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Why Don’t Americans play Kantei?


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                Every new issue of Token Bijutsu carefully lists the successful participants in the previous issue’s kantei competition. It seems pretty clear that accepting and solving the monthly challenge is a major part of serious sword appreciation in Japan. What amazes me is that Americans seem not to take part in this activity. Kantei seems not to be a game that Americans play and I have to ask why. (And I recognize that this is an international forum, but I don’t see a lot of Aussies there) There are lots of serious sword appreciators over here, but we just don’t seem to conform to the Japanese practice.  There are probably lots of reasons for this failing. Language skill is certainly a factor. And Americans don’t hold the semi-formal regional meetings that many Japanese collectors both enjoy and use to refine their responses to the puzzles. It is also worth noting that folks in Japan care not a fig about many issues that intrigue some American collectors (arsenal stamps, gunto variations etc etc). Our libraries are pretty good, tho, so if we wanted to, I think we could develop skill at assessing the presented problems. Would it be unfair to make sure that every months challenge is presented and discussed here in the NMB so that “we” can take part. Or maybe the NBTHK-AB should organize  kantei zoom session to guide us thru the process. Or maybe we can just decide that sword appreciation is different in these parts.

Peter

 

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One thing everyone should know is that the NBTHK now posts a translation of the Shijo Kantei on it's website each month and we can now enter our bids electronically right there on the website. Used to be if you had paid for "slow postage" you wouldn't get your magazines in time to submit a bid. Peter makes an excellent point, in Japan shijo kantei is considered second only to hands-on in-person study, now more than ever we should be taking advantage of this great exercise.

 

For those who are interested the NCJSC now offers a zoom kantei class each month and a shijo kantei published monthly in our newsletter. All materials are presented in English and we welcome new members from anywhere in the world.

 

-tch

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Very Personally: I usually don't partake in kantei like this, because the answer in 95% cases is hidden within the text of the task.

You have to learn for which blades the writer points out to mokume or "very dense hada" or some specific term related to utsuri or boshi etc. This can immediately put you very close to the right answer and then you look at oshigata to see if the length of kaeri etc. etc. closely matches any particular name.

The good thing it trains one to consider such "small" traits in situ. At the expense of learning in detail how this particular group uses the language and what do they emphasize in oshigata.

The bad thing is translating from this to real blades can be difficult, and one can be very dogmatic rather than pragmatic (or probability-driven) in his appraisal.

For example, kyo-saka-ashi is something one encounters very commonly in kantei exercises even when working with real blades, provided the organizer has access to the ones that exemplify the style in every detail.

And then in real life you are hit with Aoe blade that has it next to Rai blade which sort of does not.

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Well, if it were up to me a major sword show would have to have a kantei contest.

Two rounds - first something very basic, second with interesting blades. Token fee to participate.

With (electronic) publication of the catalogue with quality photographs and discussion of kantei points. It would also include a few select blades awarded "best in show" from the dealers present at the show.

 

Unfortunately, knowing American community I expect they will spend more time devising who is going to be the Lord President of Nihon Bijutsu Kantei Committee and who is just The Grand Marshall of Editing and Publications.

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Shijo Kantei cannot compare to studying a blade in hand and I agree that over time you become familiar with the terminology used and what it may imply. However the exercise, at least for me, has proven extremely valuable. Over the years it has helped me to try and focus on what to look for what to expect to see and develop an approach that I hope helps me towards a logical conclusion (but not always). What it cant do is help you identify physical features in a blade that can really only become visible in hand. Until you recognise these, whether a form of hada, the activity in the ji and hamon or whatever it will be a struggle. The lack of opportunities for most people outside of Japan to study really good examples of particular traditions makes this difficult.

Shijo kantei is not as good nor a substitute for the real thing. However it is certainly the next best thing and a great learning tool. It helped me and I would strongly recommend any student to use it as the excellent learning tool it is.

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It's just badly organised tech-wise. We should have videos at this point of swords, the sort that Ohira-san makes. The problem is that all of this costs money, running a website, doing the videos, documenting, collecting votes in an interesting way, keeping a leaderboard, giving clues, etc. What's the business model here to sustain it? I don't know. 

 

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Chris,

you must remember that until forced in to using email because of the Pandemic the NBTHK's favoured method of taking part was via letter, or if they remembered to switch it on, fax. I think video kantei is a generation away emotionally without even considering the cost.

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I think most important thing is that people need to enjoy it. I find it as a fun thing to do, so I am doing it and want to do it in the future too. I might be old school but I even found certain fun in the old way trying to write kanji on the card and sending it through the post to Japan. Of course now that they upgraded to electronic submission form I have been taking part regularily.

 

I would encourage everyone to participate in the kantei threads in this forum too. I personally find them fun too. Yes the information is often quite limited and pictures might not show the details too well etc. etc. I think one problem is making a call out in public, as it takes courage to post an opinion out to public as there is a good chance you could be totally wrong.

 

I think videos of swords and other things that Chris mentioned would be very fun but I would feel it would need to be done for the love towards the hobby and not thinking about business side.

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As someone who has been trying to get better at this, I think just not knowing the process of kantei is a blocker. I've read Markus' kantei articles as well as try to remember the points in Connoisseurs. But unless you see it applied in practical methodology where someone is describing why or why they didn't take that direction in their bids, I get lost between the information and the practical application. I think mostly since I'm second guessing my knowledge as well as in the end, I dont know where I went wrong. In this past SF sword meeting, there was an exercise to kantei some great swords and it was clearly laid out what the expectations were from each school. I thought that was amazing. As a participant, I was able to concentrate on what I wanted to look at (specifically where I felt I knew what I was looking at based on my current knowledge). Got a D (2/5 right)! I had never been so happy in getting a D in my life!

 

At any rate, if you join the NCJSC, there's a monthly zoom kantei meeting. Although I failed miserably, 1/3 points right, I gained so much more in the walking through of the thought process and what I should be looking at for the next time.  

 

Just my two cents. 

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