News Archive

Annual General Meeting (“AGM”) of To-Ken Society of Great Britain (“Society”)

We would like to bring to your attention several forthcoming events in the world of Japanese swords and associated arts, which we believe will be of interest to you.

1. ‘Japan: Courts and Culture’ exhibition at Buckingham Palace of the collection of the Royal Trust from Apr’22 to Feb’23 (

2. Visit to the Royal Armouries

Please register your interest with Igor for a Saturday study day at the Royal Armouries at the end of September. Such events in the past ( have proved popular with members and have provided the ability to view, examine and study items from the Armouries collection.

3. Visit to Samurai Museum in Berlin

We are evaluating members' interest in attending a visit to the Berlin Samurai Museum (, to be organised by NBTHKE in the spring of 2023.

Japan Art Expo 2023, 3rd – 4th June, Utrecht, Netherlands

Meeting report- Gullane 26th October 2019.

On Saturday 26th October the Token Society of Great Britain held its first regional meeting in Scotland. We met in the small village of Gullane which sits on the coast a few miles south of Edinburgh. The meeting was very well attended with approximately 30 participants coming from as far afield as north of Inverness, the southern coast of England and all stops in between.

The day comprised of 3 formal presentations followed by a kantei session in the afternoon. Details of these can be seen below. There was also a sales table for members and a display of swords and fittings from various participants’ collections.


Myths and Symbolism in Tosugu- Ian Chapman offered a fascinating insight in to some of the symbolism and stories seen in fittings. He illustrated the content of his presentation with some exceptional tsuba, menuki and Fuchi-Kashira which clearly demonstrated the points being made. It was particularly interesting to learn how apparently unrelated items (Mount Fuji and a Hawk or an Aubergine) were brought together to tell a single story or offer a particular message.

Urushi and Urushi Techniques- Mike Hickman-Smith gave an excellent presentation describing how Urushi was collected and refined and details of how different finishes were achieved when lacquering saya. When listening to Mike the incredible skill and patience needed to achieve such beautiful end results were very obvious as was his own commitment and enthusiasm for his craft.

Kantei as learning tool- Paul Bowman completed the formal presentations with an introduction to kantei, outlining why it is such a useful approach in the study of swords. He confirmed his belief that using the disciplined approach to view a blade as used in kantei offered the most effective methodology to study swords in detail and to attempt to reach a meaningful appraisal of a blade in hand.

Following a break for lunch the attendees were invited to participate in an informal kantei. After a brief confirmation of the necessary etiquette and approach to handling swords safely participants had the opportunity to view 5 swords and to attempt to identify the features in each.

The kantei swords were:

  1. A tachi by Oei Bizen Yasumitsu dating from the late 14th/early 15th century.

  2. A shinto katana by Shodai Hizen Masahiro

  3. A shin-shinto Hira-zukuri ko-wakazashi by Koyama Munetsugu

4. A Shinto katana signed Kotetsu

5. A shin-shinto katana by Nobushige.

Following the viewing Paul Bowman gave a description of each blade and identified the features which should lead the observer to a correct identification.

*As a small side note normally one would only use fully authenticated and typical works of a given school or smith in kantei. To use anything else could mislead and negate any benefit. The Kotetsu blade used has not been authenticated and there is considerable inconsistency in opinions between various authorities as to whether or not it is an authentic work by this very famous smith. However it does exhibit all of the characteristics one would expect to see in a sword by the smith and is of very good quality. We therefore felt justified in using it for this exercise and clearly explained the history regarding past appraisals.

There was a high level of participation and interest in this exercise and the general feedback confirmed that people found it very helpful .

The remainder of the day was spent in informal discussion, looking at pieces brought by members to share and very interesting conversation. The feedback recieved from participants was overwhelmingly positive. It was particularly pleasing to see so many new faces, people who may have had a background in martial arts but who had not until now had the opportunity to look at swords in this detail. Hopefully running such events will inspire them to join the Token Society and take part in future activity both north and south of the border.

Finally I would like to thank Robert Boyd and Colin Thompson for arranging the venue and food for us. The event ran smoothly, the technology worked and we were well fed. Many thanks gentlemen.

Thanks to Ryan Stewart for supplying the majority of images. Paul Bowman
29/10/19      Photos in the link below

Meeting report- Gullane 26th October 2019.

Regional Meeting Ditchling June 2019

The first regional meeting to be held in the South of England took place on June 15th in the small Sussex village of Ditchling.

