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
The film, whose review
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
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
to all the
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
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
Meantime said sterile discussions continue and replace more mature
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
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.
considered that the most important form of art of the 20th.
century is advertising and it is simultaneously the 20th. century
Under the context of this controversial and most brilliant
restless mind, who wrote the
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Copyright by A.
Cejunior - in a kind day of
November, 2005 -