My katana

This article was originally something I wrote for the Kendo-world forum back in 2007 when I got my katana. Digging through the archives, I thought it would be fun to post it here. 

(May 2007) Last Monday, I had a chance to get to Seki, Gifu where my father-in-law and I met with Mr. Igarashi to pick up my new katana. It took about 6 months to make and was produced by a local Seki toshyo. We went to the Nosyudo shop, and spent some time looking at the inventory he had on hand. Things were pretty hectic as Mr. Igarashi was preparing for the Kyoto budo demonstration and taikai.

Mr. Igarashi

On the second floor of his shop, he had a very nice selection of old and new blades, some affordable, and some very expensive, but of course all very nice.

As we had some tea, he brought up my custom ordered katana. I was a bit nervous – my hands actually started sweating as I drew it from the saya. Beautiful, very well-balanced, and all I had hoped for. My father-in-law who had helped order the sword for me also was a bit nervous as I passed it to him to inspect.

Go-mai-sa-za kamon on the habaki

My wife’s family kamon is a 5 leaved bamboo leaf cluster called “go-mai-sa-za”. We used the same design to have a custom silver habaki made. I was very impressed with how everything turned out. Even the extra saya we had made was beautiful in a wine-red lacquer.

The first floor display of iaito at Nosyudo

Mr. Igarashi was very nice, informative, and helpful despite the near-chaos of the 1st floor staff preparing, gathering, and loading all of their goods for the trip to Kyoto. He explained how to remove the tsuka, clean, and properly oil the katana. He also gave us a quick rundown on what to look for when appraising a katana and some of the easy pointers for deciding if the blade is a good one. Of course it takes years of practice to really know how to appraise a blade, but he gave us some quick, useful information anyway.

Then we went for a quick tour to the toshyo’s house and smithy. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there, but we were still able to see the place where he had actually forged my blade. I guess that smiths in Japan are only allowed to forge 24 blades a year. Tough way to make a living I think, but beautiful. My smithy was a 3rd generation smith in his family. On the tang the kanji reads, “Nosyujyukanemichi.”

After that, we went to the small katana and smithy museum in Seki for a quick tour, video explanation about the forging and making of a katana, and then looked at some of the katanas on display by Seki smiths. Beautiful! I was happy to see the smith that made my blade had a display as well.

Shaping the blade

We hopped back to Mr. Igarashi’s shop, for a quick tour of where they make and assemble their iaito and katanas. Iaito blades are made somewhere else, and then brought to the shop as rough “blanks.”

They are polished using a wheel by one of the staff there as seen in the photo above.

They also hand-make the tsuka in-house as seen in the photo below.

Making tsuka

The saya, habaki, and tsubas come from other specialists all to be assembled in-house by Mr. Igarashi’s staff. It was all very impressive even though it was in a very small space.

I and my father-in-law had a great time and Mr. Igarashi went out of his way – especially for being so very busy- to make us feel welcome and to present me with my new katana.

It swings beautifully, and I can’t wait to start practicing for real with it!

Here are some photos of the katana.

Above you can see with the very nice black saya, silk sageo. Note the curvature of the blade and tsuka – it’s beautiful!


In the photo above, you can see the menuki, tsuba, and fuchigane are all bamboo themed. This is to match the habaki kamon of the “go-mai-sa-za.”

More bamboo.


Here’s a quick look at the hamon. It’s much more defined, but the lighting and reflection make it difficult to see.


And the kissaki. Razor sharp by the way!

As a follow-up note: I was able to go back later and meet the smith, Mr. Kanemichi and his apprentice at his smithery. He was a very nice gentleman, and I enjoyed meeting him. My father-in-law later commissioned him make a new tanto (to be used for family events – weddings and funerals) as well. He showed us literally, a “wall” of charcoal that he uses to make a single katana. I was amazed at how much it takes! His forge had all of the traditional forging tools, as well as a hydraulic hammer to speed the process when needed. His apprentice was actually working on a blade as we met.

Several of my students have also purchased their iaito from Nosyudo, and I must say, they are quite beautiful. The craftsmanship, quality, and balance are exceptional.

I can’t recommend Mr. Igarashi and Nosyudo enough. First class all the way.

October Newsletter

Whew, life just seems to get busier and busier. Looking in the archives, I found I haven’t sent a newsletter since July. As we move through fall, things don’t seem to be slowing down much either.

