Jump to content


In The Defense Of Shinsa & Papers

  • Please log in to reply
28 replies to this topic

#1 Jussi Ekholm

Jussi Ekholm

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 996 posts
  • LocationTampere, Finland

Posted 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.

  • Mark C, Guido Schiller, paulb and 19 others like this

Jussi Ekholm

#2 mywei


    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 428 posts
  • LocationMelbourne, Australia

Posted 17 August 2018 - 09:55 AM



Its often the case I find (in any field) the experienced veteran realises the limit of their knowledge and how much they are yet to know, whilst the semi-knowledgeable newly graduated novice has yet to develop the insight  and feels they know everything.

Know thyself!

  • Bazza, parksllopescouts and Beater like this


#3 Alex A

Alex A

    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,247 posts

Posted 17 August 2018 - 10:23 AM

I was just thinking about this,

I will only ever scratch the surface and never have in-depth knowledge, been making me feel im p----- in the wind for quite some time now.

#4 Ian B3HR2UH


    Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 126 posts
  • Locationdrouin australia

Posted 17 August 2018 - 10:29 AM

Hi Jussi , you make a lot of sense in what you have written . A collector out here submitted a mumei katana to an NTHK shinsa held in Australia  It was attributed to a shin Shinto smith  ( I cant recall who ) . The owner protested that his sword was Juyo token and made by a koto Bizen smith ( again I cant recall who ) . The NTHK response was that the NBTHK got it wrong . I have no idea who was right and who was wrong but it does make you wonder . Either way they certainly have more knowledge than any of us.

Ian brooks

  • Bazza and PNSSHOGUN like this
Ian Brooks

#5 kissakai


    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 1,847 posts
  • LocationUnited Kingdon

Posted 17 August 2018 - 11:25 AM

I'm glad this view point has been expressed. They are experts and the more you see the more you learn

It is sad when someone gets an unexpected result and I was crestfallen about a Yamakichibei that failed shinsa but to be fair a few collectors had said it was a 50/50 call so it was worth a try

I accepted the results without any doubt of there expertise

  • ken kata likes this

Grev UK

#6 paulb


    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,376 posts
  • LocationUK

Posted 17 August 2018 - 11:41 AM


I think you make a great deal of sense in youre mail. I was equally tken by the comments in the NBTHK journal you quoted.

There is no doubt that the the only way to gain a really deep understanding of this or any other art form is by studying as many good examples as you can and truthfully we (I) dont have a hope in hell of seeing a tenth of what would be available were I resident in Japan. This is my own fault for choosing to study a subject so distant.

WHile I fully agree that these bodies have greater expertise than anyone else and I would back their opinion over most others they can and do make mistakes on occasion. I have personal experience of this and over the years heard many other examples. They are human and can on occasion get it wrong. I don't think this is a frequent occurrence and certainly agree that such claims usually emanate from a disappointed submission.


I am a little staggered by your Australian Shinsa example. To obtain Juyo papers requires much greater analysis than lower level papers. Given that process I would have to say that given the choice between believing the NBTHK Juyo panel and a local NTHK shinsa my money would go on the former.

Saying "The NBTHK got it wrong" sounds both arrogant and foolhardy. However I wasn't there so am not familiar with either sword or details.


If it is any consolation after 30 odd years of study I still regard myself as a beginner so don't feel too bad you are not alone in your P***** in the wind feeling but it is a study worth pursuing.

  • Guido Schiller, Bazza, ken kata and 2 others like this

#7 Guido Schiller

Guido Schiller


  • Members
  • 3,038 posts
  • LocationTōkyō

Posted 17 August 2018 - 01:06 PM

One of the best posts in years on this board, Jussi - it‘s a pity I only can give one “like”.
  • paulb, Shugyosha, ken kata and 1 other like this

#8 vajo


    Tokubetsu Juyo

  • Members
  • 3,569 posts
  • LocationGermany / Bavaria

Posted 17 August 2018 - 01:32 PM

Is there a difference in shinsa quality between NBTHK and NTHK? Why does, what i hear, some collectors get that what they want so it will be important who will bring the sword to shinsa, Is that true? And my last question, why is shinsa so expensive in higher papers. Did they take lower time in lower papers, and will they see a juyo sword when it is on the table for hozon? 


