The Samurai Sword - A Handbook

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Author: John M. Yumoto
Pub: 1958 by Charles E. Tuttle
Pages: 191
Ranking:Four Star Rating
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Although I have absolutely minimal knowledge of Kendo, Iaido, Kenjutsu, or any Japanese sword arts, I can't imagine that if you owned a Japanese sword, or had any interest in owning one, that you would be unhappy with this book. It's quite scholarly, filled with B/W photos, drawings, and many valuable charts of information... such as listings of temper lines, commonly used Kanji charactors, Japanese eras, and relative values of various swordsmith's work. This author seems to really know his subject, and if you enjoy swords, get it!



List of Plates ............................ 7
List of Figures ........................... 9
Foreword ................................. 11
Acknowledgments .......................... 13
1 Japanese History and the Samurai Sword . 19
2 Types of Swords ........................ 46
3 Parts of the Sword ..................... 52
4 Blade Shape, Construction, and Grain ... 90
5 The Making of the Sword ................ 97
6 Inscriptions and Their Readings ....... 109
7 Care and Maintenance .................. 134
8 Appraisal and Value ................... 136
9 Relative' Point Values ................ 139
Bibliography ............................ 169
Glossary ................................ 175
Old Provinces and Modern Prefectures .... 186
Index ................................... 188


Inside Jacket

THE SAMURAI SWORD has long been considered the symbol of the spirit of old Japan. It has been said to be the embodiment of the samurai's code, the expression of his steel discipline, unswerving devotion, and peerless skill. It is, in addition, one of the most outstanding examples of Japan's tradition of highly skilled craftsmanship. The product of the tireless efforts of hereditary artisans, whose sole purpose in life was the achievement of perfection in their craft, the samurai sword is indeed a beautiful work of art as well as a formidable weapon. In the opinion of informed critics, both the workmanship and quality of the Japanese sword far surpass that of the Western Damascus and Toledo blades of folklore fame. Surprisingly, there are a greater number of these swords in America today than there are in Japan. During the U. S. occupation of Japan after the end of the Pacific War, countless servicemen collected these swords, perhaps without fully realizing their value, and brought them back to the United States as souvenirs. The number of such swords is estimated to be between 250,000 and 350,000.

The present volume is the first book of its kind in English. It is a complete handbook of the samurai sword. The informative text deals with the origins and develop.ment of the sword, its historical background, the various types of swords, their parts, styles, and differences in construction, the art of the swordsmith, the famous schools, the problem of identification and evaluation, and the care and maintenance of the sword. The many lists offer convenient means of collating vita information, while the numerous illustrations admirably augment the text.

The Samurai Sword is an indispensable book for the fortunate owner of one and an invaluable source book for all interested in this superb craft, the secrets of which have been jealously guarded for centuries.

THE AUTHOR, John M. Yumoto, is perhaps the foremost authority on the samurai sword outside of Japan. A native of California, he began his study of Japanese sword-craft during his early childhood in Japan While in Japan he studied under a number of masters from different schools and learned the art of sword polishing and of identification and evaluation. He has held membership in a number of sword clubs and at present is an active member of the Japan Society for the Preservation of the Samurai Sword and the Northern California Sword Club. He has also been requested to serve as advisor to the Japanese Sword Society of the United States, presently being organized.



THE PURPOSE of this brief handbook is to furnish samurai-sword owners and collectors with information about their swords, to relate some of the intriguing history and legends surrounding them, and to emphasize their artistic value.

Because of the value of such swords, information about their proper care and maintenance is contained herein. It is hoped that some far-sighted individual will one day initiate a foundation whose sole purpose shall be to collect samurai swords and preserve their beauty for posterity as objets d'art.

Through the mist and fog of great antiquity, there remain the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, which are still held in reverence by the people: the Sacred Mirror, the Comma-Shaped Beads, and the Sword - the three most highly prized national treasures in Japan. The fact that the Sword is listed among them is significant in that it indicates that the Japanese do not regard the sword as being merely a weapon. Some people collect these valuable and rare masterpieces as avidly as some seek old pistols and stamps.

In ancient times it was well established that anything suitable as an offering to the gods had to possess three elements: purity, rarity, and value. The sword was believed to have all of these characteristics, and it was a not uncommon practice to give one as a votive offering. According to records, the first such offering was made to the gods in 3 B.c. Later, the sword became the symbol of the samurai code and acquired further spiritual qualities. The samurai code, or code of the warrior, is comparable to the code of honor of the European feudal period and was based primarily upon the mastery of arms, principally the sword. The samurai sword was a family heirloom, carefully preserved and passed on to each succeeding generation. Even in modern times these swords have been carried into battle by officers and men of the Japanese army and navy.

The swords collected by American soldiers in the recent war were regarded in many different lights. Most soldiers thought they were collecting only souvenirs, and seldom did they ever suspect the true value of the swords.

Immediately after the cessation of hostilities swords in Japan were confiscated by the Allies as weapons. Later, however, those having artistic or historical value were returned to their original owners to be preserved as objets d'art. The samurai sword remains in Japan and throughout the world as an impressive example of specialized workmanship culminating in fine art.

When the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima, the samurai sword lost its prestige as a weapon, but it still remains the most perfect steel sword in the world. The Damascus and Toledo swords of folklore or the Excalibur blade of English literature could in no way compare with the workmanship and the quality of steel which went into the manufacture of the samurai sword.

John M. Yumoto



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