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Expanding Horizons

Having spent the majority of my adult life studying Nihon-To I am a little ashamed to confess that my focus has been almost exclusively on swords and even more restrictive, to blades made prior to the end of the Nambokucho period. While there is nothing wrong with focus, if we become too single-minded in that pursuit there is a great danger of missing out on some very exciting and interesting areas of study. At Samurai Art Expo the exhibition included not only beautiful swords but also some incredible Koshirae, tsuba and other fittings. The quality seen in these works was outstanding and I had a very rude awakening regarding the opportunities I had missed in the past to study these artefacts.

Having spent the majority of my adult life studying Nihon-To I am a little ashamed to confess that my focus has been almost exclusively on swords and even more restrictive, to blades made prior to the end of the Nambokucho period. While there is nothing wrong with focus, if we become too single-minded in that pursuit there is a great danger of missing out on some very exciting and interesting areas of study. At Samurai Art Expo the exhibition included not only beautiful swords but also some incredible Koshirae, tsuba and other fittings. The quality seen in these works was outstanding and I had a very rude awakening regarding the opportunities I had missed in the past to study these artefacts.

 

When looking at Nihon-To it is possible, despite the wide variation in styles and design to immediately identify their origin. They share a number of features that make them uniquely Japanese. I think the same is true of armour; a very short study illustrates the incredible diversity in construction and decoration. They display almost infinite variation. But at the same time they include features of construction and design which make them unmistakeably Japanese.  We are very fortunate in this year’s programme to include presentations from members of the Japanese Armour Society which will explore some of the relationships between various components of armour and other art forms.

In addition we will be trying something new. One of the most popular activities in Samurai Art expo was the kantei exercise we held at the end of the programme. We will be doing another sword kantei on Saturday afternoon which we hope will be supported with equal enthusiasm. In addition on Friday afternoon we will hold an armour kantei looking at a number of kabuto and attempting to determine their origins. You do not need to have a great deal of knowledge or experience to take part in either of the kantei. The most important aspect is that it focuses attention and helps the participant look at an artefact in a disciplined way enabling them to gain as much detail as they can from the examination of the piece. Kantei remains the single best learning tool in all aspects of our study and this holds true as much for armour as for swords and fittings. We are very much looking forward to the armour related presentations and kantei. We believe it will prove extremely interesting and greatly add to the visitors overall experience.

As a committed sword person I am looking forward to exploring these different aspects of Japanese art in more detail (I am hoping to get some help in the armour kantei!). While I do not expect to change my focus away from sword steel I think there will be a great deal to be gained from understanding other aspects manufacture, construction and art related to that primary interest.

Please when visiting Japan Art Expo give yourself time to look at all of the different disciplines which will be shown, both in the supporting exhibition and on the dealer’s stands. It is a rare opportunity to have so many great examples together in a single venue. Take full advantage of the occasion.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Paul Bowman

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