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paulb

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Everything posted by paulb

  1. studied for the better part of thirty years, nurtured relationships with a number of good dealers and eventually sold the bulk of what I had already collected to pay for it. That's now about 10 years ago and despite having to sell some pieces I liked a great deal I have never regretted doing it.
  2. Colin, As a fellow resident in what you call "the wastelands of the UK" I think you need to try and make contact with more fellow enthusiasts in the UK of which there are a good number, many of whom are active within the Token Society of GB and equally many willing to offer help. It is true there have been and continue to be issues with transport (not just in the UK but everywhere in Europe) at present and there have been some episodes publicised here of problems with customs. However this is not the case generally. Many collectors in the UK import pieces and arranged for item to go to Japan who have not experienced the difficulties that have been discussed here. Can I suggest you consider joining the Token Society of GB if you haven't already and try and attend one of their regional meetings. We are trying to spread them across the country so those living more remotely have the chance of meeting. I think one visit to such a meeting would reassure you that the study of Nihon-To is alive and well in the UK and there are many good swords not being used for hedge cutting.
  3. There are many blades that are unsigned. In this case it is a koto blade and very likely shortened during its life. When the blade is shortened the mei is often lost. Re the fittings, while not spectacular I don't think "sub par" is a reasonable assessment. The tsuka is bound in doeskin rather than silk braid which may be giving you the impression it is less well done. The polish looks rather harsh but Iesuke is a recorded and well respected smith (smiths as several generations existed I think)
  4. Alex, I'll try and explain why my list is as it is but without going into great detail on each. Most of those I have listed are blades that I have seen in hand which I think makes a huge difference. Certainly I hadn't even considered Yukimitsu until I saw that particular tanto which I found mind blowingly beautiful. All the blades I listed have a number of traits in common: 1. The hada is generally extremely fine and well executed. Predominantly ko-itame but with some additions and variations. 2. All of them have a great deal of activity within the jigane in the form of ji-nie and chickei. 3. This activity spills over in to the hamon. Despite most being suguha, all show a great deal of activity in the form of kinsuji, inazuma, a lot of nie, sunagashi and more. 4. Finally the way the shape, ji-hada and hamon sit together to create an overall composition that is "Just right". No one element stands out from the others they all work together to create a perfect harmony and composition. And they did all that with a hammer, anvil lumps of iron and charcoal and a good eye. Pretty remarkable and the fact we can enjoy this work 6 to 900 years after it was made says a great deal for the quality and also the way it has been cared for throughout its history.
  5. As said when I put my own list up it was based very much on my own biases and preferences. I also have never made any claim to expertise, self appointed or otherwise. I Am also fortunate enough to know most of those who have offered ideas and assessments based on available data. Again I am confident that none of those individuals would claim to be experts. What they are doing is quoting publications and information written over several hundred years and including Fujishiro, Honami Kozon, Homma, and Tanobe Michiro ( are you calling them self appointed experts?) If we cannot use the knowledge of these very learned gentlemen to further our understanding then where do we look? I am not sure why this discussion is creating such aggressive responses. in the main it has been very informative and interesting. I am not sure why it is necessary to start ciricising those who are offering analysis and insight
  6. I think one reason we get hung up on this is that compared to other art the very best in Nihon-to is Almost (and I use the word cautiously) within reach. When we look at a Rembrandt or Vermeer we know the the price tag is an unimaginable amount of money. For a top sword however the price is in the realms of a good house, car and a few other bits, but at least it is a number we can relate to. We (I) no matter what I did could ever hope to hold a top rate old master in a collection of paintings. It doesn't stop me buying, appreciating and enjoying lesser work that I can afford. Studying top work helps you appreciate the features you are seeing in lesser pieces and to understand the process better.
