Friday, September 12, 2008

A Samurai Sword

When we came to Japan their was only one true souvenir for Dana; a samurai sword. Not just any samurai sword, but an old one. One that had seen battle would be even better.

Well, we get here to Okinawa and we find out that it is VERY difficult to get one; next to impossible really. The Japanese people honor their ancestors and parting with a family heirloom sword doesn't happen very often and when it does they don't want to sell them to foreigners. Dana still wanted one, but had resigned himself to the fact that he was likely NOT going to get one.

Well, then we went to Kyoto. On our last day of sightseeing there just happened to be a martial arts shop around the corner. It stocked all kinds of clothing, practice weapons and decorative swords. We looked around and then were about to leave when the shop owner indicated in limited english that he had a selection of much older swords upstairs. We just needed to remove our shoes and go on up and take a peek. Well, take a peek we did. It was unreal. There were locked glass cases surrounding the room with old, really old, swords inside. Each one had a description of the time period it came from as well as the region.

Dana was impressed. I had sticker shock, but was also excited. I LOVE history. Ancient cultures and artifacts are facinating to me. I think I was an archeologist in a former life (kiding, but you know what I mean).

After gazing at these impressive relics for some time, Dana found one he liked...a lot. It was old. It was in wonderful condition and it was the least expensive of the lot. The owner of the shop put on a pair of white cotton gloves and gently handed to sword to Dana. It was a wakizashi. The samurai typically carried two swords with them. The katana which was long and the most identifiable as a "samurai sword" and then the wakizashi which is smaller. The tradition of the wakizashi was that it was often kept on the warriors person at all times, even while sleeping. In fact, the samurai would often hide his wakizashi up the sleeve of his kimono so as to not be without a weapon at any time.

Dana looked it over and I could see he was in love. So, we did what any cautious buyer would do and promtply left the store, walked across the street and sat on a park bench inside of another store for 2 hours to talk about this purchase. After going back and forth several times, we finally came to the conclusion that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and Dana would always regret it if we didn't, so we bought it. Dana was happy. :)

Sadly, we will never have the sword to display here in Okinawa. Buying an authentic sword here in Japan is the same as buying a gun in the states. You have to get a permit and the government needs to know about it. So, we did all the paper work and it is promptly being sent to my parents for safe keeping until we come back to the states. Had we had it sent to us in Okinawa we would have had to do the paper work again once we moved but this time without the help of a versed shopkeeper to help us.

Buying the sword was a memory in itself. Again, the shopkeeper spoke limited english and Dana and I know about 5 japanese words between us so there was a lot of bowing and some pictures being drawn in trying to explain details and information.

So without further adieu...

The blade itself is about 500 years old and the handle around 250 years old (handles wear out and need to be replaced). The handle is covered in manta ray skin and then wrapped in silk.

As you can see, the blade of this wakisashi is quite thin and that is from its repeated need to be sharpened in preparation for battle. Of course, this only enhances the swords perfection for Dana.


Angie said...

What a beautiful sword, Cathryn! I would like to find out more information on this little shop -location and such, if possible.

Jamie Lamb said...

How sweet! That is really cool, and I applaud y'all for realizing it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The cool things we miss out on in the states. Hope all is well after the earthquake in northern Japan a few days ago. -Dan-

Melissa (Catlin) Kiser said...

that is so very cool. what a memory. i'm so glad dana found what he was looking for and that you were the great supportive wife letting him indulge. perfect!

Angie said...

That is soooo cool Cathryn. My husband would LOVE a sword too! I'll have to look into that before we leave. It's beautiful, congrats on the new purchase!

thekerrclan said...

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go for it, huh? Good for both of you!