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One of the most important things in the information society we live in is to realize who we are in a process of definition of our own identity which is a direct consequence of the interactive relationship established with the immediate and the remote cultural environments with which we interact.
Having been born in a certain specific culture of the 20th century, no matter which continent, we belong to a group of individuals that form a nation in the sense of a group of people who share a common history, language, culture, beliefs, and in most cases, common territory.
These elements of reference are of paramount importance for the understanding of specific and universal values pertaining to the technological age we live in, but are nonetheless also important to define ourselves as members of said nation.
However the world of today is mainly composed of mercantilism towards the masses, and the more opportunities that arise, the better for business. It is here that the Samurai Syndrome emerges as an alienation factor, a concept that capitalizes on values sold as unique -- to the insult of other people and countries including those who create the hype -- that Japan is the implicit land of Honor, Courage, and all high values, as if these were a monopoly. This obviously leads to the brain washing of less prepared minds, always susceptible to misunderstand and confuse their own identity with that of an entire different country, people and culture.

It may root itself in the overall spreading of Japanese martial arts, the cult for the katana as the ultimate weapon, and for that, a terrible metamorphosis of people who suddenly start to use san when addressing their friend John or Paul as being John-san and Paul-san.

To assist in this transfiguration factor, the popularization of Samurai movies and the usual inaccuracies of Hollywood help to see to the dilution of many samurai wanabees own identities.

It is interesting to note that Captain Aldren as played by Tom Cruise in the Last Samurai makes his appearance as a devastated hero portraying a western hero with a Winchester at a Wild West sideshow and that his presence in Japan will be a part of a commercial deal about arms sales. Interesting, very interesting how the script writer somehow emulates what is now going on with the production swords, only that now they are all exports from China.

Contrary to Kill Bill which capitalizes on a parody of all the known movie clichés, Marshall Herskovitz seems to take the plot with the utmost seriousness.

The Last Samurai is such a case of allienation, full of historical innacuracies that apparently escape the public scrutiny.
In fact the Japanese had artillery as early as the 16th. century and it was used prior to the unification of Japan under Tokugawa Yeiasu, in such a way that warfare in Japan suffered great changes by then.
The film, whose review here is more objective, fails entirely by branding the Japanese as ignorant people who, at least three centuries after the introduction of firearms still need a foreigner (Aldren) to solve their own affairs.
It is important to remember that by 1842, with the unequal Treaty of Nanjing imposed by Great Britain, when all world powers, including Japan, took a piece of China, and that by 1904 Japan was winning the Russo-Japanese war with modern equipment.

Hence, the phallacy of the syndrome of the invincible samurai is further enhanced by the movie, albeit some reports which state -- already in the 16th. century, George Hill posts on 2005-09-12 in this thread at MyArmoury -- that:
The way I encountered this rumor was that there were 9-12 official duels fought between the Portuguese and Samurai. The Portuguese won all except one, which was believed lost on account of 'excessive drunkenness.' According to the story, the dead fellow's superior officer engaged the Samurai in a duel on the following day, and defeated him out of hand.
Now, this has never been proven or disproven.

But the main issue is that firearms were introduced in Japan in the 16th. century and no one was invincible.

Once the thread is read, one can continue to think about what myth is and how it ends up in futile, non-useful, non contructive argumentation.
For the confused mind which mixes appropriated alien cult-cultures with his own interjected identity, the Last Samurai photo of Tom Cruise above is too often regarded as a paradygm for the less prepared mind, nurturing dreams of emulating some heroic deeds on a menacing tree branch or another threatening target.

This complex and amalgamated misinterpretation of one's own identity with a life that probably lacks in purpose ( a vast majority of people do not work in something they like ) are the best prey for all the sub-products and by-products originated by low quality movies, easy to be digested.
Among these are the movie weapons commercialization, from the dubious but of easy entertainement such as the immortal Highlander, to all the merchandizing and movie swords for fans (ethymologically rooted in the word fanatic) for whom there is a delicious comment by Winston Churchill:
A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

I would dare add that is someone who abdicates from his own personality to let an imaginary one take its place in a wishfull thinking situation, an entirely merchandised alter ego.
Movies swords represent therefore, the intellectual fast food of the less mature consumers, who find it hard to see reality as it is.

While a weapon in a movie can become an inspiration factor, it is expected that one's personality is not affected by it and that it is viewed as a creative or re-creative process, nothing more.
Prejudice is as terrible as the removal of the self through a merchantile process that very seldom has hardly any intrinsic quality other than the pretext of calling itself entertainment.