  7. Re death and taxes, I think that's two things unless you regard one as the inevitable consequence of the other
  8. Fascinating as the discussion of variations of national tax burdens are I think as a courtesy to the OP we might return to the subject intended. Kirril in answer to your question re members with more than 1 juyo sword in their collections I honestly don't know but think there are many more than you might think
  9. Jimmy, George Cameron Stone in his glossary or arms and armour published in the early 1900s said "The Japanese sword is the nearest thing to perfection made by human hand" that's how I fell about the Awataguchi blades I have seen (which like almost everyone else is not very many) The blade has beautifully uniform hada covered in bright ji-nie and other activity. How they managed to create such a perfect result with a hammer and anvil I cannot even guess. SO in summary they are beautifully made, the forging is not only faultless but incredibly beautiful and the hardening compliments and exemplifies what is happening in the hada You are right Kagemitsu also made beautiful tanto and he would be high in my personal list too. Unfortunately he is surrounding by a mass of other great Bizen talent which perhaps has made him shine a little less than he might otherwise have done
  10. Defining "Quality" in something defined as and art object without taking in to account aesthetic appeal is not possible. The NBTHK compare blades against the standard for that tradition or school and define the quality in relation to that norm. They do not for example compare a top Soshu blade with a top Bizen blade in terms of which is better quality. To reach a high level of paper the blades must be very well made in excellent condition and demonstrate all the features associated with that smith or school. This is not new. Aesthetics have always played a major part in defining which swords were best. Soshu blades only came to prominence when it was noted that Hideyoshi liked them and the appraisers who worked for him started ranking them at the top of the league. At other times Yamashiro Awataguchi and Fukuoka Ichimonji have topped the table. Again this wasn't to do with functionality or how well made they were (they could all cut and were all well made) it was which one appealed the most to the market of the day. I believe Awataguchi blades are amongst the best ever made. The quality of their forging the superior raw material that was available to them resulted as something that is near perfection (To me). Others would regard them as boring and dull. This has nothing to do with quality. Based on what we read in various texts The top 3 best Tanto makers were Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, Shintogo Kunimitsu and Masamune. Top best long swords were made by Go-Yoshihiro Ko-Aoe Tsunetsugu and Masamune. Other names that would be in the top 10 would include Sanjo Munechika Yasatsuna Ko-Bizen Tomonari. But for all of these the reputation is based to some extent on how they look and whether that appealed to the taste of the day.
  11. I think there are more than 3000 users on the nmb so making a sweeping statement regarding the lack of quality within collections is foolhardy to say the least. I am aware of a number of collectors here who include highest quality works
  12. Motivation for my preferences: 1. Jigane. All of my top choices have incredible jigane, rich in nie and chickei, 2. Shape (I know this should be first but it runs very close) the shape of early blades be they long swords or tanto can be exquisite 3. Activity and interaction within the hamon inazuma, kinsuji, sunagashi etc. 4. The way all the above hang together and compliment each other making the whole far greater than the sum of the parts. The choices are all based on pieces I have been lucky enough to see in hand. Had I seen other great early Soshu work closer (Shintogo, Go or Masamune) the list may be different.
  13. I think Michael is right and we have been here before some while ago (Think I might even have started the thread!!) However a little self indulgence doesn't hurt on occasion. So the following list is based more on what I like i.e. what I find the most aesthetically pleasing rather than a statement of quality relating to function durability etc. 1. Tanto by Soshu Yukimitsu 2. Awataguchi daito from early Kamakura 3. Ko-Bizen Tomonari 4. Chu-Aoe Daito 5. Rai Kunimitsu tanto 6.Taema 7. Osafune Nagamitsu 8. Inoue Shinkai 9. Shodai Tadayoshi 10. something I haven't seen yet but I will fall in love with when I do
  14. Phil I am afraid it is impossible to offer any view on the sword from your image. To say anything meaningful people would need to see detail of the balde and idealy the nakago as well.
  15. If you choose either or both of those two you have already decided on the period. Yamato flourished through the Kamakura period until the end of the Nambokucho so koto Hizen came to prominence in The late Momoyama through to the end of the Edo period so Shinto and shin-shinto. Both Schools (Yamato is really a tradition encompassing five schools) produced some incredible work but also some less so. Both offer excellent opportunity to study. Which ever way you choose to go enjoy the journey.
