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Thread: A pictorial pseudo-review (for those who would read)

  1. #1
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    A pictorial pseudo-review (for those who would read)

    After a prolonged hiatus from SFI, I have resolved to expel from me prior transgressions. This is a post about a shoto my father forged, but it is more than a review on a sword. It is a review on myself and yourself. It is a review on the self. For those of you who have taken a passing interest in all things nihontou-related, please take into consideration the perspective—and breadth—of this writing. Be it lacking or overwhelming, judge not what each sentence contains, but please digest the sum of the article.

    For those who truly believe that the “katana” is the epitome of the “sword,” let me remind you that it is simply a sharpened, curved, steel object. A sharpened butcher knife is just as deadly. At the same time, the katana is perhaps the ubiquitous cultural ambassador of Japan. As such, please tread on this matter with the utmost respect.

    For many years my father suffered Rheumatoid arthritis. On top of that, he also has congestive heart failure. At 65, against his physician’s orders, my father took up the dying art of sword forging one year ago; he had studied his culture extensively ever since he was a child. After many months of toiling away, where sweat was traded for pain, blood and bruises forfeited for exhaustion, the end result was merely an object whose product wasn’t much larger than its original size.

    On. Gimu. Giri. I was raised by strict parents who clung dearly to the ways of the old. Consequently, giri to one’s self—pride, face, revenge—weighs down an individual immensely. Some have witnessed my own giri set into motion. Some have seen your own giri at work. Yet the stoic look on my father’s aging face—not of pride, not of delight, not of anguish—but of resolution, instilled upon me a feeling greater than respect or envy. On that day, my youthful immaturity was overshadowed by the deepest humility.

    A gladius is just as effective as a shamshir is just as effective as a jian is just as effective as a katana. Behind the façade, though, is the eons of cultural richness each represents. Be it a $10 wall-hanger or a $100,000 koto, the meaning behind it is based solely upon the individual’s perception. An expert might scoff and say, “That is just a cheap Chinese mass-produced sword.” Such is true. However, does it not look like a katana? Does a Rick Barrett not look like a katana? Behind the façade, there is only steel. But behind the façade, there is culture as well.

    My father is not a togishi. He is not a tsukamakishi. Nor does he claim to be a katanakaji. He is simply taking up a hobby he is passionate about. This is something many are passionate about. Thus, I will not go into details about the motohaba, sakihaba, nagasa, or sori. The fine details don’t explain the visual simplicity. Please let the pictures do the explaining. This is a humble work from an aged man, whose constant wheezing stirs discontent. Let this not deter you from the product. Let this reality guide you in your perception.

    Remember that all roads well-traveled have one beginning and one end. Don’t demean the unlearned tsukamakishi. Refrain from belittling the naïve enthusiast. We’ve all been at the starting point once. As we gaze upon the obsolete relics before us, let our reflections not boost our egos, but bend our knees to humility. From the factories in China to the modern forges in America, the magnitude of sweat, of exhaustion, of time lost is equally the same.

    Before you is Herikuda: Humility. Chu kissaki shobu zukuri. Simple higo koshirae and absence of tsuba. In it you will see the acceptance of imperfection and vulnerability….wabisabi.













    Whatever your endeavors in life, may you all ultimately be at peace. Please heed, though, that not all swords need undergo tameshigiri, or any other forms of test-cutting—especially if you are a beginner. Just knowing that it is sharp should suffice, since we live in an age in which self-control and discipline triumphs.
    Last edited by H. Watanabe; 05-09-2011 at 01:10 PM.

  2. #2
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    huh?

    Dave
    Dave Drawdy
    "the artist formerly known as Sergeant Major"

  3. #3
    Mr. Watanabe,

    Thank you for these images and the story of your father's effort to produce this sword as well as his effort to achieve a goal. May his work at the forge give him a renewed strength. It may contain imperfections, and you and your father may accept them, but this sword is transcendant as is your father for having made it. Through this, he escapes the transience that most of us face.

    Zieg

  4. #4
    When you can, please post a few close-ups of the koshirae/habaki and some more shots of the blade itself in better lighting.

    Also, could you explain more concretely the actual method(s) by which your father made the blade?
    "It is my feeling that to make a good sword, one must make a weapon first, and art second. But if it is really "right", it is both things at once, and in equal measure." -- Howard Clark

    "I cannot compensate for improper use of a sword. Nothing is bullet proof and idiots prove on a regular basis that nothing is idiot-proof -- they're just too creative." -- Keith Larman

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Drawdy View Post
    huh?

