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Dan Kary





Joined: 12 Dec 2017

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PostPosted: Sat 16 Feb, 2019 7:08 pm    Post subject: Kozuka, Kogai, and Katanas - What am I missing?         Reply with quote

Well I've gone down the Japanese sword rabbit hole with basically no knowledge about them and I noticed that a lot of production kantanas have two holes in the hilt (tsuba?). What was even more baffling to me was that these holes are typically not symmetrical. Rather than speculate, I went a bit deeper and apparently those holes are to accommodate a poker and knife called the "kozuka and kogai". Is this right? They appear to be something like the poker and knife you sometimes see in messers and other medieval European swords. Okay, that makes sense to me, if I'm right.

Here's where you knowledgeable folks might be able to help me: Why are these sorts of tsubas on production Katanas that don't have the the kozuka and kogai? Just about every production Katana I look at has them and all but one that I have seen does not have the kozuka and kogai. The only one I saw was on a sword made by a company called "Bugei". This company's website doesn't work - I can't at all look at other examples (the one I saw was a third party). All this strikes me as absolutely bizzare. You'd think that if the sword has this sort of tsuba it would have the accompanying kozuka and kogai, and if it doesn't have the kozuka and kogai it shouldn't have this kind of tsuba.

What am I missing? Thanks!
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
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PostPosted: Sat 16 Feb, 2019 7:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rich Stein's good pages contain a wealth of information.

https://www.japaneseswordindex.com/

Cheers
GC
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Dan Kary





Joined: 12 Dec 2017

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PostPosted: Sat 16 Feb, 2019 9:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Glen! While that site, apparently, does not address my specific inquiry, it indeed does have a wealth of information. It is going to take me a while to get through it all. But, so far, it has been pretty good.
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
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PostPosted: Sun 17 Feb, 2019 11:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
What am I missing?


If you were to study period swords, I think you will find the same trait. While you will find some do have the implements, a great many period swords have tsuba with the ana for kozuga and kogai, and the saya have no pocket for them. Tsuba were most often not made by the blade maker, nor the person mounting the sword.

I linked Stein pages in a hope you might want to learn about Japanese swords and their fittings. I have full confidence that you have not read everything about fittings yet (then, as now). They were accessories that were sometimes added but not always so.

Your question might be better phrased; "What modern production makers supply swords with kozuga and kogai"
You see them on decorative swords from Marto of Spain, for a for instance.

If the question is; "why don't all makers that use tsuba with ana for kozuga and kogai supply the accessories".
Costs and a truth that tsuba themselves were accessories.

or

"why do katana producers always use tsuba that have ana for kozuga and kogai?"
Costs and a truth that tsuba themselves were accessories.

I believe it goes back to understanding how katana were originally made, There were tsuba with no openings. The Stein pages might be a good start for someone interested in the swords and fittings.

Cheers
GC
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Dan Kary





Joined: 12 Dec 2017

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PostPosted: Sun 17 Feb, 2019 11:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's helpful. Thank you!

I did manage to read, I think, all the tsuba related pages on the linked website (and a bunch of others too). Lots of good info but not really illuminating to my particular inquiry. I think, however, that your response does, Glen. It seems to me that historically, tsuba makers would just add these, almost by default, just in case they would be placed with a sword scabbard that would have the kozuga and kogai. This makes sense since there is really nothing lost functionally by having a tsuba made to hold a kozuga and kogai but not having then on the scabbard. This would allow them to have tsubas that would work regardless of the other parts added to the entire katana package.

My guess is that modern production katana's use historical tsubas as a template and, of course, a lot of these are going to be designed to accommodate a kozuga and kogai. But, as you point out, it saves money to not actually have a kozuga and kogai. Plus, I imagine a lot of people aren't really interested in having a kozuga and kogai (I'm sure lots of people like me don't even know what they are!).

Does that sound right?

