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CompleteMartialArts.com - The Connoisseurs Book of Japanese Swords

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Manufacturer: Kodansha International
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 5.0/5Average rating of 5.0/5Average rating of 5.0/5Average rating of 5.0/5Average rating of 5.0/5

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Binding: Hardcover
Dewey Decimal Number: 683
EAN: 9784770020710
ISBN: 4770020716
Label: Kodansha International
Manufacturer: Kodansha International
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 368
Publication Date: 1998-03-02
Publisher: Kodansha International
Studio: Kodansha International

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Editorial Reviews:

Recently Japanese swords have gained enormous popularity as art objects with collectors and enthusiasts around the world, but until now much of the most detailed information on the subject has been available only in Japanese. This comprehensive guide to the appreciation and appraisal of the blades of Japanese swords provides, at last, all the background that readers need to become true connoisseurs.
The book is organized along historical lines for the sake of clarity and convenience, and its approach is always practical. Broad discussions of each tradition within the Gokaden focus on the features that distinguish specific schools and smiths-the various kinds of jihada, hamon, boshi, and hataraki favored in different periods and regions-making this an invaluable reference tool for all enthusiasts, especially those who wish to take part in kantei-kai, or sword appreciation meetings. Each section closes with an easy reference chart summarizing the distinctive features of the work of various schools and smiths.
The chapter on terminology gives advice on what to look for when examining the different parts of a blade, again making reference to the unique features of particularly significant smiths. The chapter on care and appraisal of blades tells precisely how to handle blades and what to expect at a sword appraisal meeting, including an explanation of all the various responses that a judge may give in response to a bid.
Richly illustrated throughout with more than 550 of the author's own painstaking oshigata illustrations-sword tracings onto which details are penciled in by hand-The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords is easily the most informative and comprehensive guide to the blades of Japanese swords ever to appear in English.
Kokan Nagayama, who is widely recognized as one of the foremost living sword polishers, compiled the notes for this book over the course of many years spent teaching the arts of polishing and appraisal.
Nagayama-sensei is widely recognized as one of the foremost living sword polishers and is a veteran teacher of both polishing and appraisal. Here in one accessible volume he distills the store of knowledge he has gained over a lifetime of intensive research.
"Nagayama-sensei and his senior pupils have for many years now taken an enlightened approach to study of Japanese swords outside of Japan. They have been of great assistance to collectors here in Great Britain and in other countries, traveling and living abroad, organizing exhibitions, teaching us and polishing our swords, always in an altruistic spirit. This translation is another example of this same approach. In the past we have often struggled on our own or in small groups to gain an understanding of this peculiarly Japanese cultural asset, and with many of the definitive books on the subject still untranslated, a wealth of information has in the past been inaccessible to the non-Japanese reader. The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords will be of great help in making educated judgments at kantei sessions, and will be an invaluable and constant reference work."
-From the Foreword by Clive Sinclaire
Chairman of the Token Society of Great Britain

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Japanese Sword Collector's Kantei Encyclopedia
Comment: National Living Treasure Kokan Nagayama's "Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords" is one of the definitive references on Japanese swords (nihonto) available in English translation. I bought it after either purchasing or familiarizing myself with several other essential, but much more basic tomes such as John Yumoto's "The Samurai Sword: A Handbook," Kazan Sato's "The Japanese Sword: A Comprehensive Guide," and Kapp and Yoshihara's "The Craft of the Japanese Sword." Each of these books has a niche, along with relative strengths and weaknesses (e.g., Yumoto's book is but a brief overview with crude hand illustrations, Kapp & Yoshihara focus on a general overview of forging, etc.) such that those seriously entering the world of nihonto would be well-served to collect them all (after all, all of these books together are going to cost a infinitesimal fraction of the cost of a nihonto and will therefore be a sound investment).

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), horimon (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.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: essential
Comment: This book is essential for all that want to take a closer and deep knowledge on japanese swords. Complete and easy to use.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: The Connoisseurs Book of Japanese Swords
Comment: This book must be the most informative (almost too much) but easy (as possible considering the subject) to read book I have ever owned. It really does have everything you need to know if you are thinking about purchasing a sword. I live in Japan, and when I showed my book to the shop owner I am friends with he was very impressed. Even with a language barrier we were able to communicate about certain features of swords that he was selling in his shop. A must buy if you have any interest on the subject.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Buy it or you'll be sorry!
Comment: This book contains more info than one could even imagine! In fact, that's all I'm going to say becuase it would take to long for me to even give you even a basic idea! I will tell you this: If you don't have this book in your library then you are missing out big time!!!!! Oh, by the way, the illustrations are awesome too!!!!

Enjoy and make sure that you have a weekend free to read.... you'll need it ;-)

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Amazing detail
Comment: I'm not really into sword collecting, but I nonetheless found
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.

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