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Yasukuni Swords: Rare Weapons of Wartime Japan Hardcover – 30 Oct 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd (30 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770027540
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770027542
  • Product Dimensions: 26.2 x 1.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,872,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

TOM KISHIDA was born in Taito Ward, Tokyo, in 1948 and graduated from Nihon University. He became a professional photographer and studied photography under Kenzo Takano. He is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society, and wrote and published in Japanese Yasukuni Tosho in November 1994. His highly advanced technique for photographing blades has been recognized by the British Museum as of sufficient quality for sword identification by professional appraisers. KENJI MISHINA was born in Fukushima Prefecture in 1951 and graduated from Kanagawa University. He went on to become a Japanese sword polisher and a student of Living National Treasure Kokan Nagayama. He has translated for Kodansha International The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords by Kokan Nagayama, 1995, and The New Generation of Japanese Swordsmiths by Tamio Tsuchiko, 2002.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't really add anything to the other reviews of the content of the book but I will say the pages are not glossy although the images are very good and clear. Is it worth £165? I don't think so, personally, but this is a very subjective.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The preservation of the art of Japanese swordsmithing 26 Mar. 2005
By Zack Davisson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Few things carry the taint of Imperialism like Yasukuni Shrine. Dedicated to war dead, the shrine became a symbol for the Emperor cult of WWII Axis Japan, with Class A war criminals such as General Tojo being honored there. In modern Japan, it is a last remaining relic, after State Shinto was banned by the US occupation forces, and even today an official visit by a government official creates an uproar in the Asian nations abused by the Japanese army.

With this in mind, a book titled "The Yasukuni Swords" carries the same aura as a book titled "The Auschwitz Bayonets" or "The Mai Lai Guns." Even amongst Nihonto enthusiasts, WWII era swords were known for their inferior quality and mass production, handed off to soldiers before being sent off to slaughter. But this book, "The Yasukuni Swords: Rare Weapons of Japan 1933-1945" is not about ignominious history or garbage blades. It is about the preservation of an ancient art, rescued from oblivion. In this case, it is the end, not the means that matter.

By the time of the inauguration of the Yasukuni Forge, in 1933, there were less than 10 swordsmiths in remaining in Japan. The sword-banning act of the Meiji Restoration had almost caused the extinction of perhaps the most refined tradition of swordcraft the world has ever known. Even of the 10, only one, Gassan Sadakatsu, was able to make blades of ancient quality. The military government in power, attempting to foster their aggression with the resurrection of the samurai spirit, gathered the remaining swordsmiths at Yasukuni Shrine, and established the forge. This is their story.

Their story is fascinating indeed, as is the tale of the slow and painful resurrection of the swordsmithing art. Not only the smiths themselves, but all the accompanying crafts needed revival. The unique ore needed was in short supply, and the oral tradition of its processing was in the minds of 80-year old men. The blade polishers and the hilt wrappers all needed to be sought out and new craftsmen trained. Specific to the Yasukuni Forge, only traditional hand-craft was used, forging blades for officers and high-ranking Imperials, rather than the machine-forged blades of the common soldier during the war.

In the end, up to 200 new swordsmiths were raised from the fires of the Yasukuni Forge, ensuring the survival of Japanese swordcraft for future generations.

In addition to this fascinating history, "The Yasukuni Swords: Rare Weapons of Japan 1933-1945" catalogs the blades of that era, showing the distinct markings and techniques and rediscovery of the art. There are articles on the Yasukuni Forge from the 1940s, as well as modern essays on the blades. Photographs bring the whole history to life, and this is one of the most fascinating books I have read for some time.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The forgotten swords from Yasukuni 24 Jan. 2007
By GoldengateSF - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Books on Japanese swords are by their nature scarce and expensive. Many of them are out of date, or of supeficial scholarship. And many of the best ones are in Japanese, which makes it difficult for the English speaking collector/ enthusiast to use. But this book is an essential reference

in this field of interest.

Most books of Japanese swords cover the old historic swords. But since there are only so many of these surviving, a new market in swords made after the age of the Samurai have become popular. Hence the interest in swords made in modern times, but in the traditional manner.

This book originally appeared in Japanese in 1998, and was translated in 2004. It covers the efforts in the 1980s to commemorate the traditional

Japanese sword smithy and manufacturing unit that existed at Yasukuni

shrine from 1933 to 1945. Yasukuni shrine was founded in the late 19th century in Tokyo to commemorate the spirits of Japanese war dead.

A number of these smiths were located, and some made swords which

were part of special exhibition. Eventually a special presentation sword was made by a group of these artisans, and given to the shrine marking the 50th anniversary.

Most of the production of these swords were given as presentation pieces

to graduates of the Army and Naval officer schools. Also a number were ordered by the Imperial household. All of the swords made at Yasukuni

were of the highest quality, and rigid quality control was enforced.

The book is full of wonderful details about the smiths and artisans working in Yasukuni, the establishment and history of the unit, and its demise at the end of WW II. There are numerous pictures of these swords, their inscriptions, production notes, even the layout of the sword

shop. There are also the basics about Japanese sword making and the

traditional forge and tools involved. For a slim volume like this, there is

an amazing amount of information and research packed into it. In all

approximately 8100 swords were made at Yasukuni from 1933 to 1945.

This is an excellent book and essential addition to anyone with an interest in Japanese swords, Japanese history, arms & armour, or WW II in the Pacific theatre.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A Photo Record and a History 16 Mar. 2005
By John Matlock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Japanese sword occupied a position in their military culture not unlike that of the engraved pistols in American culture. One important class of Japanese swords are the 8,100 swords produced on the grounds of the Yasukuni Shrine between 1933 and 1945. The group of swordsmiths collected there preserved the time-honored forging methods and the aesthetic and apiritual traditions of the samurai warrior.

In the aftermath of World War II sword ownership was banned in Japan and many of these swords were destroyed. Others became war booty and were removed to the victors countries.

After the manufacturing of swords was allowed in 1954 many of the smiths began making swords again, but independently.

This book is both a collection of photographs of Yasukuni swords and a story of the swordsmiths and the institution. It is a book that speaks of these historic swords with reverence.
The Yasukuni Swords: Rare Weapons of Japan, 1933-1945 (Hardcover) 23 Jun. 2009
By Vipassana - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a first class book covering forged war time Japanese swords from the Yasukuni Shrine. It covers a special period when swords were mainly being mass produced for the war time effort and goes into great detail
about the manufacture of, and smiths who forged, these unique katana.
I would recommend this book to all readers who have an interest in, or are collectors of, these fine blades. I would definitely rate it five star A+ reading.
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