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Japanese Sword WWII

Article about: by ghp95134 Hi Bob, I don't have a dog in this fight; however, I agree with you 100% up to a point. If one has a valuable blade, then the better choice is to send it to a LICENSED togishi. H

  1. #31

    Default Re: Japanese Sword WWII

    Quote by ghp95134 View Post
    Hi Bob,

    I don't have a dog in this fight; however, I agree with you 100% up to a point. If one has a valuable blade, then the better choice is to send it to a LICENSED togishi. However, if one has a gunto or junker in rough shape, it makes sense to have it done by a skilled (to us who are not collectors) amateur. After all, most gunto will not be allowed in Japan.

    I met Chris Bowen in Japan sometime in the early 1990s, though he might not remember me. I found Chris' comment about Mr. Hofline on a Nihonto Message Board thread; he was very objective:


    The entire 9 pages are very informative, and most collectors insist swords should be sent to Japan; however, others make point out the blade in question was not an art sword, the condition was terrible, and the owner could only afford an amateur self-taught American polisher; points well made, I think.

    By the way, here's the sword before and after.
    The most pertinent criticisms of this polish were (1) the hada was not fully brought out, and (2) there is evidence of some small scratches (hiki) .... which the owner didn't notice.

    I understand how Nippon-to aficionados and connoisseurs feel toward preserving valuable swords; I've never considered myself a collector -- just a "user" of nice weapons, so my opinion varies from pole to pole. If I had a junker, I wouldn't mind sending it so someone with similar self-taught skills.

    --Guy
    And that is kind of where I stand Guy. I am not sure if this is a junker or not. If not I would be interested in getting it properly polished but if it is I don't know....maybe nothing or having an amateur do it just so it looks nice. The sentimental value supersedes the monetary value and there is not a chance I would consider selling it.

  2. #32

    Default Re: Japanese Sword WWII

    Bob- Do you know what the off white bumpy sheet is on the handle? Would that be shark or ray skin? Also do you know the significance of the red wasp? I think its a wasp.

  3. #33

    Default Re: Japanese Sword WWII

    Quote by hassiman View Post
    Bob... Is it possible that Kagamitsu from Osofune Bizen Provence ever made a Wakazashi?

    Thanks.
    I believe you are refering to Kagemitsu of the Bizen Osafune school. There are several generations of this smith and only the 1st generation is highly regarded. He worked in the early 1300's. The wakizashi form of sword did not come into existance until the Oei period, which began in 1391. This is due to a change in tactics from horse born samurai that required tachi to foot samurai who began carrying a katana and wakizashi. In other words, it is definitely a fake signature. I recall seeing a wakizashi with the same mei back in the 1970's. At that time, I learned about the inception of that form of blade.
    BOB

    LIFE'S LOSERS NEVER LEARN FROM THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS.

  4. #34

    Default Re: Japanese Sword WWII

    Quote by matty60618 View Post
    Bob- Do you know what the off white bumpy sheet is on the handle? Would that be shark or ray skin? Also do you know the significance of the red wasp? I think its a wasp.
    The material is rayskin called same(samay). It is not high quality as is the case with the other fittings. I can not make out the insect design of the menuki. The color comes from a red copper material called yamagane.
    BOB

    LIFE'S LOSERS NEVER LEARN FROM THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS.

  5. #35

    Default Re: Japanese Sword WWII

    Quote by BOB COLEMAN View Post
    I believe you are refering to Kagemitsu of the Bizen Osafune school. There are several generations of this smith and only the 1st generation is highly regarded. He worked in the early 1300's. The wakizashi form of sword did not come into existance until the Oei period, which began in 1391. This is due to a change in tactics from horse born samurai that required tachi to foot samurai who began carrying a katana and wakizashi. In other words, it is definitely a fake signature. I recall seeing a wakizashi with the same mei back in the 1970's. At that time, I learned about the inception of that form of blade.
    Are you talking about my sword?

  6. #36

    Default Re: Japanese Sword WWII

    Quote by ghp95134 View Post
    Hi Bob,

    I don't have a dog in this fight; however, I agree with you 100% up to a point. If one has a valuable blade, then the better choice is to send it to a LICENSED togishi. However, if one has a gunto or junker in rough shape, it makes sense to have it done by a skilled (to us who are not collectors) amateur. After all, most gunto will not be allowed in Japan.

    I met Chris Bowen in Japan sometime in the early 1990s, though he might not remember me. I found Chris' comment about Mr. Hofline on a Nihonto Message Board thread; he was very objective:


    The entire 9-page thread is very informative, and most of the message board members feel swords should be sent to Japan; however, others point out the blade in question was not a collectable sword, the condition was terrible, and the owner could only afford an amateur self-taught American polisher; points well made, I think.

    By the way, here's the sword before and after.
    The most pertinent criticisms of this polish were (1) the hada was not fully brought out, and (2) there is evidence of some small scratches (hiki) .... which the owner didn't notice.

