Jump to content


Gold Tier
  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


paulb last won the day on July 11

paulb had the most liked content!

Community Reputation

2,240 Excellent

About paulb

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Location:
  • Interests
    Koto swords, especially pre nambokucho.
    Weapons from the American civil war

Profile Fields

  • Name
    paul bowman

Recent Profile Visitors

3,637 profile views
  1. sorry to hear another long time collector and contributor to the subject has passed away. I did not know Ron but the comments here say a great deal about him and the kind of man he was. RIP and condolences to his family
  2. I think while still employed by the NBTHK you are right he limited sayagaki to TH and above. Since he is retired and independent this may have changed but I believe he is very selective about the swords he will make a sayagaki for. As you might imagine the potential demand would be very high if not filtered somehow.
  3. Hi Ken, I am not aware that the rules or requirements have changed, although in recent years the term "juyo polish" has appeared in the vocabulary with suggestions that for a sword to be considered for Juyo shinsa it requires to have a specific type/level of polish. I am not sure how true this is. However as pointed out to make a reasonable judgement call you have to be able to see what's there. I remember hearing the late Yoshikawa sensei once tell someone that he believed a blade was by "X" but if it were freshly polished it may actually be by" Y". The better the polish and condition the better and likely more accurate the appraisal. I think in the past it has generally been the case that blades were polished before submission rather than the other way round.
  4. Hang in there Alex, the sword is well priced and a good example of what it is. There is no reason it shouldn't sell.
  5. Kirill, thank you for your detailed answer to Michael's question which I found very informative. I think you make some interesting observations which to some extent are confirmed in the various kantei exercises the NBTHK run in their monthly magazine. I have taken part in this for more than 10 years and certainly I have learned to pay particular attention to specific aspects of shape such as thickness and the presence of saki-zori. I think your post also highlights another aspect of shinsa although not mentioning it specifically. At risk of being boring the shinsa exercise is an attempt to arrive at an attribution based on what is in front of the panel. That attribution, as in all other fields of art, is based on comparison to known authentic pieces (or at least those where there is a high likelihood of it being correct). one is looking to see if the blade in hand complies to what is expected for the work of a given period/school/smith. As soon as the study blade deviates from the norm it starts to raise questions. The more aspects that deviate the greater the doubt. I have often said to someone who I thought may be being over optimistic in their appraisal that the more complicated the story you build around what you are seeing the less likely it is to be correct. I think we sometimes have an over complex idea of how a panel reaches a decision. In a very short time they look at a piece, does it conform to the known work of a particular smith, if yes the likelihood is it is by them. If there are some minor deviations it may still be but there are some questions, if there is greater differences then the doubts increase. This means that as I think you suggest it is possible for some pieces that for whatever reason do not conform are wrongly attributed. The truth is we will never know for sure. However by definition these are a very small percentage of a smiths portfolio of work. Regarding your other point I absolutely agree there are some excellent examples of the craft from all periods, signed, unsigned, ubu and suriage. It has often been quoted by scholars knowing much more than I do that every school and every period produced master works (some far fewer and some many more than others) Which is why you have to look at what is in front of you and make the assessment on what you are seeing. People mostly get caught up in argument about the commercial aspects of collecting, whether a piece is a good investments or not. When this take over they lose sight of the main reason they (or at least I think they) collect which is a sword is an interesting and in some cases extremely beautiful artefact which is worthy of study and appreciation.
  6. I have never had the opportunity to handle blades of this level of attribution. However I do remember the absolute terror I felt when handed the first juyo papered blade I had ever seen and even greater fear when the owner handed it to my then 14 year old son to look at. I am glad to say neither of us caused it harm but I think I lost one or two years of life expectancy. However if I am honest I think I would be happy to have a high level sword (i.e. T.J). The reality is the way one would care for it would require the same regime as another sword. Also if brutally honest I think an experienced collector would be more likely to care for it properly than many museums who may not specialise in the subject and lack the resources to do it properly.
  7. Kirill, This may as you say be an interesting and worthwhile discussion to have. There is no doubt that any attribution of any artform made over 700 years ago is fraught with problems and that is no less true with Japanese swords. As has often been said here ultimately what any authenticating body does is offer opinion. The opinion of the NBTHK is worth a hell of a lot more than mine, and with respect yours, as it is based on a great deal more research than either of us could carry out in a single lifetime. What I fail to understand is why if you feel so strongly about this you don't start another thread rather than once again trying to hijack one with a tenuous link to the content and very little if anything to do with the OP. What is the possible advantage in doing that? If there is "Much to be said" why not say it in a dedicated post rather than adding here where it has little relevance to the original intention?