Excuse my stupid question, but when i go to a doctor, after the diganose for an operation i need mostly 2 other meanings and no one would said that this doctor is not an expert.



#9 paulb


    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,376 posts
  • LocationUK

Posted 17 August 2018 - 02:58 PM


The following are opinions not fact but based on what I understand to be the case.


1. There are differences between the NTHK and NBTHK what they look for and the criteria they work too (at least those that are published) do vary. As to which is best depends who you ask and when you ask. Both have very knowdgeable people with well proven credentials. At present the NBTHK seems to be the go to organisation but the overseas service offered by both NTHK groups can have advantages for people not wanting to ship swords to Japan and go through the process. Certainly from a commercial point of view I think NBTHK papers carry more weight than any other.


2. Regarding who submits the sword, it shouldnt make any difference and in an ideal world swords would be viewed without knowing who has submitted them. Does it happen or has it in the past? well human nature being what it is probably. But if it has such incidents were few and far between I think. In the latest Tokubetsu Juyo results the successful submissions included a number of non Japanese collectors as well as dealers. I fear that some of this view is the result of someone not getting the results they wanted and looking at the process rather than the sword to see why it failed.


3. The process and examination for a Juyo shinsa is more strenuous and the committee take longer on each blade than they do on lower level papers. While this justifies some of the higher cost the reality is that obtaining these higher papers has a significant impact on market value and the charges rightly or wrongly  reflect this financial benefit.

hope this answers your questions adequately.

Best Regards


  • ken kata and vajo like this

#10 Guest_Rayhan_*

  • Guests

Posted 17 August 2018 - 03:12 PM

I think the reason Juyo papers cost more from the NBTHK is to make sure that people consider submitting only the best examples and not waste time or risk the lower quality that would be a time consumption exercise for the  judges. Then there is the pass pool which is restricted to only the very best examples in their class and that automatically drives the sword to a select group which increases its value  as a limited article. Then there is the fact that Juyo and Tokubetsu Juyo swords are very well documented and mark their place in numerous literary publications, this also increases the value because collectors around the globe who have access to the printed material can reference them at any time, this is seldom done for Hozon or Tokubetsu Hozon. The other factor is the time it takes and administrative cost involved.


There is a lot (a lot!) of politics between the NBTHK and the NTHK and the fact that the NTHK is broken into two factions NTHK and NTHK-NPO (it is hard to look at a certification body seriously when they are so ravaged by ego and turmoil) is one of the main reasons collectors would rather go with the NBTHK. The NTHK and NTHK-NPO are actually older than the NBTHK but in more political problems and can be very unreliable at times with attributions especially if getting an opinion after the NBTHK gave one again due to politics. Collectors also find that understanding the NBTHK process of evaluation is straight forward (getting harder though).


Not liking the attribution given will become something we see more often in collecting as the NBTHK is getting very, very strict and rightly so. That strict approach will force collectors to learn more on the subjects they are trying to collect and force dealers to be more honest to their customers so customers save face and dealers too. 


In short Jussi is correct!

  • ken kata likes this

#11 Jean



  • Moderators
  • 8,040 posts
  • LocationFrance

Posted 17 August 2018 - 08:48 PM

I never questionned a shinsa decision, I let it to Japanese experts and when they strongly disagree between them (I have had examples), I’ll always say: remember Kanteisho is only a written opinion...:)
  • cisco-san, ken kata, BIG and 1 other like this
Jean L.
Soshin Gimei

#12 Gakusee


    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 606 posts
  • LocationUK

Posted 17 August 2018 - 10:07 PM

Juyo and above shinsa take a reasonably long period of time. There is a lot of careful examination, comparison, research. The panel discuss a lot and a solid (near) consensus must be reached. Much more time is spent deliberating and analysing than at Hozon or TH level or at the overseas NTHK shinsa (which I have not attended but understand judges spend 5-10 min per sword or something like that). The more extensive period of research, the high economic value of the examined artefacts and their rarity explain the high cost of J/TJ shinsa. I do not agree that the cost is high in order to discourage submission. I think the high value of the items is a corollary of them being among the best and thus judged Juyo or above. People use Juyo and above as a shortcut for quality and it is a mostly valid assumption even though the variances are great in this group.

