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Sword Related Presentation

One of the benefits of belonging to a sword society is that enables people at different levels of understanding and study to meet and discuss various aspects of sword manufacture and restoration/preservation. The journey can be extremely long (but also extremely enjoyable) and the reality is that in the West even after a lifetime’s study we are really still at the beginning. At Samurai Art Expo the educational programme focussed on different features of the Japanese sword and the different traditions and schools. This year we would like to move the focus a little. Many of our previous audiences were taking their first tentative steps in to the subject and based on feedback some of the topics discussed were a little mystifying. This year we are attempting to do something a slightly different in the two main sword related presentations.

1.Beginning the journey

For many of us collecting and studying swords started a very long time ago. What inspired us to start is forgotten in the mists of time, but if you were to ask those that do remember there are likely to be as many different answers as there are collectors. The initial trigger could be something profound but equally it could be a trivial occurrence that sparked that initial curiosity and led to a lifetimes study. Over time as our understanding increases we become focussed on the fine detail of a subject and we tend to lose track of the basics. For anyone starting out or with less experience attempting to understand and appreciate technical features can be both confusing and daunting. We thought we could help address this by discussing one person’s experience as they entered the field and progressed with their study.

The presentation will offer a fascinating insight in to a collector’s progress. The presenter will discuss what initially awoke his interest in the subject, how he began the study of a particular blade and what he has learned.  It is important that we should be reminded of the fundamentals. Starting, as most of us did, He bought a sword because he liked it, but without knowing much about it. As with many of us having bought a blade he wanted to understand it better and answer a number of questions:

  • Why was the blade attributed to a specific smith?
  • How does the maker fit in to a particular tradition and school?
  • What was happening in Japan at the time of its creation and what influence did that have on the way it was made?

He will chart and share what he has learned about the sword, tradition, school and smith. He will discuss how he went about the process and share his research.

2. Polishing a sword blade

One of the greatest causes of argument and debate within Society meetings and on various message boards relate to polishing a sword. So often people appear with a piece they have “restored” themselves and wait with obvious pride in their achievement to receive positive feedback. They rarely (actually never) do. Today unqualified polishing is the most common cause of damage inflicted on a sword blade. This is why people become so passionate about the subject and why often beginners find themselves criticised and disappointed. Polishing is a great skill and requires many years of training.

 We are delighted that this year one of the presentations will be on the subject of polishing. It will go in to detail about the process and intricacies involved. This is not a do it yourself guide; it is a clear demonstration of why polishing should only be carried out by a qualified artisan.

We hope by broadening the scope of our sword presentations we will offer something to both novice and experienced collector. There will be time after each presentation for questions and both presenters will be available throughout the fair should you wish to discuss any of the points raised during their presentations.  

Following the presentations we will hold a sword kantei. In the previous event this exercise proved extremely popular and enjoyable. Those who took part (which was the vast majority of attendees) gained a great deal from the experience. I will discuss this in more detail in a separate topic.

Paul Bowman

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But is it art?

One of the most difficult concepts to explain to those not familiar with Nihon-To is classifying a sword as “art”. Within the complexities of an English vocabulary, constructed as it is from so many others, there are numerous terms describing the same thing. We have art, craft, artists, crafts- people and artisans. All describing the act of creating something, but over time they have come to mean something different. While an observer can happily accept a swordsmith or fittings maker are craftsmen or even artisans the term artist may be a step too far.

What is art? From a very personal and simplistic view point art is a method of communication. At its simplest it conveys an image, at a deeper level it stimulates the mind and generates an emotional response. Art has an ability to transmit ideas and emotions at a level far beyond a simple explanation.

A Japanese sword like those of any other culture is first and foremost a weapon. However in creating a blade a swordsmith does far more than simply making a cutting tool. The effort and skill involved in creating the beautiful hada and hamon seen in blades goes far beyond functionality. Likewise the incredible skill of the polisher does far more than sharpen the blade, it enhances and highlights all of the complex detail of the swordsmiths composition.  The combination of these skills creates an object of incredible complexity and beauty. It embodies the skill, effort and emotional commitment of those involved in its creation.

The makers of sword furniture and armour take their art far beyond pure functionality. They employ skills, imagination and creativity, taking inspiration from nature, folklore myths and legends. They are also inspired by other art forms such as wood block prints, architecture, ceramics and theatre. The degree of creativity they employ in combining different materials and illustrating complex subjects in such restricted space shows a level of compositional skill unsurpassed in any other field.

