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Owari-Seki school?


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#1 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 07:10 AM

Aloha:

At last weekend's Honolulu gun & sword show, I was lucky enough to find a beautiful wakizashi with NBTHK Hozon origami that I could afford. The paper reads Owari Seki, but that's about all the information I've been able to locate.

With all of the searches available for the Web, I'm rather surprised that there is so little information on that particular school of swordsmiths. At the end of the Muromachi period, a number of swordsmiths migrated from Mino province to Owari, where they happily made great swords for many years. Does anyone have a bit more information on smiths from the Owari-Seki school? My wakizashi is mumei, & I'm very interested in tracking down its maker & any other information.

As soon as I get my digital camera back from the shop, I'll be happy to post a few photos. Mahalo! (Thanks!)
Ken Goldstein

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#2 Ludolf Richter

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 09:40 AM

Two-easy to get-sources:
1.Art and the Sword,vol.2,1989,p.1-77
Kentaro Yoshikawa,Swords of Owari
2.Malcom E.Cox
Mino-To,Swords and Swordsmiths of Mino Province (with a lot of info about
Owari swordsmiths)
Ludolf

#3 John A Stuart

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 12:13 PM

Hi Ken, On my web site is some pertinent information of the Seki schools and Owari. Some is general and most focuses on Jumyo, but may help your primary research. The Jumyo school, I believe has a greater influence on the start of the Mino den than is commonly published as the Seki Jumyo shodai arrived before Kaneuji from Yamato. Anyway, here are the links. John
http://www.johnstuar...new_page_15.htm
http://www.johnstuar...new_page_14.htm

#4 deskjet

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 08:13 PM

Hi ,
I to have an owari seki blade (mumei)NBTHK hozen it is a fantastic blade ,full of interest , i to will upload some pictures .
Anthony

#5 Curran

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 08:43 PM

A good underated school. Some people have a special love for this school and collect only this. John Stuart seems to have put together some nice information on them. There isn't much out there in English beyond the texts Ludolph recommended, and I've never tried to translate the Mino Taikan infromation. If Mr. Stuart tackles that, I'll be first in line to try and get a copy.

I have very few blades left, but keep this one Jumyo O-kogatana (see picture). It was featured in Bushido magazine many years ago, and is about the size of a nice little tanto. On a whim, I papered it one year- and it came back to "earliest Edo" Jumyo. That was fairly close to how I pegged it. Good enough. A very fun little piece.

Some of the Owari Seki Nobutaka blades can be such very beautiful works.

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  • Jumyo O-kogatana001.jpg


#6 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 10:30 PM

I am truly grateful for all of the useful responses to my post. It's great to have such a resource.

My wife & I are heavily involved in martial arts (Linda studies kendo, iaido, & jodo, while I study iaido & jodo, & teach judo & European fencing), & were introduced to Nihonto only a few years ago. But we're making up for that in a hurry! I can see that this forum will be an excellent place to buy a few blades.

I got my digital camera working, & have included a few photos of my wakizashi & Hozon origami. Please provide any comments, & continue to point me in the direction of Owari-Seki info.

Attached Thumbnails

  • Owari-Seki-Wakizashi-full.jpg
  • Owari-Seki-kissaki.jpg
  • Owari-Seki-Hozon-Origami.jpg

Ken Goldstein

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#7 John A Stuart

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 10:30 PM

Hi Curran, I just downloaded a Japanese character program that is compatible with my Vista (damn them anyway) and if I ever figure out the way it works so that I can input the Minoto Taikan text I will work on the relevant Jumyo bit. It seems so far to merely echo what I have already, but if new info is forthcoming it will be added to what I have currently there. I also believe it is an undervalued scool. John
BTW I like the o-kogatana. If you ever......!!

#8 John A Stuart

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 10:45 PM

Oh Ken, I do not particularly like Owari-Seki as an appraisal. It seems to me that it is a catch all for swords that have characteristics of the area but not an actual school or smith. There were defined schools in Owari but I guess with mumei swords it is too indeterminate. If you were to research the Owari smiths you may find oshigata that can help narrow down suspected schools. Kazu-uchimono are commonly given this designation. All over Mino and Owari there were many such produced and are very problematic in appraisal in this respect. John

#9 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 11:06 PM

I'm not real surprised that my wakizashi was appraised as a not-very-specific school, John. It's certainly not the first time I've seen that happen.

Our local sword society has three shinsas as members, however, & they have agreed to take a close look at my blade to see what they can determine. When I can get that level of help, I'm not worried about provenance...yet. I also videotape the examination & discussion, which probably teaches me more about Nihonto than any amount of reading I can do :).

