While I was growing up in Azabu and Mita (near Keio University) in Tokyo, later Kamakura, my father was heavily involved in Japanese Sword Society, called “Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai”. At that time, the head of this organization was Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato. Originally, Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato’s sword department was a part of the National Museum in Ueno. Later they built a sword museum in Yoyogi, Shibuya. Though the address is Yoyogi in Shibuya, it was almost like it was in Shinjuku. To get there, take “Odakyu-sen(line)” from Shinjuku ( Sangubashi, the third stop from Shinjuku). To built this museum, my father, Mr. Watanabe (owner of Wataki clothing company) and Mr. Suzuki Katei (owner of the construction company) were heavily involved. Those two friends used to come to our house all the time and stayed hours talking and gossiping. Now, the Museum was moved to Sumida-Ku, near Ryogoku which is near the Sumo Stadium. Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato used to come to our house in Tokyo. All those people were deceased many years ago, but they were young then. I am talking about the 1960s to 1970s. I was teens then, so they looked old to me. My father was so involved in swords field, people wondered when does he work in his business.
I was told by many people that Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato actually visited the headquarter of General MacArthur during the occupation after world war II and those two convinced MacArthur that the Japanese swords are not a weapon, it is an art object. Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato did this because MacArthur ordered all Japanese to turn in the swords and forbidden to own them. I was told Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato changed MacArthur’s mind.
But by that time, many swords were already turned in at Akabane (the name of the place in Tokyo), though the valuable ones were hidden. Those turned in swords are called Akabane sword.
A huge number of swords were taken to the US by the soldiers as a souvenir when they went back to the US. About 30 years later after the war around the 1960s and 1970s, the Japanese sword dealers went to the US and started to buy back many Japanese swords. I have a few sword dealer friends who did that. They advertised that they will buy the Japanese sword in the local newspaper. As you can imagine, many swords were in bad shape, some had the wrong kinds of chemical put on. But a few were a good one.
Among those, one of the very famous missing National treasure swords was found by Dr. Compton. The name of the sword is Kunimune. He was a chairman of the Board of Miles laboratory in Elkhart Indiana. This pharmaceutical company produced many different products. Among them, one of the well-known items is Alka- Seltzer. He was a very wealthy person and he understood the Japanese sword well. My father and I visited his house several times. When he saw this sword, he realized this one is not just an ordinary sword. He contacted many people in sword societies in Japan and eventually, through the process of it, my father became a good friend with him. He returned this sword to the Terukuni Shrine in Kagoshima prefecture without compensation. A story about Dr. Compton comes next article.
Token Hakubutsu kan (刀剣博物館)
Non Profit organization : Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyoukai ( 日本美術刀剣保存協会 ) 1-12-9 Yokozuna Sumida-Ku Tokyo Japan 130—0015
Tel: 03-6284-1000 https://www.touken.or.jp/