Upcoming Events

We’ve got a couple of things coming up in the next month or two, and hopefully some of you whom this newletter reaches will be able to attend.
November 10th will have us at the Pangea Culture festival in Moorhead, MN. This event is a showcase of different cultures with lots of good food, displays, and activities for the family. We’ll be in a booth meeting and greeting people and introducing the art of iaido, and also performing a demonstration of kata. Come out on Saturday the 10th from 10am – 4pm to see what it’s all about.
December 1, 2 – Our Agassiz Dojo / MWKF iaido seminar. We’ll be hosting our seminar this year in Fargo, ND at the Agassiz Middle School gymnasium. Details and registration for the seminar can be found at:
We welcome people who have never even done iaido to come and join the seminar. We had some absolute beginners last year, and it worked out fine! The caliber of instruction from two top AUSKF iaido sensei to come to our own regional seminar is quite exceptional, and a great opportunity for training.

Rank testing

Congratulations to Sarah V. for achieving her 2kyu rank. Sarah had to perform 5 specific seitei iaido kata with a degree of competance, as well as complete a short written and oral exam. The 5 kata and opening and closing reiho have to be performed between 5:30 and 6:00 minutes, or the candidate is disqualified.
We’ll be having our next rank testing in Mid-Late December, and have started back on our Koryu training in our regular practice sessions again.


Love it! We’re going to run through the Musoshindenryu shoden series to review the kata we practiced previously, and also start back on learning the paired Tachi-uchi-no-kurai (kenjutsu-style) bokuto kata. We might even try introducing the second, Chuden set of kata if time allows. Can’t wait to get going on these again!

Dojo Space

The building owner was put under some pressure from the city to be compliant for restrooms and parking being available for the building we have the dojo in. Good for us, as the toilets should be installed within the month, and we’ll have a bunch of new, paved parking spots available for us soon!
In the interim, let’s be careful to not track in mud, dirt from the area in front of the door into the dojo by removing and keeping our shoes near the door.

One Point Japanese

Greetings and Salutations! Greetings in the Japanese language can be both formal and casual, depending on who you’re saying them to. They’re also “time specific” and used on first greeting of someone in the day.
Ohayogozaimasu! (Ohio-go-zai-masu) Good morning! This is a greeting used for to greet anybody during the morning hours. Typically it is used up to 11:00 AM or so. For a more formal situation, it is often accompanied with a slight bow of the head and/or upper body – for example greeting one’s boss the first time you meet them that morning at work. I’d often see receptionist / office staff standing and bowing like this when all of the managers and senior staff were arriving in the morning.
Konnichiwa. (Koh-NEE-chee-wah) Good afternoon. This greeting is used from around 11:00 AM to around 5:00 PM, and is part of a larger phrase, “Konnichi wa, ikaga desuka,” which essentially means “How are you today?”
Konbanwa. (Kohn-bahn-wah) Good evening. Used after or around 7 PM, but not usually before that.
So you can see, there is a small “gap” in times where we’re not using konnichiwa or konbanwa. The time of evening between 5 and 7 PM is called, “yugata,” or early evening, but we don’t have a specific greeting for this time of day. It’s strange, and you’ll just have to decide what to say when that occurs!
Jya Ne! / Mata ne! See you (later)! This is a very informal way of saying goodbye to someone who is of equal “status” as you, friends, and family.
Jya, Mata! Same, but slightly more formal than above.
Mata XXXX. Until next XXXX.
This could be Mata ne: Later!
Mata ashita: Until tomorrow.
Mata rai-shu: Until next week.
Mata kondo: Until next time.
Do you see the patterns here? Hopefully you can now have some idea of how to greet and say goodbye to you dojo mates and friends.
Until next time – Mata kondo!

A Huge List of Iaido Links!

Over the years I’ve come up with quite a list of favorite martial arts related sites to visit and articles to read.
Here are a few of the places I regularly wander into:

Kendo World forum – a lively forum of serious kendo and iaido practitioners where people of any level can ask questions and discuss the Japanese Sword Arts.

Sword Forum International – another active forum where sword lovers and martial artists can discuss related topics. Open for European as well as Asian swords and arts. Lots of good things here, and often a crossover from the KW forum as well. – An excellent and well written blog by a kendo and iaido practitioner that often discusses the history and traditions of JSA. Lots of translations of Japanese texts and articles by famous kenshi. Very excellent reading!

Some of my favorite readings from this blog are:
Excellent article on tameshigiri:

Kim Taylor’s iaido listserv and articles – Be sure to check some of the links on his page, his Unka blog and others listed there are excellent as well.

Koryu website – lots of books and other related articles –

YouTube links

Kendo Kata


Aggasiz Dojo – Channel
This includes our Standing and Sitting Reiho videos with instructions.

June 2011 Rank Test videos

Kelly’s CSI Samurai spoof

Cuts of the Sugarplum Fairy

Nakayama Hakudo video

Kuroda Sensei doing an iaido demo – Very fast nukitsuke!

Bokuto kihon waza

Very interesting videos for kumitachi Musoshindenryu. Well worth a look!

This is just the first batch. I’ll be adding to this as I find things or other people recommend sites to me. Please let me know of any missing or broken links.