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Lord Kusunoki Masashige's tomb


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Copying shamelessly the spirit and style of Guido's report on the tomb of Masamune, I thought a quick description of Sunday's NBTHK meeting might keep the wolf from the door a while longer.

 

Sunday, 25 July 2021.

We drove a couple of hours to Minatogawa Jinja in Kobe for the Hyogo NBTHK branch meeting, carrying some serious blades to test their abilities. (Sadly the lunch, being a quick Japanese affair at a greasy spoon nearby could not compare, though.)

 

During a lull in the sword appreciation proceedings, I took a quick stroll around the precincts for some photos of the atmosphere. There were visitors here and there in small numbers, but my impression was that they had come to pray, not as tourists. Although a brilliant military strategist and special hero in Japanese history, 'Kusunoki Ko' 楠公 1294- 1336(?)was elevated to higher status in the Meiji Period. There is a movement afoot today to persuade NHK to do a year-long 'Taiga Drama' on his life. As you will see in the photo below I signed a voting slip and popped it into the box.

 

Photos of the tomb and the larger shrine area from my phone will follow.

 

For those of you who have already visited the shrine in Kobe, this will be old hat. Please feel free to add your own photos, perpective, understandings, etc.

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Of course the danger is that he was used as a figurehead by militarists up to WWII, so some people will surely be reluctant to nominate him for a Taiga Drama, I am guessing. Also there should probably be a famous and influential woman to round out the story and make it acceptable to a broader audience.

 

The shrine.

 

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Kusunoki Masashige, the big example for the kamikaze pilots, and all who want to die for the emperor.   
i know the Minatogawa jinja owns an armor, attributed as his, but in fact made in the 16th century.   I would be very happy with some good pictures of this armor.

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Well done Piers and thank you! I would be grateful if you could share some images and lessons learnt from these NBTHK meetings. 
 

i am a Life member but alas have never been to an NBTHK meeting or conference in Japan (or anywhere in the world for that matter)! 
 

thank you again! 

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As to the actual Hyōgo NBTHK meeting, Michael, what most impressed me was their dedication. 90% elderly gentlemen (as we were some years ago when I first joined), they were all seated on the tatami around low tables, holding handouts and listening to a lecture.
 

The room was not very well ventilated, and all were wearing plague masks. We were given zabuton, the only acknowledgement of our presence. A long narrow concertina book was being passed around, called Také Oshigata Shū. It seemed to be an Utsushi copy of a 文政 Bunsei work, a beautifully illustrated introduction to the blade characteristics of perhaps 100 top smiths through history. The variations and details of the hamon and hataraki, achieved with fine points of bamboo, were almost unbelievable. Many of the oshigata were labelled with arrowheads and fine notations. A Muramasa Tanto blade example was covered with twenty or thirty such indications/notes.

 

During this time our delegation set out the swords for their consideration, on a long white cloth under a hanging row of naked bulbs.

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It has taken me some time to work out what I did wrong. I think I got there in the end.

 

The timer was set for 90 seconds. Sitting on the tatami, we shuffled forwards to reach each of the five blades. I bowed and picked up a blade and started to examine it. Suddenly there was a tap on my shoulder and a voice saying “Put it down!” I looked up in surprise for surely no longer than 30 seconds to a minute had passed. The gentleman who was standing and leaning over me pointed and said, “Time out! Put down the blade!” Puzzled, I rather reluctantly complied, somehow also aware that my reaction was probably rudely slow.

 

I stood up, stepped back and watched the whole proceeding, consulting with another member. It became clear that the (very quiet) 90 second signal in Hyōgo was an absolute rule for all, regardless of how long was left. All of them were putting down their blades at the same time, in waves, no longer and no shorter than 90 seconds. My ears suddenly became finely attuned to the first buzz each time.

 

Later I went back for the second half of that blade examination! 

 

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

入っては郷に従うGō ni Shitagau.

“Gō ni ireba, Gō ni Shitagaé!”

郷に入れば郷に従え。

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As to the the blades themselves, someone whispered that we (from outside the prefecture) were invited ‘staff’ and not participants per se. For this reason we were not entering slips with attributions. The long blade in first position was a Nagamitsu, and later in the car I was asked if I remembered it from a viewing late last year. Some of our members seem to have photographic memories!
A problematic blade was a lovely Katsumitsu with Kin Zōgan Mei that few were able to guess correctly.

But the real trick was blades four and five. As different as two blades could be, they were both actually by Inoué Shinkai of Ōsaka.

“Most people got one or the other, but no-one got both!” said the commentator. One blade was a ‘young’ example by Izumi no Kami Kunisada, three years before he took the name Shinkai. The Tanto in fifth position from towards the end of his life, looked nothing special to me, just a straight suguha, and I put it down rather quickly after a perfunctory examination.

But in my mind it stayed bright and shining; mentally I could not put it down. Like purest cream, or butterscotch, the jihada and smooth hamon line continued to call me, blotting out all else.

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I have had similar experiences - since I'm much taller than most Japanese, I learned to start looking at shape, Hamon and Utsuri when I was two or three back so I could focus on hada when I got the blade in hand. A great experience man, envy you the journey...

-t

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