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obert Hughes


Chuck Cillo


Livio Cillo


Moses Becerra


Hirohide Hinomoto


Kazuhiro Hayashi and his wife
Mark Jones, manager of the Midwest Sword Show
The People in the Japanese Samurai Sword Show

• The Japanese Samurai Sword Show was held at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield in Schaumburg from April 29 to May 1. The Show has been hosted by the Midwest Token Kai since 2005 after an interval of years. Exhibitors gathered from all over the U.S. and displayed Japanese swords, tsuba (sword guards), armors, reference books, samurai movies, decorations, and many other collectibles.

• Significant exhibits by Mark Jones, manager of the show, were swords from the 1300s to the 1400s, and many pieces of tsuba, which were 200 to 400 years old. At the same table, his friend brought reference books that were very useful to study sword makers, shapes of swords, and more.

• Robert Hughes, a native of Canada but a resident of Japan for 36 years, returned to the Chicago show after a long absence. His first participation in the Chicago show went back to 1985 or 1986, and he occasionally returned to Chicago. However, his circumstance made it difficult for him to come back. Currently, he is a professor at Toyo University in Japan and on sabbatical for a year. He returned to a Canadian college, where he graduated in 1981, to study indigenous people.

• Hughes became interested in Japanese swords though iaido, kobudo, and karate in Japan. He said, “Martial arts are my passion, and teaching is my profession.” Years later, he worked in a sword shop in Ginza, Tokyo on Saturdays as an English correspondent to help foreign sword collectors. He communicated with many famous people in the world. One of his customers was King Hussein of Jordan. “He had nice sword collections,” Hughes remembered. Through the sword deals, he studied hard about Japanese swords. He has been only non-Japanese member in a prestigious sword dealer association, Zenkoku Token Shogyo Kyodo Kumiai.

• One of his exhibits was a sword with body cutting test. The name of the maker, the cutting test records, and tester’s name were inlaid with gold. The maker was Yoshitoki, who worked between 1661 and 1683, and the testing date was October 7, 1667. Thus, the sword was made before 1667 and after 1661. Hughes said that it was a historical sword.
• Another interesting sword was decorated with dragonfly carvings. He said that dragonflies didn’t fly backward, and the nature was the same as when the samurais fought each other with swords. For this reason, dragonflies were designed in fuchigashira, tsuba, and other parts of a sword.

• Chuck Cillo participated in the show from Maryland. He bought his first sword in 1946 when he was 12 years old. He found it in a store window, which was located in his paper delivery route. He remembered that a sword was sold at $5, so he could buy one almost every week.
• Chuck was always interested in the history and read many books. He said that anybody who read about the samurai received a good impression. He also studied about Japanese swords through reading. Now he has a library in his home.
• One of his sons married a Japanese business woman and lived in Tokyo, so Chuck occasionally visits Japan. He said, “I know that the Japanese new generation isn’t interested in swords, so I’m hoping to preserve them outside of Japan.” (His contact info: 401-836-3572)

• Livio Cillo is one of Chuck’s sons. He was stationed Yokota Air Base for three years and spoke fluent Japanese. He became interested in swords because his father brought nice swords to his home. His business is not only dealing with Japanese swords but also Asian arts and antiques. He said that his main business was providing platforms to host websites and activities of selling arts and antiques. (www.trocadero.com)

• Moses Becerra joined the show from Miami, Florida. He has been a professional sword polisher for 30 years. Through kendo and iaido, he became interested in swords when he was young and started polishing some time later. His father, a wood-furniture craftsman, took him to Japan when he was 15. The trip brought him an opportunity to study sword polishing under Master Kentaro Yoshikawa. He visited Yoshikawa and other teachers for several months in every summer and continued to study it with them for seven to eight years.

• Now, Becerra has clients from all over the world including some clients from Japan. Polishing is expensive, but he said, “Togi (polishing) should be a price for the sword quality. Usually good swords have much better polish. You have to adjust a little bit for medium-level swords.”
• He also said that all swords were different, and each one had its own personality. He said that his teacher Yoshikawa used to say, “Sword polishing is aggressive fighting if you can bring out the beauty of the sword; otherwise, your spirit will be killed.”
• Becerra appeared in a documentary on the History Channel and was asked to explain about the character of swords. He still practices kendo and will challenge 7th dan in the near future. (www.nihontoantiques.com)

• Hirohide Hinomoto, a former professor at the University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign College of Business, started his sword collection when he was about to retire from the school. He is now 94 years old.
• He said that the pleasure of studying swords was to explore their unique characteristics and finally reveal their makers. The shape of a sword depended on how samurais fought each other; thus, the shape changed from year to year. So a sword shape is a key to finding when it was made.
• There were five groups of sword makers such as Yamato and Bizen, and each one had its own traditions. So distinguishing a group is an important key to find a maker. The iron quality also tells you where it was made.
• Hinomoto said that about 200,000 names of sword makers were known, but 70 % to 80 % of swords were not named. He suspected that about 70 % of meito (a sword with a maker name) would be counterfeit. In most cases, names were added by professionals to increase the value of swords.
• He has studied those characteristics of swords for more than 30 years, but he said that 30 years were not enough to have good enough eyes to distinguish sword makers. “In the U.S., I need 50 years. Narrowing down a sword’s characteristics and finding its maker, this process is the real joy of Japanese sword.”

• Kazuhiro Hayashi, founder of New York Nihonto Owners Club, started a sword collection about 20 years ago and began trading four or five years ago. He said that he has enjoyed studying the samurai manners with swords rather than trading them and wished to teach American people the manners little by a little.
• For instance, when you hang swords on a sword rack, tsuka (sword hilt) should come to the left side. This manner shows that you have no intention to use your sword against other people in the room because you cannot pull out your sword immediately with your right hand. (Traditionally, all samurais should be right handed.)
• When a samurai sits on a tatami mat, he places his sword on his right side and put its blade toward himself. This manner also shows that he has no intention to fight.

• Like Hinomoto, Hayashi said that the shape of a sword was differentiated by the fighting style of samurais. When they fought on horseback, the sword was longer so as to reach enemies. When armor became harder, the blades of swords became thicker. When a samurai rode a horse, he put the blade upward, so that his sword never fell from his waist and never hit the horse’s hip.

• Hayashi said that there would be 250 sword makers in Japan nowadays; however, they wouldn’t make swords that exceeded the quality of old ones because each one was made by masters in each field such as mining raw iron, beating the iron, heating the iron, and polishing the blade. (www.NihontoOwnersClub.com