The 8,100 swords manufactured in the grounds of the Yasukuni Shrine between 1933 and 1945 are an exceptional legacy, as artifacts that preserved not only time-honored forging methods but the aesthetic and spiritual traditions of the samurai warrior.
No other weapon in the world can boast of possessing such a high spiritual quality as the Japanese sword. For over a thousand years the sword was revered as the very soul of the samurai warriors who wielded it, commanding awe, respect, and an almost religious devotion. The tumultuous events of modern Japanese history and the nation's relentless drive toward technological advancement, however, irrevocably sealed the sword's fate, and, along with the samurai class, the sword became an anachronism, both culturally and militarily.
As Japan entered a period of unprecedented Imperial expansion in the early twentieth century, the Japanese sword, despite its limited practical effect, became a feature of the soldier's arsenal-an echo of the mythical status it enjoyed in feudal times. The Yasukuni swords emerged during the build-up to World War II, in part to help meet the huge demands of the Imperial Army, but more importantly out of a desire to preserve time-honored forging methods, and to revive the spirit of the samurai. For these reasons, they were notably distinct from so-called "Showa-to," which were mass-produced and inferior in quality and artistry.
All swords were banned in the immediate aftermath of World War II, and the decades that followed have seen a decline in the popularity of Yasukuni swords, largely because of their associations with that war and the military. Another factor has been the stigma attached to Showa-to, which has helped to stereotype wartime swords in general.
Recent years, however, have seen a renewed interest in the surviving Yasukuni swords. Many collectors and appraisers have acknowledged the workmanship of these swords as displaying a perfect blend of technology and tradition, and a quality that can rival even that of the great classical smiths.
In his tribute to the Yasukuni smiths, acclaimed photographer and sword enthusiast Tom Kishida has compiled an extensive study of these rare and exceptional swords, drawing on a variety of sources to shed light on this often little-understood chapter of Japanese sword history. With his unique eye for capturing the beauty of the blades in his photographs, he has provided the reader with the most lavishly detailed book on Yasukuni swords to date. This will be an important addition to the libraries of specialists and connoisseurs, and to those who wish to deepen their understanding of these fascinating wartime weapons.
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Yasutoshi 17 Yasunobu 18 Yasushige 19 Yasuyoshi
SWORD TO COMMEMORATE 50 YEARS
CHARACTERISTICS OF YASUKUNITO
FORCINC CENTER OF THE NIHONTO TANREN KAI
OPERATION OF THE YASUKUNI TATARA
ESSAYS ON YASUKUNITO
The Nihonto Tanren Kai Foundation Members
Lineage of Sword Polishers of the Nihonto Tanren Kai Foundation
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