Japanese Swords HTML version

to keep, and it was also the weapon with which she might seek
repose in death, should occasion arise. The Restoration breaking up
the old feudal system compelled the Samurai to part with their worldly
goods to secure the necessities of life, the rich became poor, the poor
lost all support, hence anything which might tempt the foreign buyer
went swiftly out of the country; the circumstances had become rather
more straitened for the Samurai class when the edict of 1877
compelled them to put aside their swords, and blades followed the
lacquer, the paintings, the carvings which eager curio buyers
snapped at inadequate prices. Many swords of first quality crossed
the waters, besides thousands of poor blades which could be bought
in dozens in the stores and bazaars of the old world. Hardly any
attempt was made at keeping in the country any blades except those
which were, so to speak, entailed heirlooms or those whose owners
refused to part with at any price. Later, a few earnest people banded
themselves into a Society for the
[Pg 2]
preservation and study of the National weapon: the Sword Society of
Tokyo, which has published, during the last twelve years, a mass of
information about swords. Collecting swords has become a national
propensity, and the modern sword lover may have more blades,
carefully kept and oft admired, than his ancestor of a century ago who
could only wear two at a time. Magazines have sprung into existence
dealing only with the sword and its accessories. Both in Europe and
in America articles on the sword have been published, most of which,
based upon the paper of Hutterott and nearly all inadequate. It is to
be hoped that some more comprehensive work will soon appear to
give the Western public a better knowledge of the ancient swords. In
Japan, there are hundreds of books dealing with their makers, from
ancient books now rare and costly to modern works crammed with
information and obtainable for a few pence. What then is there about
the Japanese blade which compels admiration? Far back in the Sung
Dynasty a Chinese Poet sang its praises, later the Mediæval
European writers spoke in wonderment of the Katana, of its keenness
of edge, of its swift stroke, of the respect paid to it; later still, folks
were awed by the form of suicide we call seppuku, some saw in it
only a barbarous disembowelment, few, perhaps, grasped that other
important feature—the test of the truest friendship—that confidence in
the bosom friend one entrusted with the cutting of one's head.