The meeting proved to be very popular and was very well attended with more than 40 participants on the day. We were very fortunate to be joined by a number of our more senior members who for various reasons have been unable to join other regional or London meetings. In particular I would like to thank Fred Stride, Trevor Reid, Brian Turner and Chris Fox for joining us and adding their considerable experience to the content of the day. We were also joined by a number of people taking their first steps in to the world of the Japanese Sword and it was very pleasing to see the interaction and shared enthusiasm between those starting out in the field and those who have spent most of their adult life in the study.

The meeting consisted of three formal presentations; the first given by Paul Bowman offered a personal perspective on the path and process of restoration. This was followed by two insightful presentations by Les Stewart on polishing and Mike Hickman-Smith on lacquer work and koshirae restoration. Something evident from both presentations was the incredible commitment and effort both these gentlemen make in developing their skills and studying their art both here and in Japan. Both are gaining exceptional reputations for their work and listening to them it is easy to understand why.

In the afternoon we held a team Kantei exercise where we examined and discussed 3 blades. All agreed this was a very useful exercise and excellent teaching tool.

Alongside the formal meeting there was an exceptional display of swords, koshirae and armour. A special thank you to Dave Thatcher for bringing and setting up several armours for the display which caused much interest and as always Dave offered considerable insight when answering questions from participants. The swords on view were of extremely high quality and we are extremely grateful to all those members who offered pieces for the display.

Alongside the main display Bob Morrison showed a number of exceptional tsuba ranging from early Edo work to contemporary pieces by Ford Hallam, again these were of the highest quality.

As mentioned prior to the meeting we are extremely grateful to Eddy Wertheim of the Japanese Gallery for his kind sponsorship of the event. Alongside the Japanese Gallery’s sales table, which offered some excellent pieces for sale Eddy exhibited the various stages of sword manufacture.

As always these events are successful as a result of the hard work of the organisers and the generosity of participants who are so willing to share their prized pieces with the rest of us. A very special thank you to Ian for his great effort in organising the venue and agenda also to Nikki, Chris and Pam for their efforts in the background to make sure everyone was well looked after. It was an excellent day which illustrated not only the range of very high quality artefacts that are in the UK but also the incredible skill and commitment of those who work to restore and preserve what we hold. Thanks to all concerned.


Regional Meeting 8th September 2018

Continuing with the Society’s commitment to hold several regional meetings a year I am delighted to confirm that we have scheduled an event in September in Telford. This location should be beneficial for members living in Birmingham, Wales and the North-West although as always members from anywhere else would be welcome to attend.

As a further incentive for those having to travel further we have planned the meeting for the 8th of September, the day before the September Birmingham arms fair so that travellers can gain multiple benefits from their journey.

Bob and Chris Morrison, who are known to many of you, have kindly offered to host the event in their home. For those wishing to stay over on the Saturday night the nearest hotel is The Telford Hotel and Golf resort which is within a few hundred yards of the meeting location. There are of course many other hotels near to the Motor cycle museum for those wishing to attend the fair on the 9th.

Between now and the day we will work on an agenda but as with other recent meetings the majority of the day will be devoted to “hands on” study and discussion.

We very much hope you will be able to join us for what I am confident will be a very enjoyable day.

We are pleased to inform you about a new and exciting event taking place in The Netherlands in June of this year.

Samurai Art Expo will be held in Utrecht between the 15th and 17th of June.

The organisers are bringing dealers from Japan, Europe and the USA together under one roof to offer European collectors a broad range of high quality swords, fittings and related art.

Alongside the commercial event The NBTHK European Branch, together with the Token Society of Great Britain, have organised an exhibition of important work from within private European collections together with a series of presentations on both swords and fittings which will run throughout the show.

This is the first such event to take place in Europe for many years and it is hoped it will prove to be the foundation for future annual shows.

We look forward to welcoming members of The Token Society of GB for what we are sure will prove to be a very enjoyable and informative show.

For more information about the event please visit the Samurai Art Expo website

Exhibition Highlights:

In earlier posts I have stated that the exhibition at Samurai Art expo will offer visits an excellent opportunity to see high quality workmanship. I wanted to share with you some of the items that have been offered for show.