    Dave

    Agreed....

  6. #6
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    I had figured some people wouldn't be able to understand the scope of my writing, which alludes primarily to the multitude of enthusiasts who seem to collectively aggregate into certain classifications. Because most people on this forum are not of direct Japanese descent (as well as raised in a "traditional" Japanese manner) they fail to completely understand and comprehend the pangs of the mythos (both positive and negative) surrounding the matter of nihontou, or anything that tries to represent nihontou. In a sociological perspective, it would be likened to being an ethnic minority who—when he or she takes action—is essentially acting on behalf of his/her own ethnicity. To the ethnic majority, you might never understand this feeling. But I allude to more than just that; take it for what it's worth.

    Mr. Ziegler, thank you for your words. The few sentences that were said carry with them great weight and sincerity.

    Mr. Lee, even though I may have only grazed your mind momentarily in the past, I am glad to see a familiar name. This is my father's first forged blade; as such, it is not folded. It is, however, differentially hardened and water-quenched. He used 1065(?) steel billet; I can't verify the carbon level, since his memory eludes him—to which he says it could be between 1045 and 1095. My father would like to work in the kobuse and gomai methods, although my preference is sanmai.

    I haven't ever tried to take closeups of swords in the past. This is my first real endeavor, which I quickly realized is much more difficult than it seems. I tried to take a picture of the blade in normal lighting (to show the hamon) but I kept ending up with images showing my reflection and/or the camera. So I tried it in low light, but much to my dismay it didn't turn out very well. By the way, the hamon is more gunome midare, although it looks strictly gunome. Very nice hamon once you see it in person. I will attempt more picture-taking when the lighting permits.

    Lastly, there are many foreign words—yes I know. If it so much as confuses anyone, why not take the time to look it up? I'm very traditionally-minded, so please excuse me for that. I am, as well, of the mentality that anyone who has any interest in an ethnic item of whichever origin owes it to himself/herself to learn a little bit of its history/culture. It just might clear up some nebulousness.

  7. #7
    I can't quite put my finger on it yet, but there's something that grabs me as "not quite right" with this sword. I'll reserve further judgment until we see some better pictures.

    By the way -- and please don't take this the wrong way -- I really don't think it's a matter of "cultural difference" that made your post hard to read/understand. The fact is that your writing style is unnecessarily complicated; not to mention more than a little preachy. Just speak/write plainly. There is really no need to smartificate such simple content (especially if you're going to go on about humility). Just some friendly advice.

    Because most people on this forum are not of direct Japanese descent (as well as raised in a "traditional" Japanese manner) they fail to completely understand and comprehend the pangs of the mythos (both positive and negative) surrounding the matter of nihontou, or anything that tries to represent nihontou.
    You're entitled to your opinions, and I have no interest in convincing you to think otherwise-- but I do think that you are being quite presumptuous if not mildly offensive.
    "It is my feeling that to make a good sword, one must make a weapon first, and art second. But if it is really "right", it is both things at once, and in equal measure." -- Howard Clark

    "I cannot compensate for improper use of a sword. Nothing is bullet proof and idiots prove on a regular basis that nothing is idiot-proof -- they're just too creative." -- Keith Larman

  8. #8
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    Mr. Lee, I apologize if my manner of writing offends you. To put it matter-of-factly, this IS how I normally speak. I've tried on numerous times to communicate "normally" online, but I simply end up typing this way again. I, in no way, shape, or form, intend to espouse this notion of "smartness," but I do believe in some level of cordiality and intelligence, be it Internet or otherwise.

    On the matter of my ramblings, do they not hold some level of truth? Now why would someone take time to learn the word "nihontou" but eschew others such as "gimu"? They are actually more interwoven than one might initially expect. Try as you might (and I only mean this in the most honest way possible) you will never see things from my perspective. The same goes from me to you. I only mean things as they are; I don't intend to spite anyone.

    But of course, I am fully aware of the hostility of this forum. Such is why a few colleagues of mine no longer frequent this site.

    My initial intention was to, hopefully, in due time, add to some eager enthusiasts a greater understanding and respect for their passion of a dying way of life (now relegated to a mere hobby in numerous places.) Somehow I felt compelled to expand my network further in an exchange of knowledge and experience.

    By the way, don't expect an old man's first attempt at forging to be a $5,000 shinken. Don't stay your tongue further if you already spat; say what it is you feel is not quite right about this sword.
    Last edited by H. Watanabe; 05-10-2011 at 12:05 AM.

