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Thread: Question about several Japanese sword books, I would love some insight.

  1. #1
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    Question about several Japanese sword books, I would love some insight.

    I was looking at the following books and I was wondering what you guys thought of these books and if they were worth buying and if they are worth the money.

    THE CONNOISSEUR'S BOOK OF JAPANESE SWORDS by Kokan Nagayama

    THE CRAFT OF THE JAPANESE SWORD by Leon & Hiroko Kapp and Yoshindo Yoshihara

    Secrecy in Japanese Arts: "Secret Transmission" as a Mode of Knowledge
    by Maki Isaka Morinaga

    Soul of the Samurai (Tuttle Martial Arts)
    by Thomas Cleary

    Thanks for any help

  2. #2
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    FWIW, I definitely recommend the first two books...lots of great information on both the history , terminology, appeciation, and traditions of the Japanese sword as well as insight into newly made Nihonto as well. THE CONNOISSEUR'S BOOK OF JAPANESE SWORDS is classic
    "We will either find a way, or make one!"
    Hannibal

  3. #3
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    Hi David,

    I can certainly vouch for the first two books on your list . They're well worth the investment.
    Careful thought, consideration & communication is well worth the effort and end result.

  4. #4
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    Definitely pick up those first two books on your list since you're into Japanese swords themselves...the Cleary book is an interesting read, but dealing more with the philosophy of the budo arts as opposed to their tools...
    The "silly question" is the first intimation of some totally new development...

    Kevin Adams Fine Metal Arts on FB
    Online Gallery of a few things I've made...

    Kevin Adams

  5. #5
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    THE CONNOISSEUR'S BOOK OF JAPANESE SWORDS by Kokan Nagayama
    Well worth it
    THE CRAFT OF THE JAPANESE SWORD by Leon & Hiroko Kapp and Yoshindo Yoshihara
    Well worth it!
    Secrecy in Japanese Arts: "Secret Transmission" as a Mode of Knowledge
    by Maki Isaka Morinaga
    Not sure about this one as I've never read it, nor do I know anyone that has. Of course, that could say something in itself.
    Soul of the Samurai (Tuttle Martial Arts)
    by Thomas Cleary
    Definitely not worth it. Cleary has translated some great books, but he misses with this one by trying to put his own interpretations on things. I don't recommend this one.

    Alternates for you to consider rather than your last two choices ...
    Legacy of the Sword by Karl Friday
    Sword and the Mind by Hiroaki Sato OR The Unfettered Mind translation by William Scott Wilson
    Last edited by Paul Smith; 01-10-2007 at 08:15 AM.
    Paul Smith
    "Keep the sharp side and the
    pointy end between you and
    your opponent"

  6. #6
    Yoshindo's Craft is dollar for dollar the best buy you could possibly make.

    The Kokan Nagayama Connoisseur book is full of historic esoterica. Which is important but depending on where your interest/ knowledge is may strike you as dry. It's also humbling, as you realize that among actual experts it's regarded as basic (!) When that thought crossed my mind, I started to glimpse "just how deep the rabbit hole goes."

    Two terrific picture books of blades that I've gotten a lot out of are Cutting Edge, a compendium of swords in the British Museum for around $30, and a new book Kotetsu and Kiyomaro, often on eBay from the seller aboutjapan for around $120.

    Finally a second vote for The Unfettered Mind.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for all your help guys I gotta run, but I appreciate your feedback

  8. #8
    Entry level: The book "introduction to the japanese Sword through pictures" is a relatively new "booklet" but with some great photos. Basically a nice book to show you very basic basics. How to tie the sageo, etc. Simple stuff but cheap and a nice book if you can find it. It is well worth the very low cost. No, it won't teach you a lot, but it is a great "starting point".

    The Art of the Japanese Sword as Taught by the Experts by Kunihira Kawachi and Masao Manabe is a very nice book. If you look at my sig at the bottom of this post you'll find a link to my Moderntosho.com site. We have copies of the book for sale that we bought directly from the smith Kunihira Kawachi. He autographed each one for us. We bought a couple boxes from him to help support him and the craft in general. I've seen a few copies around now here and there for less (of course -- we paid to make sure he'd get something from his efforts and also for the honor of his brushing each book) but ours are autographed. FWIW. Good book with more detail, some interesting stories, and some fantastic photos. If you've not seen Kunihira Kawachi work in person, you need to see this book.