  8. Robert, With so much to choose from I think we can allow you an extra player! interesting and eclectic mix. The variation in what you would be seeing should keep you occupied for many years (almost as many as it would take any of us to create such a collection!!) Alex, You are absolutely right wanting what you cant achieve can make you forget to appreciate what you do have and being grateful for the opportunity to study them. As a general point I think there seems, unsurprisingly, to be some differences in what people perceive as the motivation for aspiring to "big Name" pieces. There is a view that ownership of such work is purely a status symbol. However the reality is that the smiths listed are big names because the quality of their work was over and above the norm ( That may open a whole new discussion but maybe another time) So aiming for them in a fantasy collection is for me, and I would guess Michael as well, more to do with having the chance to study such highly regarded work than it is about any being able to tell people I have them. Of course I will never know and it might well be that should I ever have such a chance smugness might take over!
  9. Kirill, This post has nothing at all to do with "The rules of collecting" That discussion has been done to death time and time again. Actually there aren't any, a collector should do what gives them most satisfaction. This was supposed to achieve two things 1. It was meant as a light hearted exercise and to get people thinking 2. If done and kept it may serve to compare to a later list to gauge how an individual's tastes change. The mishmash list as you described it are as I said based predominantly on blades I have seen first hand and liked a great deal. The choice has nothing to do with name or money it has to do with blades that I really liked. So to clarify: 1 Awataguchi- blades seen at Christies in 2005 2. Ko-Bizen- Samurai art expo 2016 3. Shintogo British Museum Yukimitsu Michael Hagenbusch collection 4. Tiama DTI 2014 5. Rai Kunimitsu DTI The others frankly I don't clearly remember where I saw them but I hope this clarifies the point that the list is based on personal experience observation and preference. It has nothing to do with buying big names. For me the object of owning such a list is they represent the best examples I have seen of the features I like in a sword. Even it was achievable, which for me it isn't, it has absolutely nothing to do with one upmanship showing off or bragging rights they just happen to be, in my opinion, the best examples of the art. Regarding other points I can understand your love of Norishige, I don't share it and for me the best Soshu work is Shintogo and Yukimitsu but that doesn't make you wrong and me right it is just different. Oh and by the way the according to Tanobe Sensei the term "Shodai Yamato Shizu" is used on Juyo papers to distinguish the mumei work of Kaneuji after he moved to Shizu from that of his pupils. So that's "what the hell that means." I am not sure what has given you your chip on your shoulder but I would appreciate it if you didn't use what I hoped was a reasonably gentle and good natured post as an opportunity to rant about something that isn't there.
  10. Hi Matt, Yep I think I could live with those too! edit (maybe not the Norishige but certainly the Yukimitsu)
  11. Hi Ken the budget is where the fantasy bit kicks in
  12. I have seen online a number of games and competitions asking people to pick their world class fantasy football (Soccer for our U.S. Colleagues) teams. There has been a great deal of discussion recently about collecting, it is after all a major part of why we are here, but with too much time on my hands I thought I would take the fantasy concept onboard and try and pick my “Fantasy Nihon-To collection”. I know this has been done in various forms in the past but it might be worth re-visiting. If nothing else it might help you identify on what you really appreciate in a sword. Below is mine and is selected mainly based on smiths who’s work I have been lucky enough to see in hand (most but not all). There are what might be considered some glaring omissions but this is not based on reputation of a smith, just on workmanship that really appeals to my own aesthetic. 1. An Awataguchi daito preferably by Kunitomo, Hisakuni or Norikuni. 2. A ko-Bizen daito preferably Tomonari 3. A tanto by Shintogo Kunimitsu or Yukimitsu (early work style) 4. An Aoe blade from mid to late Kamakura by Sadatsugu or Tsunetsugu 5. A tanto by Rai Kunimitsu 6. A Yamato daito by either a Taima smith or by Shodai Kanenaga(Tegai) 7. A Bizen Osafune daito by Shodai Nagamitsu or Kagemitsu 8. A daito by Shodai Yamato Shizu. 9. An Osaka shinto daito by Inoue Shinkai 10. A daito by Nanki Shigekuni 11. A daito by Sa Yukihide While in many ways it is a trivial exercise it might be worth doing, keeping the list and then re-doing a few years later just to see if and how your views evolve as you progress in to the subject.
  13. Forgive me Ray but I am not sure how specifying my collection in detail reinforces the points being made. I hope that the approach would hold true whether one is focusing at the top, middle or lower end of the market. Also I confess to be uncomfortable disclosing any collection mine or any other in detail on an open forum. Perhaps I am old fashioned but it doesn't quite seem to be the right thing to do. As an overview I have focused predominantly on Yamashiro work ranging in dates from early to late Kamakura period. I have also included work that I believe to be Yamashiro influenced such as Chu-Aoe and Enju. In addition I have an interest in Yamato so have examples of Hosho and Shikkake blades. For completeness and a similar vain to my good friend Jean, I have included Bizen and Mino examples to complete the Gokaden. My one shinto blade would be very familiar to you it is an Osaka Ishido wakizashi. The ubu shin-shinto work has been discussed here before. I chose the swords I did because in the main they exhibit the features I most value. strong and elegant sugata, good quality tightly forged ji-hada conservative suguha or gentle midare hamon ( even my Bizen blade is suguha) in ko-nie deki and a great deal of activity within the jigane. I am always drawn to tight ko-itame hada, before settling on Yamashiro I was a great Hizen fan (still am to some extent) not sure if this answers your question sufficiently but hope it helps.