Much of the content of the educational programme is aimed at illustrating the links between these various creative disciplines and other art forms and to explore where they drew inspiration.

The exhibition running in parallel with the presentations will have examples of the arts described and will illustrate those elements discussed in the lectures. When looking at the exhibit the level of skill employed in their creation will be clear to see. The use of different materials in composition, the craftsmanship and the incredible control in making such work will be obvious. But then the observer has to decide, is it art?

When looking at the exhibition ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it pleasing to look at?
  2. Is it skillfully made?
  3. Does it generate an emotional response?

That response can be awe, it can be the hair on the back of your neck rising as you look at something staggeringly beautiful, or it can simply make you smile.

If the answer to these questions is yes then it is reasonable to assume that you are looking at art. And it is an art form that includes some of the finest examples of human creativity, craftsmanship and art.

Those giving presentations will be available throughout the event. They will be happy to discuss any of the points raised during the presentations and to answer any questions relating to the exhibition you may have. Japan Art Expo will offer a rare opportunity to see such a diverse range of artifacts together and to see the relationship between the various disciplines employed in creating these unique objects. Enjoy the experience!

Paul Bowman

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Why is Japan Art Expo important or even necessary?

2020 marks the 40th anniversary of when I first became interested in Japanese swords. In that time the world has changed significantly, not least with the introduction of the internet as a general tool for business and personal use and the incredible advance in information technology that has enabled peoples to study and to buy from around the world and from the comfort of their home.

It is possible to sit on your favourite chair in front of a screen for many hours (I know because on occasion I do it) with the world at your fingertips and through diligent application you can learn all you need to know about any given subject. Except it isn’t true, you can’t.

Over the years of interest in the subject I have been involved with a number of sword societies and served in various roles within them. some of the most challenging situations I have had to deal with is when a new member, just starting out in the field, approaches me full of enthusiasm and expectation to show me their first sword (usually purchased on line from a well known auction site). They have spent a lot of time (in some cases but not all) trawling the internet reading what they can and believing they have gained sufficient understanding to identify a national treasure being sold on line for a few hundred Euros. It is extremely difficult to shatter that enthusiastic illusion and no matter how often one does it, does not become easier.

The internet offers an incredible resource for the collector of Japanese, or any other art. However it is not a substitute or replacement for physically holding and looking at an artefact in hand. Nor does it replace personal interaction and discussion with fellow enthusiasts. In recent years I have had the good fortune to attend a number of regional meetings organised by the Token Society of Great Britain. I have also read the reports of Armour Society meetings all of which have been enthusiastically supported and all without exception received very positive feedback.

It may seem counterintuitive in this digital age to organise an event such as Japan Art expo. However, as experienced by those who attended the original Samurai Art Expo in 2018,this show offers an incredible and unique opportunity for the student of various Japanese art forms to meet leading specialist dealers from around the world and to interact with fellow enthusiasts.

The educational programme which runs alongside the commercial event is designed to have something for beginners and experienced students alike. It will cover a broad range of topics and illustrate the inter-relationship of various disciplines. The programme has also been planned to include a number of exercises such as sword and armour kantei which proved so popular in the 2018 meeting.

The exhibition which will run alongside the educational programme will include artefact which will illustrate and support the presentation material. It will offer an opportunity to see items of a quality not normally available outside Japan.

Early June 2020  in Utrecht will offer anyone with an interest in Japanese art and culture an incredible opportunity to see beautiful examples of different art forms, listen to people who have spent a lifetime in the study of their subject and to interact with people from throughout Europe with a shared interest.

Over the coming months this blog will introduce various aspects of the subjects being explored in the educational programme to help visitors to maximise their experience when attending.

We look forward to meeting you in June.

Paul Bowman

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Japan Art Expo

In June 2018 Utrecht in the Netherlands hosted something not seen in Europe for many years (if ever before). Samurai Art Expo brought together specialist sellers from Japan, North America and Europe offering a huge range of high quality Japanese Arms and Armour. Alongside this commercial activity a programme of lectures was delivered on a range of topics by collectors and students from around Europe.  All who attended Samurai art Expo had the opportunity to see swords, armour and tosugu on both the commercial stands and in the exhibition accompanying the lectures, of a quality rarely seen outside Japan. All visitors I spoke to both during and after the event had a very enjoyable and memorable experience. All without fail wanted to do it again.

