similar test to be successful. Looked upon as a cutting weapon, the
Japanese blade has been pronounced perfect by all experts; that
perfection is the result of thorough work undertaken with only one aim
in view: to turn out a sword which was not only reliable, but a credit to
the maker as well; and, indeed, the names of the smiths are as well
known as those of the foremost painters, they rank with the expert
calligraphers, with the poets, with the writers and the statesmen, with
those who made history, Masamune, Muramasa, are names which
have found their way even amongst the novels of the West; not a
dozen names of Japanese sculptors can be mentioned, although their
works are to be found in any and every temple, but 11,000 names of
swordsmiths remain.... Where the carver could repair a faulty chisel
stroke the smith has no such resource, a slight flaw in welding his
metal, a little dirt remaining between two layers of steel, and
where in a smithy can one exclude dirt? Overhaste in heating the
metal resulting in a wrong temper, or in spots on the blade, and, lo, a
fortnight's patient work was wasted, a patron offended, a reputation
No less important than the smith's skill was that of the polisher
grinding away the blade to its final shape, settling the planes and the
curves, whose intersections are geometrically true on every side of
the blade. A volume rather than a preface is required to do the
scantiest justice to the Japanese blade, but space is limited, and the
blades exhibited here speak for themselves.
H. L. J.
midare yakiba, deep Kaeri bōshi, signed Sasaki Niudo Ippo of
Gōshū. Kwanyei period (1624-1643).
KATANA. 855, 650, 11 mm. Narrow yakiba, engraved on one side
with Ono no Tofu, the frog and willow, on the other with
characters, Yanagi amé Kan Ki. [Plate.