While I was growing up in Azabu and Mita in Tokyo, and later in Kamakura, my father was heavily involved in a Japanese sword society called “Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai.” At that time, the head of the organization was Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato.
Initially, Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato were at the Tokyo National Museum’s sword department in Ueno. Later, a separate Nonprofit Organization for the Japanese Sword Museum was built in Yoyogi in Shibuya. Though the address was Yoyogi in Shibuya, it was like almost in Shinjuku. To build this Museum, my father, Mr. Watanabe (owner of the Wataki, an apparel 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 (literally all the time) and stayed hours talking and gossiping. At present, the Museum was moved to Sumida-Ku (Sumida Ward), Tokyo, near the sumo arena in Ryogoku. For the location, refer to the website below.
Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato, who used to come to our house in Tokyo and all other people involved, were deceased many years ago, but they were in their prime time then. I am talking about the late 1960s to 1970s. I was in my teens, then.
Many people told me that a few very prominent people and Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato visited General MacArthur’s headquarter during the occupation after World War II, and they convinced MacArthur that the Japanese swords were not weapons but art objects. They did so because MacArthur ordered all Japanese to turn in their swords and forbade them to own one. After a great effort, Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato and other high-rank people changed MacArthur’s mind. Yet, many swords had already been turned in at Akabane (a place in Tokyo), though some people hid valuable ones. Those swords turned in are called Akabane sword.
A huge number of Akabane swords were taken by American soldiers and brought to the U.S. as a souvenir from Japan. Those soldiers didn’t know if they took a valuable one or an ordinary kind. Approximately 25 years after the war, in the late 1960s and 1970s, Japanese sword dealers went to the U.S. and started to buy back many Japanese swords. I have a few sword-dealer friends who did that. They advertised in local newspapers that they would buy Japanese swords. As you can imagine, many swords were in bad shape. Some people had used the wrong chemicals to take the rust off. Only a few were recovered in good condition.
Among those recovered, one of the very famous missing National Treasure swords was found by Dr. Compton. He was the chairman of the board of Miles Laboratories in Elkhart, Indiana. Miles Laboratories was a pharmaceutical company that produced many kinds of products, including Alka- Seltzer. He had good knowledge of Japanese swords. When he saw this sword in Atlanta’s antique store, he realized it was not just an ordinary sword. He contacted Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (日本美術刀剣保存協会) for consultation. During the process, my father became a good friend of his. My father and I visited his house several times, and they visited ours back and forth. Dr. Compton returned this sword to the Terukuni Shrine (照国神社) in Kagoshima prefecture without compensation. The story of Dr. Compton continues in the last part of 45|Part 2 of –11 Ikubi Kissaki (continued from Chapter 44). Even though Japanese swords dealers bought and took many swords back to Japan, it seems like there are many Japanese swords still left in the U.S.
Nonprofit 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/ (The website explains the access to the Museum)