Samurai Art Expo was not only a successful first event. Its execution and the subsequent positive feedback gave the organisers confidence not only to run the show again in 2020 but to dramatically expand the scope of the event. Renamed and re-branded as Japan Art expo it will now showcase artefacts from many other Japanese creative disciplines.

“My collection has brought to my attention aspects of history, philosophy, religion, folk art, gardening, painting and ceramics that I might not otherwise have seen.”

 Quotation from a catalogue of a sword collector of more than 30 years experience.

Broadening the scope of the exhibition will offer the visitor a much wider view of different aspects of Japanese art and culture. A cursory review of different Japanese art forms would very rapidly reveal common themes in decoration and composition. However within the designs and illustrations seen in different genre there is often a secondary, deeper, meaning or message. In addition many of the techniques and skills seen in one form are mirrored in others. Although totally individual there is a common thread within all the many diverse art forms that make them unmistakeably Japanese.

The educational programme plans to illustrate this diversity, covering a wide range of topics. We will attempt to demonstrate the interaction between different genre and how one discipline influenced others. When one begins to explore a particular Japanese art form it very rapidly becomes apparent how artists in one field drew inspiration from others, how myths or legendary figures illustrated in one form are recreated in another. However this cross fertilisation goes beyond design and composition. Within the programme of lectures we hope to be able to show some of the less obvious interaction between different artists and how the different disciplines learned from each other. We will also explore how artisan gained inspiration from the cultures of neighboring countries.  In many cases composition can go far beyond the decorative and hold a much deeper meaning than initially apparent.

By exploring the different aspects of design, composition and construction within an artifact one is able to obtain a much better understanding and appreciation of not only the piece in hand but the culture from which it evolved.

Japan Art Expo will offer the visitor an unparalleled opportunity to seeing different genre side by side and appreciate the intimate relationship that exists between different disciplines.

As we finalise the educational programme I will attempt to set the scene within these pages and prepare the visitors for what I believe will be an exceptional series of lectures.

Paul Bowman

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Final Blog Post

Close up shot of the tip of a katana blade

Final Blog Post

Close up shot of the tip of a katana blade

As we enter the final week before Samurai Art Expo this will be the final Blog entry before setting out to the event.

The pieces to be displayed in the exhibition have largely been confirmed. As result of the generosity of fellow collectors from within the European collecting community there will be an exceptional display of swords, fittings and tsuba. Please do take the opportunity to spend some time viewing the exhibits. As has been said often before in various posts, to have so many fine examples of the craft together in one place in Europe is extremely rare and we need to take full advantage of the occasion.

final_blog1

While thinking of how to conclude this series of blog articles I realised that one thing that hadn’t been touched on is why do people concentrate so much time, effort and money on collecting what is at the end of the day a weapon? This question is particularly valid for non Japanese collectors for whom the challenges posed are far greater.

Japanese swords and fittings can be expensive. Normally the only way a student can see a lot of top quality blades “in the flesh” is by visiting Japan. The majority of information written about them is in Japanese, using terminology that confuses modern Japanese readers as much as it does the western student. You can spend a lifetime studying the subject and still know only a little. So what is the attraction?

Ian Bottomley said in the Royal Armouries video “bamboo and steel” – “The Japanese sword is the finest cutting weapon ever made”. George Cameron Stone in his definitive work “A glossary of the construction, decoration and use of Arms and Armour” describes the Japanese sword as the nearest thing to perfection ever made by human hand.

In fitness for purpose no other weapon has reached the level of perfection achieved by the greatest sword smiths of Japan. In realising that purpose the Japanese sword blade was imbued with a number of unique characteristics which made it not only an efficient cutting tool but a work of great aesthetic beauty. Although there are great differences in shape and construction of swords made by different schools and in different periods they have in common features which make them unmistakably Japanese.

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Alongside the technical excellence of construction the Japanese Sword has a spiritual association which takes it beyond being an efficient or even beautiful weapon. Tokugawa Ieyasu famously called the sword “The soul of the Samurai”. Not only his most prized possession or badge of office the sword was a symbol of his honour, integrity and courage, it was the embodiment of his nobility.

It is perhaps this combination of the technical perfection and spiritual representation, whilst not unique to them, has been taken to a much higher level of appreciation by the Japanese. The study of the subject is challenging, intriguing and at the same time extremely fulfilling. It encompasses such a breadth of information historical, technical, theological and artistic that one cannot but help be enriched by the study.