THE TRAP OF MERCHANDISING AND CONSUMISM

While the process of over-banalization of the sword not as an ancient implement, but as a piece of merchandise takes place with happy or less happy consumers, while sterile discussions continue in some forums about the virtualities of this and that model, or the never ending idiotic topic of the samurai-vs-knight, the industry capitalizes on the profits made through cheap labor that one day will wipe the present market as I personally forecast according to this other article.
Meantime said sterile discussions continue and replace more mature issues...

But this is what populism is about. This is what makes a place popular and sought after. It does not mean it is educational. Contents are much more important than fancy decorations.

It is perhaps for this very reason, for the lack of vision of what is already obvious, that new forums are sprouting more and more in a counter-movement of a minority that is less prone to populism, and are more serious into areas such as metallurgy, sword making, designing, sword use, treated in a friendly and mature manner.
There is nothing wrong about martial arts, very much on the contrary, once it is practised in a serious manner and with proper guidance.

Japanese Martial arts today have generally seen the sufix jitsu replaced by the more spiritual do or way, more adapted to the reality of today. It makes sense, for today's warrior is more of a spiritual warrior rather than a killer duelist.

Marshall McLuhan considered that the most important form of art of the 20th. century is advertising and it is simultaneously the 20th. century cave art.
Under the context of this controversial and most brilliant restless mind, who wrote the Global Village, the impact of our actions are not anymore confined to the physical environment which surrounds us, but takes a global scale impact through this media that is self publishable, called the internet.
It is therefore for this reason that the impact of an image like the one shown on the left, may convoke some heroic feelings to some, may bring tears to others eyes. To mine it brings concern, because I am not being concerned with the impact of the image or the scene, but on behind the scenes the generate this image, and the entire plot.

Cinema is such a powerful media, it is such an enormous industry that has to be regarded as a money making machine that will not hesitate to use all the resources in their power to make sure that each investment generates enormous revenues.

ABOUT THE SAMURAI - MYTH AND REALITY
 

It is of relevant importance to remind that the Land of Honor, of Ultimate Courage and its warriors, the bushi and later the samurai have a history in which honor played a very small role in the countless plottings and treasons that were -- truth be said -- not exclusive of Japan. However let us not forget that the Heian Period witnessed one of the many power struggles such as the 11 th. century Gempei War between the Taira and the Minamoto.

Many tend to forget that the samurai no longer exist and have been transformed into myths for consumism when these men were ruthless towards the peasents which they considered a lower class. No honorable and compassionate men would extort from the poor peasants their bowl of rice as somehow is portrayed by Kurosawa Akira benevolent movie, the Seven Samurai.

Today, the vast majority of the Japanese go about their jobs in their Japanese made Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi and are more concerned with their technological development than with their past samurai lineage.

The Yen's fluctuation is much more real and corporations such as Sony are much more concerned with the market competition than with what Tokugawa Ieyasu did.

For those less familiar with Japanese history, here is a good link.
To the dismay of the wanabees, the samurai are gone, so are the knights and all that remains are cults that have mainly one single purpose: make money by creating a market, be it of swords or of video games.


THE KITSCH PHENOMENA IN THE "SAMURAI" PRODUCTION SWORD

After a time of apprenticeship of the singularities of the production sword, sold with grandiose names, I end up concluding that the entire process is Kitsch in the kodogu, in the sense that nothing that is used has ever been understood intrisically, but are just reproductions of items that belong to another aesthetical era. In other words, kitsch tends to simplify and trivialize complex ideas by reducing them to black-and-white stereotypes.
I have written a simple article that deals with these issues in another way, and I strongly reccomend a visit to a paradigmatic site where simplification is dictated by maturity. See The Way of Samonji's Way interview and meditate a little about what it is a sword perspective in its implements in the 21st. century.

THE PRODUCTION SWORD
It
is however important to analyze that serious production swords are exactly a serial made sword, with more or less detail that can perform but should not be considered a collectible item in the real sense of the word. I have made and will continue to make reviews about their quality and geometry, but am aware that they may serve a purpose other than being a work of art.
They are instruments for martial arts purpose, but nothing more. And it is here that the confusion starts with the hype, too much hype.

REFUSAL
Being aware of the power of the media, of the absence of geography in the SPAM phenomena, I refuse to abide by the laws of merchandising. I very much cherish my own right of choice in as much as products are concerned.
And I want to remain who I am, just my modest self, exercising my own scrutiny, which I also try to share with my children.
I'm not definitely interested in the shallowness of excited wanabee warriors that are immersed in electronic games.
There's a good place for them, and it is not definitely on this forum.


Note: This article has no intention of belittling,criticizing anyone. It is aimed on raising points and issues that I consider pertinent in analyzing the world of the so called Japanese swords in the 21st. century.

Copyright by A. Cejunior - in a kind day of November, 2005 - BLADESIGN