What needs to be taken into account is that indeed Juyo and TJ are published. There is no going back (unless the whole system is abolished, similarly to the Kicho papers) so the opinions need to be conservative and super-solid. If there is any doubt, the more conservative opinion seems to be taken or an item is not even passed (and that is if they pass the competition element where same smith/school blades compete with each other, there is a semi statistical distribution or representation of schools etc).
That conservatism and need for certainty sometimes result in people obtaining results they did not wish or hope for. But in most cases, I understand, that is for borderline items which can go either way or between a teacher and student.
Darcy Brockbank has written a lot on these topics, including the equivalence or near equivalence of certain top masters (Masamune, Yukimitsu, Shizu could interchange, Moriie and Mitsutada could be close with their kawazuko choji, etc so when an item is mumei sometimes it could be ambivalent).
  • Jussi Ekholm, cisco-san and ken kata like this
Michael S.

#13 Guest_Rayhan_*

  • Guests

Posted 17 August 2018 - 11:00 PM

I do not agree that the cost is high in order to discourage submission. I think the high value of the items is a corollary of them being among the best and thus judged Juyo or above.



Sorry allow me to clarify. I meant the cost of failure is high when submitting and failing Juyo and Tokuju in order to make sure the submitting party makes every effort to deduce the viability of the art piece in consideration. I did not want to infer that submission is discouraged, apologies if it read that way.

#14 nagamaki - Franco

nagamaki - Franco

    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,182 posts

Posted 17 August 2018 - 11:27 PM



When it comes to shinsa, do not discount the effect that the polish has on the outcome. If a Koto sword has been polished as such that it appears to be a Shinto or even a Shinshinto sword, and remember the later two are in fact copies of the former for the most part, how does one expect the shinsa judge to reach a determination based upon something other than what he is able to and can see, he cannot.  Keep in mind that even when a Koto sword is polished as a Koto sword, if the polisher has not properly brought out the finer detail you're likely going to get a lesser smith or school call instead of a better rated individual.


And for those submitting out of polish swords, it is unreasonable to expect much more than an out of polish judgement. 

Edited by nagamaki - Franco, 17 August 2018 - 11:37 PM.

  • cisco-san and ken kata like this


#15 Vermithrax16


    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 1,596 posts
  • LocationBoston Metro North

Posted 18 August 2018 - 12:10 AM

I never questionned a shinsa decision, I let it to Japanese experts and when they strongly disagree between them (I have had examples), I’ll always say: remember Kanteisho is only a written opinion... :)

Jean's masame sword is an excellent example of this very discussion.

  • Stephen, Jean and eternal_newbie like this


"Is there gonna be a fight Wyatt?"

"I think that there must be."

#16 dwmc


    Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 143 posts
  • LocationIdaho

Posted 18 August 2018 - 02:47 PM

Unfortunately, I'm afraid a bit of "going against" shinsa results is a trend which may continue or even increase.


Many years ago the average nihonto enthusiast was limited to practically zero knowledge into the study of the subject beyond John Yumoto's book "The Samurai Sword" and maybe a couple of others at the local library. The other reference material available in translated text was extremely expensive and unavailable to most. 


Today, with sites such as the NMB, and other online study and reference material, many with the interest to do so, can become very competent in nihonto evaluation indeed. (Of which several are members of the NMB, and I suspect could easily qualify to sit on a shinsa panel).