  14. There has been a great deal of discussion around what one should collect, how one should collect and what is right and wrong. Having been caught up in that debate, in some cases rather uncomfortably, I have taken some time to think about what I do and how I do it, to try and create a framework to help me understand the reasoning behind choices made. Collecting in any field is multi-facetted and everyone is motivated by different things. I think this why misunderstandings and sometimes arguments occur. Debates as to whether something should be polished or otherwise restored often occur because of these differences. For some it is purely a financial decision, for others more emotional and driven by more abstract concepts. While there should be no debate as to how something should be restored, i.e. by someone qualified to do it, there will always be varying views on whether something should be restored or simply conserved. For the sake of transparency I should confirm that my own collection has evolved over almost 40 years. It started as many do by buying anything that appeared to be Japanese and sharp. I accumulated a number of not very good swords. As I learned more and looked at more good swords my searches refined in to some specific areas. About 15 years ago I took the decision to reduce the number and improve the quality of what I held. I did this fairly ruthlessly over the next three or four years until I had what I believed to be the best examples I could afford of the schools I was interested in. Since reaching that point I have added one further blade that I regard as an important addition, but also two or three others simply because I found them interesting or enjoyed what I was seeing in them. Within my current collection which is predominantly work from the Koto period I have two signed koto works and one signed Shinto piece. The remainder are all o-suriage with the exception of an ubu, mumei shin-shinto work. While I am reluctant to say I have stopped collecting I do pretty much believe I have reached the end point in what I can achieve. While it would be foolish to say I will never buy another sword I certainly have no plans or immediate ambition to do so. Having reached this point I have looked at what I believe to be important in this pursuit and how it should be approached. I must also make it clear that this is a personal view; it is not a recommendation, instruction or any form of guidance. It is an explanation of how I have collected. Basic rules to myself: 1. Always study the very best examples of blades that you can find. Take every opportunity you can to look at good quality workmanship. This may be at a museum (although access can prove problematic) viewing days at auctions (less frequent and poorer quality than they used to be) and at sword events and shows such as the DTI, S.F. show and other specialist fairs. Or if lucky looking at swords in other enthusiasts’ collections. 2. Also look on line. The quality of blades published on various websites is exceptional and the images first class. While this is not a substitute for looking at good pieces in hand it is a useful addition and greatly broadens the opportunity to see works that might otherwise not be available. However also be aware that images can be and sometimes are doctored or modified by less scrupulous dealers. By doing the above one can identify which aspects of a sword have the greatest appeal. In good quality blades features such as utsuri, activity within the jigane and hamon etc. are generally more clearly visible and identifiable. Having seen them clearly in these pieces it is easier to identify them in lesser work, or pieces in less than perfect polish. 3. Once you have identified what you like and want to add an example to your collection find the best example you can afford. As has often been said patience is required. By waiting and saving a little longer a better example may become available. However one also needs to be realistic in setting targets and what can be achieved. 4. One of the challenges a collector will ultimately face is that as they learn more they become more discerning and as one colleague once put it “their knowledge surpasses their budget”. As understanding increases one often hears of collectors refining their collection and moving toward the “fewer good quality pieces are a better collection than many mediocre” concept. 5. But then there comes the odd ball. Occasionally, albeit increasingly rarely, a piece may appear that does not fit in to the criteria identified above but it just appeals. It has features that can be enjoyed and appreciated. It doesn’t have to be a great work or by a recognised master it is simply a good thing. However that assessment is not based on “I just buy what I like” it is a view formed after following the steps above and after time studying good workmanship. The nearest comparison I can make is in painting or sculpture. I know the masters I really love and study as much as I can. That study does not stop me appreciating work by lesser painters or from buying work that appeals. Adding this to a collection does not necessarily improve it, add to ones education or understanding, but it can enhance enjoyment. Put simply it can just be a beautiful thing and can be appreciated for that alone. So do I always stick to the above? No, I am human and sometimes for all sorts of reasons I take a flyer, thinking I see something in a particular piece that could make it worthwhile. More often than not I am wrong but I learn though the process. Fortunately that hasn’t happened too often. However if I do get it wrong one thing I have not, nor will I do, is try and pass on my mistake to someone else. If you gamble and it fails live with the consequences. I think we are all motivated by different aspects of collecting. My approach will be different to many and similar to others. There is not a wrong or right way. The important thing is that whichever route one chooses to follow is based on an understanding of the subject and of one’s motives for collecting. Once those are understood it is much easier to enjoy the process.
  • Create New...