  9. #9
    No, the silly/pompous manner of your writing amuses me, especially since you pontificate about humility in the same breath. It's the content that I found mildly offensive-- specifically, your claim that no one except those "of direct Japanese descent" (and raised "in a traditional Japanese manner," whatever that means) can ever fully appreciate nihonto and what they represent.

    But you are entitled to your opinion, and I really do not care enough to engage you in an argument over it. Post more detailed pictures of the sword if you want. Or not.
    "It is my feeling that to make a good sword, one must make a weapon first, and art second. But if it is really "right", it is both things at once, and in equal measure." -- Howard Clark

    "I cannot compensate for improper use of a sword. Nothing is bullet proof and idiots prove on a regular basis that nothing is idiot-proof -- they're just too creative." -- Keith Larman

  10. #10
    Dear mr. Watanabe,
    Thanks for the story. I'm not sure whether I get the fullest extend of your story but in the end it's a blade that's been made by your father. And THAT's something to be damn proud of. Curious about the close up shots.

    Besides, any thread with pictures of an Inro-senden saya need some attention God I love these
    https://www.facebook.com/TheSamuraiWorkshop - Custom sword mounts, restoration, Kaneie shinken and a whole lot more about Japanese history and martial arts culture


    ...because spending hundreds of dollars on something that can cost you your life is worth spending more than thirty minutes of thought on.
    Originally Posted by Brian Pettett

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joo-Hwan Lee View Post
    No, the silly/pompous manner of your writing amuses me, especially since you pontificate about humility in the same breath. It's the content that I found mildly offensive-- specifically, your claim that no one except those "of direct Japanese descent" (and raised "in a traditional Japanese manner," whatever that means) can ever fully appreciate nihonto and what they represent.

    But you are entitled to your opinion, and I really do not care enough to engage you in an argument over it. Post more detailed pictures of the sword if you want. Or not.
    Mr. Lee, your level of response is completely unnecessary. "Pompous"? "Silly"? Your temperament makes me wonder why such an individual would take up a rigid discipline like martial art, be it fencing, muay thai, gumdo, etc. Your hostility only underlays your level of maturity.

    I have never laid claim to such assertions; my humility was only extended to those who forged the sword. However, with the nature in which you were so quick to jump to hasty conclusions, one can understand why you would think that way.

    On the matter of my cultural background, let me try to simplify it for you. A) I am Japanese. B) I am raised in a manner in which I must adhere to filial piety and strive for societal solidarity; however, it is MUCH MUCH more complex than that. Should you take a passing interest in comparing modern Japanese culture to, say, Japanese culture of two or so generations ago, you would likely notice stark differences. In that respect, my upbringing is more "traditional." Whereas my contemporaries grew up on video games, I grew up observing Koshi. Need I elaborate more?

    On the matter of my usage of the word "nihontou," I mean it only in its most simplistic form: Japanese sword. Be it katana or tachi or wakizashi or tanto, so long as it's a Japanese sword, or looks like a Japanese sword, matters pertaining to it (be it good or bad) will likely impact me on a level far deeper than most. Ever wonder why the collective South Korean community reacted so when ONE crazed Korean gunman went on a rampage at Virginia Tech? Please do try to make some connections there. Otherwise, I can elaborate.

    In conclusion, I understand that by attempting to defend myself I am being further attacked by you. When once I thought of you as more mild-mannered than this, you have proven yourself to be quite the "gentleman." So I bid you adieu. May your endeavors in life be more uplifting than our brief online encounter on this forum.



    Mr. Ching, I thank you for your response. I do, as well, enjoy that style of saya. Although not entirely related to the matter at hand, should you have any interest in referring to the works of others for inspiration, I recommend you search for the works of Kazuyuki Takayama.
    Last edited by H. Watanabe; 05-10-2011 at 01:15 AM.

  12. #12
    I'm sure you're impressed with your own theatrical hysterics, even if no one else is. Like I said, I won't be baited into a pointless argument. So, why don't you give it a rest?

    If you want, post more detailed pictures of the sword. Or don't.
    "It is my feeling that to make a good sword, one must make a weapon first, and art second. But if it is really "right", it is both things at once, and in equal measure." -- Howard Clark

    "I cannot compensate for improper use of a sword. Nothing is bullet proof and idiots prove on a regular basis that nothing is idiot-proof -- they're just too creative." -- Keith Larman

  13. #13
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    Gentlemen,

    Let's try to maintain a gentlemanly environment, shall we?
    mark@swordforum.com

    ~ Hostem Hastarum Cuspidibus Salutemus ~

    "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who don't."
    Benjamin Franklin

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    Welcome back Mr. Watanabe. I hope you've recovered well.