Besides, my wakizashi is a lot of fun just to look at & admire, & I can also learn a lot more with a blade that isn't precisely appraised (not that I could afford one that is perfectly identified).
Ken Goldstein

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#10 Curran

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 11:19 PM

Ken,

Finding that wak with NBTHK papers for what you called a fair price- is a good find. I say that with a touch of envy. I liked the photos. The blade looks to be in very good polish.

As John said, Owari-seki does get to be a sort of shinsa dumping ground for blades that meet certain characteristics, but are unsigned. I think that brings the Owari-seki down in overall stature, but the Owari blade geometry, hard dark iron w/ active and visible grain, and strong hamon temper usually with healthy sprinkling of large nie- it all appeals to me in a way that many shinto blades do not.

John-
I'll put a note with it, should I ever decide to sell it. I have the random days when I think to sell off my last non fittings (a tanto, an arrowhead, and this o-kogatana). As an O-kogatana- it was probably made to accompany a massive shrine dedication sword c. 1600.
If you figure out how to input the Mino Taikan, I have about a half dozen other books that could use your leap of technology.

#11 John A Stuart

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 12:24 AM

Thanks Curran. As to the translation. I have to input every character individually and then try to get sense from odd sentence structure. A paragraph will take me a week or more. Luckily for me Koichi gave me an overview of that section. He did mention that it was difficult to render a translation because of this. I wish I was proficient in this as I have so many books jam packed with info I have no access to. I did try to get pro help but after an assessment they wanted thousands to translate an article I had received from Akos, a past member of the original board. A very frustrating situation for us that can not read Japanese. I shall post when at least the little I do is done. John

#12 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 02:49 AM

Curran, that brings up a good question that I've wondered about for awhile. Should we collectors concentrate on a given period or swordsmith school, or should we instead try to accumulate gorgeous blades that make for interesting study?

My collector friends have gone both ways. I have one friend who must have 25 Bizen Nihonto, which I enjoy examining. But another friend has nearly 100 blades, no two of which are from the same school, & I enjoy those at least as much. Both of them are lucky that their budgets are almost unlimited. Linda & I, on the other hand, will likely stop at a dozen or so in our collection.

Which way is the best??
Ken Goldstein

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#13 Jean

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 09:58 AM

Ken,

Its your choice, all options are possible, that's the way of collecting. But once you are in the Nihonto collecting business interest seems to narrow to specific schools or period

John has written :

Owari-seki does get to be a sort of shinsa dumping ground for blades that meet certain characteristics, but are unsigned. I think that brings the Owari-seki down in overall stature,


Is this the same as Koto o-suriage blades being "bungoed" at shinsa? :lol: :lol: :lol:

Jean

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#14 Guido Schiller

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 01:32 PM

Is this the same as Koto o-suriage blades being "bungoed" at shinsa?

Not at all, there are quite a few good Owari Seki blades out there. The attached pic shows a Sagami no Kami Fujiwara Yasuyuki Wakizashi that easily made Tokubetsu Hozon, and came darn close to Jûyô (according to a well known NBTHK official ;)).

One of the very few cases I later regretted having sold it ... :cry:

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#15 Jean

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 02:30 PM

Splendid Guido,

In fact my remark was just a joke for Milt :D

Jean

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#16 John A Stuart

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 03:20 PM

Hi Guido, A nice piece for sure. Is this sword by one of the Owari-Yasukuni school Yasuyuki? I find very little on them but the shodai is from Mino. The amazing features of this blade make it special in this school I think, really like Echizen Yasutsugu. Did it kantei 'Owari-Seki'? John

#17 Curran

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 05:40 PM

Ken,

That is a very big question. Like most things philisophical, answers will vary depending on who you ask.

Our well spoken alumnus Darcy (who occassionally pops his head into the forum) would have said, "Collect the best you can afford". I agree with him, though I would dwell on the points that the _best_you_can_afford_ can change with time and should be the best of what speaks to your eye and your feel.

I distinctly prefer my c. 1350-1425 Bizen and Yamashiro, but have always tried to keep the eyes open and relaxed to see what jumps out at me. I've been enticed by some earlier Yamato tanto, an Owari-Seki sword or two, a few Hizento, Sukehiro, late Gassan work, and even one or two Yasukunito. Oh- and a crazy little Echizen shinshinto yoroi-doshi tanto. That is a fairly broad scatter pattern.