Put simply there is no finer example from the history of craftsmanship that so perfectly combines technical excellence, fitness for purpose and outstanding beauty. As Cameron Stone said they truly are “the nearest thing to perfection made by Human hand

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Don’t ignore the quiet blades!

Don’t ignore the quiet blades!

“If you give yourself a little time to focus your eyes and mind, these blades will reveal some incredibly beautiful features.”

During the exhibition at Samurai Art Expo visitors will have the opportunity to see some exceptional swords. Some are immediately striking with beautiful sugata (shape) and breath-taking, complex hamon in billowing patterns, which clearly demonstrate the smith’s skill and mastery of their craft. Alongside these magnificent works will be others that on first appearance seem much more subdued and less interesting. You might be tempted to rush by these quiet and retiring pieces and focus exclusively on the louder “in your face” examples on show. DON’T!!

I had the good fortune to spend some time with a very experienced collector and to look at his beautiful collection of swords several Years ago. Over dinner, he told me a story which I think is worth repeating.

During a visit to Japan many years ago, he was very excited at being offered the opportunity to view a very important sword, a tanto by Shintogo Kunimitsu. He sat in great anticipation with beating heart and slightly sweating palms as this small blade was handed to him. He gulped, steadied his shaking hands and opened his eyes. “Huh?” He described what he was looking at as incredibly boring. He assumed that the blade’s fame was due to its association with a famous Daimyo rather than any artistic merit and left disappointed.

Some years later he was at another viewing and there was also a Shintogo Kunimitsu tanto there. It was so beautiful he said he sat with tears in his eyes studying it. He kept sending his friend back to the other swords so he could spend longer with it. On the 4th trip round his friend asked why he was taking so long as he had seen it before. It transpired that it was exactly the same blade he had dismissed previously. In his words “I was amazed at how much it had changed”. Though, of course it hadn’t really changed. In the intervening years, he had learned a great deal and was able to see the fine detail and craftsmanship that had eluded him during the first encounter.

blade1

For almost as long as I have been collecting swords, I wanted to study an Awataguchi blade. Their reputation is second to none; they had everything, I thought. I liked in terms of shape, hada and hamon, so when the chance came to spend some time with one I got really excited. It duly appeared on a dark and miserable January afternoon and I opened the packaging with trembling hands. And behold!! On first examination it was possibly the most boring piece of steel I had ever seen.

Awataguchi Katana
Awataguchi Katana

I was very confused. From everything I had read and heard about the Awataguchi school and from what I had been told about this sword, I knew that this was regarded as a high quality piece of work. I sat there for a long time, doubting my own abilities. I then became cynical thinking it was another example of the old story of “the Emperor’s new clothes”. I also thought maybe I should consider collecting stamps as a more fulfilling alternative.

Several hours later (actually 6) something changed. I can only explain it as my eyes finally focusing on the very fine detail of what I was looking at. Once I started to see the activity the fine detail became immediately clear. It had all qualities a sword by this smith should have and then more. Every time I have looked at the blade since that moment, I have seen something new. To me, it fully justifies the comment on the sayagaki which describes it as “A masterpiece of the Kamakura period”.

Awataguchi nashiji hada
Awataguchi nashiji hada

The reason for this somewhat rambling post is to hopefully make the point that we shouldn’t dismiss things on first impressions. When starting out in any field of art, there is a tendency to be drawn to the more dramatic and showy pieces. Their features are easier to see and it is relatively easy to identify and qualify what you are looking at. It is true that there are some very fine artworks, which might be considered “showy” or “Loud” (especially by ultra conservatives such as me!) and I am not in any way decrying the incredible craftsmanship that such pieces exhibit.

Within the exhibition, you will see a number of swords that will have an immediate impact on you when you look at them. Whether it is a flamboyant Bizen hamon or sparkling Soshu hada, you will not be disappointed in what you see.  However, also take some time to look at the quieter pieces, those with a suguha (straight) hamon or incredibly tight ko-itame hada. If you give yourself a little time to focus your eyes and mind, these blades will reveal some incredibly beautiful features. Look for fine activity within the ji-hada and the interaction between the hamon and hada, the activity that runs through both and also look at the shape. Then look at how all these elements come together to create something that is extremely beautiful. To achieve this combination of hada and suguha hamon is incredibly difficult, but it produces an incredibly beautiful result when the smith gets it right.

