It is with great pleasure that I present here, the first in a series of articles written by Mr. Robert E Haynes. I would like to sincerely thank Robert for allowing me to publish his articles. They are sharp, witty, intelligent and are I believe, compulsory reading for all collectors of tosogu. I would like to extend my thanks to the NCJSC and Mr. Fred Weisberg of who have also given permission for publishing here.
It seems it is easier to go back to the beginning… than on to the future, because Akiyama Kyasaku is ALL that we have, past or present. We did have those who carried on the ideas and theories of Akiyama, such as Dr Torigoye, and Sasano Masayuki, but they are dead, in fact all those who questioned or thought for themselves are now dead, and they are abrogated and exprogated by those “experts” who are living. Why should this be happening now? Because these very “experts” have returned to the “Star Chamber” ideas that commanded all the “guru” during the last seventy years. Now, free thinking, to ask questions, to question authority, to even think for yourself, are areas which cannot be controlled, and thus are prohibited. What must be done is to find a way to beat the system! Become an inconoclast, a polemicist. To find such a person in Japan one has to go back to the writings of the high priest Jien (1145-1225) in his work of 1219, GUKANSHO (Miscellany of Ignorant Views). It is very sad he is not with us today to inform the “experts” of the many ignorant ideas to be found in all the aspects of the field of Japanese sword fittings that are expounded as certainty. In no area is this more notable than that of KANTEI. A form of scholarship where you have the answers BEFORE the questions have been asked! In fact, in the study of kantei, the answers determine the questions.
Rational empiricism, is a method unknown in the study of sword fittings today. Surprisingly, more than a hundred years ago when Akiyama began his studies of fittings, he used the empirical method of study, and because of that, the information that he gained through that method formed the complete basis for all future study. If only empirical ideas had been followed by many more persons, but they were not, and we do not find them used again until the time of Dr Torigoye, and a few years later in the studies of Sasano Masayuki. It seems to frighten the “experts” of today, for it has no use for rigid unquestioning certainty, that the “scholar” of today must have. Let us see what has been lost by not following the empirical method. The vast majority of the books that have been published in Japan, during the last few years, and they are becoming fewer each year, have added less and less to the available knowledge of sword fittings. In most cases the authors today do not want to challenge any of the authors of past works, and thus rock the boat. Even such past masters as Dr Homma and Dr Sato added some new information to the books of the past that they re-published. Today one does find some very strange books, that in reality, are coffee table books, often with very poor photography and no new information whatsoever. There is a chance that the studies that are to be published, some day, by Mr Fukushi Shigeo, might contain new information that will add to the available knowledge. The vast majority of this new information will be in the area if Edo period soft metal fittings, and once again we will probably see that the true study of fine pre Edo period iron plate fittings will receive but token mention, and little if any new research.
(Bob Haynes 2/2005).
By the way, ‘The stuff that dreams are made of.”, is the last line spoken by Humphrey Bogart, in the MALTESE FALCON, of 1941.