Saturday, November 20, 2010


 Max Roach's (cool name) tantalizing tome has finally hit the streets and Sabaku Samurai gives it TEN THUMBS WAY UP (yes, we are all thumbs). For the poor uninitiated sots who just don't get it, this book is easy to read and elegantly and systematically answers the question "What is it about those @%#& Japanese swords!?" (ever heard that from a spouse or significant other?) (yeah, me too). For those of us who do get it, this book is pure sword porn, richly illustrated with beautiful glossy pictures of world class blades.

 The book traces the roots of Japanese sword development and explains in understandable terms their impact on Japanese history and culture and why they are a world icon of elegance,refinement, icy functionality and all things Japanese. The book delves into how the swords are made, polished, maintained and used. It covers Japanese sword history, what's happening with them today and what the future of nihonto holds.

It is a BIG book, coffee table size, hard cover and in 176 pages it is amazingly comprehensive. There is even an added bonus! For those who don't like reading (or like me, can barely read at all) and who just want to sit back with a beer (or beverage of your choice, mmmmm Makers Mark!) and have the information shoveled into your brain there is a great DVD included with the book (at no extra charge) that documents sword making, sword swinging (scenes from an actual iaido class) and even takes you into a sword shop in Kyoto for a little hands on discussion of the finer points of quality blades. I think the only thing that Max failed to include in this Katana media bonanza is how to get the money to buy a sword. Maybe he has a follow-on publication, "Sword Shoplifting 101" or, "Hey! is that my wakizashi in your pants or are you just happy to see me?".

The book is available now through; Japanese Swords, Cultural Icons of a Nation, The History, Metallurgy and Iconography of the Samurai Sword (ISBN-13: 978-4-8053-1035-9) (WAY cheap at $39.95). It will be featured as a recommended purchase by Barnes & Noble in their holiday catalog. For more info on the book and about Max Roach (the author) go to or check the book out on facebook! There are links to video clips, sneak peeks inside the book, etc. Click "like" and recommend it to your friends (if you have any).

MOST IMPORTANTLY, when you get the book immediately go to pages 117 and 118 and marvel at Sabaku Samurai's incredible ken sword that is featured there. I was one page away from being a centerfold! My momma would be so proud.

BOTTOM LINE, it is an OUTSTANDING book, destined to be a standard for martial arts enthusiasts, sword collectors and Asian arts aficionados. When it comes to Japanese swords, if you know someone who doesn't get it, get it! If you get it and want to see some wonderful sword related photography, get it! If you want something real pretty to put on your coffee table to prove what an erudite citizen of the world you are, get it! Get it?

Saturday, October 23, 2010


A few months ago the Sabaku Samurai ended up with a rusty P.O.S. tanto that he bought off of Ebay after having ingested copious quantities of fine Kentucky sippin whiskey. The prospect of restoration for this "national treasure" looked pretty dim. We all know the cost of a good polish and the risks involved. If the rust is too deep or the chips too big or there is a flaw just below the
surface you could easily spend more money on the polish than the blade is worth. No one in their right mind would risk a polish on a blade that looked like this. But, of course we are talking about the Sabaku Samurai here who is strangely proud that he does not have a mind at all. After a few cups of liquid inspiration he came up with a cunning plan. He got his favorite polisher (Inu Iki sensei) a bit hammered on liberal servings of bourbon and bet him double or nothing his charge for polish that he could not successfully polish this tanto. For the full story and more "before" pictures of the tanto click "here". Well,
the results are in and Mr Iki has come through. The blade and polish are
flawless! Sabaku Samurai had to fork over. In a little conciliatory ceremony the Sabaku Samurai bowed to Iki Sensei and handed him the cash and in a gracious oriental manner reflecting all that embodies Zen, Iki snatched the money out of his hand and said, "yoo ruze again sucka!". Inu Iki then proceeded to do the happy dance waving the bills around like he just scored a touchdown. He is still our favorite polisher though. Gottta Go! Turn the lights out when you leave.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


If you are looking for the swords mentioned in the PREVIOUS blog, YOU MISSED EM! We featured them on the site for two weeks and now they are SUDDENLY GONE! I will be shifting the pictures and descriptions to the "collection" section of the sabakusamurai site in the next few weeks so you can beat yourself up over what you could have had. But just to keep you going till then I am including some pictures of the blades in this blog. If you have any questions or comments hit the comment button at the bottom of the blog and I'll get back to you (eventually). Have a Marvelous Day! (or not, it is your choice really)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Stay tuned to SABAKU SAMURAI because sometime next week we will be featuring 4 BIG BOY swords by three of the 20th century's finest, most sought after sword smiths. Two GASSAN SADAKATSU'S, one SHIGETSUGU and an OKIMASA. You're gonna see some of the most eye watering horimono, ayasugi hada and top quality polishes EVER on kickass special-order blades by the BEST of the BEST. And YES! they WILL be for sale. A close bubba of the Sabaku Samurai is parting with several INCREDIBLE pieces from his personal collection. When we found out we pestered him unmercifully until he agreed to let us put them up on our site. You know we're all about eye candy and love to tease but this time you can actually BUY what we will be waving in front of your face.  It will be first come, first serve! SOOoooooOoo.......

