Posted by : Guido Schiller on Thurs Jan 04, 2007
Topic : The Honjô Masamune

 

The annual sword forging competition is held since 1955; its name changed twice until now:

1955: Sakutô Gijutsu Happyôkai 作刀技術発表会
public presentation of the art of sword making

1965: Shinsaku Meitô Ten 新作名刀展
exhibition of newly made fine swords

1991: Shinsakutô Tenrankai 新作刀展覧会
newly made sword exhibition

Although it’s called Shinsakutô exhibition, it includes Horimono and Kodôgu as well; however, there’s a separate competition for Koshirae 拵, Shirasaya 白, Habaki/Seppa (Shirogane 白金) and Tsukamaki 柄巻.

When the results of the competition are publicised in English, the awards are sometimes called “1’st prize, 2’nd prize” etc. This is done for the sake of convenience – the actual names of the awards are rather lengthy, and would need quite some explanations – but can be a little misleading, particularly with regard to the “Nyûsen award”. This isn’t a reward or prize at all, although it is considered a great honor to be “rewarded” acceptance.

Let me explain in more detail.

A panel of judges examines the swords submitted, and decides which ones will be accepted; this is called Nyûsen 入選 (accepted for competition). The Nyûshô 入賞 (award winners) are then chosen from the Nyûsen entries during two rounds of scoring:
In the first round of scoring the blade only is judged. In the second round, the judges examine the Nakago and its finish in relation and proportion to the blade. The scores are added and divided by two.

There are the following awards:

1. Swordmaking Division (Sakutô no Bu 作刀の部)
Tachi 太刀 – Katana 刀 – Wakizashi 脇指 – Naginata 薙刀 – Yari 槍

Tokushô 特賞 (special awards)

Masamune Award (producing Nie of the most outstanding quality in the Ji and Ha)
(Masamune Shô 正宗賞)

Prince Takamatsu Award
(Takamatsu no Miya Shô 髙松宮賞)

General Director of the Agency for Cultural Affairs Award
(Bunkachô Chôkan Shô 文化庁長官賞)

(Mainichi Newspaper, Co. Award [now defunct]
[Mainichi Shimbunsha Shô 毎日新聞社賞])

Honorary Chairman of the Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword Award
(Nihon Bijutsu Tôken Hozon Kyôkai Meiyo Kaichô Shô 日本美術刀剣保存協会名誉会長賞)

Chairman of the Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword Award
(Nihon Bijutsu Tôken Hozon Kyôkai Kaichô Shô 日本美術刀剣保存協会会長賞)

Kunzan Award (named after the late Dr. Satô Kanichi)
(Kunzan Shô 薫山賞)

Kanzan Award (named after the late Dr. Homma Junji)
(Kanzan Shô 寒山賞)

All Japan Swordsmiths Association Director's Award
(Zen-Nihon Tôshôkai Kaichô Shô 全日本刀匠会会長賞)

Other Awards

Yûshû Shô 優秀賞 (Excellence Award)
(formerly Shôrei Shô 奨励賞 [award to encourage further efforts])

Doryoku Shô 努力賞 (Effort Award)
(award to recognize remarkable efforts)

Ko-Wakizashi 小脇指 – Tantô 短刀 - Ken 剣

Yûshû Shô 優秀賞 (Excellence Award)

Doryoku Shô 努力賞 (Effort Award)
(award to recognize remarkable efforts)

2. Sword Engraving Division (Tôshinbori no Bu 刀身彫の部)

Doryoku Shô 努力賞 (Effort Award)
(award to recognize remarkable efforts)

3. Sword Fittings Division (Chôkin no Bu 彫金の部)

Chairman of the Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword Award
(Nihon Bijutsu Tôken Hozon Kyôkai Kaichô Shô 日本美術刀剣保存協会会長賞)

Yûshû Shô 優秀賞 (Excellence Award)

Doryoku Shô 努力賞 (Effort Award)
(award to recognize remarkable efforts)

Swords made by smiths with Mukansa ranking are exhibited without the examination process – that’s what Mukansa 無鑑査 means, “exempt from examination”. To the Mukansa group belong the Jûyô Mukei Bunkazai Hojisha 重要無形文化財保持者 (important intangible cultural property holder), commonly called Ningen Kokuhô 人間国宝 (living national treasure); the Mukansa 無鑑査 proper; and the Mukansa-Taigû 無鑑査待遇 (treated as Mukansa). Since the level of Mukansa work is considered above competition, no awards will be granted to this group.

To become a Mukansa, a smith has to win a Tokushô (special pize) at least eight times, and usually among those the Takamatsu no Miya award three times. The rank of living national treasure is usually given to Mukansa towards the end of their carreer in appreciation of their life’s work and development. They then receive a modest stipend from the government, and are in turn expected to teach their craft to the younger smiths.

The Masamune Award is seldomly granted, and even Mukansa (but not Ningen Kokuhô) are eligible for this most distinguished prize.


Nihon-To Message Board © 2007 Brian Robinson