My opinion is Owari-seki is one of the best bang for the buck buys among the shinto schools. There are several popular shinto schools that just don't yield me satisfaction, and are quite expensive.
Given that you are a fencer, some of the 1600s Edo schools will very much appeal to you. That's my opinion, having done a a year or two of kendo, and fenced Foil and Epee for quite a number of years.

#18 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 10:15 PM

A well-thought-out answer, Curran. Thanks!

My preference (favorites, actually) in Nihonto so far are my two Bizen, mostly because there's so much hamon activity to study. But my new Owari-Seki wakizashi is well up in the running, too. I've been going for "pretty" & "interesting" blades more than anything else, probably because I don't yet know enough to concentrate on a specific smith or school :? .

What is it about Edo schools that will appeal to me as a fencer, Curran? I've been fencing for well over 50 years, but other than a few rapiers, don't collect fencing swords. I'm quite interested in that observation.
Ken Goldstein

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#19 Guido Schiller

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 02:34 AM

Hi Guido, A nice piece for sure. Is this sword by one of the Owari-Yasukuni school Yasuyuki? I find very little on them but the shodai is from Mino. The amazing features of this blade make it special in this school I think, really like Echizen Yasutsugu. Did it kantei 'Owari-Seki'? John


No, it kantei'd to "Sagami no Kami Fujiwara Yasuyuki" ;). Attribution to a school is done when a sword is Mumei, and the individual smith can't be determined. Yasuyuki is a reasonably well documented smith; you'll find him in the Nihontô Meikan, Tôkô Taikan, and other books.

As already mentioned elsewhere, a number of smiths moved from Mino to the neighboring Owari province in early Shintô times after Tokugawa Ieyasu built a castle in Nagoya in 1614. These smiths are known as Owari Seki, and their style became different from their native Mino province, showing a strong Sôshû influence, as in this example.

The first generation Yasuyuki used the title Noto no Kami, and later Sagami no Kami, to which later generations succeeded. This sword was made by the Nidai Yasuyuki, who worked during the Kambun and Enpô periods.

#20 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 02:40 AM

A well-thought-out answer, Curran. Thanks!

My preference (favorites, actually) in Nihonto so far are my two Bizen, mostly because there's so much hamon activity to study. But my new Owari-Seki wakizashi is well up in the running, too. I've been going for "pretty" & "interesting" blades more than anything else, probably because I don't yet know enough to concentrate on a specific smith or school :? .

What is it about Edo schools that will appeal to me as a fencer, Curran? I've been fencing for well over 50 years, but other than a few rapiers, don't collect fencing swords. I'm quite interested in that observation.
Ken Goldstein

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#21 John A Stuart

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 03:24 AM

Thanks Guido, That sums up all the info I could glean. A rather short line. John

#22 Curran

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 04:56 AM

Ken,

That too is a long discussion.

Short answer is the Japanese fencing schools sprung up during the 1600s and blade shape of real swords straightened out to more closely match their practice counterparts. The front of the blade became better suited for thrusting. More of a rise in unarmored dueling (my school vs. your school).

Since my experience with kendo is limited to 1 year of active participation with a college kendo team, I don't think I have adequate basis to athletically cross compare and well put it into words. From an Art viewpoint: as much as I love the graceful arc and active hamon of Oei Bizen, sometimes the mild sori and quickness of a balanced shinto blade has a working appeal to my western brain, -yet it is Art in hand.
It feels like the best of a sabre and rapier rolled into one.

#23 Rich T

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 06:57 AM

belongs here, but keep in mind the the modern Iaido we know today sprung up around 1600 give or take 50 or so years, but Kenjutsu, or Japanese fencing has been around since men carried swords. And basic sword techniques are very old and date back well before 1600. Only formalised schools started in or about 1600, when peace reigned, men were bored and sheep were nervous, no, wait, that's Australia's early history. Sorry.

That's not like me is it. I will pull my head in now.

On a more serious note, that straight sword period didn't last too long, besides the odd piece now and than.

Rich

#24 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 09:35 PM

I would love to see the saber that you used to use, Curran!! I will admit that I haven't seen the number of Nihonto that you have, but I certainly have never seen one that reminds me in any way of a rapier, saber, or epee.

It's interesting that, from Rich's comments, modern European fencing may be several hundred years older than formalized Kenjutsu, having started in the 14th century. Browse over to http://library.think....html?tqskip1=1 for a summary of how & when fencing got started.

