It’s no great secret that many collectors the world over have amassed vast libraries, probably the majority of readers here have a collection of books capable of buying something with a Juyo paper, some possibly even a few Juyo somethings. But along with these volumes is a knowledge that is built over time, with reading, with the asking of questions, with long discussions with other collectors and most importantly, looking at and handling as many swords or fittings as they can. This is the most important part of any form of study, to get in and get your hands dirty, the bending of elbows.
So I guess the real question and the real worry is that in time, if more and more new collectors are using the Internet only, and not doing any hard study, digging out their own answers or finding new information, exploring possible idea, searching for new grounds, then as the knowledgeable collectors start thinning out with time, more and more information will be lost until eventually, we end up with a mish mash of fact, half truths and misconceptions. Who will help us sort through that lot ? The Internet has opened up so many opportunities for so many of us, but as with all things, there is Ying and Yang, as much bad as their is good. There is already a vast swing towards buying from online auctions, choosing items that are many a time based on average images and sold by buyers who are unsure of what it is they are selling, not to mention the many fake and repo’s items that catch out new collectors on a daily basis. Inevitably, new collectors run the risk of buying without knowledge, and in the end, amassing a collection of items that are not on the whole, worth as much as a good small library.
In a recent discussion on this blogs forum, the concept of Furyu, or, “The styles passed on from preceding generations, the manners bequeathed by outstanding men” ( see RE: Japanese sword guards in the MFA Boston (1908) ) was discussed. This handing down of knowledge, this passing of rights was how things were done in the past in Japan. Knowledge was handed down from teacher to student, who in turn, might one day become the teacher passing on his knowledge, and so on. In these times, the student never questioned the teacher, he took as gospel his teachings and did not stray from them. They were scholars of the most regimented form. Then on the other side of the coin were the free thinkers, the explorers who took up the challenge of questioning, of asking ‘Why ?’ all the while attempting to break new ground. In the field of tosogu, Dr. Torigoye Kazutaro and Mr.Masayuki Sasano were to many, the last of the great Japanese tosogu scholars. the question askers, these men were more like travelers, on a journey of discovery and adventure. They were people who had their own ideas and shook the very foundations of the hard core line with their modern thinking and outrageous theories. They were rockers of the boat. I like rockers of boats, they are a very god thing indeed.
But what ever your own personal take is on all this, whether your a strict follower of a school or teacher, or you prefer the free thinker, the one thing we can be certain off is that all of these scholars, these learned men had one thing in common. Study. They all studied hard, they were great investigators and they took their vocation seriously. They worked hard at obtaining their knowledge.
An article that springs to mind and one from where a lot of the above information was sourced was written by Mr Robert E Haynes and titled “The Decline and Fall of the study of Japanese Sword Fittings, The stuff that dreams are made of”. This article is, I am very pleased to announce one of several of Mr Haynes’ writings that I will be coming to the blog in the next few months. These articles may cause a few stirs, and I hope that they do. The one think they will do I am sure though is make us think, and question, and think some more.
As I read all this, I can laugh at the irony of the fact that this information is on the Internet, the very environment that was originally under question. But let me make this perfectly clear, we need it, as we need books, and moreover, study, friendship and hands on experience. Without all that, we may as well just give up. So bend those elbows girls and boys and get in there and get those hands dirty.
Thank you for reading