NTHK Taikai 1996 in Tokyo

by Jim Kurrasch
from the November 1996 Nanka Token Kai Newsletter
Sam listed the blades shown last month. So now I will talk about the Taikai itself. I am sure that the majority of the readers have never had the opportunity of attending one of the Japanese Taikai. That is too bad, and I hope that sometime in the future many more are able to. Attending gives one more than just being able to view a number of excellent blades and fittings (although just that makes it worth it). But being able to meet so many persons at one time who truly love Nihontô is a experience in itself. And here I mean people that are not just in it with the dream to make lots of easy money, or the fantasy of being a Ancient Samurai. But these are persons that love Nihontô for everything that it is.
When we arrived at the Taikai, we were introduced to Sensei Yoshikawa, and the other persons present. We talked for a while and then attended the Taikai Room for viewing the nihontô and kodogu.

Gordon Robson, Min Shintaku, Yoshikawa Sensei, and Sam Oyama
(left to right)
The main Taikai room was a large room with the swords to be viewed around the edge. The swords for kantei were at one end, while those for viewing were along the other three sides. The kodogu were on tables down the center of the room. Since we arrived a bit late I do not know if there was to be a formal route that one followed, but I found it easier just to go to a sword that one wanted to view, and wait until the person in front of you was finished viewing it. Then view it at your leisure. Seldom was there more than one or two persons waiting to view any particular sword. the swords were arranged so the later ones were to your immediate left as you entered the room. You could then work your way around until you reached the oldest swords at the far side of the room. Or you could do as I did which was go over to the oldest swords, and view them first. I then choose those other swords that I wanted to see. There was plenty of time to view them all, but I was still suffering from jet-lag and felt that it would be better to not over extend myself.
The kodogu lovers had plenty to keep themselves busy, in the center of the room. At the closest corner were the soft metal fitting. Right across from them were the iron tsuba. Actually most of the fitting were very high grade kinkô. There were about 5 women present who not only were engrossed with the fittings but were also studying the blades, with zeal.

The Taikai Room
At ones very right as they entered the room was the three kantei blades. Near the close of this part the best at the kantei received a prize, for their ability. After the viewing was finished we went over to the banquet room. There we first listened to the speakers (including Yoshikawa Sensei, Ogasawara Sensei, and Sam). We then were treated to a excellent banquet, and contrary to what always happens at banquets there was plenty of food left over when we finished. While eating we were also treated to singing by some of the members, as well as a Iaidô display by Eguchi San.
Examining Kodogu
Examining nihontô

Eguchi San demonstrating iaido
Moraine Gilbert, Mrs. Yoshikawa, Jim Gilbert, Min, and Sam
(left to right) outside of the Taikai Hall

A view of Hamarikyu Gardens
Summer beach resort for the Emperor prior to W.W.II

Trip to Japan (cond). from the December 1996 Nanka Token Kai Newsletter
by Jim Kurrasch
About 10:00 AM on Tuesday September 17th. Yoshikawa Sensei met us at the hotel with a large van. We were then driven out to Kofu. Kofu is a small town about 70 miles (in a straight line) west of Tokyo. It is also a famous grape growing area. First we met Hagihara San and his wife, they were our guides to the region. Our next stop was at a small shrine. It housed a Kokuho (National Treasure) Heian Jidae suit of armour. This is kept in a special building. There is a vault door on the front. And that door is only opened on days with perfect weather, and then only after a honorarium is given. The thing about this armour, is that is in near perfect shape. Frequently (almost always) armour so old has had it’s leather worn through and replaced. But this armour and it’s leather was near perfect. We then went to our next stop, another shrine. There we were shown about 6 pieces of mint condition kodogu, from each of the artists Goto Ichijo, and Natsuo. I will try to have photo’s of these beautiful pieces in next month’s newsletter. Then we had a temple meal. This type is completely vegetarian, and excellent.
Then Erijin Temple which contains the tomb of the mighty War Lord Takeda Shingen, who was born in Kofu. Min’s ancestors were Samurai in Shingen’s service so our stop there was something extra for him. We visited Shingen’s tomb and saw his residence. And I must say that it appeared fit for a warlord.
After Shingen’s Shrine we drove up to a lake which had a excellent view of Fuji San. There we also visited the workshop of a contemporary artist. He had a display of 100 of his’ kimono. As the kimono went around the room, one followed the season’s and landscape, that was incorporated into one kimono, and then moved onto the next.

Part of Takeda Shingen’s residence in Kofu.
Mrs. Hagihara, Hagihara San, me, Min, Yoshikawa Sensei, Gordon Robson,
Mrs. Yoshikawa, Omino San, Jim Gilbert, Laurine Gilbert, and Sam (left to right)
A Kokuho set of armour from the Heian Jidae.

A painting of Daruma, and some kettles

A sumie of the famous proverb that Shingen fought by.