Exhibition Highlights:

1. Bizen Fukuoka-Ichimonji Yoshimune
“tokubetsu-jûyô-tôken“ 28. April 2000
tachi: mei  Yoshimune (吉宗)      (caShôgen (正元, 1259-1260), Province Bizen)
with uchigatana-koshirae

there are few signed tachi by Yoshimune.  This is the only tokubetsu Juyo example another  is Juyo bunkasai and the property of  Tsukubasan-jinja (Prefecture Ibaraki), ex collection of the Daimyo Family  Yanagisawa, published. “Aito Hyakka / Sen  -  100 swords of 100 collectors“ Hayashi Eiroku / Schuppan Tokyo 1972


2. Ishiguro Masayoshi soroi-kanagu
jûyô-tôsôgu 25. März 1987
kachô-mushi no zu soroi-kanagu
En suite Set of Flowers, Insects etc
daishô-fuchi, mei:          Ishiguro Masayoshi saku (石黒政美作)
menuki, divided tanzaku-mei:    Ishiguro – Masayoshi (石黒・政美)
kozuka and kôgai, mei:             Jugakusai Masayoshi (寿岳斎政美)
it had been a heirloom of the Shimazu-Famiy (島津) for whom Masayoshi worked from Edo.


3.  Hirata Jinbei, 1st Shimizu master Tsuba depicting an owl on a tree in Suemon Zogan, Juyo Tosogu. Ex coll. Hosokawa Gyobu-ke, Komeno Kenichi, Publ. “Higo Kinko Taikan”, “Higo no Kinko”, “Works of Hirata and Shimizu” by Itô Mitsuru, exhibited 1953 Matsusakaya, first exhibition of Kodogu after WW II, exh. at Tokyo National Museum, exh. At Kumamoto Bijutsukan, aso.
Also other works by this particular Master and his descendants,
Manifold standard literature published Sukashi tsuba throughout the ages from famous Japanese collections, exhibited at the Sword Museum Tokyo, Sano Museum, Mishina and other places including Juyo Tosogu


4. Awataguchi Norikuni-
A daito with three attributions to the smith, including a sayagaki by Tanobe Michiro Sensei in which he describes it as “A Master Work of the Kamakura period”. 
There are eight Norikuni blades on the Juyo register four are tanto (three have progressed to Tokubetsu Juyo). There are 3x Juyo bunkasai and 3xJuyo bijutsu-hin and 1, a signed daito, Kokuho.

5. Sadakatsu Kogarasu-Maru
Made to celebrate the 2600th anniversary of the founding of the Empire.  It is a copy of the famous Heian period work of the same name


6. Mainline Gotô-works by all generations including Juyo tosogu


7. Juyo Tensho koshirae, exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum exhibition Uchi-gatana koshirae 1980

 from the Hosokawa- and Matsui-Family heritage with provenances of famous Japanese collections


8. Several Higo koshirae from the Hosokawa- and Matsui-Family heritage with provenances of famous Japanese collections


From this brief snapshot you can see that the exhibition will offer the visitor a unique opportunity to see items not normally on public display. To see work of this rarity and standard outside of Japan (or even inside) would be extremely difficult.
As the content is being finalised I will add additional information.

for further updates please visit:


Regional Meeting 14th October 2017

The first regional meeting of the Society was held on Saturday 14th October in Northumberland.

The meeting was enthusiastically supported and we were joined by members of both the Scottish and Irish Token Societies. Following a brief introduction outlining the plans for the day two short presentations were given. The first by Stan Nazerenko outlined the various features and characteristics one should look at when assessing the quality of tsuba. It also included some useful guidelines and pointers to consider when considering purchasing pieces.

The second presentation given by Paul Bowman discussed kantei and how using this disciplined approach to viewing a blade can help the viewer identify features and assess blades better.

Following a brief lunch break the remainder of the day was given over to studying blades and brought for display.


On display were blades ranging from the early Kamakura period through to gendaito. All were in excellent polish and condition and it was a fascinating exercise to walk through 700 years of the swordsmiths art.

Blades on display included:


Daito by Awataguchi Norikuni

Daito attributed to Chu-Aoe. Naginata-Naoshi attributed to Shikkake Wakazashi attributed to ko-Enju


Ko-wakizashi by Koyama Munetsugu Katana by Koyama Munetsugu Katana by Nobushige


Katana by Shodai Hizen Masahiro

Katana by Yamato Masanori

Katana by Tsuda echizen (no) kami Sukenao

Katana attributed to Hochoji

Katana signed Nagasone Kotetsu with cutting test


Kogarasu-maru utsushi by Gassan Sadakatsu Special order katana by Gassan Sadakatsu


There were more than 30 tsuba and small fittings available for study. These included excellent examples of both iron and soft metal tsuba. In date these ranged from stunning iron plate tsuba from the Kamakura period, all the way through to award winning modern pieces made by Ford Hallam, including the utsushi of the original tiger tsuba by Katsuhira and the prize winning millet work inspired by Tomei.

