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So, so many fake Japanese swords

A quick ebay search for “gendaito” results in dozens of purported Japanese katanas for sale.

Hand-made “art sword” gendaitos were very few in number to begin with, maybe a few thousand by 1944, and after 1945, when Japanese swords of all qualities were being melted down, there were a lot fewer left.

When I began collecting antique Japanese swords in 1993, it was a pretty structured environment with plenty of Vet bring-backs available through newspaper ads and at gun shows. But most of those swords were basic Showa shin-Shinto machine made swords of solid stock. Created en masse for Japanese NCOs, they were the great bulk of “samurai” type swords captured and brought back to England and America after WWII. Though justifiably iconic in their own right, as they are beautiful weapons by design, none of them were art swords. None were made by hand in 1562 by a famous swordsmith.

Enter China. And with her came all kinds of fakery of every kind of antique collectible you could ever want. Guns, swords, knives, bayonets, not to mention shoes, purses, clothes etc. The first faked Japanese swords from China were easy to spot. Some were laughably crude, some were pretty good but either missing or overplaying critical aspects of real antique Japanese swords. Either way, only the most gullible or inexperienced buyers took them.

Today, however, you can find practically mint condition gendaito or older swords, with a nice new reddish rust on the tang, selling for half or a third of what such swords used to bring. Lots of them. Most of these fake blades are in authentic WWII military fittings, giving them a false air of authenticity.

The reason for the price drop is that so many fake Japanese swords have been brought to market that the natural demand and market absorption is oversaturated. Thus, supply exceeds demand, and price drops accordingly. Greedy dealers looking to enrich themselves at the expense of  would-be collectors have driven this dynamic.

Oh, there is a demand out there for real Japanese swords. People from all walks of life recognize how perfect these edged weapons are, and how refined and representative they are of the warrior ethos. Japanese swords are iconic, and therefore inspiring. They bring a lot of happiness to their owners, if only to serve as reminders of the old ways, like when men were men.

But sword dealers have now definitely overplayed their hand. The evidence of this fakery is overwhelming.

There is not only no possible way that one dealer can have so many authentic Japanese swords for sale at any one time, and there are dozens of dealers each stocked to the gills with fake swords being represented as authentic antiques, there is no possible way that this many authentic antique Japanese swords were ever available at one time in any one market, except maybe on the entire island of Japan in 1944.

After 1944 and Japan’s fall, swords were outlawed by the Allies, and they were destroyed by the thousands. Just like fabulous rifles in Germany and Austria were destroyed by the Allies. Though highly lamentable, it was all done to protect our troops. Very few Japanese swords or German rifles made it out alive, so to speak.

If I were to describe the ways these fake swords leap off the virtual pages of ebay and other sellers and scream “I am a fake,” I’d write a book. However, I’m just disgusted by it all, and writing a book is not in my future. However, here are some things to look out for: 1) tangs that have reddish rust. A true old worn rust is tough to fake. 2) file marks on tangs running the wrong way. 3) Tang inscriptions that are either perfect or that are cut over the defined edges. 4) Blades that are perfect, or that have a perfect yakiba or perfect hamon. This is the biggest red flag of all. Most Vet bring-backs were abused by the soldiers themselves, through horseplay. The swords were then used by kids in the 1950s for horseplay and cutting experiments. These swords were not then that valuable or collectible, so they were rarely protected from use or abuse. They were simply the artifacts and relics of brutal, cruel, sad warfare that their captors wished to forget. So to see so many shiny, smooth, perfect blades represented as antiques is a huge red flag. Very very few actual antique Japanese swords made it to 2017 unscathed, either through actual battle use or more likely, through abuse in American backyards at the hands of playful boys or demonstrative uncles in the 1950s-1970s. To see such incredibly distinct hamons on so many “antique” Japanese swords is a huge red flag. A real antique blade will naturally lose its luster over time, and the hardened cutting edge will follow that process, to the point where it becomes faint and barely distinct. Most blades will show clear splotches, discoloration, some rust, from having sat in a basement or living room for 70 years.

Guys, it’s tough to say this, but a lot of you are buying fake Japanese swords that are in reality made recently in China for the American collector market. It’s cliche, but caveat emptor. Ask yourself and your seller some really basic questions. The most important question to a seller being: How on earth do you keep finding these very rare swords, in such high quantities, in such incredibly good condition, to sell at such low prices?