Basically, even the average sword enthusiasts knowledge of nihonto has increased greatly due to amount of study material available. However, this increase in knowledge does not mean (most) of us are qualified to make an accurate shinsa evaluation beyond a highly expert shinsa team, but shinsa teams most likely still are, and need to remain on top of their game...


Nihonto enthusiast are quickly gaining knowledge.

  • Guido Schiller, cisco-san and ken kata like this




    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 1,812 posts
  • LocationAustralia

Posted 18 August 2018 - 03:13 PM

Personally I think too many enthusiasts "know enough to be dangerous" and thus we start seeing people openly question or disparage the NBTHK as some kind of community "power play". At the end of the day who are you going to trust and respect, a government sanctioned organization specifically setup to study, evaluate and further the knowledge of the Japanese Sword or some maverick "collector" who thinks his latest ebay "find" is really the Honjo Masamune and those eggheads down at the NBTHK are just a bunch of shysters out to swindle foreigners?

  • Guido Schiller, SteveM and ken kata like this


#18 dwmc


    Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 143 posts
  • LocationIdaho

Posted 18 August 2018 - 04:58 PM

I agree John, with internet knowledge available, suddenly everyone is an expert.


I submitted a mumei wakizashi for shinsa that I've had in my possession for many years. I had taken it to several sword and gun shows previously and had many "quasi" nihonto experts bloviate on and on as to origin. The accumulative opinion over the years was most likely early shinto. I too bought in to this opinion due to the considerable reduction of metal from the nakago to blade. I assumed several polishes through many years indicated increased age...                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Finally, a shinsa team was visiting as sword show near me in California, I could hardly wait to to sign up. I eventually arrived at the sword show and signed my sword into area where the shinsa was taking place. I tagged my blade and followed all the appropriate procedures. As I laid my sword  on a table next to many others, I took the opportunity to glance behind a barrier and noticed several very professional, quite serious looking shinsa panel members evaluating blades.


The next day, I arrived in the shinsa area in great anticipation of results. There where two gentlemen in the area acting as intermediaries answering questions for those who where getting their returned swords. I made eye contact with one of the gentleman, and received a look as though he was operating on his last nerve... My sword had past shinsa with a Shinteisho score in the 60's. However, I was suprised it was judged 1850's shinshinto period Jumyo. Even though I would liked to had a bit more information, the intermediaries where  quite overwhelmed, and really what more could they add..


Initially, I was a bit disappointed in the results, but as I returned to the main sword show room, I began hearing as many as 50 to 60 percent of swords had not passed shinsa. I sensed the overall mood was not good to say the least. I had my sword in hand, and as I passed the table of a dealer I know to be well respected and knowledgeable, he inquired about my wakizashi. I told him the sword had past shinsa but was suprised at the period attribution. I'm not going to repeat his response, but I was quite stunned, he mentioned he had submitted several sword most of which did not pass. Needless to say he was not happy..


I've personally witnessed the "going against" trend.

  • ken kata likes this


#19 Steve Waszak

Steve Waszak

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 612 posts
  • Locationsan diego, california

Posted 18 August 2018 - 08:14 PM

I think everyone makes some very good points and arguments here.  Certainly, shinsa teams have years of accumulated experience and knowledge, especially in the aggregate, that few, if any, outside of Japan can match.


Speaking as someone who has never submitted an item for shinsa, my words here do not come from having been disappointed in a shinsa result.  In fact, I have one piece with a very favorable big-name attribution by the NBTHK (the paper accompanied the mumei tsuba when I acquired it), but I remain a bit dubious about the tsuba due to certain particulars in its rendering.  But I digress...


