The To-ken Society of Great Britain (Society for Research and Preservation of Antique Japanese Swords and Fittings) held their bimonthly meeting last week at the University of London.

The meeting started with one of the members relating his experiences from traveling to Gifu castle, marveling at the local collection of militaria and historical sites, including the famous well, where heads of defeated enemies were washed after the battle of Sekigahara (1600) and later presented to the Shogun.

Gifu castle

Famous well near the Gifu Castle. 

 Following the usual procedure, the members brought the swords they researched and presented them to the gathered listeners. The presentation ended with appraisals. This time the subject was Shinshinto (1765-1886) and Gendaito Nihonto (1876-1945) - periods slightly later than usually discussed.  

The highlight of the evening was without a doubt a sword by Kasama Ikkansai Shigetsugu (1886-1966), commissioned by Matsubara Hiroshi, one of the founding members of the Tokyo University in 1939.

Matsubara dedicated the sword to no one else than Hitler. Some of the high society and intellectuals in Japan did not avoid a brush with the international political tendencies of that period.

Matsubara sword

The tang (tsuka) of the Shigemitsu sword and the blade with a Shinto deity engraved by the sword smith himself.

Another interesting object was an older dagger forged by Miyamoto Kanenori  (1831- 1926) at the turn of Meiji period (1868-1912). It was produced at a breaking point of history. Dedicated to the emperor it is inscribed with honorific titles, which soon became obsolete and were only in use for about a year.

Miyamoto Kanenori, sword

The Kanenori blade with its official ‘passport’.

These two exceptional pieces are well signed and researched. Other treasures are yet to yield their secrets.  

Kanenori blade

Members appraising swords at To-ken meeting

Members appraising swords at the meeting.