    I don't really understand all you've said (some concepts are native to the Japanese culture, although I think I do understand them), but that sword looks complete. And if one takes into account that it was made as a hobby, it is a wonderful display of perseverance. I can appreciate it.
    Last edited by Angelo Silva; 05-10-2011 at 06:29 AM.
    Oblivion is the shield of the mind

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    My congratulations to your father for what seems to be a very nice sword. I have only good things to remark. Although in such "amateur" attempts the intention and effort is what matters most and what deserves the best praise. Even faults are a source of knowledge and improvement. After all perfection comes with practice.

    Without wanting to steer any controversy here, I feel the need to note, mr Watanabe, that as far as I perceive things, mr Lee and others reacted like they did to a post and later replies that were -in their perception- needlesly defensive, self righteous and written in an imperative, patronising and sometimes offensive tone. I thought so initialy, but after reading the third post I understood that is just your own way of expressing yourself. However, they do have a point. Harshly expressed but a point nonetheless. Please consider it if you like.
    Daring beyond power, risking against prudent advice and optimists in danger...
    Thucydides

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    Mr. Watanabe, your father has done some very interesting work for his first attempt. Very nice, you have every reason to be proud of his achievement and the heirloom you now have. He definitely has created something I for one can only envy, I believe most of us are in that boat, smile. Could you please explain what you mean when you say that
    I grew up observing Koshi. Need I elaborate more?
    Although I have spent some time in Japan and have a wife who is Japanese much of the time neither of us are sure we understand what you mean by Koshi. Thanks mate and tell your father he is brilliant in his 'hobby' and should continue!
    My guess is that you are reading this in English on a computer of some sort and if that is the case I hate to be the one to tell you but you will never be a samurai nor a ninja, any more than you may apply to become a 12th century French Knight or an Emporer of China. Some jobs are simply no longer hiring.

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    Hmm. I approve of the tenacity to take up swordsmithing as a hobby, particularly when it may be a quality of life v. quantity of life issue for the hobbyist. And that's certainly a pleasing result... if I had made that, I'd be rather proud of it.

    Oh, and in response to the signature of A. Lones... the Marine Corps is still hiring, and they're a direct descendant of those martial traditions you mention.
    Kaitlyn Rasmussen
    (Mad) Scientist and Sword Fancier

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    Although I'm considerably new to SFI and I'm sure my words here don't carry weight to them as those of a forum veteran of several years would; I think the passive aggressive tones in this thread leave much to be desired. The way I see it, we're all here because we share a great interest in the sword arts. If one member studies many disciplines and another simply likes swords hung from his wall, we all have one thing in common and we can all appreciate the subject matter at hand.
    When a person crafts something themselves it means much more than something purchased, not just swords but with anything worthy of being treasured. If I ever attempted to forge a blade and it turned out half as good as this I'd be very proud of my efforts. From what I can see of the blade the hamon looks very striking. I myself am not a great fan of chu kissaki but it looks very well formed. I especially like the deep blue of the saya and the overall look is without doubt beautiful.
    This is me showing my ignorance for a moment, but is there a particular reason your father chose not to use a tsuba? Is it a matter of preference or is there something else to the choice? Of course I've seen many tanto and distinctly shirasaya without a tsuba but rarely a mounted wakazashi or katana.
    Thank you for sharing this with us, Mr Watanabe.
    Last edited by Chris Parkes; 05-10-2011 at 10:30 PM. Reason: typing error

  19. #19
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    Watanabe-san,
    first, I'd suggest we move this to the 'general' forum, as we are not really discussing a production piece. secondly, congratulations to your father for finding this outlet and producing this blade. did he also do the polish and mounts? can we get some close-ups?
    my 'huh' was simply meant to indicate that, IMO, your message of respect and pride was obscured by your style.
    Best wishes to your father.

    VR,
    Dave
    Dave Drawdy
    "the artist formerly known as Sergeant Major"

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    Watanabe-san, I believe that you have articulated some deeply complex concepts around seeing and experiencing a culture from the inside and the outside.

    It is all too easy for miscommunication to occur on an internet forum, also it is far easier to tear down and destroy than to create anything positive.

    Your Father looks to have made a handsome sword and I congratulate him for this. I hope that he continues to deepen his knowledge, skill and passion for making swords.

    Thankyou!

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