Whether you prefer the quieter work exhibited in Yamashiro and Yamato pieces, or the more flamboyant examples from Bizen, Soshu and Mino is very much a matter of personal preference. Liking one certainly does not exclude you from appreciating others. However, make sure you give yourself the time to look properly at these quieter, more subdued works. You might be surprised at how much there is to see!

During the exhibition, there will be collectors on hand who I am sure will be happy to describe and explain what is on display and to point out the features that make these swords stand out in terms of quality and craftsmanship.

Aoe katana sugata
Aoe katana sugata
Aoe katana hada
Aoe katana hada
Enju wakazashi
Enju wakazashi
Enju hada
Enju hada

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Exhibition Highlights Part 3

Exhibition Highlights Part 3

Akasaka Tsuba

decorated with reeds, dewdrops and a lost stirrup on the Musashi fields.

Akasaka Tsuba

Tadatora kiku.

“We hope that the various examples shown in these updates give you an indication of what will be on show at Samurai Art expo as part of the exhibition programme.”

This is the last part of our comprehensive list of exhibits, which has been published in three parts over the last few weeks. Even so, it is still incomplete and further exhibits will be added as they are confirmed.

Alongside the excellent display of Iron Tsuba, we will have some beautiful examples of soft metal workmanship.

Nobuiye Tsuba

decorated with Morning Glory flowers and scrolls, Momoyama Period.

Previously within the collections of Noda Kiyoshige and Kobayashi Hideo.

Appears in the following publications:

Token Kinko “Mei-saku Shu Nobuiye Hen” Amiya Okura Soemon,1937.

“Tsuba Kansho” by Noda Kiyoshige, 1963, p.  100, 101.

“Kobayashi Hideo Bi o Nagameru Kokoro” (The  Heart in Search of Beauty) by Kobayashi Hideo, 2002.

Tsuba Kiyo Sukashi Matsu

Tsuba ko-Katchushi

Swirling clouds Nambokucho.

Shiho-Suhama

consisting of four modified trefoils, steel, middle Muromachi period.

Previously within the collections of Sasano Masayuki, as well as of the Tosogu Bijutsukan and the Museum of Japanese Sword  Fittings in Tokyo.

Appears in the following publications:

Sasano Masayuki, “Early Japanese Sword  Guards – Sukashi Tsuba” Japan Publications,  Inc., 1972.

Exhibited at the Sano Museum.

Sangi

Crossbars, steel, Muromachi – Momoyama  period.

Previously within the collections of Akiyama  Kyusaku, Sasano Masayuki and the Museum of  Japanese Sword Fittings Tokyo.

Appears in the following publications:

Sasano Masayuki, “The Sasano Collection Part One” 1994.

“Bushi no Ito Sukashi Tsuba” Sano Museum Mishima, 1999.

This tsuba was also exhibited at the Sano Museum, Mishima in 1999 and the Nihon Tosogu Bijutsukan (The Japanese Museum of Sword Fittings, Tokyo) in 1995.

Yagyu-Tsuba “Nami ni Torii”

showing waves and a shrine gate, steel.

Previously in the collections of Sasano  Masayuki, Nihon Tosogu Bijutsukan (the  Japanese Museum of Sword Fittings, Tokyo).

Appears within the following publications:

Sasano Masayuki, “Early Japanese Sword Guards – Sukashi Tsuba”Japan Publications, Inc., 1972, Sasano Masayuki,

“The Sasano Collection Part One” exhibited at the Nihon Tosogu Bijutsukan (the Japanese Museum of Sword Fittings, Tokyo)  1995

Exhibited at The Museum of Japanese Sword Fittings Tokyo (Nihon Tosogu Bijutsukan).

Akasaka-Tsuba “Shiguretei”

depicting an autumnal drizzle, first master Shozaemon.

Tadamasa, early Edo period, Juyo Tosogu.

Previously in the collection of Sasano Masayuki.

Appears in the following publications:

E. Kremers, “Tsuba in European Collections” 1993.

Juyo Token Zufu, 2012, Tosogu p. 11. Nihon  Token Hakubutsukan.

Exhibited in the Nihon Token Hakubutsukan, 2013.

Akasaka-Tsuba “Karigane Musashi-no”

Showing a goose, reeds and  dewdrops on the  battlefields  of  Musashi. By the 2nd  master  Tadamasa.

Previously within the collection of Sasano  Masayuki.

