NBSK: Nihontō Bunka Shinkō Kyōkai

A new japanese sword organization

written by Franz Baldauff
[annotated by Pierre Nadeau]

Franz is one of the rare Westerners to have studied the Japanese Sword in an academic context, particularly the sword as an art object throughout Japanese history. He is also the author behind the Web site Nihon Tōken, from which this article has been translated into English and reproduced here with permission.

For several months now the creation of a new Japanese sword organization, along with the difficulties experienced by the NBTHK [1], has been mentioned on message boards and in sushi bars. A great number of swordsmiths and other craftsmen of the sword trades broke away from the NBTHK and created a new group aimed mostly at the promotion of their arts. The principal reasons of the craftsmen's dissatisfaction remain unclear [it appears that the two main reasons are rooted in the lack of displayed interest from the NBTHK towards the crafts of the sword, along with the withdrawal by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of its support to the NBTHK, which is interpreted as an alert for the parties involved], but only a third of them participated in the yearly sword forging competition this year […]. What seemed like an unconsequential trend turned out to be a strong wave of contestation against the NBTHK.


It has been confirmed at a special meeting on May 4th that, from next year, the NBSK shall hold what will seemingly become the famed Japanese sword crafts yearly competition. The Agency for Cultural Affairs has announced it will present both the Emperor Award and the Prime Minister Award (which have been retrieved from the NBTHK competition to be offered at the NBSK's) along with the organization's President Award in the Special Prizes category. All four competitions — Sword Forging, Horimono, Sword Polishing and Sword Fittings—will be held. It has not been precized yet how the Mukansa status will be managed in regards to this.

Announced as early as November 2008, the new organization was founded in December of that year and named Nihontō Bunka Shinkō Kyōkai 日本刀文化振興協会 (Association for the Promotion of the Culture of the Japanese Sword), which acronym in Japanese is Tōbunkyō 刀文協. It is thought that the organization will be referred to as the NBSK in the West [2] […].

[1] Nippon Bijutsu Tôken Hozon Kyôkai 日本美術刀剣保存協会, association for the preservation of Japanese art swords, founded 1948.
[2] It is interesting to note that the acronym “NBTHK” is known only in the West, while in Japan it is referred to as the Nittōhō 日刀保.

The information that follows was drawn from the introduction brochure produced by the said organization, dated May 4th, 2009.

Legal Status

The NBSK is, from a legal perspective, a zaidan hōjin (a legal corporation). Its charts were deposited on December 1st, 2008 – at which date a legal reform took effect which established a distinction between common not-for-profit corporations (ippan zaidan hōjin) and so-called “public utility” corporations (kōeki zaidan hōjin) – the NBSK falling into the ippan category. The obtention of the status “public utility” requiring a special procedure which the NBSK states is under progress.

Description of its structure

The presidency is composed of 5 members.

President : Tokugawa Yasuhisa 徳川康久
Special counsellor : Kawabata Terutaka 川端照孝 [4]
Consultants : Kusano Kazutaka 草野多隆 [5], Nezu Kōichi 根津公一 [6], Furukawa Junnosuke 古河潤之助 [7]

[4] Administrator at Hōsei University and
former elected administrator, NBTHK.
[5] Lawyer and former administrator, NBTHK.
[6] Director, Nezu museum and CEO of the Tōbu stores.
[7] CEO of Furukawa Denkō and former administrator, NBTHK.
[8] Polisher and translator of the Connoisseur's book of the Japanese Swords.

The scientific board has 19 members elected for four years. Most are craftsmen (polishers, tsukamaki-shi, shirogane-shi) and the best known of them in the West is Mishina Kenji 三品謙次 [8].

The Board of Directors has 13 administrators elected for two years and two auditors in charge for four years. Those better known among them are:

Amata Akitsugu 天田昭次 (Swordsmith, Living National Treasure)
Miyairi Kozaemon Yukihira 宮入小左衛門行平 (Swordsmith)
Iida Yoshihisa 飯田慶久 (President of Iida Kōendō Co.)
Gassan Sadatoshi 月山貞利 (Swordsmith, Living Local Treasure)
Nagayama Kōkan 永山光幹 (Polisher, Living National Treasure, author of the Connoisseur's book)
Yoshihira Kuniie 吉原國家 (Swordsmith, Living Local Treasure)
Hon'ami Kōshū 本阿彌光洲 (Polisher, Living Local Treasure)
Takayama Kazuyuki 高山一之 (Fittings maker, ref.The Craft of the Japanese Sword)

Purpose and actions of the NBSK

In accordance with the intention of preserving cultural assets, the organization aims to preserve the japanese sword as a tangible and intangible asset [9], as well as the promotion of its culture, thus contributing to the national and international diffusion of the Japanese culture.

[9] Referring to the swords as well as the knowledge.

To this end, the NBSK intends to use the following means:

1) Training to preserve the traditional know-how related to Japanese swords
2) Organization of exhibitions, seminars and conferences related to the Japanese sword
3) Surveys and research performed in regards to this know-how, as well as related publications
4) Promotion of the culture of the Japanese sword
5) Publications in regards to traditional culture or traditional know-how
6) Any and all other means necessary to the realization of the objectives of the organization

Concretely, and in regards to the “public utility” aspect :

1) Sponsoring of seminars intended for swordsmiths and other sword-related tradesmen
2) Courses on the appraisal of swords and tōsōgu [10]
3) Courses on preservation of swords and tōsōgu aimed for curators
4) Collaboration at the 4th o-mamori gatana exhibition
5) Participation at the internation fittings convention (Kokusai Tōsōgu-kai)
6) Organization of competitions for swordsmiths and other tradesmen, as well as the exhibition of submitted works

[10] A recent appraisal meeting held on July 12th of this year by polisher Sasaki Takushi, was aimed in part at promoting membership for the NBSK. Participants could hone their skills on such blade as Go Yoshihiro, Norishige, Kaneuji, Sadamune, Rai Kunimitsu, Rai Kunitsugu and Nobukuni among others!

Thus, and contrary to what has been mentioned over the Internet, this new organization shall not deliver appraisal certificates. The publication of a newsletter has also been announced, although a date remains to be known.


Nihontō Bunka Shinkō Kyōkai
22 Ichibanchō, Chiyoda-ku
Tōkyō 102-0082

Tel.: 03-5216-5866
e-mail: tbk[at]nbsk-jp.org
Site: www.nbsk-jp.org