  16. Gentlemen, This is really a terrible story and unfortunately not unique. But it is very rare. I agree with Ian, while Chairman of the Token of GB I was contacted on several occasions and asked to verify whether a blade was authentic and legal to import or not. However this is not common and usually occurs when there is a question over paperwork or if an individual at customs gets it wrong. It rarely results in court (I am aware of only one case in 6 years) and usually settled promptly. I have no idea how many swords pass through our borders but based on what we see at various meetings I believe it to be a significant number and that the vast majority of these pass through without issue.
  17. I haven't bought much in recent years and the situation has undoubtedly become more complicated. The last long sword I bought came from mainland Europe and it was delivered within 3 days. Previously I have bought blades from Japan and the USA and sent swords all over the world and to date have had no major issues (getting the VAT wrong was about the worst). Members of the Token Society of GB committee are occasionally asked to assist by people whose pieces have been held or by HMRC seeking opinion. These occurrence's are rare and to my knowledge have always been dealt with promptly and without needing to go to court (1 exception I think). I have great sympathy for Tony but I think it would be a mistake to think this is typical and I am aware of many people bringing blades in without issues.
  18. Last Thursday (8th April) Michael S and I were able to attend the opening of this excellent exhibition. Set in three rooms of the Queens Gallery in Buckingham palace there are over 150 pieces from the Royal collection. The majority are gifts given to members of the Royal family by the Japanese imperial court. The earliest being one of the two armours given to James I in 1613 by the Tokugawa Shogun. Many of these works have never been on public exhibition. As one might imaging the quality is outstanding and there are examples of arms and armour, metal work ceramics and prints all of the very highest quality and many with an intriguing history. For any members who may have reason to be in London in the next 12 months I would strongly recommend taking the time to visit this exceptional and unique exhibition. detals can be found on the attached link https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/exhibitions/Japan-courts-and-culture/the-queens-gallery-buckingham-palace
  19. Thank you Jussi, An excellent exercise and in some ways a reality check. I agree with Michael the level of scholarship in your explanation is exceptional and very informative A great exercise, much appreciated.
  20. A beautiful blade Brano congratulations. A long time ago when I focused almost exclusively on Hizen blades I had a wakizashi by Shodai Masahiro which I loved. I have also seen a number of katana by this smith that are of equally high quality. We should also Remember that when Shodai Tadayoshi (Tadahiro) died his son and heir was only 19 years old. He was greatly supported by Shodai and Nidai Masahiro and I think it is not only a testament to his great skill as a smith but also as a teacher that Shodai Masahiro deserves the high reputation he enjoys. A great looking work and beautifully photographed. Well done
  21. Thanks Jussi, In looking at this I have realised how rarely naginata appear in kantei exercises and how little I know about them. Taking your description of the hada and the fact it has slightly visible utsuri I am inclined to Oei Bizen but it could be as Michael suggests a work by unji/unju. I am guessing and am keen to see the result. thanks again
  22. The honest answer is you cant tell. But it is also important to remember where the wealth was during the Edo period. Merchants were able to afford better blades and far better koshirae than impoverished samurai. They also had a more flamboyant taste. Many of the finest wakizashi seen in beautiful mounts were made for merchants. At the top end Senior retainers would have blades and fittings made by the best smiths. lower ranking samurai would have what they could afford. Merchants would buy what they liked and what demonstrated their wealth and sophistication. The reason that many modern collectors look down on wakizashi is they cannot be sure they were carried by samurai and for some this lessens their historical value. It has also been suggested in the past that Smiths put less effort in to making wakizashi for non samurai. I think this is demonstrably incorrect. Why would a smith risk their repuion and alienate their most lucrative customer base by making a substandard piece?
  23. Dan, I agree with Kirill I don't think this is a Kamakura period blade. My guess would be Momoyama or even a little later. As you say there aren't any ubu Kamakura period wakizashi, at least none that I have ever seen either in hand or in references.
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