Just as a follow up, are there any production swords that bother with these anymore? Does anybody know of any? I mentioned in the first post that I saw an example from a company called "Bugei" via a third party site, but I can't actually see any on the "Bugei" site (the site appears broken since I can't look at their inventory).
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J. Nicolaysen




Location: Wyoming
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PostPosted: Sun 17 Feb, 2019 12:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bugei recently announced they are quitting the business after 20 years or so. They are working with another entity to take the business over. I don't know who the other entity is.

As Glen says, making a saya that can hold a kogatana/kozuka and a kogai is a lot more work, and then the pieces themselves add a lot more. It is likely that most production outfits just don't see the cost in to be worth it. Bugei was always on the higher end of production pieces, so it makes sense they might offer one model with the option.

In the meantime,I think you are right. The cutouts don't really affect the handling or structure of a well made tsuba, so if they are basing their work off an existing antique, they might as well keep the cutouts. For most people studying martial arts, there's not much point in either piece either.

Huawei also seems to be having trouble with their website. They seemed to be good quality, and with a large range of products and I wouldn't be surprised if they would work with a client to make a model withkogatana/kozuka and kogai. But the website looks really different from what I remember and honestly I don't really trust it.

If you really really want a set on a production model, I think you could contact nosyuiaido, or tozando and see if they can add it to one of their semi-custom jobs. But I think it will be pretty expensive, close to or above $2000.


Last edited by J. Nicolaysen on Sun 17 Feb, 2019 12:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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J. Nicolaysen




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Feb, 2019 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I see that Seidoshop offers kogatana, kozuka and kogai separately. So you could probably have them work a set also. Their iaito/mogito don't have them included, but contacting them directly might lead somewhere.

https://www.seidoshop.com/collections/iaito-kozuka
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Dan Kary





Joined: 12 Dec 2017

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PostPosted: Sun 17 Feb, 2019 2:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the links J. I just had a quick browse and found this one:

http://www.tozandoshop.com/Uesugi-Kenshin-Him...uesugi.htm

What's odd (to me) here is that there isn't a a tsuba at all!

I don't know about contacting these companies though. I don't even know if I'd actually be in the market for a katana. I sold off basically my entire collection of medieval European stuff with an eye to replace it with a couple Albion swords and a couple Tod's workshop scabbards and daggers. Unfortunately I haven't been getting regular work (I work on the basis of University sessional teaching contracts at the moment) and 100% of the funds raised from doing that ended up buying groceries and paying bills...I'd still like to do this at some point but right now I am basically collectionless and if that's going to change and time soon, it is going to ~15th century German/Swiss stuff. I'm pretty set on the pieces I want in that regard.

Still, maybe a Katana is somewhere in the cards someday. I just have so much I'd have to learn before even attempting it with my new quality over quantity philosophy (this what prompted me to sell off all my stuff - trade up to a smaller specialized collection of higher quality). It is absolutely overwhelming getting into this stuff with a heavy background studying medieval/ancient Europe (especially Germany). I don't even know what company I would look at. It doesn't appear that there is a clear leader in production swords like there is on the western side with Albion.

For now, I'm just trying to learn as much as I can, and have fun looking at what's out there (with a small bit of day dreaming).
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J. Nicolaysen




Location: Wyoming
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PostPosted: Sun 17 Feb, 2019 6:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I hear you. Good to do a lot of research and dreaming, it makes you a smarter customer in the long run. Took me more than 15 years to start my western collection.

All three of the companies I mentioned, Tozando, Nosyuiaido and Seidoshop work either in Japan or have long contacts with Japanese vendors (nosyuiaido/swordstore). I don't have a sharp sword from any of those, but I have a few iaitos from nosyuiaido and have handled Tozando also, so I would expect good quality from their sharp swords, whether they call them training sharp iaitos or shinken or whatever. I think they are all Albion level of quality, if you want to use them as a benchmark. It's too bad Bugei and Mugendo Budo are leaving the marketplace, they had high quality offerings too. I do have a daisho from Bugei.