    I understand how Nippon-to aficionados and connoisseurs feel toward preserving collectable swords; I've never considered myself a collector -- just a "user" of nice weapons, so my opinion varies 180 degrees at times -- even with myself. If I had a junker, I wouldn't mind sending it so someone with similar self-taught skills.

    --Guy
    Guy-
    Your comment hist the nail on the head as to self taught polishers. They are fine for cleaning up gunto and junk blades as you mentioned. Everyone I have ever met let their ego far exceed their ability. i have seen many good swords ruined by these amateur polishers. They do not have the basic training to fall back on. I recall a guy who learned his technique of polishing swords by studying Japanese wood block prints! I well recall a very fine Hizen katana he destroyed. One the steel is removed, it can not be put back with super glue ! As I said earlier, looking for a bargain polish is inviting nothing but disaster. These amateur polishers never know how to say "no."
    BOB

    LIFE'S LOSERS NEVER LEARN FROM THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS.

  7. #37

    Default Re: Japanese Sword WWII

    Quote by matty60618 View Post
    Are you talking about my sword?
    No. I am replying to the post by Hassiman. Note his question in quotes in my post.
    BOB

    LIFE'S LOSERS NEVER LEARN FROM THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS.

  8. #38

    Default Re: Japanese Sword WWII

    Quote by BOB COLEMAN View Post
    The material is rayskin called same(samay). It is not high quality as is the case with the other fittings. I can not make out the insect design of the menuki. The color comes from a red copper material called yamagane.
    Here are some close up pics of each side of the handle. Maybe this will help identify what they are. Why were these menukis used? What did they represent?Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #39

    Default Re: Japanese Sword WWII

    The menuki appear to be dragonflies. They were a popular motif with samurai who considered them a symbol of long life and good luck. Note I refered to them as menuki as there is no plural in the Japanese language. The original purpose of menuki were to provide a better grip to the handle. In later years, they became more decorative and less functional.
    BOB

    LIFE'S LOSERS NEVER LEARN FROM THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS.

  10. #40

    Default Re: Japanese Sword WWII

    When placed "properly" [I, as a user], the menuki will fit in the palm of the hand much like a palm-swell works on modern fighting knives, or a pachmyer grip on a pistol. You will still see menuki placed in the "palm" side once in awhile, but mostly this older-use technique is done for modern practitioners of Japanese swordsmanship. The vast majority of handles have the menuki on the "wrong" side.

    The "wrong" side occurred when the sword transitioned from tachi (worn cutting edge down suspended by a hanger) to uchigatana, aka katana (cutting edge up, worn through a sash). When the transition occurred, craftsmen continued to place the menuki in the "tachi" fashion -- we all know how hard change is -- and many people forgot the actual "palm-filler" purpose!!

    Here's an extract from an article I wrote about 10 years ago or more ... well, I didn't write it, Nakamura Taizaburo sensei did.
    Quote by Nakamura Taizaburo
    Menuki placement. Menuki are the ornaments afiixed to the handle, between the rayskin and the wrapping. They were originally decorations used to cover the sword retaining pins (mekugi); however, in later times they became practical in that when placed where the palm meets the handle, the resultant gap was filled. This "palm swell" created a more comfortable grip, quite similar to today's custom pistol grips which are designed to "fill" the palm.

    The tachi was sworn slung from a belt with the cutting edge down. Therefore the right hand menuki, when viewed from the obverse (omote) side, was placed closer to the retaining pin (Fig.7); the left hand menuki, on the reverse (ura) side, was placed closer to the pommel.

    When the tachi-styled sword transitioned in the late 16th century to the uchigatana (worn edge-up, thrust though a sash), the convention remained of placing the omote menuki close to the retaining pin (Fig. 8). This practice resulted in the menuki being on the opposite side of the palm--practicality had been superceeded by strict adherence to format.

    Few schools of swordsmanship retained the practical method of positioning the menuki. The one notable traditional style is Yagyu Ryu; the modern styles which adopted this method are Toyama Ryu and Nakamura Ryu.

    Wrapping the menuki to the handle came about during the Muromachi period (1338-1573) when the fittings were generally in the handachi (half-tachi) style. The Imperial Army and Navy military swords of 1933-1945 were also outfitted in the handachi style, and the menuki were placed where the palms of the hand meet the handle.

    Essentially, the menuki become useless ornaments for the handle when positioned in the Edo style. However, if the menuki are affixed in the handachi style, one's swordsmanship will become satisfactory. Ninety per cent of the swords used by today's iaido enthusiasts have the Edo style menuki placement.

    source
    If ever you tell a tsukamaki-shi [handle wrapper] you want this style of menuki, refer to it as "gyaku-menuki" [reversed-menuki]:



    I was looking for an overhead photo so you can see the bulges in the palm area, but this photo shows a nice comparison.
    source

    FYI, there's a great new translation done of Nakamura sensei's book that just came out:


    --Guy

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