My main issue with shinsa/papers has very rarely been about results, per se, but in the lack of explanation for the result.  My feeling is that if we are spending meaningful amounts of money to send items in for shinsa, we should receive not only a result/attribution, but also some education concerning why the result is what it is.  This would go a long way toward not only justifying the outcome, but also allowing those submitting pieces to learn.  There would be a lot less disgruntlement with disappointing results if a reasonably detailed explanation accompanied that result.  I recognize, of course, that shinsa teams wouldn't have time to provide in-depth explanations for every piece submitted, but I do wonder if busy shinsa teams offered a detailed explanation for an additional fee, how many of those submitting items would or wouldn't choose to do so.  I know that, personally, I would be far more likely to submit items, even if it cost more, were such an explanation to accompany the result.


My other main issue with shinsa has little if anything to do with shinsa at all.  Rather, it is the idea that a shinsa result is a factual determination, and not what it actually is:  an educated perspective/opinion.  I have seen many say things like, "Why don't you just submit the item to shinsa; then you'll know what it is."  Such a statement is made false by the last part:  "...then you'll know."  To say that this information will be known is to say that it is objectively factual.  Unless we were there those 400 years ago to see the item in question being made, we can't know.  What we can have, though, is an experienced, highly-knowledgeable assessment (made much more valuable by an accompanying explanation for that assessment), and that is the language we should be recognizing and using.  Shinsa team members can and do disagree on items from time to time.  If one extremely experienced, knowledgeable shinsa team member disagrees with another, both of whose learning far exceeds that of most of us, which are we to trust?  How can we know about an item when shinsa team members themselves don't always agree?  And of course, when a shinsa result is provided, the paper doesn't note any disagreement, so we can't know in which cases unanimity was reached among the team members and when it wasn't.  This only further destabilizes the notion that "...then you'll know" when submitting a piece to shinsa.  The bottom line is that shinsa is another learning tool for all of us in this pursuit.  It can be valuable (and could be even more so---see my first point above) when its limits are properly recognized. 

  • Curran, Jussi Ekholm and NihontoCollector like this
Steve Waszak

#20 seattle1


    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 871 posts

Posted 18 August 2018 - 10:30 PM


 I agree with Guido that this is a great thread, interesting and educational.

 Comparing the NBTHK and the two NTHK's though is really an apples and oranges thing. People make rational calculations between running the risks, and they are real, of sending a blade to Japan to the NBTHK, though all of the three do shinsa in Japan, vs. for those of us here in the US, submitting to one of the NTHK groups, which by the way seems to be an opportunity awaiting in Tampa, Florida in 2019. I go back to the days of being an oshigata making volunteer for the NBTHK in Texas to standing at the door like everyone else today trying to get a view of my blade's progress. One thing I can tell you for sure is that the complaint rate driven by some failed expectation in the US, in comparison with a paper from Japan, is in large part the deplorable state of polish that many have as presented over here. A team simply cannot assume what cannot be seen in a presentable way. When blades are run through a US shinsa I suspect the speed is much faster than in Japan and doesn't allow for long consideration on set asides.

 Further talking about the expertise of shinsa staff in Japan and those that come over is walking on pretty thin ice. No longer does the NBTHK have a expertise of Homma and Sato sensei, very heavily published scholars that they were, and Tanobe sensei, now in retirement, isn't the trusted information source now as he is simply there only infrequently and without secretarial staff as I understand it. The two main NTHK judges are hardly to be discounted, one of course being the Imperial Keeper of blades of the Royal Family and at the National Museum in Nara, and the other, Miyano sensei said to be a kantei quiz super star, though looking at a blade with a covered nakago and the bare blade at a shinsa are somewhat different skills. Both the NTHKs put out journals, though I find that of the non-NPO group much closer in scholarly level to the NBTHK's Token Bijutsu. It was said above by one contributor that the two NTHKs ante-date the NBTHK, hardly, as the one without post nominal letters goes to Meiji times and the other about two decades ago.

 Well I hope this gives some flavor to the apples and oranges analogy. While having sinned once or twice with complaint, I then stop to think what is the rationale for laying out the dough if one can't respect the outcome one way or another. Just submit somewhere again. A friend of mine did that three times and climbed the ladder from gendaito, to shinshinto, to Juyo Token.  

 Arnold F.

