Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200 — full exif
Japanese sword dating from 600+ years ago
A friend of mine collects Japanese swords. He doesn't have very many... five or six.. but makes up for lack of quantity with quality: each one is priceless (where “priceless” means “has a price, but it's much, much, much more than I could afford”). One is a designated Japanese National Treasure.
I don't know much about Japanese swords, or swords of any type, and I'm not real keen on the whole concept of tools designed for killing, but I remember being impressed by a paragraph I read long ago in, I think, a Lonely Planet guide, describing the painstaking method of construction of pounding two pieces of different iron together, drawing out and doubling the result over on itself to make four layers, then pounding them together back into one. This is repeated again, yielding an eight-layer construction. Again yields 16, then 32 layers. After 10 cycles there are over 2,000 layers, and from this somehow comes the strength.
A skilled craftsman might be able to make two a year.
Unlike what you might see in movies, these early-period Japanese swords are fairly plain, dispensing with flash and drawing their appeal from raw, timeless craftsmanship.
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1600 — full exif
My ignorance of the subject is readily apparent in how little I remember of what he described. He provided animated descriptions of each sword's history, but it was all I could do to keep up with the basic terms (e.g. for hilt, blade, blade lock, blade guard, blade backbone design, etc.... there's a huge list here that I would have done well to study before my visit).
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 450 — full exif
Most of his swords have simple wooden handles and scabbards dating much more recently than the blades themselves, maybe from only 150-250 years ago, to when experts of the time authenticated each blade's provenance. Rather than issue certificates, the expert providing the authentication would sign his name and other information to the blade, on the unpolished part hidden by the handle when the handle is attached.
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2500 — full exif
itself dating back hundreds of years
The engraving above is the name of the blade's maker, Raikunimitsu (来国光), who lived in the 1300s. (The name of the person authenticating the blade in the 1600s-1800s, is engraved on the other side, I think.). My friend had lots of books about the swords he had, and I took pictures of some of the names to try to help me keep them straight...
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 640 — full exif
The blade is held on to the handle by a single wooden (or bamboo) pin...
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/200 sec, f/2.5, ISO 6400 — full exif
The golden piece between the handle and the blade, called a habaki, is itself a work of art, and locks the sword into the scabbard when the blade is sheathed. One is the subject of the Golden “What am I?” Quiz from the other day, which many people got right. I would have never had a clue until recently.
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 500 — full exif
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 5600 — full exif
For the most part I was trying to concentrate on taking interesting pictures, using my Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 lens for its close-up abilities, and found it rather difficult because it takes a full turn of the lens barrel to change the focus just a few inches, and things were constantly in motion. The light was horrible (it was absolutely pouring rain outside, but I wanted to stick to natural light) and I hadn't brought a tripod, so it was challenging. But fun.
I think this one was made in 1332, and is a designated National Treasure of Japan. I wish I had kept notes.
Instead, I tried to take interesting photographs, but failed miserably, mostly. I had higher hopes for an on-edge shot, but while it didn't come out as I had hoped, it's still sort of interesting in its simplicity.
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2200 — full exif
The blade is facing straight up over the blue felt, while the camera looks straight down. I tried to get the very edge of the blade in focus, but again, working with both the camera and the blade held by hand, it proved to be too challenging.
Still, the result has some interesting character, and each attempt has its own feel as the overall mood changes with the focus distance, where we held the blade, and the dynamically-changing light from the thunderstormy outside.
The version that had the best (relatively speaking) edge focus was featured in the previous post's Just Arrived After a Long Flight “What am I?” Quiz. I'd showed my mom upon arriving from a flight from Japan, and her first impression from across the room was that it was a shot out the window of the airplane. So, I decided to post it with a title designed to mislead. Didn't trick many.
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 3200 — full exif
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 280 — full exif
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2800 — full exif
much like the camera I'm holding in the other hand
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 6400 — full exif
I think this is the name of the maker, as added by an authenticator, some time in the mid 1800s. Like I said, I wish I had kept notes.
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2000 — full exif
A banzuke is the ranking chart of sumo wrestlers prepared before each tournament, and occasionally I've seen the phrase borrowed for other kinds of rank listings. I guess such borrowing is not a recent phenomena because one of his books shows a list from 1778, banzuke style, of important swords. One of his is listed in the upper left.
He had one sword that was very different from the others, that I'll write about another day.
All and all, I'm left with the feeling that I squandered a great opportunity. I was already lamenting my poor preparation while I was there, so we agreed that I'd bring a tripod the next time I visit, but I also really need to bring a notebook.