The problem is that the relatively high quality of those five companies has really been undercut by adequate to useless offerings from Chinese vendors. (In my opinion). Some of those vendors like Hanwei and Huawei have decent things, but the low quality of a lot of their other stuff really has dragged down the customer's price expectations. So those companies that can supply training mogito/iaito in Japan can survive, but it's really hard for Bugei and Mugendo Budo who could do both training iaito for people in JSA and high quality sharp swords for people who really like this stuff as collectors who appreciate good handling characteristics and a fine level of quality.

SDK Supplies is run by a long-time practitioner/teacher in Canada and while I don't know who his suppliers are for shinken and iaito, or how customizable they might be, I have ordered some other things from him before and found the quality and service to be very good.

The custom level of Japanese style swords is a big jump in price and commitment for sure. Then the nihonto and the antique market....Lots of dollars. Fun to dream and research though.

Uesugi Kenshin was a very unconventional warrior in a relatively unstable and lawless time. His personal aikuchi-style (no tsuba) sword is really interesting, but hardly a typical sort of thing. Nice find on the Tozando website, I haven't seen that before. Seems to me it really would indicate they could do something custom incorporating a tsuba, kogai and kogatana if one wanted.
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Peter Berbiers




Location: Flanders
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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2019 5:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Why not get a genuine nihonto shinken ? They start at 4000 usd, sky is the limit of course.

http://www.katana.giheiya.com/shouhin_list/ja...atana.html

Tsuba's where often reused, started their life without holes and then got holes in them when it became fashionable.
In lots of tsubas the holes have been closed with other metals when not in use.
The tsuba on my katana does not have any holes (ana).



 Attachment: 45.4 KB
tsuba1b.JPG

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J. Nicolaysen




Location: Wyoming
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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2019 6:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice Tsuba.

I never studied tsuba a whole lot, compared to armor and general history of Japan. When did the fashion for the holes come in? And it's interesting to hear about them filled in. I have seen that many times but never really thought about it being a change in fashion, thought some other reason.

The genuine nihonto shinken, or the antique market, is as you say at a somewhat higher entry point. $4000 isn't inconsiderable for most people. However the $300 bottom end of Chinese produced Japanese style swords aren't very satisfying for anyone who appreciates quality. I think there is a space in between for well made Japanese style sharp swords in the $1000 to $2000 range.
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Dan Kary





Joined: 12 Dec 2017

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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2019 11:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the info guys. This all has been eye opening to me. Just this scratch on the surface has revealed to me that the Japanese sword market is pretty different than the western market. For example, there doesn't seem to be much emphasis on having a sword from the country of design origin. For example, it doesn't seem like medieval German messers/longswords from Germany are necessarily favored over messers from another country such as the USA or UK. Albion (and maybe Arms and Armor) and Tod's workshop both seem to be the top dogs in the western market for production swords/weaponry and are in the USA and UK respectively.

In the Japanese market, it seems that there isn't a clear top dog when it comes to production swords and, among those mentioned by J, those within that Albion tier (which would be exactly the tier I'd be looking at - rather than an antique or high level custom) "work either in Japan or have long contacts with Japanese vendors".

As for the filled in Tsubas, yeah the site Craig linked has some good examples there. I suppose this recycling makes sense because Japanese swords seem quite modular compared to the swords of Medieval Europe that are assembled and peened together permanently.
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Jussi Ekholm




Location: Tampere, Finland
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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2019 12:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unfortunately most companies making cheap production katana don't care about details, they'll just slap things together and sell them. Glen hit the nail in the head that adding small features like this will crank up the cost. And most manufacturers (or buyers) don't care about the finer details, they just make and sell (use) stuff.

It is not exactly clear when the use of kōgai and kozuka trend started but according to Uchigatana-koshirae book by Tokyo National Museum the earliest appearances are possibly on Heian-Kamakura period koshigatana. Their use became popular on uchigatana during Muromachi period when tachi made way to uchigatana. Especially during Edo period the importance on elaborate and high quality accessories rose as a measurement of social standing. Also you can see many old tsuba that did not originally have any ana (holes) have them later added on.

The sword you linked without a tsuba is an aikuchi-uchigatana-koshirae. Uesugi Kenshin liked that style of koshirae and multiple of his favorite 35 swords are mounted like this. The replica on Tozando site is of his named sword Himezuru Ichimonji.

