I am in no way an expert or authority in Japanese arms and armour but I am very enthusiastic novice on the subject. The “katana” in particular, has always captured my imagination. I had many replicas as a young boy but never owned a ‘real’ samurai sword until I was about 24. It was around this time that I decided to sell off my militaria collection and used the money to fund the purchase of Japanese swords. I am now 30 and have never looked back, having acquired a number of swords as well as other items including armour and sword fittings. It is not a massive collection but it’s very personal to me and each item has its own story as to how it came into my possession.
I see it as an honour to collect and study swords, armour, fittings and such like and am passionate about their preservation. So whilst some might say that they ‘own’ such items (which technically they may in that they have bought and paid for them), in my mind, we are all merely caretakers. It is not so much that an item is part of our lives, more that we are part of the life and history of that item and it is up to us to keep its story moving forward. Whether to preserve an object in its present state, restore it to a greater or lesser extent, or do nothing at all is the call of the current caretaker. The way that I look upon it is that we have a responsibility to care for and preserve it for future generations to enjoy. In the case of a sword, it may need for the hilt to be re-wrapped, the blade polished, perhaps new mounts fitted. There are many skilful artisans around the world who can do this work sympathetically and in a way that will ultimately lengthen the sword’s lifespan. I’ve used a sword as an example here, however, I believe that this applies equally to any item of Japanese arms and armour.
Unfortunately for new collectors, there are many fake items out there that are getting harder to spot against original pieces and then there’s the renegade dealers who are happy to rip you off for your hard earned money. Don’t let this discourage you however. If you want to start collecting Japanese arms and armour try to enhance your knowledge and understanding of the subject – buy some books, go and view some swords that you can also handle and try to find other people who are already collecting via a dedicated society, study group or through the many online forums.
With all this in mind, I formed The To-Ken Society of Scotland in January of this year. My hope is that through meeting, discussing and sharing knowledge, we can build a stronger, more informed community that will benefit collectors both old and new and will ultimately lead to the better preservation of Japanese arms and armour in Scotland. We look forward to working along side the three other UK To-Ken societies and also to supporting the Samurai Armour Forum with their goal to share knowledge and educate others in the field of Japanese samurai armour.
By Robert Boyd
The To-Ken Society of Scotland
Link to society forum: http://scottishtoken.proboards.com