|The Answer Is Not In Japan |
by Robert E. Haynes (May 2004)
Do I hear you say, WHERE ELSE WOULD IT BE? Calm down, and I will tell you. Naturally I am speaking of questions that refer to the student of Japanese fittings. The questions raised by those in the blade world, if they have any questions, might just as well be answered in Japan, since all answers to such questions must conform to answers that are already known. That is not the case with the fittings world. The student of fittings has been lucky enough to have had three sensei who not only questioned the holy dogma, but found their own answers to questions that had not been answered during the last hundred years. These three masters were, Akiyama Kyusaku, Dr. Torigoye, and Sasano Masayuki. I do not think there has been, or probably will be, any sensei in the blade world who are as important to the western student as these men have been to the study of fittings. It is sad that there has to be such a dichotomy between the study methods for the student of the blade and that of the fittings. There need not be, but then the past masters who have formed the bible to study the blade would never allow the student to think for himself. Fortunately the student of fittings has had these three past masters to break the formula imposed on the old bible that could have developed for the study of fittings. Naturally it is still best to absorb the past ritual information and then to discard the misinformation and begin to form new thoughts and ideas that will give the student of the future a foundation on which he can advance his studies to benefit those of the next generation. This could be done in Japan, as I was lucky enough to have experienced, but today who would you study with? There is no one living who has the study methods that were employed by the three masters mentioned above. So, it is best if you study with like-minded students in the West. Do not fear that you can not learn new information because you do not have a Japanese sensei. In fact it is better that way.
There is a great deal to be learned outside of Japan. In my case I was a student of fittings for 13 years before I went to study with Dr. Torigoye. During those 13 years I was to spend many months in London, Paris, and Copenhagen. In those cities I was able to see thousands of fittings in museums, private collections and at dealers shops. In the year or more that I was at these various locations I must have seen between ten to fifteen thousand fittings. Naturally the vast majority of the pieces that I studied were of inferior quality, but you can sometimes learn a great deal from poor pieces, and I never saw a collection that I did not see at least one piece that advanced my knowledge. The real problem is not seeing pieces in Japan, or in the West, but knowing what you are seeing at a given time. The mine of future information can be anywhere in the world. The vast majority of the unrecorded signatures that I have found, and still find, are from fittings outside of Japan. Most of those pieces are in the West because the "experts" in Japan did not see any value in them and unrecorded signatures meant the pieces were inferior and not worthy of a Japanese collection. Only Wakayama was even slightly interested in unrecorded signatures that I found outside of Japan, but even he lost interest, and in later years when I would send him unrecorded names he would say: "Oh, I think I have enough names now, and do not need any more." Not the way an "expert" should face unrecorded information, but I am sorry to say, not unusual even today in Japan, where my book is said to contain "too much" information, and names that are of no importance! These very facts alone should give one pause when you must choose between study in Japan or learning in the West. Naturally there should not have to be such a divide, but today that very divide seems to be growing, rather than these two worlds joining for the student in Japan, and in the West. It seems to me that most students are little concerned with the truthfulness of the archaic information that they have learned, or of the veracity of the information that they should be able to absorb in the future. Each student must find his way, in the East or the West.
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