Appears within the following publications:  Tosogu Yuhin Zufu Shoyu Kai, Vol. 8, 1989.

Hirata Jinbei “Taka no Zu”

decorated with a hawk on a pine tree, early  Edo period by the 1st master Shimizu family.

Previously within the collections of Hosokawa Gyobu-ke, Komemo Kenichi, Sasano Masayuki and Ito Mitsuru.

Appears in the following publications:

Ito  Mitsuru, “Works of Hirata and Shimizu” 2007.

Hirata Jinbei

decorated with an owl on a pine tree. By 1st master Shimizu family, from early Edo period.  Juyo Tosogu 1964.

Previously within the collections of Hosokawa  Gyobu-ke, Komeno Kenichi and Komeno Fumio.

Appears within the following publications:

“Higo Kinko Taikan”, 1964.

“Higo no Kinko”, 1978, exhibition catalogue of the Kumamoto Bijutsukan.

Ito Mitsuru “Works of Hirata and Shimizu” 2007.

Exhibited at “Tsuba no Bijutsu Ten Matsusakaya” Tokyo in 1952 and at the first exhibition of Kodogu after WW2 at the Tokyo National Museum in 1963. Thereafter exhibited at the Kumamoto Art Museum in 1978.

Hirata Jinbei “Ama-ryu to Tama”

decorated with a sky dragon holding a jewel. From the early Edo period, by the 1st master of the Shimizu family.

Previously within the collections of Hosokawa Gyobu-ke, Komeno Kenichi and Komeno Fumio.

Appears in the following publications:

“Higo Kinko Taikan”, 1964.

“Higo no Kinko”, 1978, exhibition catalogue of the Kumamoto Bijutsukan.

Ito Mitsuru “Works of Hirata and Shimizu” 2007.

Exhibited at “Tsuba no Bijutsu Ten” Matsusakaya in Tokyo, 1952, as well as in the first exhibition of Kodogu after WW2 at the Tokyo National Museum in 1963. Also exhibited at the Kumamoto Art Museum in 1978.

 

We hope that the various examples shown in these updates give you an indication of what will be on show at Samurai Art expo as part of the exhibition programme. As previously mentioned this list is not complete, but amongst the work already identified there is a Tokubetsu Juyo daito, 6 Juyo blades and an equal number of Juyo Koshirae and fittings. Alongside these are other examples of craftsmanship, many of which have been illustrated in Japanese reference texts, which are exceptional works. There is a great deal to be gained from studying them first hand.

We hope to see you there and will be happy to discuss any of the work on show with you.

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Exhibition Highlights Part 2

Close up shot of katana, sheath and blade

Exhibition Highlights Part 2

Close up shot of katana, sheath and blade
daisho_koshirae_edo_period

Daisho Koshirae from the Edo period

juyo_tensho_koshirae

Juyo Tensho koshirae

Exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum exhibition Uchi-gatana koshirae in 1980.
The following is a compilation of earlier post highlights, supplemented with confirmed exhibits and images. All of these works will be on display on Saturday 16th June at our educational events. This is part 2 of 3 of our comprehensive list of exhibits, which will be published over the coming weeks. Even so, it is still incomplete and further exhibits will be added as they are confirmed. Alongside the excellent display of Iron Tsuba, we will have some beautiful examples of soft metal workmanship.
O-Wakazashi Omi no  Kami  Minamoto  Hisamichi Tokubetsu Hozon 2000.   A member of the Mishina school, Hisamichi produced very individualistic work incorporating beautifully refined hada. This piece showcases his work at its best.

Several Higo koshirae from the Hosokawa- and Matsui-Family heritage with provenances of famous Japanese collections will be shown. sword_sketch

Yamato Hosho katana

Juyo Token. Yamato blades are rare, Hosho blades incredibly rare. In more than 35 years of collecting I have only seen one other Hosho daito and that was a designated Tokubetsu Hozon in Japan at the DTI. This is the first Juyo example I have ever seen. wakizashi_joshu_jyu_kunihiro

Wakizashi : Joshu Jyu Kunihiro/Keicho 13 Nen 8 Gatsuhi

Juyo Token 52. Kunihiro is regarded by many as one of the fathers of Shinto. This piece shows exceptional workmanship and it is easy to understand why it was awarded Juyo status. katana_sakakura_gonnoshin_terukane_enpo