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sabaku Samurai's Famous Ken and the BEST Japanese Sword book EVER!

Greetings to all faithful followers of Sabaku Samurai's Blog. I have two very significant bits of information to pass on to you.  First, get a life. Second, the Sabaku Samurai has received an important communication from Max Roach Sensei about his new book coming out. If you are a regular reader of the blog then you will remember that Max is authoring a wonderful book on Nihonto and asked if he could feature some pictures of Sabaku Samurai's unusual Ken sword in it (click HERE to see my blog dated Feb 8, 2010 for the complete story and book description as well as pictures of the famous Ken). After much arm twisting and begging we relented and agreed. OK, actually we were thrilled and spent most of the day dancing jigs (be glad you were not around to see this). Given the high quality of the publication, impeccable research, unbelievable number of experts behind it, and Max's exquisite taste in Kens, this was a no-brainer. Max promised to update us on the book's progress and here is his latest.

"Hello there Sabaku Samurai people! -Max Roach here. I am glad to see some buzz about the book. Here is an update for you: The DVD materials are all assembled and going to production soon. The main feature, entitled "Forging the Future of the Japanese Sword" was made by Danial Schmidt, who recently won an Emmy for his work in making documentaries... Beautiful footage that all sword nuts will love. The layout is all done, after several go-rounds with the designers in Singapore. The final copy edit is the last step before it is approved. My editor at Tuttle is awesome and I look forward to holding the book in my hands. Until then, I will take my kids fishing and race motorcycles. Oh, I almost forgot... You can see a sneak peek of some of the page layouts on my website: Feel free to contact me with questions."

There you have it. Go to his site and check it out and pray that Max doesn't OFF himself on a motorcycle before the book is finished! If you look close you will catch a glimpse of the Ken in his preview. My mom would be so proud! (if I had not already humiliated her to death, God rest her soul). The Sabaku Samurai will now make like a Ninja and vanish. Pop! Am I still here? Damn! I never could get that to work.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Carefull what ya bid for, YOU MIGHT JUST GET IT!

Greetings gentle readers. As most of you know, the Sabaku Samurai is a ramblin, gamblin kinda guy who likes to live life on the edge (ar ar, edge, get it? oh never mind). We also know that the Sabaku Samurai appreciates fine southern sippin whiskey and occasionally tosses back a few. On these occasions he has been known for making, shall we say, less than perfect decisions. Recently after participating in a particularly gratifying bourbon bender the Sabaku Samurai began digging around in an on-line auction house that shall remain nameless, called Ebay. Spotting what the booze told him was surely a great bargain and hidden national treasure, he put a ridiculously high bid on a tanto that was listed with a sketchy description and a few blurry distant photographs. Waking up a few hours later (still in front of his computer) the Sabaku Samurai found that he was now the proud owner of the tanto and his prize would arrive in 3 days. Flushed with excitement (or bourbon) the Sabaku Samurai could hardly contain himself for the next 72 hours dreaming of the fabulous Juyo he had managed to snake out from under the nose of all the other collectors in the world who constantly scour Ebay. In fact he sprained his arm trying to pat himself on the back. What arrived was...welllll...uh.....mmmmm....somewhat...dissapointing. The previous owner had apparently decided that the best way to preserve a 350 year old antique was to store it in a vat of salt water. After all, it worked for pickles why not a Samurai Sword? The blade was bent, chipped, tip broken and had some of the nastiest rust he had ever seen. Unfortunately for the Sabaku Samurai the auction was "as is, all sales final, no returns accepted". He was stuck. The only ray of sunshine was that the blade was signed but the tang was so wasted by oxidation it could not be read completely.

