It is with deep regret that I heard the news of the death last Tuesday, 13th June, after a short illness, of the President of Token Society of Great Britain, Victor Harris. The news of this sad event was well managed by his kendo dojo, Nenriki, whose members were essentially, part of his extended family. Victor was well known by many, as a dedicated and expert kendoka and a senior sensei of Nenriki dojo, as well as a founder member of the British Kendo Association.
During the 1970’s Victor studied sword appraisal in Japan under the famous Sato Kanzan, who was instrumental in forming the modern Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK) and Victor’s sword knowledge became immense. His Japanese wife, Kazuko, was a great aid to him. On his return to the UK, he was employed as an Assistant Keeper in the Department of Japanese Antiquities in the British Museum. It was here, in 1990 that he managed to plan and organise, together with Nobuo Ogasawara of Tokyo National Museum, the amazing Swords of the Samurai exhibition at the B M. This organisation was an immense and international task but was carried out to perfection by these two gentlemen and there was even a contribution from our Token Society of GB towards the production of the illustrated catalogue.
Further, in 2004, the Cutting Edge exhibition was presented at the BM. This was an exhibition of the museum’s collection, where over 100 of the swords had been newly polished and koshirae refurnished in Japan. Once again, partially sponsored by To-ken Society of GB, this was completely organised by Victor and his friend Nobuo Ogasawara and remains a long term legacy.
It will also be remembered that in 1974, Victor translated Go Rin no Sho (The Book of Five Rings) by Miyamoto Musashi, into English. This book has many pearls of great wisdom that are as relevant in today’s world, and not just to kendo people, as when they were originally written 400 years ago. Victor understood all of this and frequently tried to educate us in the way of the sword.
The picture above was taken by the Southend Echo on 8th November 2006. During an Essex police knife amnesty, the gentleman in the centre had apparently marched into Southend police station in his Burma veteran’s full regalia, demanding this sword be given due respect and a good home! Essex police contacted amongst others, Victor and I and organised a reception at Southend police station. Victor, quite rightly felt it inappropriate to receiving it into the BM’s collection, as it was only a Showa-to and so it was given to me on a custodial basis, and of course, I still have it.
Finally, it has been said by important Japanese sword experts that I know in Japan, that Victor’s knowledge and understanding of Japanese culture was the best, outside of Japan, in the entire world. I knew him from both the kendo and sword collecting, for some 40 years or so and we had many enjoyable meetings. I am sure we will all miss him greatly. RIP
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