    Dr. Kanzan Sato and Joe Earle's Japanese Sword is probably the best "first overall book". History, overview, some good photos. Inexpensive.

    Follow that with Kapp and Yoshindo's Craft book for a better understaning of the actual craft as compared to the history of the craft over time in the first book.


    Serious student:

    Kokan Nagayama's Connoisusseur's Guide (as translated by Kenji Mishina) is the next big step. More expensive but goes into detail of the major schools and figures of the historic blade. Extensively illustrated with Nagayama's fantastic oshigata methods. Indispensible if you do not read Japanese.

    Nihonto Koza as translated by Henry "Afu" Wilson. Help support efforts to get the best stuff translated into English for those of us who are horrible at learning kanji. Afu put his heart and soul into these multiple volumes. If you are a serious student get them all. Wonderful books. Indispensible.


    Other stuff:

    Books like the Kotetsu and Kiyomaro book are great, but they're not really study guides as much as photographic evidence of some really nice work by those particular smiths. I have many of these and love reading through them, but you won't really learn much unless you have a solid foundation through which to understand where these guy's stood historically.

    If you go to visit Afuresearch ( http://www.afuresearch.com/ ) you will find Harry has lots of other stuff. If you want some really interesting articles order the "Art and the Sword" volumes. You'll even find a great article written years ago by the Nihonto Forum Mod Craig Bird. Some on that forum seem to take Craig's expertise for granted. They shouldn't. But that's a tangent for another day. You'll also find books like the Hizento handbook and others if you are interested in those particular areas.

    Finally, the Northern California Sword club has some remarkable stuff in their library for members. If you join for a full year you get the NTHK Novice Course. 228 pages of really good stuff. Spend some of your hard earned cash and buy the Albert Yamanaka Newsletters. The man wrote extensively for years. Yes, it is hard to follow it all, but there are almost 2000 pages of incredible information in those newsletters.
    Keith Larman
    Summerchild Polishing and Modertosho Modern Japanese Swords
    "They say I have ADD, but ... Hey, look, a chicken!"

  9. #9
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    Now that I have a chance to type, I just wantedto let you guys know that I purchased the two books at the top plus I also purchased:

    Book of Tea ( I would really like to know what people thought of this if they have read it, hopefully soon, so I can canel my order for this book if needed)

    Samurai Sword a Handbook

    The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman

    Any thoughts on these three book listed above? (minus the unfettered mind)

    I really like books on bushido too so I have already bought several classics, such as hagakure, book of five rings, art of war, and miyamoto musashi's writings. Thanks

  10. #10
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    Book of Tea
    Good book, very enjoyable reading I thought.
    Samurai Sword a Handbook
    Not too bad, but there are others that are much better. I found that this one left me with a feeling that I was missing something important.
    I really like books on bushido too so I have already bought several classics, such as hagakure, book of five rings, art of war, and miyamoto musashi's writings.
    Hagakure is more along the lines of a romanticized treatise on the way one particular clerk (who had never actually used his sword) wished things would be. Interesting for its historical value, but don't get caught in thinking that it was the way things actually were.

    Gorin no Sho is quite interesting (in the abstract), but the quality varies considerably depending upon whose translation you buy. It is impossible to truly understand the book though without considerable time spent actually learning the art it was written for; Hyoho Niten Ichi ryu. Gorin no Sho was meant to be used, along with the Dokkodo and the Hyoho Sanjugo Kajo, as text books to augment the oral teachings of the school.

    Art of War is very much like the Gorin no Sho. It is quite interesting, but it can vary considerably depending upon whose translation you read. Unfortunately, I know almost nothing about ancient China, so I have no way of even making a guess as to whose translation is superior.

    As far as I know, Gorin no Sho is the only writing from Musashi that has been translated into English.
    Paul Smith
    "Keep the sharp side and the
    pointy end between you and
    your opponent"

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