Getting a modern Japanese made sword, a genuine one would be what I would recommend over spending few thousands on a Chinese made sword. Depending on your preferences you can find used swords starting from 300,000 - 400,000 yen range, that's roughly 2700 - 3500$'s. Giheiya that Peter linked is a good seller of modern swords and easily accessible to Western buyers. They were present at Samurai Art Expo in the Netherlands and had multiple swords in c. 3000 range for sale. There are lots of vendors who sell Japanese swords all around the world.

For resale value I'd definately go for genuine Japanese sword. The market is just much stronger for genuine nihonto compared to Chinese made high end swords or even Japanese swords produced by western craftsmen. I know there are people who seek out Japanese swords made by top western smiths but there are lot more people who are seeking Japanese made Japanese swords.

As you are interested in tsuba here is a link that will give you brief information about various tsuba schools: http://www.shibuiswords.com/tsuba.htm

I personally don't focus on tōsōgu (tsuba & other fittings) nor koshirae as whole either as my focus is on old swords (blades). But I can try to answer fittings questions you have, and I know very knowledgeable people who can aid when I fail to assist.

Jussi Ekholm
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Dan Kary





Joined: 12 Dec 2017

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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2019 1:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah I mean if I was going to do this, I'd almost certainly want to have it mirror the process I'm planning (when I can get some steady cash going - hopefully there will be more contracts in my future!) to do with the German medieval stuff. That is, find a top-notch production company (enter Albion), commission the swords (longsword and a messer) and then add the bells and whistles (enter Tod's workshop): nice historically accurate scabbards, accompanying knives (thinking about a rondel and a baselard) and accessories: with a messer, probably an eating set built into the scabbard - very much like the kozuka and kogai. This is going to cost thousands of dollars (which the selling off of my collection was supposed to partly cover), but probably not tens of thousands. That's kind of the ballpark I'd consider with anything further branching out - whether it be with a kantana, spear, mace, etc.

The path is clear for the German medieval stuff. I also have a specific time period in mind (mid-late 15th cent). It is totally not clear to me where I would go with the Japanese stuff. I'd probably like to do the kozuka and kogai, just like the eating set on a messer. Failing, that, I'd probably like a tsuba without the holes for them. I also really like plain iron stubas. Although I am not huge on decoration, I do like colorful fittings/scabbards (I'd love a red handled longsword and red/silver scabbard - but I'd need to look a bit more on whether this would be historically consistent). But above all, I'd like anything in my collection to be historically consistent and historically accurate. If you asked me today, I'd probably go with the Muromachi period for anything Japanese. Of course, that would be extremely tentative. I'm also weary about anything made in China these days, swords would absolutely be no exception.

Another interesting feature about some tsuba, I learned thanks to Craig's great link, is that some have two small holes representing the sun and moon that might have been used for leather straps attached to the hand. I like that.
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J. Nicolaysen




Location: Wyoming
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2019 6:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Dan,

Here's a nice article about Tsuba and the historical context for the aesethetics. Part One is worth reading as well. The author used to appear on some of these forums but I haven't seen him for a while. It doesn't talk about the holes for kogatana and kogai per se, but it's nice to read something situating the fittings instead of just describing them.

https://markussesko.com/2014/10/11/historic-overview-of-aesthetic-requirements-for-a-tsuba-part-ii/

Sesko has many other articles and books as well, take a look. He might even write an article or correspond with you on the particulars of something like the kogai-ana etc. Here's a very interesting article about a famous kogai for example: https://markussesko.com/2013/08/26/a-kogai-that-has-passed-through-many-hands/
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Dan Kary





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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2019 11:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cool articles. Thanks for the links!

