Scholarship, that is what is needed. Today the study of the fittings for the Japanese sword (kodogu) shows little progress over the last fifty to a hundred years. During the late nineteenth century the origin of our present knowledge was born. Such authorities as Akiyama Kyusaku, Wada Tsunashiro, Kuwabara Yojiro, Nogaoka Tsuneyoshi, Noda Yoshiaki, and Inaba Tsurio were active students of fittings and were studying them in a rational and empirical research style that had not been applied before. Perhaps it was the new found "Western" influence but for what ever reason, the results formed the bases for almost all the information we know and repeat today.
The body of written material these great scholars have left us has laid the foundations for continued active study today. Unfortunately we do not see the building on this knowledge, but only the reissue of their works with nothing of new research or study added to them from the last fifty years. The few independant studies of importance are mostly in manuscript form or are still in their formative stages.
Why is there this sad lack of serious concentrated study in such an important field of Japanese art? The dominate factors for this are mixed in the traditions of Japan and the West. When Japan was overtly turning to "Western ways" a very free and open relationship was established between the dealer experts, new scholars, and the many eager enthusiastic students and budding scholars in the West. This lasted for about fifty years, by 1920 all had changed. Many of the men from this period were dead and new scholars in both Japan and the West had not come forward. For the next forty years the teachers and scholars kept echoing past information over and over again. Unfortunately all the misinformation from the past was repeated and we are still repeating it to this day!
There is a fine grounding in the accurate information from the past hundred years but we must get on with the serious scholastic research and investigation that will advance our knowledge over the next hundred years. To do this we must have a free and open exchange of knowledge again.
Today this is very rare for most students. The student is expected to repeat but not reevaluate the information recieved from the teacher. Such rigid ideas have hindered the progress of our knowledge for the last fifty years. A break-through can happen in rare cases. If the teacher has rational inquisitive eclectic methods to his studies, and his students have the same, a true scholastic relationship exists. Such a teacher in the last fifty years was Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye. Even with such a great teacher the students can become so intimidated by the traditional rote learning method that he forswears the pure tradition of his teacher when in the presence of a condescending instructor. Thus we have so little new information produced even over the last twenty five years.
It is urgent that we get back to the essential study of fittings and try to advance the knowledge and research in the field. A call goes out to all the students in the field to work together and use all methods of study at their command to freely exchange and pool what must become a major advance over the inert knowledge we rely on and trust today. May this symposium be the spark for a renaissance of the study and research in the field of kodogu.