  • Curran and Navymate like this

#21 paulb


    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,376 posts
  • LocationUK

Posted 18 August 2018 - 10:53 PM


I think you make a very valid point regarding condition of blades made at local (i.e. not in Japan) Shinsa's

I think I mentioned previously that there was some considerable difference between swords being submitted on the first and second shinsa's held in the UK. In the first there was a very high proportion of signed blades recieving pink papers as gimei. Mumei works on the other hand recieved a paper, it may not have been what the collector hoped for but it was a paper.

Second time round those whose prime object was to obtain a paper realised their best bet was to submit a mumei blade thus the ratio of unsigned to signed rose significantly.

What didnt change was the general condition which was in general ranging from not very good to poor. 

The question I asked then and still do is if you cant see any detail on a sword to make some form of appraisal how do you expect the judges to? Their expertise is in linking particular features to a given tradition or school not to see characteristics that are obliterated by poor condition. This being the case why are we surprised when their best guess may be just that, a guess.

Generally swords submitted in Japan are in a reasonable to very good state of polish. This makes the process of appraisal feasible and altogether a more accurate process. 

Sorry if this sounds cynical. I have, as have many others, had mixed fortunes with papering and experienced first hand some inconsistencies. However I think the western expectations from the process sometimes get out of line with the original idea behind  it. It has become increasingly a shortcut in attempting to increase value by adding a paper to the package and remove the need for the buyer to satisfy themselves about what they are buying.

#22 Surfson


    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 1,910 posts
  • LocationChicago, IL, USA

Posted 19 August 2018 - 04:46 AM

This is an interesting thread.   I have had well over a dozen blades that had two sets of papers.  Often one set was NBTHK and one set NTHK, or one of the sets was from one of the more minor organizations (e.g. Kajihara or others).  It is more common that the two papers disagree on mumei swords than they agree.  I'm just saying......


I think that when it comes to koto mumei swords, the skill level of even great shinsa experts can get challenged.  I have certainly heard stories (though never tried this myself) of people submitting such a sword several times hoping to get a better attribution than the one they have.  I do have to say that I have always included all sets of papers that I have when I sell one of these swords.  Interestingly, I have seen them surface on the market again and often one set of papers has disappeared.  


I am not a shinsa basher since I agree with Jussi's initial comments and reason that the shinsa teams know more than I ever will.  However, whereas I used to dump a blade that didn't pass very quickly, or have the mei removed, I only do the latter now after it has failed twice in most cases.  

  • dwmc likes this
Robert S.

#23 Pete Klein

Pete Klein


  • Members
  • 2,852 posts
  • LocationUSA - FL

Posted 19 August 2018 - 01:29 PM

Steve W wrote exactly what I am thinking on the subject as far as fittings are concerned (I do not collect nihonto).  

“I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.” ...

Miss Mae West

#24 MauroP


    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 404 posts
  • LocationPavia, Italia

Posted 19 August 2018 - 02:30 PM

Very interesting topic here.
My personal attitude toward professional opinion is of great respect (after all I makes my day mostly giving professional opinions - thanks God not about tosogu). What surprise me is that the appraisers in nihonto world have not yet developed a way to deal with uncertainty. Sometimes I'd prefer to see "mid-Edo work of unrecorded artist" rathar than "mumei Shoami".
Teach thy tongue to say, “I do not know”  [Maimonides]

  • SteveM and benatthelake like this
Mauro Piantanida
Έτσι, δεν γνωρίζω

#25 Jussi Ekholm

Jussi Ekholm

    Jo Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 996 posts
  • LocationTampere, Finland

Posted 23 August 2018 - 11:47 AM

I've really enjoyed reading the discussions and seeing the views that people have on things.


I think the "problem" arises with mumei swords as has been mentioned earlier. It is quite rare to argue about validated signature. However I must note that even NBTHK is sometimes uncertain in their attributions on signed swords. Kuni fumei, province unknown with approximate period in brackets is sometimes used. I own one such sword and 2 others that caught my eye recently have had this type of attribution. Or you can sometimes see the rare to mei ga aru in brackets, which I believe confirms the signature being unorthodox but legitimate for the smith in question. To me that shows that shinsa team is validating the signature as genuine and dealing with the uncertainity at the same time.


