JAPAN

LAND OF THE RISING SUN

Legend attributes the creation of Japan to the sun goddess, from whom the emperors were descended. The first was Jimmu, supposed to have ascended the throne in 660 B.C. , a tradition that constituted official doctrine until 1945.
Recorded Japanese history begins in approximately A.D. 400, when the Yamato clan, eventually based in Kyoto, managed to gain control of other family groups in central and western Japan. Contact with Korea introduced Buddhism to Japan at about this time. Through the 700s Japan was much influenced by China, and the Yamato clan set up an imperial court similar to that of China. In the ensuing centuries, the authority of the imperial court was undermined as powerful families vied for control.
At the same time, warrior clans were rising to prominence as a distinct class known as samurai. In 1192, the Minamoto clan set up a military government under their leader, Yoritomo. He was designated shogun (military dictator). For the following 700 years, shoguns from a succession of clans ruled in Japan, while the imperial court existed in relative obscurity.
First contact with the West came in about 1542, when a Portuguese ship off course arrived in Japanese waters. Portuguese traders, Jesuit missionaries, and Spanish, Dutch, and English traders followed. Suspicious of Christianity and of Portuguese support of a local Japanese revolt, the shoguns of the Tokugawa period (16031867) prohibited all trade with foreign countries; only a Dutch trading post at Nagasaki was permitted. Western attempts to renew trading relations failed until 1853, when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed an American fleet into Tokyo Bay. Trade with the West was forced upon Japan under terms less than favorable to the Japanese. Strife caused by these actions brought down the feudal world of the shoguns. In 1868, the emperor Meiji came to the throne, and the shogun system was abolished.

An archipelago in the Pacific, Japan is separated from the east coast of Asia by the Sea of Japan. It is approximately the size of Montana, yet the population is estimated at over 127,000,000. Japan is made up of four main islands, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. The Ryukyu chain (Okinawa) to the southwest was U.S.-occupied from 1945 to 1972, when it reverted to Japanese control.

My interest in Japan began as a youngster fascinated by the mystical allure of the Samurai.  As a young boy, I acquired a book titled something to the effect of, "Dirty Fighting Tricks".  It was a westerners view of Jujitsu "tricks". Before long I was trying these tricks, ie; throws and joint locks on the neighborhood kids. Sadly,  they soon didn't want to play with me any more. As a young teenager I happened to catch a glimpse of some "samurai swords" which were the property of a neighbor who had fought in WW II, and had  brought them home as souvenirs. He put them away as soon as we entered the home, but a few days later I offered to mow his lawn. Once finished with the mowing, he asked how much he owed me, to which I replied, "I wanted to see those Samurai swords".  He agreed and the fire was lit.  Over the years my fascination grew, locating other like minded individuals, to the practice of the hand to hand grappling art of the samurai known as Jujutsu as well as Iai-jutsu or the sword art of the samurai. As decades passed my appreciation grew from merely the art of martial warfare into a deep appreciation for all of the Arts of Japan as well as the culture which created them.

Though I now collect a wide range of Japanese art, including scrolls, woodblock prints, pottery, netsuke, okimono, etc., etc.,  my first and still foremost passion in the world of Japanese Art is Nihonto or Japanese Swords as well as Tosogu or Sword Fittings.  My knowledge of this art form was facilitated by my good friend and mentor Col. Dean Hartley USMC ret.  Col. Hartley was at the time President of the Japanese Sword Society of the US, and considered an expert in the field.  Again, it was destiny that he was living in such close proximity, after all living here in the less than artsy world of Louisiana were/are not many individuals with an interest in Japanese art.  Even at age 89 Col. Hartley maintained the title of  President Emeritus of this organization, and continued his appreciation of this art form right up until his passing.  Appreciation for myself has culminated into a lifelong study of the Japanese sword and it's related accoutrements. It is a field which is much more vast than the average person could ever imagine.

Having had the opportunity to visit Japan several times, I would like to share the accompanying photos with family and friends whom may be interested.

This is a work in progress and I have many more titles to add when I find the time.

ありがとう。 どうか楽しんでください。

 

 

KYOTO MOSS GARDEN - KOKEDARA

HEIAN SHRINE

JIDAI MATSURI - FESTIVAL OF THE AGES

HIMEJI CASTLE

HIMEJI CASTLE GARDENS - KOKO-EN