- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd (20 May 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 4770020716
- ISBN-13: 978-4770020710
- Product Dimensions: 25.9 x 3 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,132,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords Hardcover – 20 May 2010
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About the Author
KOKAN NAGAYAMA is one of the great contemporary sword polishers. He has been designated a mukansa ("without supervision") polisher, a level above the regular sword-polisher ranking system. He is a judge of both the sword polishing and swordsmithing competitions of the Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai or NBTHK (Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Swords), for which organization he serves as an instructor of sword polishing. In 1967 in Kanagawa Prefecture he founded the Nagayama Kenshujo (Nagayama Japanese Sword-polishing Institute), where he taught the art of polishing to both polishers and smiths for twenty years. He has organized several token-kai (sword study groups) and instructed hundreds of sword enthusiasts. KENJI MISHINA, the translator, is a sword polisher who served as chief instructor at the Nagayama Kenshujo for seven years beginning in 1979. He has been authorized by the Japanese government to restore swords designated as kokuho (national treasures) and juyo bunkazai (important cultural assets). He has been awarded numerous prizes in the sword polishing competitions of the NBTHK. He lived in England for six years beginning in 1986, where he worked for the British Museum, lectured at the monthly meetings of the Token Society of Great Britain, and received a request from the British royal family to polish its sword collection. He is currently writing a series of articles on the Japanese sword for this site. He is the translator of The New Generation of Japanese Swordsmiths.
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Top Customer Reviews
The pluses are the incredible depth of research and information. Nagayama details all five priciple schools as well as the common traits and outstanding smiths of the schools.
The only downside is the lack of full color (or even b/w for that matter)picures of the blades and styles he is talking about. However, the drawings do well to illustrate the style. I just would have prefered to see actual blades since that is what I would be looking for as a collecter.
Overall- a very good read - Nagayama gives a great history of the development of the Nihoto.
As a reference tool, the book is not well set up for quick access, but does provide the information needed if you mark the various pages.
Basically more detailed that Yumoto's book and the next step for the collector in his study of Nihonto.
I can recommend this to all collectors and beginners about nihonto.
Don't buy a sword without first reading this.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
So, even if you only own one good sword, this is a good book to have because it is so very instructive about exactly what it is you hold in your hands. It also helps in the appreciation of all the other swords you come across. Does that even make sense in this century? I guess it must. Some of us actually do see a fair number of swords week to week. Most are worth looking at for a while.
On the negative side, the book temporarily increased my hunger for an even better sword. "Better" meant more suited to my body. Reviewing the various swords, it seemed that an older sword, perhaps a couple more centuries old, would fit me better. Shorter, curvier, ... With more training time, it turned out that my katana is perfect for me. With time, both training and reading this book, I've come to appreciate my own blade more and more. I can't imagine training with another.
this book to be fascinating. Two-thirds of it is pure reference
material related to particular sword makers and that part would be
invaluable to collectors, but it is not of general interest. The
descriptions of the history of swordmaking and the attributes of
the craftsmanship, however, stands on its own as interesting reading.
One comes away with a much greater appreciation of the art form.
The stated intent of the Connosieur's Book is to arm the novice with a beginning understanding of the types of things that one would need to learn about kantei, the art of nihonto appraisal. Having said that, the level of detail here is far beyond that found in most other introductory books about nihonto for novices, and probably more than the casual fan of "samurai swords" would benefit from. The book is really designed as a reference and includes considerable detail. It does a nice job of going through major and subtle differences of nihonto through different eras and schools of sword-making, along with a brief historical context to explain changes and influences. It likewise gives an illustrated reference to variations in sugata (shape), design (sori, mune, shinogi), hamon (hardened edge), nakago (tang), kissaki (tip), hada (steel grain), horimono (engravings) and the like. There are no photos, but there are ample oshigata-style illustrations showing the subtlest variations to match with the text. Significant detail is included listing various schools of forging and individual smiths -- all of which are essential building blocks for kantei. There's also an appendix on inspection etiquette, charts organizing smiths and characteristics of their blades, and a glossary.
It's therefore a fine reference, from one of Japan's leading authorities, but as with the other books of the genre, there are strengths and limitations. The strong point of this text is its encyclopedic detail along with decent organization and illustrations. I picked this book up hoping to learn more (having read the other books, taken a course in forging of Japanese swords, and training in Japanese swordsmanship) about differences in major traditions of swordmaking. The book helps to explain that, but perhaps not in the clearest way. As but one simple example, Nagayama Sensei writes, "Swords of the Shoshu tradition typically have abundant ji-nie as well as chikei in the ji, and a hamon consisting of nie with vigorous activity such as kinsuji and inazuma." The Japanese terms can be cross-referenced elsewhere in the book, but they are presented individually and piecemeal, such that it can often be hard for the novice reader to get any kind of clear overall mental picture of the subtleties referred to in the text (e.g. what does it really mean that the nie is 'abundant' or 'vigorous?'). So what is missing? More illustrations of entire swords (and at least some photos) could be of use, along with side-by-side comparisons to understand the relative differences between styles (e.g. here is a typical Bizen, here is a typical Shoshu and here's how they're different), or maybe a few examples of swords in which the reader is taken through the process of kantei.
Of course, there is only so much you can teach in a book... you can't very well expect to read a manual on swordsmanship, car repair, or reading EKG's and then get right to it -- rather the manual gives you an overview, you then take up the practice, and later you go back to the book for reference. So it is here -- I seriously doubt the book would be very helpful for those who don't plan to earnestly start collecting nihonto and studying kantei, and in fact the level of detail and complexity might very well turn some away. But for those looking for "the next level" of reference after Yumoto or Sato, this book is a good start to learn and refer back to as you then track down, join, and attend your local Token-Kai. It's probably one of the best English language references, but it's not a tutorial or class-in-a-book nor does it claim to be.