It was extremely gratifying and I think a great endorsement to the generosity and enthusiasm of our community that a local meeting in a small town in Northumberland could attract such excellent examples of the respective crafts. All of the pieces shown were of high quality and in exceptional condition many were what I would personally describe as world class. I think it is also a clear indicator of the serious commitment within our community to improve and develop understanding through such meetings.

Feedback to date suggests all who participated greatly enjoyed the day. As said at the meeting this was our first attempt to do an event of this type and I am sure we can make improvements for future meetings. We would therefore welcome feedback and suggestions. Based on our experience in Northumberland we will certainly plan additional meetings next year in other parts of the country which hopefully will enable even more members to attend and meet each other.

Thank you to all who attended and contributed to what I personally found a very informative and enjoyable day.




Meeting Report-Ashmolean Museum 10th September 2016

At the Annual general meeting in 2015 we discussed holding meetings in various locations throughout the country, engaging with museums that held Japanese collections and improving communication between the society and curators. The meeting at the Ashmolean was the first such meeting to take place.

In the morning there were 3 presentations:

Mark Radburn outlined the history and characteristics of early iron tsuba

Eckhard Kremers followed with a discussion covering early Akasaka work, identifying design features and characteristics of the iron

Ford Hallam presented an overview of his current research in the analysis of soft metal in tsuba and other fittings.

Mark’s and Eckhard’s presentations are available on the links below. Ford will publish his in the near future once he has finalised some detail.

All of these presentations were hugely enjoyable, detailed and extremely informative and we are very grateful to the presenters for their considerable effort in putting these together.

In the afternoon the meeting split in to smaller groups to view examples from the Church collection in the Ashmolean study room. These pieces are not on display so it was a great privilege to have the chance to see and handle them. Special thanks needs to be given to Clare Pollard of the Ashmolean for her enthusiastic involvement and also to Graham Curtis and Justin Orr who have spent considerable time cataloguing the collection and selecting pieces to view.

Alongside the presentation there was a display of tsuba and koshirae for members to study. Thanks to Bob Morrison, Ian Chapman, Mike Hickman-Smith and Clive Sinclaire, all of whom supplied excellent examples of fittings and koshirae. What was particularly interesting was being able to see Japanese koshirae alongside those produced by our own craftsmen. I believe our local workmanship compared extremely well.

As always the success of such meeting depends on the input and collaboration of many people. It was especially pleasing to welcome Mr. Hans Eschbaum one of the founding members of the NBTHK Europe branch and Mr. Eckhard Kremers the newly appointed Chairman. The fact they flew over and played such an active part in the day bodes well for future co-operation.

I hope all who attended enjoyed the day (and those that attended the dinner in the evening enjoyed that as well) As said at the time I am sure there are things we could do to improve these events, if you have any ideas or suggestions please do contact us and we will continue to develop the format and content.

Chiddingstone Castle Token Taikai Report – 4/5th October 2014

This is a brief note to recount the enjoyable and informative taikai event, comprising a delightful cocktail reception and Japanese-themed dinner on Saturday, followed by a hectic Sunday. The taikai was attended by around 60 Nihontophiles and guests, with many bringing along families and friends. As previously promulgated to our membership, Ian Chapman and Paul Bowman organised the event, which included the following Sunday sessions:

Enjoyment of the castle (now a certified museum!) collection of fine swords, kodogu/tosogu, lacquer ware, yoroi, articulated animals and insects and related items

Display of various Juyo swords from collections within the UK – especially Yamato and Yamashiro blades

Demonstrations of traditional crafts, including tsuka binding (Mick Hicks), armour lacing (Robert Soanes) and sword polishing (Les Stewart)

Lectures: Hizen swords by Clive Sinclaire, pole arms by Roald Knutsen and Yamato swords by Paul Bowman and Mike Hickman-Smith

Hands-on examination of various blades, fittings and armour

Trade stands selling Japanese related items in the Great Hall

There was a lot to take in visually as well as mentally, as displays of high-quality swords and items tempted visitors, while the lecturers challenged preconceptions and engaged the audience. Clive, Paul and Mike kindly allowed visitors to study items from their collections, illustrating the points made in their presentations.

We all also enjoyed the interactive demonstrations of traditionally trained craftsmen showing their skills at restoring blades, armour and tsuka. These were interactive sessions, in which the attendees could discuss with the craftsmen their activities, materials, inspect the items and tools of the trade.

And all of those exciting activities took place in a historic building, set in beautiful grounds with sunny weather!