Does anyone have definitive data on when formalized Kenjutsu actually started? It would be fascinating to compare that evolution against the look & feel of Nihonto.
Ken Goldstein

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#25 John A Stuart

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 10:05 PM

Hi Ken, The epee which only means sword in French but we all know as a type of small sword, and is one of my favourite weapons, would not correlate to a katana. I can slightly see a rapier as an extremely weight forward sword relate as in tsuki (thrusts) but not much. I have one rapier and find it a cumbersome weapon, no wonder it needs the much quicker main gauche to complement its' deficiencies. The sabre is the closest corollary to the katana where even some blades were put into modern fittings for the modern military in European fashion (kyu-gunto). This leads me to wonder how the lightning fast small sword would fare against a katana, ridiculous to surmise but I wonder. John
BTW, in a short artcle I wrote you will see some mention of koryu from the 14th 15th cent. although the Edojidai was a flowering of styles as Rich mentioned.
http://www.johnstuar...new_page_17.htm

#26 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 01:07 AM

A well-written article, John. I'm going to point Sensei at your Web-site when I see him next weekend. Perhaps we should collaborate on adding chapters or sections on the various modern weapons (both edged & pointed).

Browsing, I see a great shot of an early 18th-century steel-hilted small sword. This was the near-descendant of the rapier, & looks to be at least partially suitable for edge work. I had a sword very similar to that, but it disappeared in our move to Hawaii 15 years ago. My sword was actually extremely well balanced, with the balance point about two inches from forte. Main gauche is not really a problem if one has been fencing for any time, as wrist & forearm bulk up rapidly.

As far as how the small sword would fare against the katana, John, that's been a heavily discussed topic at the salle where I teach masters classes. This being Hawaii, there are a lot of students who also collect katana, albeit usually fake wall-hangers, but we've had many hours of discussions on the basic efficiencies of each weapon. There are a number of factors that we've concluded: (1) a point weapon is generally more effective than a blade-only weapon, mostly due to its greater reach; (2) however, a blade weapon made of superior steel could likely cut through the thinner point weapon; (3) but katana, at least as used in iaido/kenjutsu, were generally taught primarily as offensive, rather than defensive, weapons; (4) while point weapons generally have eight zones of defense (at least in modern fencing); (5) leading to the conclusion that whoever started the attack would probably win, weapon notwithstanding.

I've been fencing for over 50 years, & hold dan in MJER iaido, John, so I not only have experience in both arenas, but I also am constantly looking for ways to illustrate weapons teachnology. If I pitted my shinken, for example, against my modern epee, I'm fairly certain that the shinken would win, as it could easily cut through the rather thin metal blade. But using a contemporary katana up against the small sword on your Web-site would likely be a different story. That sword's steel is significantly thicker, & with a near-triangular cross-section would have been much harder to cut.

A fun discussion.
Ken Goldstein

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#27 John A Stuart

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 01:39 AM

Hi Ken, I would enjoy expanding on this type of material and anything I can contribute I will. Maybe a better candidate for a small sword/ katana face off would be one with a lozenge shaped blade like the transitional types. I think they would have enough resilience to absorb and deflect a strike for riposte. Just curious, most fencers favour one sword over another foil, epee or sabre; do you favour the foil? John

#28 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 01:52 AM

Actually, John, my favorite weapon is the epee, followed by the foil.

There's a sneaky attack that I use in epee on my opponent's big toe. If I connect, he's out of the bout. And even if I miss, he stays a long way away from me after that! They don't make steel-toed fencing shoes, thank goodness!

On the lozenge-shaped blade, are you talking about a katana or a sword?? I've seen several medieval swords that shape, but never a katana.
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#29 John A Stuart

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 02:09 AM

Sorry Ken, I meant the transitional rapier that has the lozenge shaped blade, in fact I have seen an example of a true small sword with such. Never heard of that foot manouever before. Did you notice the steel hilted small sword I have is for the left hand and is rather unique in that respect. I can not use those swords for practice as they are fairly fragile now. Anyway back to Nihonto. John

#30 Curran

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 04:41 AM

Apolgies in advance. I am zapped from a long work day and family obligations... -so this may be less than lucid.

To answer Ken-
Quick European blades: handled a few Italian dueling rapiers that I could could make move nearly as well as a sport fencing Epee. A gent who lives nearby in his half-castle has a nice rapier with a German made blade that feels well too, though requires more finger strength. Has a very heavy weight on the butt of the pommel.

Rich T, I believe commented on the short life of the straight sword? I was more just thinking of the benefits of a straighter sword. This one http://www.nihontocr... ... atana.html popped up for sale today and is supposedly a homage piece to the famous historical sword "little crow", but looks slimmer to me. How different is it from the slight bend many of us fencer place (or placed- not much fencing in my neck of the woods these days) on our Epee?

Hope that made some sense. Off to bed for me.




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