Something Beautiful

Goto Ichijo when he worked in iron tended to use the name Hakuo (伯応).

Iron is not one of the traditional materials of the Goto family and it seems he tried to keep his work separated in this manner. This tsuba was made at the age of 75 (inscription is on the other side). 

Markus Sesko says that that the literal meaning is acting as an older brother, or a leader, with the implication that it was breaking new territory for the Goto house. 

He used another inscription on these Hakuo pieces from time to time which is Totsu-sanjin (凸凹山人) and has the meaning “Hermit of Unevenness.” It leaves one with a feeling that in spite of his extraordinary skill, he maintained a feeling of humility and constantly explored new ground.

I really have no words for describing the beauty of this tsuba, it escapes me. 

Fresh and New

Just picked up the lastest Juyo volume (from the 2017 session). This is the oshigata page for the Norishige on my site that I recommended to my clients as a Juyo candidate. One of them took me up on the offer.

Looks like the NBTHK will not do any more nakago oshigata but has moved to high resolution photography for the nakago, while doing oshigata for the monouchi. 

I think it’s an interesting and good change. 

By the way the polish on this one was done by Ted Tenold. I bought it a bit rusty. As you can see there is a little bit of activity on this sword.

 

Daisho and Daishoisn’t

I’ve written about daisho a few times in the past 10 years. It may bear some repeating. 

Daisho most properly refers to the fittings that contain a pair of swords. This was hammered into me by Cary Condell. The reason for this is that any pair of swords can be put together by a user for his preferences. You can have a katana and a tanto mounted together for instance. Or katana and wakizashi. Or you could mount those in handachi koshirae. The makers of the swords don’t matter, the assumption is that the user is picking two swords he liked and trusted and fit his needs or style of fighting. 

If you were buying a Hugo Boss suit you would not necessarily buy a Hugo Boss shirt to go with it, you might have an Armani shirt. Or, you could have a black gap T-shirt under the suit jacket. Whatever your needs are. However, you could match the suit and shirt if you wanted.

Continue reading Daisho and Daishoisn’t

Token Girls

You may have been noting the girls showing up for sword exhibitions in Japan. At museums, and in the new NBTHK, it’s frequently seen. Also standing in front of Sokendo and taking some selfies. 

The world is changing.

Thanks to a video game. 

5,000 of them linked up to see the Meibutsu O-Kurikara Hiromitsu which belongs to one of my clients. Have a read about them at

https://japan-forward.com/

Getting Into The Groove

About 40% of suriage and ubu katana have bohi which is a simple groove which fills the shinogi area of the blade. Recently on nihontomessageboard.com a question came up about the strength effect on blades. 

I wrote about this a long, long time ago but it bears some updating here, about why a blade has grooves and what the effects are function wise. 

Continue reading Getting Into The Groove

Context

This came up recently advising  someone about a nidai Tadatsuna sword. The owner had a fine specimen of more than premium length and ranked Tokubetsu Hozon, and he was happy with the piece and it represented this smith in his collection. Probably the sword sold for what appeared to be a budget friendly price, as this is a famous smith and well regarded it was bought and added to this collection.

There are details though that apply to these things that are not always evident to buyers. I’ll go over a few examples.

Continue reading Context

Asking and arguing

We have all experienced this I am sure. Probably we have been on both sides of this coin.

Someone you know consults with you for your opinion, no matter what the subject is. You give your opinion, if it is in disagreement with their own, they begin to argue with you. 

When people ask for an opinion they are pursuing one of two goals: Education or Confirmation. In the case of someone seeking education they are trying to extract some information and update their own knowledge, either in the abstract or in the concrete (i.e. “what is this thing that I have”).

Based on people’s psychological makeup, and their reason for pursuing this hobby or anything similar, they will have a natural inclination to one path or the other. People who simply seek out confirmation will eventually find it, and they will sort out their opinions of everyone else based on whether or not they receive confirmation of their existing beliefs. It is not just with collectors of antiques or art, it goes for politics, religion, or who you think the best quarterback in the NFL is. 

This flowchart illustrates the two different paths someone seeking education and someone seeking confirmation follow. This is very important to be aware of because it is human nature to seek out confirmation of our existing beliefs and biases. It interferes with our judgment and ability to learn when we seek confirmation instead of education. 

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But All My Friends Say It’s Good

There has always been this phenomenon out there. But it seems to be getting worse. Treasure hunters everywhere want to be that guy who discovers something very important, both for the prestige, the thill and of course the valuation. 

Importantly in digging up gold and diamonds: it certainly helps if you are a geologist.

The problem that people have is that they want to be the treasure hunter and make their big score, but they don’t have the background to understand what they are looking at. People have a very large emotional need to have their find confirmed. 

I have encountered this attitude many times. 

Continue reading But All My Friends Say It’s Good

One or Two Generations

After the Tokugawa made the final steps of unifying Japan, swordsmiths adopted more clear traditions of signing swords and dating them became much more common. The information they left behind and the fact that we’re dealing with “near history” makes it easier to understand swordsmith lineages. 

When it gets into the Muromachi period and earlier, things get a bit more murky. Many signatures were lost, dates are few and far between, and period specific references can contradict each other. 

In the modern period, with swords accessible to everyone and importantly with the work of the NBTHK passing Juyo blades and publishing them, the picture has become more clear. We owe a lot to Fujishiro Yoshio who’s work in the early 1900s on reference materials is more often right than wrong. So I’ll start this discussion with some of his general thoughts on this matter of one or two generations.

Continue reading One or Two Generations

Tokubetsu Juyo 2018 Results

This is a list of the items that passed Tokubetsu Juyo shinsa in 2018… I didn’t include dates where items were dated, or include the item lengths. Just type, signature and attribution. Congratulations to those who had their items accepted. It is never easy and requires patience and a good eye.

One interesting result is that some stubborn person received Tokuju for a Naotane katana. This is only the second time ever that a Shinshinto item has passed Tokubetsu Juyo. 

All errors and omissions are mine.

Continue reading Tokubetsu Juyo 2018 Results

Sugata

When studying Aikido classes often start with ikkyo, which is the first technique. Beginners and experts practice together, and it is thought that you can continue to improve your performance no matter how far along you are in study, by continuing to study the very basics. 

For swords the topic is sugata, and there are some problems with how books address it.

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Naginata and Naginata Naoshi

A naginata polearm can be shortened like a tachi, via suriage and reshaped into a katana. There is a subtype of naginata called a nagamaki which can only be truly identified when it is with its koshirae. The name actually reflects on the wrap of the tsuka of this type of polearm. Basically, how the blade is mounted and used ends up giving it purpose, and so its name.

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