brian can confirm this, that new folks are posting here all the time with questions, seeking information and expressing their own interest in the Japanese sword and things that go with it. I feel strongly that while those folks might not stick around or become collectors, and most have a knowledge deficit position at the moment, they ought to be welcomed and treated with courtesy to the best of our collective ability.

 Arnold F.

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#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.

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