Japanese swords have long been prized for their aesthetic beauty as well as their functional properties. As polishing plays a vital role in determining the sword's final shape and appearance, an understanding of the polisher's art is essential for anyone interested in this unique weapon.
—FROM CHAPTER ONE
To understand Japanese sword polishing is to understand the Japanese sword. Down through the years, the great sword connoisseurs in Japan have been sword polishers. A swordsmith can spend a large amount of time forging a classic sword, but refining and bringing out its final shape, color, and texture so that all the details of the steel and hamon (the temper line) are clearly visible is the responsibility of another craftsman
—the sword polisher.
The Art of Japanese Sword Polishing is the first book in English to examine in great detail the polisher's techniques, for which they may apprentice for as long as ten years. It illustrates the methods, materials, and tools used for this process. But the book's true aim is to bring to readers an appreciation of the beauty of a well-crafted Japanese sword. As readers learn both how the sword polisher enhances the beauty of a blade and how he handles the problems of coaxing out its finest qualities through his polishing techniques, they will come to a higher understanding of the fine art of making a Japanese sword, and be able to view, purchase, or collect swords with greater pleasure.
About the authors
SETSUO TAKAIWA started his career as a sword polisher at the age of sixteen by apprenticing to Matsuo Fujishiro, who later became a Living National Treasure. He has won the Special Prize from the Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Swords, one of the highest honors in the field, more than ten times. In 1980, Takaiwa received the title of Superior Craftsman and was designated a Living Treasure of Katsushika Ward in 2000. He has polished swords in the collections of major museums around the world, including the British Museum, the Boston Museum, and the Tokyo National Museum. Ise Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in Japan, calls on him regularly to help maintain their huge collections of historic swords.
LEON KAPP is a biologist working in the San Francisco Bay area. He has spent a considerable amount of time studying Japanese swords and is the coauthor, with his wife Hiroko and swordsmith Yoshindo Yoshihara, of The Craft of the Japanese Sword and Modern Japanese Swords and Swordsmiths: From 1868 to the Present. HIROKO KAPP is a correspondent for the Tokyo-based Senken Shinbun news organization. The Kapps live in San Rafael, California.
YOSHINDO YOSHIHARA is ranked among the top swordmakers in Japan. His family has been making tools and swords for three generations, and his son, the fourth generation, now works with him in Tokyo. In addition to his studio in a suburb of Tokyo, Yoshindo has two workshops in Seattle and one in San Rafael, California....