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Touken Matsumoto Blog

Reflections on the year that has passed Dec.28, 2012

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The year 2012 has been a year of changes.

In February, we started a new project, creating a homepage.
This project has been a challenge and through it I have learned a few new things.
Initially, we had some big problems, but as the New Year approaches we are getting closer to successfully completing the homepage.

Since the end of October, I have changed from a Japanese page developer to a Canadian, who is also fluent in Japanese. This has improved some of the things that were previously problematic with the project.
Thus, I am happy to say that I think we are finally on the right track when it comes to making a homepage that offers swords and other items at an affordable price, as well as offering information for anyone interested to read and learn from.

During the year 2013, I intend to upload items on a more regular basis, as well as entering more posts on this blog.
Should you be looking for a specific item that you wish to purchase, please don’t hesitate to contact me as I enjoy challenges like these.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.

Sincerely,

Yoshiyuki

Okinawa sales event Dec. 11, 2012

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This time, was the second event in Okinawa this year.

More than a hundred people visited us and I was especially glad to see one of the more famous Iai-Shihan from Okinawa return.
His knowledge seems to be growing steadily, and he has good taste in Japanese swords.

We also had quite a few foreign visitors stationed in Okinawa visit. I’m always happy to see how a common interest in the sword can make people connect and learn from each other. This is something I value greatly.

Although Okinawa has very few sword shops, I feel the interest from people living there is growing stronger every year. This is something that makes me very happy as it is this interest that spreads and promotes knowledge and understanding for the Japanese sword.

In Okinawa, there is only one active sword smith and I was delighted to meet him again this time.

All things considered, this was an event that was very enjoyable, and I can not wait to go back to Okinawa again.

The 2012 Dai Token Ichi Nov.11, 2012

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It is rather surprising how people from all walks of life come to this event every year.
Foreign visitors and Japanese alike, take a couple of days off, to immerse themselves in an environment overflowing with all things to do with the Japanese sword.
Many came to look and to learn for a few days or hours. For others, it was more about business.
Some lived close, but many had come from quite far away to take part in this venue.

On the two floors of the Tokyo Bijutsu Club, visitors took the opportunity to fill their weekend with their yearly doze of their common passion for all the different aspects of the Japanese sword. And they seemed invigorated by it, judging from the many smiling faces.
It seemed, I think, most of us were a little dazed by the sheer volume of items displayed at the event.
But on the good side of that, there was something for everyone!
From newly made blades, to blades forged during the ‘Kamakura-era’.

For me personally, this event was a good opportunity to catch up some old friends I hadn’t connected with in a while, as well as meeting some new ones.
Being far from the only foreigner at the event, and, from talking to some of the others, it became evident how appreciated this annual venue is, among foreigners and Japanese alike. We all seemed to enjoy ourselves. And why wouldn’t we?
This event is the biggest of its kind in Japan, and feels, at times, like a two floor ‘Nakamise’ for the sword enthusiast.

There was even a nice little cafeteria area, serving very tasty ‘Bento’, the Japanese version of boxed lunches, should anyone need to “refuel”, before going on to the next floor.

Ningyocho Tenji-Sokubai-kai Oct. 1, 2012

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The Ningyocho event took place from 26 – 30 of September, and was the first event since we got rid of the Ueno Touken Kaikan in July, due to the lack of space and the awkward location.

While we are still looking for a new place, many of our clients have asked us to have another sales event, and so we organized the Ningyocho event, to answer to their request and to further our good relationships with them.

Ningyocho is in Shitamatchi (downtown Tokyo), and a place that is housing a lot of traditional shops as well as training places for traditional skills and crafts.

A lot of people came to the event, and stayed for a long time.
In total, more than 50 clients attended, and they seemed very happy, talking and learning about the Japanese sword, which also made sales for us pretty good.

However, on the last day of the event, there was a big typhoon coming, and the weather man on TV warned people again and again, to not go out if it could be avoided.
The weather therefore unfortunately made it impossible for some clients to show up on the last day.
This dampened the event a little, but I still feel very happy, as most of our regular clients showed up and stayed for a long time.
To me, it was a really good time.

Touken Koza, Swords studies at Touken Matsumoto Sep. 23

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On September 23, Myoga-sensei visited our place in Noda to conduct our monthly ‘Touken Kouza’.

Five different, and very beautiful ‘Meitou’-blades, from different periods, and with different characteristics were displayed, after which the lesson began with all the attendees in a good mood.

Myoga-sensei spoke, among other things, of the different aspects of ‘nie’, often taking a student’s question and with the help of a white board giving a general, but clear explanation. Then, in a ‘person to person’ type lesson making sure the answer was more elaborate and informative he explained the finer points.
This was very appreciated by the people that attended, and a clear sign of the passion that students and teachers share.

A small but fun contest was also held, after which the group sat down for a bite to eat.

It was a very nice evening with a lot of smiles and many great learning experiences, which furthered everyone’s understanding and enthusiasm for the study of the Japanese sword.

A Special Tsuba With A Special Story Attached Sep. 20, 2012

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Sometimes an item comes your way that stuns you.
A short while back such an item found its way into our shop. It was a Tsuba with a theme taken from the Japanese fable of ‘Tsuchi-gumo'(a spider demon), and the story about ‘Minamoto Raikō’ whose life the demon made miserable.

Not even Minamoto’s loyal retainers were able to dispose of the demon, and at the end it was ‘Hizamaru’, Minamoto’s own Tachi that came to life and got rid of the terrible Tsuchi-gumo demon.
The Tsuba itself depicts some of Raikō’s retainers, fast asleep, after the demon had cast a spell on them, on one side. On the other side, the Hizamaru is depicted.

When I first bought this Tsuba, I was fascinated by how well the previous owner told the story, as well as the craftsmanship of the Tsuba-maker. In combination, these two skills complimated each other very well, and are, at least to me, something that I think should be larger part of the artistic side of our business.

For any sword trader, to neglect this part of our history and our story telling traditions, seems to me a big waste, as this type of knowledge, adds to the value and uniquness of most Tsuba, and helps in keeping items and our culture interesting and living.

For a long time, I failed at making the fable interesting myself, as I was unable to tell the story as well as the person from whom I bought the Tsuba to begin with.
The Tsuba itself would be easy to sell, it having been sugested as a possible candidates for the ‘Jūyō-tōsōgu’ rank. But, this to me, didn’t seem fair to the Tsuba nor to the man who made it. However, I was finally able to find the item a good home, with a buyer and enthusiast that truly understood how unique the Tsuba this is.
In a way, it felt similar to seeing a son or daughter marry a good spouse and start a new and exciting chapter.

The Daitoken Ichi 2012 sword event Sep. 13, 2012

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The English advertisement I was asked to make by the management of the All Japan Sword Traders Association is almost ready.
It is nice to be trusted by them with a task like this, and I think it will look nice once it appears in the Daily Yomiuri.

I look forward to the event itself, and to sharing my passion for Nihonto and Japanese culture, with both foreigners and Japanese visitors alike.
In many ways, the event itself feels as much as a celebration or a festival, as a forum for business, which makes it seem a little special.

It will be fun!