kazarena's blog

Traditional Chinese vs modern Japanese Kanji forms

I was reviewing smith's singatures and names in Kanji the other day in order to figure out few things. There is a terrible mix at the moment between traditional Chinese and Japanese characters. While I tried to use traditional Kanji for the names, signatures use all different forms (e.g. I changed all 国 (as for kuni) to 國 in the names, but plenty of mei still contain 国. Same applied to 'hiro': 広 and 廣).

There are different conventions in different sources:

  • Toko Taikan uses simplified Japanese forms for smiths' names.
  • Yamanaka uses Japanese forms.

Readings of smith names in Hawley's Japanese Swordsmiths

Reading Japanese names is not easy. Reading a name from 500 years old sword tang is significantly more difficult. But even when the kanji is read, what is the correct way to pronounce it and, subsequently, put it in romaji? Not just various Kanji symbols may have different readings in names, but some smiths preferred non-standard readings, or Chinese form instead of Japanese form. Is it Akitoshi or is it Myoju? (an example from Hawley himself) It may be a source of great confusion, especially for non-Japanese students with good, limited or even no knowledge of the Japanese language.

Luckily, specialized reference literature helps to find answers. The reader may just open Hawley's book and look up the right name. But is it as unambiguous and easy? The answer is no. Even the same name in kanji may have different readings (and records) in Hawley's and they won't be the ones which are easy to find either. First of all, we shouldn't forget that Willis Hawley was using paper notes, cards and a typewriter to compile his monumental book. It didn't allow machine validation which we enjoy in present days, insertion and modification was difficult and error-prone. Some duplicate records were added (and then found). Then, Hawley himself may have (consciously or unconsciously) put some records multiple times under different pronunciations. And finally, some smiths may have changed their names themselves leaving the honour of recording it to Nihonto historians.

Christmas Kanji marathon - FINISHED

I was updating many smith records recently and got fed up with the amount of time needed to locate a record for a particular smith (by name, era, province, school etc). When trying to find one smith I always end up with filling out missing Kanji, signatures and whatever else is missing for few other smiths with the same name.

It is very distracting, so I've decided to solve this problem (at least to some extent) by stopping for the moment and filling all the missing Kanji in formal smith names. It's not a small job: 2156 smiths (out of 12258 record in total) don't have Kanji representation of their name in Swordsmith Index at the moment. It's clear from the past experience that doing 100 record per day is already a very challenging task. So I've decided I'll do my best to finish this work by Christmas.

Week Off

I'm going on holidays for a week. I'll deal with all the support queries (if any) on 27th March.


Some statistics

It's been five months since Swordsmith Index was released. I've been spending some evenings and weekends to find and type in more information as I was reading through various sources and here's what we've got so far:

Total smith records: 12250
Verified records: 389 (3.18%) - verified manually to ensure the information is reliable or at least in line with accessible knowledge.
Schools/groups: 93 - entered by hand

Smith Records:

School is known: 1146 (9.36%) - verified and entered by hand
Province is known: 4126 (33.68%)
Kanji name is filled in: 11808 (96.39%)
Era: 11281 (92.09%)
Lineage confirmed: 1460 (11.92%) - number of records which have father's or teacher's record known and correctly identified.
Total signatures: 2735
Unique smiths with signatures: 1946

It's not too bad, I guess. My main task so far was to populate the information about schools and lineage, which could help in the future with efficient search for particular smith of particular school and era. It's been a very, very useful experience, I've learned so much!

Back to work

Holidays are over and I'm back to work on the site content. After 3.5 weeks in Cuba I really miss it. By the way, it wouldn't be a surprise really, but there is virtually no nihonto in Cuba. The only sword I managed to see was the one in Bacardi museum in Santiago-de-Cuba. It was a wakizashi in gunto mounts with a very strange (supposedly not Japanese at all) tsuba. Having spent few minutes trying to look at the features of the blade (and being stalked everywhere by vigilant museum workers) it was clear it's just a mass-produced war-time sword.

Holiday time again

Dear All,

I'm on holidays for 3.5 weeks. If you need any assistance with the site, please be patient and we'll sort everything out in August.


Kind Regards,

Fujishiro arrived!

I've just received Fujishiro's Nihon Toko Jiten (Koto Volume) from Mike Yamaguchi. Can't wait to go home and do some digging!

Habaki arrived

I was looking for a habaki for my new gimei Kanesada blade. Yes, I know, looking for matching habaki on eBay is a suicide mission on its own. However, this one was a good value and I decided to give it a try.

No, it didn't fit. This habaki is for monstrous size katana (despite the dimensions given by the seller). It had nice quality though, with good dark patina, so I don't mind too much.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

The site has been moved to Drupal 5.1. This means that the first stage of site construction is over, things are settling down and I guess it's time to introduce myself and tell a little bit more about Nihonto Club.

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