Katana: Sakakura Gonnoshin Terukane Enpo 9 Nen 2 Gatsu Kichijitsu

45th NBTHK Juyo. Another stunning Shinto masterpiece by a smith that is too often overlooked. naoi-shizu_katana_koshirae

Naoe-Shizu Katana and koshirae

The Naoe- Shizu school was founded by pupils of Kaneuji. Their work offers an interesting illustration of the transition from the early Yamato-Shizu work to the mature Mino style. This is an excellent example of their work. It is shown together with its koshirae, which is of very high quality. ishiguro_masayoshi_soroi_kanagu

Ishiguro Masayoshi soroi-kanagu

Juyo-tosogu March 25th 1987 Kacho-mushi no zu soroi-kanagu (En suite Set of Flowers, Insects etc)Daisho-fuchi, mei: Ishiguro Masayoshi saku (石黒政美作) Menuki, divided tanzaku-mei: Ishiguro – Masayoshi (石黒・政美) Kozuka and kogai, mei: Jugakusai Masayoshi (寿岳斎政美) This sword had been a heirloom of the Shimazu-Famiy (島津) for whom Masayoshi worked since the Edo period. Watch out for next week’s post, which will detail the special tsuba coming to Samurai Art Expo!
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Exhibition Highlights 1

Close up shot of katana hilts and sheath

Exhibition Highlights 1

Close up shot of katana hilts and sheath

The following is a compilation of earlier post highlights, supplemented with confirmed exhibits and images. All of these works will be on display on Saturday 16th June at our educational events.

This is part 1 of 3 of our comprehensive list of exhibits, which will be published over the coming weeks. Even so, it is still incomplete and further exhibits will be added as they are confirmed.

Alongside the excellent display of Iron Tsuba, we will have some beautiful examples of soft metal workmanship.

BizenFukuoka-IchimonjiYoshimune

Bizen Fukuoka-Ichimonji Yoshimune

tokubetsu-jûyô-tôken” 28. April 2000
tachi: Mei  Yoshimune (吉宗)      (ca. Shôgen 正元, 1259-1260, Province Bizen)
with uchigatana-koshirae

There are few signed tachi by Yoshimune and this is the only tokubetsu Juyo example. Another one is Juyo bunkasai, which is the property of  Tsukubasan-jinja (Prefecture Ibaraki) and belongs to the ex-collection of the Daimyo Family Yanagisawa. Published.

“Aito Hyakka / Sen  –  100 swords of 100 collectors” Hayashi Eiroku / Schuppan Tokyo 1972

AwataguchiNorikuni

Awataguchi Norikuni

A daito with three attributions to the smith, including a sayagaki by Tanobe Michiro Sensei, in which he describes it as “A Master Work of the Kamakura period”.
There are eight Norikuni blades on the Juyo register. Four of them are tanto, three of which have progressed to Tokubetsu Juyo. There are three Juyo bunkasai and three Juyo bijutsu-hin and one, a signed daito, Kokuho.

SadakatsuKogarasu-Maru

Sadakatsu Kogarasu-Maru

Made to celebrate the 2600th anniversary of the founding of the Empire.  It is a copy of the famous Heian period work of the same name.

MumeikatanaAoe
MumeikatanaAoe

Mumei katana attributed to Aoe

Designated Juyo Token at the 13th shinsa held in 1965.

The blade has a faint shu mei and a Sayagaki by Honami Kozon attributing the work to Aoe Tsunetsugu. The accompanying papers confirm this is a smith working at the end of the Kamakura period, not the ko-Aoe smith of the same name.

MumeiNaginataNaoshiShikkake

Mumei Naginata Naoshi attributed to Shikkake

Designated Juyo Token at the 46th Juyo shinsa held in 2000.

The blade has a sayagaki By Tanobe Michiro sensei describing it as “An important treasure from the beginning of the Nambokucho period.”

MumeiO-suriagewakazashiEnju

Mumei O-suriage wakazashi attributed to Enju

Designated Tokubetsu Hozon.

Sekishi Naotsuna

Juyo Token.

Naotsuna is listed in some references as one of Masamune’s 10 brilliant pupils. Whether he studied under the master or not, his works show incredible Soshu influence.

Naginata Tachi. Mei: Hishu  Kawachi no kami  Fujiwara  Masahiro (Nidai)

Considered by many to be the best Masahiro, the Nidai was the contemporary of Omi Daijo Tadahiro and worked closely with him.

His work is of exceptional quality even when viewed alongside other Hizen work.