View Full Version : bokken of biwa wood

16th January 2001, 23:41
Hi all. I wonder if anyone knows of a place where I could purchase a bokken of biwa wood. This wood was apparently in fairly wide use for bokken in the feudal age, does anybody know of someone who makes them today?

Joseph Svinth
17th January 2001, 18:42
From Kim Taylor:

Biwa is an evergreen fruit tree. It is originally from China but is now naturalized to Japan. The common English names include loquat and Japanese plum, and its scientific name is Eriobotrya japonica or Photinia japonica. It's in the Rosaceae family. A fact sheet on loquat is at: http://crfg.org/pubs/ff/loquat.html

Fruit wood in general is tight grained and quite hard but a bit brittle. Loquat in particular is pink, hard, close grained and medium heavy.

Loquat can be used where pearwood would be used. In other words, it is good for carving, and for things such as rulers. Probably you could substitute apple or pear wood and few would know the difference. FWIW, the wood may be smelly, as it is used for perfume and incense.

If you bruise someone with this wood likely you will not die, despite the legends.

I know of no commercial logging of Biwa but Loquat is grown in California for the fruit and you could likely find some local sources of wood as the trees are replaced in the orchards.

Hiding Crow
15th July 2001, 02:50

I realize that it has been a while since this thread has been going, but I can tell you that a biwa (Japanese meldar) bokuto is available through Kiyota Company in Baltimore, along with a whole bunch of others. He doesn't have a website, but if you call (800) 783-2232, you will be mailed a copy of his catalogue.

I have used several different styles of bokuto from Mr. Kiyota, and I can tell you that they are of excellent quality.

Incidentally, the biwa bokuto will set you back $94US (2001 price)

Hope this helps

Julian Straub
Bujinkan Kageyama Dojo

Ellis Amdur
15th July 2001, 03:54
I've used biwa, and it is as Kim describes (no surprise there - his descriptions of the qualities of wood have always been, in my experience, right on target). It is quite beautiful, and certainly lighter than kashi or even ash. It is not a good wood for kumitachi as it will dent with even medium contact. I would imagine that one could use it in a "fight" without fear of it immediately breaking - and this is certainly congruent with stories of many Edo duels in which one participant used a biwa bokuto. BUT, not for daily practice. Every strike would leave a dent. Eventually, these would feather and splinter, and soon after, one could expect it would break.

By the way, the fruit is delicious. The seed is large, looks like a "tiger's eye" gem" and the fruit itself looks sort of like a pale, oblong apricot. Wonderful flavor - used to have a tree in my front yard in Japan, and we'd get a couple buckets of fruit each year.

Ellis Amdur

Don Cunningham
15th July 2001, 05:55
I recently discussed this with Kim Taylor, but I once read somewhere that there was a myth regarding locquat bokken. If I remember correctly, any bruise from the locquat bokken was supposed to be lethal. Something about poisoning the body??? Now Joseph has also made a reference to this legend.

Does anyone know exactly what the myth is and anything about how it might have got started? It seems many myths, especially those related to health issues, often have some seed of truth or historical reason. I can't imagine what this one might have been, but it sure must have been weird.

[Not all health myths are based on any evidence. I remember my grandmother told me that many people believed tomatoes were poison when she was a child. I don't particularly care for tomatoes, but I don't think they do any harm.]

15th July 2001, 13:39
Thank you Mr. Straub! I was very surprised to see my ol thread get another response. As to the 'deadly biwa' myth, it is mentioned in Dave Lowry's 'Bokken: Art of the Japanese Sword'.
It was believed in old Japan that a bruise caused by a bokken of biwa would not heal, and that eventually the recipient of the bruise would die. Many swordsmen refused to use a biwa bokken for this reason. According to Mr. Lowry, some rural martial artists in Japan still believe this legend. Perhaps Mr. Lowry or someone else would know the origin of the biwa myth.

This didn't have much to do with my search for a biwa bokken- although it is a neat aside. I wanted a bokken of a fairly rare wood that was..I dunno...authentic. One that was similar to what the bushi of old may have used. I had heard that biwa wood was extremely durable, so I was surprised when Ellis said that it dents so easily. Much as I hate to plunk down $94 for a stick, I may still get one and use it for basic suburi, and leave the kumitachi to my old red oak one.