So, who is this smith Sue-Sa 末左?

Fujishiro has an entry for Sue Sa and says that it is an Oei period Sa school smith. The Samonji school starts with O-Sa and several of his students and their students and so on reused the single Sa 左 in their signatures. So sometimes we need to check these blades and try to determine from where in the school they came from.

Continue reading Sue-Sa


I’m a programmer.

I run the blog off of wordpress but I do my own site design, and the coding for my site on which it resides.

I’ve been spending the last few weeks doing some fine tuning and overhauls that I’ve put off for a long time. The first of which is moving my domain out of .ca to a .com … regional domains are problematic for a lot of reasons.

By the way Yuhin is a phrase that Tanobe sensei often uses to describe masterpiece art swords. Yuhindo is a place you can find Yuhin. I’m not sure if I’ll keep the name but we will see.

Also about “dō” …

堂 【どう (n,n-suf) (1) temple; shrine; chapel; (2) hall; (suf) (3) (suffix attached to the names of some businesses, stores, etc.) company;

Not …

道 【どう】 (n) (1) (abbr) road; (2) way; (3) Buddhist teachings;

I have more than a decade of old pages I overhauled to bring up to modern spec and will be putting my old archive back online soon. 

A lot of the changes were to embrace modern standards (sorry 2% of the world who still uses IE, it’s time to join the 21st century) and make sure the site runs fast worldwide. 

I code it all myself and I take some pride in not running any analytics scripts or tracking. I find these things are annoying and privacy violating, not to mention they slow websites down. WordPress’ software which runs this blog is an example of bloatware, many features jammed in the implementation is glacially slow due to programmer’s choices. I try to avoid that with my own site but not too much I can do about the blog software.

A lot of the changes under the hood on my site won’t be so visible but should result in snappier performance and more uniform page rendering as long as you have a modern browser of some sort. 


Hiding who you really are to hook someone into an online relationship using Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, MySpace or by cell phone.
Guy 1: “Hey so I met this new girl online! She is so hot!” 
Guy 2: “Have you ever seen her in person?” 
Guy 1:”No, does that matter?” 
Guy 2: “Better make sure she’s not a catfish..” 
Guy 1: “You think she’s catfishing?!”
— Urban Dictionary
Ah the perils of the internet.
We have a catfishing problem going on in the sword world. So far this as far as I can tell has not yet escaped Japan, but it will.

Continue reading Catfishing

Opinions Redux

Attributions are opinions. But they are the opinions of experts. I’ve written before on it but it bears some pounding on the table from time to time.

There is a strong libertarian school of thought in the sword market which is abused by sellers. This is based partially on calling out your manhood.

I don’t need papers to tell me what to think. Do you need papers to tell you what to think?

— Guy who probably should pay more attention to papers

For a mid level student, this calls their knowledge out on the floor and challenges it. Nobody wants to be the mid level guy to say yeah, I don’t know.

Continue reading Opinions Redux

Security Theater

Security theater is the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to achieve it. Researchers such as Edward Felten have described the airport security repercussions due to the September 11, 2001 attacks as security theater.


Security theater works because people tend to have unrealistic expectations from not understanding the facts of the matter, and/or not wanting to accept their conclusions.

There is a way to fly safe. My system is very simple, 100% guarantees nobody will ever be injured by in-air terrorism again, and may in fact create a more pleasant flying environment for everyone.

Continue reading Security Theater


Ages ago I lugged a Pelican case of hocho back to Canada.

Every now and then someone finds the old link on my website and asks me if they are for sale. I gave most of them away 12 years ago. Anyway, this is Tsunahiro’s sword shop in Kamakura where I got them. He was not online back then but he is now.

I can vouch for the hocho as being very nice and as long as you treat them like a sword (keep them clean, keep them oiled), they are a real treat.

His lineage goes back to Masamune.

Time for a change

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;

— William Shakespeare

So. Some advance notice… my domain name is going to change. To what, I am not yet exactly sure. But change it will, maybe soon. is available.

Actually pretty sure I know what the domain is going to be and this will happen sooner rather than later.



Black Box

This is a common failure in markets where people do not have access to information. They begin to gut it out and lacking information consider all things to be equal. Then you get this question.

Exhibit A: 🎁 … this item has a price of $100. 

Exhibit B: 📦  … this item has a price of $200. 

Which is more expensive, A or B?

Continue reading Black Box

Kinds of Stuff

A lot of these posts come about starting with emails I’ve sent that answer questions or are just part of an ongoing conversation about swords.

This came up today, which were some thoughts about the kinds of stuff people buy and collect. I grouped them into five categories. Maybe it needs more thinking but I think I’m vaguely correct.

These categories are:

  1. Junk
  2. Commercial
  3. Art
  4. High Art
  5. Unicorn

Continue reading Kinds of Stuff


An oshigata is a drawing of a sword, focusing on its hamon and shape. They have been used since before the advent of photography to record and document swords for reference. They can also serve as a fingerprint of sorts by focusing on the nakago which is transferred to the paper by rubbing.

A few heads up in this area are worth noting.

Continue reading Oshigata

Ladder Theory — Ladder Fallacy

That’s too expensive for only Hozon.

— Everyone

There are four levels of NBTHK papers: Hozon, Tokubetsu Hozon, Juyo and Tokubetsu Juyo. This four level ranking system unfortunately means that people end up with four slots in their head for placing an object’s importance and desirability. 

This mistake takes its lead from the fact that it’s easy to grasp and remember four simple categories than it is to remember the vast and complex web of smiths, time periods, schools, their associations with each other, their place in history, as well as the myriad of individual qualities that make an item desirable.

All of that complexity is often boiled down into the thinking that an item with a particular paper should fall into a defined pricing range based on the paper.

This puts the cart (paper) in front of the horse (item). 

My complaints about this mentality were bounced back in my face by Robert Hughes with two words that really grasped the problem well. He just said: Ladder Theory. And that crystallized it all for me.

Bear with me. This is long and rambling.

Continue reading Ladder Theory — Ladder Fallacy

The Engineering Triangle

This may have gotten its start in project management… we have a similar thing in software development that says, On Time, Stable, Cheap, “Pick Two.”

It talks about the necessary tradeoffs when building software. Executive level management pushes down and demands very high quality (bug-free) software, with a full set of features, delivered on time and under budget. This is a virtual impossibility as these constraints are usually chosen as independent variables but they affect each other.

In order for a piece of software to be stable you need an indefinite timeline as finding and solving bugs is not a problem you can put on a calendar and say “at this point we’re finished.” This puts it in conflict with the desire to be on time. You can solve that with a huge investment in testing and bug squashing resources, but that will inflate the budget. So if you want it delivered quickly and cheaply, by necessity it ends up not being very stable.

That’s about what you can get in reality.

This matter of tradeoffs applies to swords and collecting.

Continue reading The Engineering Triangle

Shizu and Yamato Shizu

Kaneuji is a smith of the Tegai school in Yamato and he was immensely skilled. He moved from Yamato to Kamakura (Soshu) and further honed his skills under Masamune, and came to emulate his style. After this, he moved to Shizu in Mino province and the school he left behind formed the basis for the Mino tradition. Because of his movements and style changes he is addressed by no less than four names which makes for some confusion.

These are:

  1. Kaneuji – 包氏
  2. Yamato Shizu – 大和志津
  3. Kaneuji – 兼氏
  4. Shizu – 志津

Continue reading Shizu and Yamato Shizu