 He was bummed. After shedding a few soft tears and fortifying himself with some more liquid libation he came up with a crafty plan. Sabaku Samurai's personal favorite sword polisher of all time is an amazing artist by the name of Mr. Inu Iki Sensei. He was trained in the Honami style of polish and is known for salvaging seriously abused swords. Mr Iki is also known for appreciating the finer qualities of the distillers craft. The Sabaku Samurai brought the tanto and a bottle of his best to the home of Mr Iki and began pouring. After several rounds were dispensed with, the Sabaku Samurai sprung his trap. He produced the decrepit tanto and bet Mr Iki that he could not save the blade. He wagered Mr Iki that he would pay double his going rate for polish if he could successfully get all the rust and chips out and put the blade in full polish or pay him nothing if he could not completely succeed. The gauntlet was thrown down and Mr Iki,who is a very proud man (and a bit tipsy by now), immediately (if a little unsteadily) picked it up and said "I'll take your money you round eyed freak" (he tends to talk this way after he's had a few).

So there you have it. The piece-O-crap tanto is in the capable hands of Inu Iki Sensei. What will be the outcome? Will Sabaku Samurai have to shell out big time and bow to Mr Iki or will Iki Sensei have worked his ass off for no money? Will Iki's polish reign supreme? Only time will tell. We expect the answer in a couple of weeks so stay tuned to the Sabaku Blog for the final result. We'll be BACK! (yeah that's a threat)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Another mystery has been uncovered and The Sabaku Samurai is asking all readers for help in solving it. Into our greedy little fingers has been delivered a marvelous sword in wonderful Efu Tachi mounts. The blade is an excellent quality koto period piece that is suriagi (slightly shortened) but still measures 26 1/2 inches. It sports a two character signature that says "Ieyoshi". So far a nice package but nothing really unusual right? But wait! There's more!

The tachi lives in a battered old box missing one end with Japanese writing all over it. Since the Sabaku Samurai has an inquiring mind and a deep burning desire to know, the trusty ol' Japanese character dictionary was sent for and mad ciphering was begun. In a reasonable amount of time (I'm not going to define "reasonable") a somewhat sensible translation was obtained. We all know that the Sabaku Samurai is not necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer (in fact sometimes I suspect I'm actually a fork) so I will confess that the translation might be open to debate. But, this is what I came up with. The outside of the cover of the box says "Congratulatory gift to the Chief of the General Staff". The inside of the box says the sword's signature is Ieyoshi and that it is a Kenuki gata (Hair tweezer) style Efu Tachi. It goes on to say that the blade was made about 500 years ago and the koshirae is 120 to 130 years old. The last line seems to say that this type of sword was used for full dress court occasions for the Daimyo or Royal Family. Whoa! Pretty damn cool!

OK, so what's the mystery you ask? (yes you asked, I heard you) I want to find out who the hell this thing was given to, from whom and when. I have no background on the sword at all. I assume that it was brought back to the US as a WWII souvenir but I don't know that for sure. Was this a gift from the Emperor? Was it given in the 1800s to a Japanese Chief of the General Staff during the Japanese Russian war or during WWI or WWII? Was it a gift to an American Chief of the General Staff during the post WWII occupation? I JUST GOTTA KNOW!

If any one out there has a clue or advice on how to find the answers to these perplexing questions or has come up with a solution to that whole "what is the meaning of life" thing, please let me in on it. Check out I am over and out. Buhbuy

Sunday, March 21, 2010

MR. BIGSHOT! who do ya think you are?

Greetings all you matchlock maniacs. Buried deep in the "collection" section of our favorite web site ( under "Misc" is a brief description and a couple of mediocre pictures of something very interesting. No, this time it's not night-vision shots of me and Sandra Bullock. Nope, we are showing off an even BIGGER gun (hard to believe). Recently I've had some requests for more info and better pictures of the Japanese wall cannon we have featured there. Since the Sabaku Samurai lives to serve I broke out the o'l Instamatic (how many of you remember those?) and started snapping away. The result is some nice eye candy that I'm willing to share with you (cause I'm just that kind of guy). I have included a picture of one of my overly dressed minions at the top of this blog to help give the gun some scale.  He is 6'8'' and weighs 250lbs.  OK, he's actually a 50lb dwarf and a M.I.B. wannabe but it's still a big gun.

Here are the startling statistics. This is a Japanese Matchlock gun generically referred to as a Tanegashima, named after an Island that some Portuguese sailors washed up on in the 16Th century. They introduced this firearm technology to Japan and pretty soon the Japanese couldn't get enough of them. Arguably it changed Japanese methods of warfare and social structure well into the 19Th century. These things come in many different sizes, from a pistol that could fit in the palm of your hand, up to a wall gun that could shoot an 85mm diameter ball and require two men to move. This is one of the biggies. It shoots 26.5mm ball and has a 27mm diameter bore (about 1 1/16 inch or so). A bore this size makes the gun a 30 Monme and puts it in the category called oh-zutsu (literally, big gun). It is 38 inches long overall with a 24 3/4 inch barrel and weighs in at a whopping 32 lbs (so much for concealed carry)(Is that a matchlock in your
pocket or are you just happy to see me?).

