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Thread: Japanese made swords the only true 'Shinken'?

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    Default Japanese made swords the only true 'Shinken'?

    A week ago or so I have a conversation (okay, an argument) with a friend of mine about Japanese swords. He's also a martial artist (kyokushin karateka) and a native to Japan. He claimed that unless a differentially termpered and sharpened steel sword is manufactured in Japan by Japanese craftsmem, it is not considered a true shinken. Now I was under the opinion that the term shinken refers to any sharpened steel Japanese sword, regardless of the country of manufacture. I walked away from the conversation thinking that his position was nothing more than patriotic jingoism and nationalistic hubrice, but I am not totally sure. Can anyone shed some light on exactly what is covered under the term 'shinken'?

    Thanks
    Carlo Felicione

    Yoshida-ha Bujutsu
    Kyokushin Karate
    10th Dan/Master of the Silent Scream

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    Any term has exactly the value and meaning those use it put on it. In the west today "shinken" tends to mean a sharp Japanese-style sword.

    However, if you talk to collectors of Japanese swords, (or to the Japanese authorities, and there are others out there better equipped to tell you what the legal definition is in Japan) than your friend should add to his definition:

    - papered
    - made of tamahagane

    The first isn't hard to enforce, but the second is extremely difficult to check if you're a policeman looking at a sword so even in Japan this may be a question open to debate... at least by those making sharp steel Japanese-style swords out of truck leaf springs.

    Some collectors might also add "made by a smith above a certain level, and made for the art market as opposed to the iai market". As in "you call THAT a shinken"?

    Although most arguments do tend to boil down to semantics, it's usually better to provide definitions at the beginning of any discussion and respect them. You say a shinken is one thing, he says another, simply specify which definition you are using when you discuss swords. ;-)

    Kim Taylor
    sdksupplies.com

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    An old thread, but for accuracy, last time I checked, Japanese swords can be made out of:
    Tamahagane
    Sponge iron
    Electrolytic iron.
    There are reasons for this that I don't need go into.
    Because of this, any decent western Smith can make a better cutting sword than a Japanese Smith. Why? The steel!
    The smithing is easy to compare, but the steel is far better.
    For this reason, Yoshihara is forging blades in Washington state. Who knows what he *doesn't* tell the authorities back home.
    The Japanese want their swords as art sword, forever stuck in time, made with interior steel that does make interesting visual effects, but that is about it. Even the forging process is inferior.
    Dan
    [url=www.bodyworkseminars.org][COLOR=#B22222][B]Ancient traditions * Modern Combatives[/B][/COLOR][B][/url] [/B][COLOR=#B22222][/COLOR]

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ultimate_Truth View Post
    A week ago or so I have a conversation (okay, an argument) with a friend of mine about Japanese swords. ...He claimed that unless a differentially termpered and sharpened steel sword is manufactured in Japan by Japanese craftsmem, it is not considered a true shinken.
    Somehow I missed this thread the first time around. To my way of thinking, any sharp Japanese-style sword is a shinken, but only those made in Japan are Nihonto. This is my definition, but as Kim Taylor said, my definition may not match someone else's.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Harden View Post
    ...any decent western Smith can make a better cutting sword than a Japanese Smith. Why? The steel!
    The smithing is easy to compare, but the steel is far better. For this reason, Yoshihara is forging blades in Washington state....
    My understanding is that it was the artificial limit on the number of blades per year allowed, not a problem with availability of good steel, that was the reason.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Nope. The limit on two swords a month is modern post war doctrine.
    It was an inferior understanding of tempering the hard edge and spring tempered back- they produced soft backs that took set-bends. As well as the lack of adequate tempering on the edge- the edges typically chipped or rolled over.
    The smiths themselves when they could get good steel ( your wrong. It *was* scarce and parced out from the tatara and resulted in the crap steel core/ Kawagane skin process- which well known smiths fought against) still lacked the qualities and properties of the steel the Vikings, Indians and Europeans used, much less the actual skill in smithing. Put any of those swords against an average katana and you will have a bent crow bar in your hands.
    In Japan, entire armories were tested in the 16th century with over half of the swords failing.
    Smiths are not usually the problem, lack of materials are.
    Yoshihara is a good example: very good Smith, he comes to America, sees my swords, Lious Mills, Howard Clark, sees the superiority of better steel while retaining the at form.... he chases it.
    Even simple carbons with added vanadium with still produce the desired effects while being superior in every way the tool was designed for. Hell, even infusing electrolytic iron ( approved but hardly ever used in Japan) with carbon allows for the darker colorization ( with the lack of manganese) but the uniform structure is superior to tamahagane. Tamahagane is crap. Being forced to work crap in this day and age is insulting.
    Don't take my word for it, like I did in Cali., I introduced a Smith I had never met to a group of his who were sick of hearing me go on for hours about smithing and the myth of the Japanese katana.
    He opened with.... "One of the worst serviceable swords ever made." And lecture them for an hour as to why. I didn't say a word. Then I said. " I could introduce you to another three hundred smiths who would agree. It's science. Your opinion is neither asked, nor required. Steel is steel. "
    If you can find it, read the stainless steel thread here in the archives. It should be a sticky... as it contained some of the best writing on smithing and swords you are likely to ever read, anywhere. I couldn't get the previous owners to make it a sticky.
    Last edited by Dan Harden; 25th March 2015 at 11:34.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Harden View Post
    Nope. The limit on two swords a month is modern post war doctrine.
    Yeah, and Yoshihara is a post-war smith. Your comment was that Yoshihara's sole reason for opening a forge in Kirkland is because of the steel, and my response was that that is not the reason. How would pre-war conditions have anything to do with it?

    You also write "your [sic] wrong. It *was* scarce..." but I never said otherwise, so how could I be wrong?
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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