San Francisco Tokenkai
I fully realize that Japanese swords (Nihonto) aren't necessarily associated with aikido, but I wanted to share an experience with everyone that I thought was outstanding. Last weekend I flew to the Bay Area to attend the San Francisco Tokenkai at the Marriot Hotel in Burlingame, California, along with a couple dojomates. This was my fourth visit to the sword show over the years and it was once again fascinating.
Besides the three of us, we met three more folks who said they were aikidoka. The vast majority of people attending are associated with the swords made in Japan and to a person, they were friendly, welcoming, and incredibly patient in answering questions and discussing samurai history. Most of the vendors there were selling and trading items, but several were there simply to show the world some magnificent items - swords and other weapons that would be relished in a museum.
There was a nominal charge for admission; $ 10.00, a real bargain. You could spend the day looking at tachi, katana, wakazashi, tanto, yori, naganata, and just about anything else associated with the samurai culture. Vendors would give those who appeared responsible the opportunity to actually handle the various weapons. The organization also presented lectures on a variety of topics and had a group of sword experts who were examining blades and certifying their history and origin. One of those people was a man named Yoshihara Yoshindo, considered to be the most respected Japanese swordsmith in current times. Yoshihara Sensei was very approachable and was receptive to both questions and conversation. Just a warm and friendly man.
I didn't buy any weapons, but did purchase some woodblock prints (reproductions in all likelihood - neither the seller nor I could tell for sure) by Kitagawa Utemaro. One of my friends purchased a 400 year old wakazashi that is a thing of beauty.
As I said, this event didn't have anything directly to do with aikido, but it was enlightening and just plain fun. Similar sword shows take place each year in Chicago and Tampa, while the San Francisco show takes place each August. If you get a chance you might stop by and take a look.