I saw some very interesting items today.
I just finished writing an article for Worthpoint on swords, here. Because of some of the reading I did for that article I took a look a look at Kawase’s father’s sword documentation. It was an awesome collection. Over 700 swords. The pictures below are of an auction he held as he was selling off the collection and of an exhibition that was put together of swords he had owned. The exhibition was held after he died. The exhibition entries are unlike anything I have ever seen. Almost all of the pieces are of the Jyuyo level, some are Kokuho. The Jyuyo level include Juyobunkazai and Juyobijutsuhin, and Juyotoken. The Kokuho level is the highest level. Take a look here, scroll down to the “Japanese Ministry of Education Origami” part for an explanation. I would think having a collection that good is enough to marvel at but take a look at the auction photos. If you look closely you will see prices realized for the pieces. It doesn’t show which piece belongs to which price but looking at the picture labeled ‘Kawase_sword_collection (20) (it has the number 36 in the lower right corner) shows prices realized of 185 yen, 390 yen, etc. The kanji for yen is an older kanji. If I remember correctly the sale happened in the Taisho period. These swords would go for many tens of millions of yen if they were to come back onto the market today.
I have told the story before of Kawase Sr. bribing an officer so his son, the Kawase I am now studying with, wouldn’t be shipped off to China during W.W. 2. It was with one of the remaining swords from this collection that he did so with. The ship his son would have been on was torpedoed by the U.S. and everyone on board died.
The next piece is a kannon(kebori) or kannonbosattsu. I am unsure of the correct spelling. It is from the Heian period. It is a very shallowly engraved piece of copper. The box says it is a mishotai. As I understand it the mishotai is in the inner sanctum and can only be viewed by the head priest. This kannon somehow disappeared from its hidden place and ended up on the antiques market.
The next piece is a Fusatsu(te)arai. I am not sure of the spelling. It is from the Muromachi period. The signature on the back is of a temple. It used to have 3 feet of which you can see the stubs of. It was used by priests to wash their hands before they prayed or preformed ceremonies.
The next piece is connected to the discussion on blades. This blade has an interesting story. It is one of 3 made for the Japanese royal family for a royal wedding. One was chosen, the other two were sold. Kawase’s sister bought the one in the photos. It is called a mamorigatana. Razor sharp. I get nervous when ever I am around Japanese blades. This is only the second time I have been around them, the first time at someone’s studio. When they come out it suddenly throws into high relief everyone’s mental state. That is to say, if the person with the blade has any kind of stress, I suggest getting out of the way. The first time I saw a true Japanese sword it was being held by a ceramicist that was estranged from his family, living in his studio. He is a heavy drinker. He unsheathed his sword to show it to me, telling me it was sharp enough to shave with. I think I actually broke out into a sweat and he couldn’t put it away fast enough for me. Even this small blade had me nervous. Kawase is 90 years old this year. When he was putting it back in the sheath he held the sheath in one hand, the blade in the other. His hand holding the blade was shaking from age enough that I started to get nervous and had to look away. These are truly fierce weapons.
The next piece is a kakizaimon white plate from the beginning of the Edo period. Fine piece.
The next pictures are of signatures of some notable folks that stopped by the older Kawase’s house in Nara.
The last set of pictures are scans of the pictures I took of the documents for the sword show that had items from Kawase’s father’s collection. The name on the front of the program is his name used when collecting swords. There were 55 pieces in the show. 39 are Juyo… and 2 are Kokuho.