The barrel of the gun is richly decorated with silver and gold damascene dragons from stem to stern. There is a damascened inscription that says the gun was made for the protection of Higo province. Underneath, the barrel is heavily signed and the makers name looks like Shigenori to me. The inscription is in grass script which is difficult to read. The stock of the gun has the same inscription in ink as is written on the barrel. Could this be a stock-agaki? (stop! please! You're killing me!) If anybody has a better translation, let me know.

The tale of how Sabaku Samurai came by this gun is fascinating and sordid, involving conspiracy, international intrigue, hints and allegations and must be left to a more adult venue. Currently I am negotiating the movie rights to the story and yes Sandra Bullock will be offered a starring role.

Adios Muchachos! I'm outta heah! Sabaku Samurai must roll on.

Friday, February 26, 2010

THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACK TACHI (Man! that sounds so cool)

Greetings all of you Nihonto Nabobs. I have a very interesting old tachi to show you. This sword came to Sabaku Samurai about 20 years ago from a group of swords brought back to the US by the proverbial old VET that we are all familiar with (thank God for these guys and their sticky fingers or my collection would be zilch). Actually this guy was not a WWII vet. He was stationed over in Japan in the late 50s early 60s and was somehow involved in the US military efforts to recover Japanese Antiquities. Needless to say he brought back home a LOT of cool stuff.

This tachi has some of the most eye popping ayasugi hada that I have ever seen. It is so garish that it almost looks like one of those Chinese knock-offs that swamp Ebay. The polish on the sword dates to before WWII sometime but is still Lookin Gooood with some minor abrasions here and there. The tachi mounts are particularly interesting because they are entirely black. The handle is wrapped in black leather. All of the metal fittings on the outside are shakudo but everything including the saya is covered in black lacquer.


The blade is 25 1/8 inches long and has an unusual inscription on the nakago (tang). It reads (in English) "Old signature...Naminohira Yasunobu.....2 shaku 7 sun 5 separated measures this". Obviously just by looking at the nakago you can see that the blade is osuriagi (greatly shortened). So I interpret this to mean that originally the blade was signed Naminohira Yasunobu and 2 shaku 7 sun in length. With 5 sun separated during the suriagi process that leaves 2 shaku 2 sun which coincidentally equals about 25 1/8 inches (yes that's right, Sabaku Samurai is not just a pretty face he can add and subtract too).


Now comes the MYSTERY part. Did whoever shortened the blade faithfully put the correct information on the nakago like it appears OR was the blade made this way from the start and the inscription put on to make it more convincing that it was an osuriagi old blade? Let's all run to our reference books together shall we. Hmmmm well looky here there was indeed a Naminohira Yasunobu who signed with the characters used on this sword who worked in the mid 1500s and was known for ayasugi hada, narrow suguha and a high shinogi just like this sword has. So far so good. But, lets take a look at when the sword was shortened. The crisp clean nature of the current nakago and inscription indicates that it was done in the mid to late 1800s. What was going on back then and who was around.

It was during that time that Emperor Meji abolished the Samurai class and the wearing of swords in public. Swordmaking as an art began to die and sword makers resorted to other crafts to make ends meet. Some resorted to making fake swords of famous makers to make a few extra bucks. One of the best and most infamous at doing this was Gassan Sadakazu. Because of his incredible skill level he could duplicate almost anybody's style and quality. It's funny that today so many swords with his name on them are fake. I guess payback's a mutha.

So why do I point a finger at Sadakazu? The blade is very high quality. The Gassan's were famous for ayasugi. The tachi mounts would have been made for the blade when it was shortened (or produced, if it were a fake) as well as the habaki. Of all things, it is the habaki that might be the smoking gun here. This style habaki is practically a Gassan signature. Of course there were other sword makers that used this style also but Sadakazu and his son Sadakatsu were known for using this style a lot, even making them themselves.

So what's the conclusion? I forgot to mention that this sword has NBTHK papers on the koshirae dated 1960 and the guy I got it from said he had papers on the blade also but they had MYSTERIOUSLY vanished. A tangled web of intrigue. Your guess is as good as mine (although I am much better looking). I have never seen a Naminohira ayasugi blade so I don't know what the style is like. I have seen many Gassan ayasugi blades and own a couple (check out home page) and this is WAY different. We may never know for sure (because I'm too frikkin cheap to send it to shinsa). Of course, I may be the only person in the world who remotely gives a crap.
I am suddenly GONE!