Having received a notification from www.thejapanesesword.com last week, I am now a proud owner of Nobuo Nakahara's 'Facts and Fundamentals of Japanese Swords. A Collector's Guide' (translated into English by Paul Martin). Actually, I have two copies now, already thinking of some kind of contest or raffle for Nihonto Club to give one away.
I had a quick glance and couldn't stop myself reading few pages here and there. Now I'm looking forward to weekend to read it from the very start to the end. It's somehow different to other Nihontō books. Instead of typical indispensable but dry sequence of glossary terms, lists of schools and prominent smiths, it is shaped as an engaging narrative with Q&A sessions, bullet points, flashbacks and terms related to the context. It offers very practical, hands-on view to sword collecting and appreciation, and gives an impression of attending a high quality seminar with a master, rather than of reading a heavy-weight academic publication. It was especially appealing as I was always wondering if it will ever be a book or online resource which (while being professional and scholarly) provides a view at Nihontō tailored to a beginner's mind, temporarily stepping away from highly specialized mindset of a connoisseur. Now we have one. I think it's very important. A person who just started having an interest in authentic Japanese swords will hardly comprehend descriptions of hamon and hada of Kunimitsu, but will rather have simple questions like 'how to tell if the sword is good' and 'how old is it' and other practicalities. This is what this book seems to be about. Needless to say that the quality of publication and imagework is top-notch, being typical to Kodansha Intl.
As seen in Questions & Answers, Nakahara-sensei offers a straight and refreshing view at the subject with less emphasis on the lore, but focusing more on the sword itself. Some of his opinions may be seen as unorthodox and strong, but as mentioned by Paul Martin in the introduction there are many different theories and viewpoints in Japan, and all of them should be considered in order to get a broad understanding of Japanese swords.
It must be said, I would really really like to have this book available at the time when I started collecting and studying Nihontō. It wouldn't be a surprise if in a few years this book will become an absolute must-have for any collector (beginner and experienced).