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Book Review: The Art Of The Japanese Sword: The Craft Of Swordmaking And Its Appreciation

Like people and snowflakes, no two Japanese swords are the same!

The Art Of The Japanese Sword - The Craft Of Swordmaking And Its AppreciationWritten by Yoshindo Yoshihara (a third generation swordsmith) with Leon and Hiroko Kapp, The Art of the Japanese Sword is a beautiful large format book (effectively printed on glossy black paper with white text) that focuses on the production and understanding of the symbolic steel weapon once used by samurai and now admired by art collectors all round the world as an object of perfection, although many people use them to practice traditional Japanese martial arts like Iaido (the art of drawing the sword).

This single volume covers all the basics for those wanting to learn about the complexities of the Japanese sword and is attractively illustrated throughout with well-detailed step-by-step photographs by Yoshikazu Yoshihara and Aram Compeau of how a sword is made, from the forging process to the final stages of polishing, as well as being a guide on how to maintain and clean a sword. Other illustrations include drawings of the various shapes of blades and their hamon designs (visual patterns of the hardened edge of a blade), and paintings from the Edo period of historic figures like Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. The layout is attractive and well organised with straightforward and informative text. The authors have done an excellent and comprehensive job of covering all aspects of the Japanese sword including its history which began with the import of steel swords from China through Korea during the Kofun period (250 – 538 AD).

Aikuchi: Tanto Koshirae

Aikuchi: Tanto Koshirae

Tanto By Yoshindo

Tanto By Yoshindo

Paintings of Japanese warriors

Paintings of Japanese warriors

The book is divided into five chapters:

Chapter I – KANSHO: Appreciating The Japanese Sword

Chapter II – REKISHI: A Brief History Of The Japanese Sword

Chapter III – TAMAHAGANE AND THE TATARA: Traditional Japanese Steel-Making

Chapter IV – SAKUTO: Making The Sword

Chapter V – FINISHING THE SWORD: Polishing, Habaki, and Saya

Author and swordsmith Yoshindo at work

Author and swordsmith Yoshindo at work

After reading The Art of the Japanese Sword, you will realise that, like people and snowflakes, no two Japanese swords are the same. Each one is unique with its own characteristics that have been diligently crafted by master craftsmen skilled in an artform that dates back centuries. A number of these characteristics often include grooves, known as ‘Hi’, and decorative engravings, referred to as ‘Horimono’, which are made before the final polish – some of Yoshindo’s incredible carvings shown in the book depicting Buddhist deities and a tiger are stunning examples of his own exceptional style and creativity.

Traditional horimomo designs carved by Yoshindo

Traditional horimomo designs carved by Yoshindo

The only thing that’s missing from this book is an index and glossary which would be useful, especially when wanting to do a quick search for a particular termonology. Nevertheless, The Art of the Japanese Sword is a very thorough look at the history, making and appreciation of the Japanese sword and serves well both the connoisseur and the novice. This book is most definitely recommended to anyone with an interest in Japanese art and culture.

The Art Of The Japanese Sword: The Craft Of Swordmaking And Its Appreciation is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com  

Details:

ISBN: 9784805312407
Format: Hardcover
Date Published: 9/10/2012
Illustrations: color photographs and illustrations throughout
Number of Pages: 256
Length: 12
Width: 9
Weight: 63 oz
The forging process

The forging process

About the authors:

About the authors:

Yoshindo Yoshihara is a third-generation swordsmith. His grandfather Kuniie began making swords in 1933 in Tokyo and was ranked among the top swordsmiths in Japan during his career. Yoshindo lives and works in Tokyo with his son, who represents the fourth generation of swordsmiths in the family. Yoshindo, who is always training young swordsmiths and currently has five apprentices working with him, has been named an Important Cultural Property of the city and prefecture of Tokyo, and is a mukansa (top-ranked swordsmith) in Japan.

Leon Kapp, a molecular biologist, lives with his wife Hiroko in San Rafael, California. He has been seriously interested in Japanese swords for over twenty-five years, and has spent a great deal of time learning about them from Yoshindo.

Hiroko Kapp is a writer for Senken Shimbun News of Tokyo and writes about fashion and the fashion industry in the US. She graduated from Musashi-no Art University in Tokyo. For twenty-five years, she was active in the apparel business and designed scarves for her own line in the US.

Review by Spencer Lloyd Peet (Editor-In-Chief)

The Art Of The Japanese Sword - The Craft Of Swordmaking And Its Appreciation

The Art Of The Japanese Sword – The Craft Of Swordmaking And Its Appreciation

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