While NBTHK is not too often specifying the period on papers it can sometimes be seen. My collection is 3 tachi with just Hozon papers and 2 of them have period pointed out on Hozon papers. I remember when some years ago I used to really like how NTHK always has the period attribution for a sword while NBTHK had often "just" school attribution. But now after more reading and studying I've realized that pretty much "just" school attribution points towards the period as well. Knowing history of the different schools will make you put certain things into certain time periods.


Some posts by Darcy few years ago made me rethink my thinking for mumei swords and their attributions. My view now is that the attribution by shinsa team is for the school that ticks most boxes on a particular mumei sword in their opinion. So the attribution gives out a potential school and period for the sword, and it might not be by that specific school but it gives base for it. I think Darcy worded it out something like the attribution also shows the quality of the particular sword. I am not sure how many are members of NBTHK and get to read the kantei explanation translations provided by Markus (or have his Kantei-zenshu books) but if/when you read those you can see how some minor things make enough ticks for specific attribution instead of other perfectly viable possibilities. Of course the better the condition is the better the attribution can be due to characteristics of the workmanship seen. And like Franco and Arnold said earlier improved state of polish might lead to different conclusion. I think we too often think that attribution is set in stone, and that is I believe which causes some puzzlement when differing attributions come from different organizations. Of course it is problematic when/if the differing organizations have a totally different view on a sword (for example dating it 400-500 years apart).


Even though I am on the defense of NBTHK and NTHK I must admit I have never sent anything to shinsa. :laughing: Maybe if I some day send something and it comes back with attribution totally different than I would think it will be funny to guess how I will feel.


Now here is a question, which I think shows the quality part that Darcy has explained many times. As I am building my old sword database, has anyone came across attribution just to Rai? No specific smiths or branches but just Rai in general.

Jussi Ekholm

#26 Guest_Rayhan_*

  • Guests

Posted 23 August 2018 - 01:26 PM

I think you would find that hard in the world of the old Yamashiro smiths as there are very clear distinctions between smiths in this group. Mostly due to the roles they played in sword development and the vast value between the Rai Kuniyuki period smiths and the later Rai. But, great question and i would think one of the best sources for that answer would be Darcy...Darcy, hello?

#27 paulb


    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,376 posts
  • LocationUK

Posted 23 August 2018 - 01:59 PM

Hi Jussi

Working from memory which is never a great idea I cannot remeber seeing an example of a sword being papered to Rai. The same is not true for Awataguchi where it is seen quite regularly. I think it was found that the workmanship of the 6 brothers was very similar and too close to call on mumei swords. Likewise the work of Kunitomo and his son Norikune were described as being identical.

Based on this I think Ray has hit the nail on the head, there was sufficent diffrences in the various Rai generations to make a more definitive attribution possible. In addition their work is more prolific than others therefore there are a greater number of signed examples to use for comparison.

#28 Curran



  • Members
  • 3,013 posts
  • LocationUSA

Posted 23 August 2018 - 04:07 PM

Steve W wrote exactly what I am thinking on the subject as far as fittings are concerned (I do not collect nihonto).  


I agree with Steve and Peter.


I do feel the NBTHK has declined significantly in the value of their Tosogu shinsa since about January 2014.

Prior to that, they were the gold standard. If I didn't understand an attribution, I went and studied until I saw what the NBTHK was seeing. Often I learned something and mentally applauded.


Since 2014, they are doing things like this:  https://www.touken-m...rod_no=TSU-1568

미친 남자 Curran



    Sai Jo Saku

  • Members
  • 2,420 posts
  • LocationUSA

Posted 23 August 2018 - 09:40 PM

Sleepwalking through a river of Yen?





0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

IPB Skin By Virteq