People in the Japanese Samurai Sword Show
• The Japanese Samurai Sword Show was held at the Hyatt
Regency Woodfield in Schaumburg from April 28 to 30. The Show has been
hosted by the Midwest Token Kai since Marc Porpora brought back the show
to the Chicago areas in 2005 after an interval of years. Since 2013, the
show has been managed by Mark Jones, a collector in Indiana.
• Exhibitors gathered from all over the U.S. and displayed Japanese swords,
tsuba (sword guards), armors, reference books, decorations, and many other
collectibles. The Chicago show is one of only three sword shows, which
are annually held in the U.S.
• Marc Porpora brought menuki, tsuba, and wakizashi from
Arizona, his current residence place. His most significant exhibit was
wakizashi made by shodai Korekazu, the first generation sword maker. The
pieces of menuki were also good ones, and their ages were about 300 years
• David and Joy Lyn, both science teachers, came from
Montana and exhibited swords, tsuba, and other collectibles. David specializes
in tsukamaki, or hilt wrapping.
• David bought some swords for the first time in the early 1980s and found
that they needed repair, especially, in their hilt part. He took classes
from Ichinose, who had come to Chicago from Japan to teach tsukamaki,
and then he flew to Japan with his wife to study more about it. It was
• According to Joy, David won an award from Ichinose for his tsukamaki.
He has provided tsukamaki service and seminars for collectors. (http://www.montanairon.com)
• David said, “I like older Japanese swords, a lot of history in them.
And it’s interesting to learn how they were made. You have a signed, dated
sword from the time before the U.S. was a country.”
• The couple revisited Japan in 2012 and reunited with some old friends.
Joy was interested in finding indigo dyeing. David said, “Japan was very
nice. I never thought that there were too many people and never felt crowded.
It was interesting.” He added that Japanese people were polite, so he
never felt uncomfortable.
• Dale Johnson came from Houston, Texas and exhibited
mainly kozuka, a knife attached to a sword sheath.
• Johnson was a pilot and began flying to Yokota Air Base in 1969. Then
he learned that swords and other related things were more expensive in
Japan than the U.S., so he thought that he could make money. “It didn’t
work,” he laughed. He got hooked and became a big collector.
• Johnson talked about an interesting story. One of major collectors in
Houston died and left about 6000 pieces that included 950 tsuba, 250 kozuka,
600 sets of fuchigashira, 550 sets of menuki, 3 sets of armors, 29 swords,
many short swords, and etc. Separately, there were also 300 kanteisho,
a written statement of expert opinion. It took Johnson a year and a half
to put things together and to begin to buy things from the collections.
• Besides the 6000 pieces, the dead person left many unopened packages,
which he bought from Japan, France, and Germany online. Johnson spent
3 weeks and a half to open them.
• Johnson said, “It’s been interesting sorting out, translating,
figuring out which is a fake name and which is a real name. It was a big
job, and I’m still working.” He has met many Japanese dealers in the three
shows, and they have helped translating. He said, “We are fans of this.
It’s very social. We know everybody, and it’s a lot of fun.”
• Pharmacist Pat O’Toole joined the show from New York
and said, “You need a diversion from your stressful job, so this is a
diversion for me to relax and enjoy.”
• O’Toole was fascinated about Japanese culture, with its serenity, art,
and history, so he got more involved in Japanese samurai swords. He bought
his first sword about 30 years ago since then he has bought 700 swords.
He visited Japan many times and said, “You can find excellent swords in
Japan.” “You can trade them, but you do have to care for them because
if you rust them out, if you don’t oil them, then the value drops,” he
• Chicagoan Milton Ong joined the show for the first
time in eight years. He just retired from being a military dentist.
• Ong visited Kyoto about 35 years ago and bought a Kuniyoshi’s ukiyo-e
print, which became a start to collect prints, swords, tsuba, ceramics,
and other antiquities.
• At first Ong asked his wife if he could buy two swords, but no more.
However, once you buy what you want, you cannot stop it. Over 35 years
his collection grew bigger and bigger, and now he has 30 swords. “My wife
is pretty supportive. I’m lucky man,” he said.
• John Kurata brought many swords and related things
from Los Angeles. He is a Nisei/Sansei Japanese American. When he was
in high school, his friend liked swords and showed them to him, so eventually
the two became dealers and opened a website “http://www.ricecracker.com”.
• A special in his exhibit was a short sword, which Tadatsugu made for
Admiral Shigetaro Shimada, who was close to Hideki Tojo. Other swords
were from the 1500s to 1800s, and all had kanteisho.
• Kurata said that there used to be many collectors in Los Angeles, but
they moved out to suburbs.
• Doug Blume displayed ethnic swords “Land of Profit”,
which had beautiful etchings on the blade. He said that no one would know
how to make those patterns, but they describe owner’s name and his lord.
Most blades were made in Persia, and later years in India.
• The blades are curved beautifully and seem to be difficult to use to
cut a person from the front. Blume discussed about it with the show exhibitors
and got an idea that the blade would be useful to hit an enemy from behind
while on horseback. The value of those blades has increased and prices
are five to