16 August 2012

Japan XIV - Lost in Translation

Frequent perusers of the Blokeblog will have gathered by now that I spent a few weeks earlier in May touring central Japan, the details of which are well documented.  One of the first events of that epic trip was to visit one of the few remaining professional Japanese swordsmiths, Masahira Fujiyasu-san and his disciple, Nakanishi-san.

That occasion was unquestionably eventful...it's not every day that you can take part in the forging process of a Japanese sword, though over lunch it transpired that Fujiyasu-san also produced smaller 'Kozuka' katana, which are intended to be used as a paper knife, but were originally used as throwing weapons and fitted into the saya of the wakazashi.   I enquired about the cost of buying one of these knives and was told by Yasuhiko Ota-san, our guide and interpreter for the day, that they were roughly £5000, or the Japanese yen equivalent...clearly far too much.

A little dismayed, we went back to our delicious lunch and continued the discussion on some of the finer points of sword making...or as much as I could understand.  At the end of the day, we climbed into the taxi to catch the Shinkansen back to Toyko for the rest of our holiday, always regretting that we didn't have a little 'Kozuka' katana tucked carefully away in one of our bags.

But that's not the end of the story.

Returning to the UK, Ota-san sent us some of his pictures of the day and on thanking him for them, I enquired again how much any souvenirs might be, knowing that there were a selection of very small knives and of course, the little katana.

When the reply came, I realised that we had interpreted the original price incorrectly...we were out by a factor of 10!  Further emails followed over the course of the next few weeks so that yesterday a small package from Japan dropped onto the front door mat and inside...

...wrapped in it's yellow cloth, was the little 'Kozuka' katana.

The blade is true sword steel, the front face of which has been left with a textured finish onto which has been engraved part of an ancient Japanese poem.  I was also delighted to see that the highly polished back has a simple hamon, clearly visible when it's held up to the light. 

Even better, Masahiro Fujiyasu-san's stamp and signature...

...is clear to see on the reverse of the saya, or scabbard.

It's virtually impossible to own a full size, professionally made sword (indeed it's illegal now to import them into the UK without a special licence) so this is without doubt the closest that I'm ever going to get.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a bit special Rob to say the least, but what is it with you and numbers ! :)

Cheers, Paulm