I spent some time in the last couple days pretend building a sword from Seidoshop and Tozando. It is really neat to see all the directions you can go and what things cost. I've been able to do this more or less within what I would probably want to spend (basically I'd want to be spending roughly what I'd spend for a high end Albion). It seems, however, that I've only been looking at Iaido swords. Apparently to get a non-blunt sword (Iaido swords are blunt swords for practice - kind of like a Feder sword, right?) it would apparently cost a minimum of $7,500 USD at Tozando and I'm sure its probably similar elsewhere. I could buy the 2 swords I want from Albion, and 2 matching feders, and still have $3,670 left over to put towards scabbards for this price...YIKES. I get that there is a lot of work that goes into these, and I'm sure its worth it, but that's probably more than I'd ever be able to do.
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J. Nicolaysen




Location: Wyoming
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2019 11:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Regarding terminology:

Iaito: sword used for Iai practice, probably a non-sharpenable alloy, but not necessarily! Because some people practice iai with a sharp sword but don't use a shinken. So the word describes the intended use, not the construction. You would still be able to cut with this if it is made from steel, not alloy.

Mogito: always a non-sharpenable alloy "blunt" sword. Might be a wallhanger, but might be good for iai practice depending on the company.

Shinken: always a sharp or sharpenable sword.

Nihonto: always a sword made in Japan.

Anyways there's always someone who says "but wait!" for terminology, but this should get you to what you need if you discuss what you want. I don't think you are looking at mogito for $7500...if they call it iaito, you should ask them if it's alloy or not.
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Dan Kary





Joined: 12 Dec 2017

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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2019 11:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow I'm sure grateful for the help.

Truth be told, I'd probably not use this for ANYTHING. Mainly because I don't have a friggin' clue how to use a Katana. For me, it'd be an art piece. Still, I'd like to be a hands on art piece and a functional art piece. So I'd not be interested in a practice sword or a mere wall hanger. I'd be interested in a (and I HATE using this term because of the way it seems to be abused - but I don't know if I have a better term) "battle ready" sword. Maybe a more appropriate way to put it would be a sword for "test cutting"? I don't know. It seems that there are so many kinds of Katana, I wouldn't even know where to begin to ask or even what questions to ask.

One big step I'd also have to take, and I realize I'm on my own here, is in regards to fittings and styles. I'm probably going to have to take a big dip into some books for this so that I can get something of a historically representative construction (rather than some Frankenstein Katana that has stuff from all different times and places). That is, pick the time period, get a period tusba, a period kozuka/kogai (if they were even used at the time period), etc. This is probably the part I am most looking forward to - the book research! Even if nothing comes from it, it is going to be fun.
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Jussi Ekholm




Location: Tampere, Finland
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PostPosted: Sun 24 Feb, 2019 5:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Iaito is generally just a sword for iai. Many Japanese dealers classify lower tier newly made swords as martial arts swords (iaito) instead of top tier art swords. So western general thought of iaito is not the same as Japanese way of thinking.

Here are some terms you might come up to

Gendaitō 現代刀 - Usually from 1876 to 1953, but sometimes all modern swords are classified as gendai
Shinsakutō 新作刀 - From 1953 to modern day
Iaitō 居合刀 - Sword for martial arts use, can be a traditionally made sharp sword or zinc-aluminium replica

If you are going to commission a modern Japanese sword I can recommend going through Paul Martin, as he can offer you his expertise and assistance in this field. http://www.thejapanesesword.com/

However if you are not too picky about the sword you want you can save a lot by buying one second hand. Here are just some examples in 300-400k Yen bracket, c. 2500 - 3500$'s. There are hundreds of modern Japanese swords being sold at any given moment in various price ranges.

http://www.e-sword.jp/katana/1810-1125.htm
https://giheiya.com/product/01-1487/
http://www.nipponto.co.jp/swords4/KT329303.htm

I think the basic zinc-alloy training swords from Tozando and others too start in 200-300$ range.

For your research on koshirae I would recommend getting Koshirae Taikan from Markus: https://markussesko.com/2014/06/16/1030/ Grey Doffin is generally "the" book guy in the west, he has great deals and great inventory: http://www.japaneseswordbooksandtsuba.com/ I agree with you that research is very fun and enjoyable. Happy

Jussi Ekholm
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