Hocho

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.

http://www.sword-masamune.com/en/sword.html

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.

www.katana.porn 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

Oshigata

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

Bitcoin

So, there’s this thing, you don’t know anything about it but you’re a gambling man and you’re pretty smart. So you buy it. You’re buying it because you’re going to sell it later to someone else who doesn’t want to buy it now at $X, however that guy later will buy it for $X + $Y and that $Y is going to be your profit. This will take six months. You think this is reasonable. 

To the bold go the spoils. Don’t worry about studying or knowing what you’re doing. Just jump in. 

Continue reading Bitcoin

Sashikomi

There are two main types of sword polish available currently. It’s likely the case that neither are the original style of polishing a sword nor is that even something that we should be thinking about. 

The goal of polishing is primarily functional: remove rust and chips, and make the edge fine. The more you used your sword to fight the more frequently you would have to polish it as a result. The concept of artistic polishing that enhances the beauty of the sword is something that comes with the goal of preserving the sword and appreciating it for something more than a simple tool of war. 

When I started collecting a long time ago now, there were people who fervently supported the idea of sashikomi polish in all cases in the mistaken idea that it is somehow more authentic or better for appreciating swords. As with many things, taking an imbalanced viewpoint can bring you to the wrong conclusion.

Continue reading Sashikomi

The Top Ten

I’m doing some research right now for a daisho that I will be listing soon. As part of this, I counted the top ten smiths by simple output of blades ranked Tokuju, Juyo Bijutsuhin, Juyo Bunkazai and Kokuho combined. 

This is the list as a simple point of interest.

  1. Osafune Nagamitsu [98]
  2. Rai Kunimitsu [78]
  3. Osafune Kanemitsu [64]
  4. Soshu Masamune [57]
  5. Rai Kunitoshi [52]
  6. Saeki Norishige [47]
  7. Rai Kuniyuki [47]
  8. Osafune Kagemitsu [46]
  9. Niji Kunitoshi [44]
  10. Ko-Bizen Masatsune [44]

Some notes on this… Niji Kunitoshi and Rai Kunitoshi are the same smith by modern standards. So if we add their output together he places second overall, with 96 total works, and this would move Masatsune into 9th slot and Soshu Sadamune will then slide into 10th spot. 

Both Nagamitsu and Rai Kunitoshi benefitted from having large numbers of high level master smiths working under them. Kanemitsu and Kagemitsu also both benefitted from this.

But the interesting thing for me in looking at this list is how it is almost evenly split among Kamakura period Soshu, Rai and Osafune output. It illustrates very well the reverence in which these schools and smiths are held.

An interesting Yoshimitsu

Awataguchi Yoshimitsu is one of the finest smiths to have ever lived, and is mostly thought to be the best tanto maker of all time. 

I was doing some research lately and found a blade that had more info than I could really understand with my basic Japanese. I talked to Markus Sesko about it and he uncovered a lot of interesting information. 

It ended up that this was the blade used by the famous tea master Sen no Rikyo to commit seppuku. Have a read about it on Markus’ blog.

Meibutsu and Meito

I just want to spend a few minutes to clarify the difference between these terms. There is some confusion out there and as soon as three people repeat the wrong thing it becomes truth.

MeitoThis is a sword with a name (a Gō 号). Any sword can have a name. What we primarily care about this though is a historical name, that is, the blade in question had a name during the Edo period. An example here is the Sunnokina Masamune. It is simply a Masamune that came down through the Edo period with a nickname. This term meito is also used to casually indicate swords of great quality and importance, that may in fact have no name (but we imagine they would be worthy of one). There are no legal restrictions on ownership or movement of meito. Sometimes the NBTHK will indicate a name for a sword in the Juyo or Tokuju papers, in other times it can be discovered through other books or often on the sayagaki where an authority has preserved the name. Sometimes the name comes down with no history at all. 

Meibutsu: These are special meito that are on the list of the Kyoho Meibutsu Cho, the most famous swords in the country in Edo period Japan. These also have no restrictions on ownership. However, many of these also happen to be Juyo Bijutsuhin, Juyo Bunkazai and Kokuho and as a result of that kind of status, would be illegal to export from Japan. An example of this would be the Kanze Masamune

All meibutsu are meito but not all meito are meibutsu.

Utsushi also sometimes take the name of the source blace, for instance Kunihiro coped the Yamanba-giri Chogi, the resulting copy also became famous over the years and so took on a similar name to the original, becoming the Yamanba-giri Kunihiro. Both blades in this situation are meito, but not meibutsu, and both are Juyo Bunkazai making them illegal to export from Japan. 

Fatality

We all dread the fatal flaw. 

These tend to be hidden on rusty blades, and revealed by polish. 

Depending on who made the blade and when, a fatal flaw will send the value to zero. Sometimes however, the balance of positives in a sword allow it to be appreciated and even paper to the top levels, with a so-called “fatal flaw” present.

Continue reading Fatality