You know the answer, or at least you should know it. The sad answer is the sad fact that it appears about 90% to 95% of the purported antique Japanese swords being sold today are fakes, most likely of recent Chinese origin (Pakistanis are getting better at making old looking edged weapons, too).

Do your research. Think hard about how each sword now for sale made its way to market. You’ll come to the natural and healthy conclusion. And you’ll run away, and save your money for real antiques.

Japanese swords — caveat emptor

Taking breathers from political screeds may be rare here, but this is an oddball necessity. One cannot see bloodthirsty fakery and sit silently.

To wit: A lot of guys collect old militaria. Swords, bayonets, guns, helmets, etc. Cool stuff. Inspiring. Evocative of sacrifice and bravery.

Most of this rusty old junk is tough to fake, and even more to the point, pointless to fake, as the rip-off scheme costs more than the item is worth.

Except in the world of old Japanese swords.

The iconic katana and wakizashi have been sought after for decades as both extremely appealing for a red-blooded man to look at, and as artwork; refined craftsmanship that’ll easily cut off an arm. What normal guy wouldn’t be attracted to such art?!

For the past ten years or a bit more, a certain well known, popular, big auction site on the internet has been filled with many obviously faked Japanese swords and daggers. There were and still are some for sale in the past week and presently, hawked as “gendaito” in shingunto mounts. These would be valuable hand-made art blades holstered in relatively rudimentary war-time (WWII) scabbards that saw service in the field. If they were actually old and authentic.

But these are not authentic, historic blades. They were made recently and are being sold as old.

So sad to see such obviously faked signatures, and faked blades, set into authentic WWII mounts and carriers, with blazingly brand-new shirasaya! It’s an obviously winning combination, as buyers pay thousands of dollars for something worth a few hundred at most.

C’mon guys. Use your heads. Do your research. How many gendaito blades really made it out, after WWII? So many that individual sellers seem to constantly, endlessly pull them out like white rabbits from black hats?

Alarm bells not going off?

If your hearts weren’t telling you Yes, your eyes would be telling you “FAKE!”

Run. Run away fast from these too-good-to-be-true bargains with new handles, purposeful minor scuffs, and signatures so clearly punched in by a modern Chinaman, not a Nipon-To maker sitting cross legged eighty years ago.

If nothing else, demand NHTK papers with each sword. Or consider your investment wasted. Sorry to say.

This Public Service Announcement has been brought to you by a fellow dude.

Kudos to Filson clothing

Filson is a clothing manufacturer in Seattle, making pretty much the most basic American clothing styles for the past 130 years.

Little has changed in their styles or fabrics. Boring? Maybe.

Flannel and wool shirts, wool and canvas coats and pants, wool long underwear, leather boots with wool insulation, tote and carry bags and purses, every item is made in America of virgin wool or different weights of canvas.

One short phrase describes Filson products: Brutally tough.

Or, “Last a lifetime.”

In an era of cheap Chinese crap and Asian sweatshop “designer” clothes, Filson stands alone, or probably alone. I am a consumer of top-quality outdoor clothing, and I cannot think of another manufacturer who makes anything like Filson’s clothing line.

Oh, sure, there are plastic and Gore Tex outdoor clothes galore. Eddie Bauer, LL Bean, Mountain Hard Wear, and others make some pretty good ones, which our family wears. Fleece coats, mountaineering parkas, super-sophisticated PhD plastic fiber clothes for the outdoor lifestyle. Some are married to goose down, which is genuinely warm.

But all of these synthetics catch on fire and turn the wearer into a large, running, screaming torch when exposed to flame. Or at the least they wilt, melt, smell very bad, and cease being useful when exposed to a camp fire hot enough to dry your damp undies and wet socks. In other words, the newfangled modern synthetics may weigh next to nothing and stop wind faster than a speeding bullet and locomotive, but they lack certain basic physical properties necessary to truly enjoy or survive the outdoors.

Wool and waxed heavy cotton canvas are nearly fireproof and can withstand tremendous force before tearing. Wool keeps the wearer warm even when wet. Yes, it is heavy compared to synthetics, but it is a lot quieter, actually it is silent, whereas even the best of synthetic fleece hunting clothes will leave a telltale “zip” sound when dragged across a sharp branch.

Filson forms a big part of my winter clothing selection. Mackinaw vests and coats of different colors and patterns form the core of the selection, and the double mackinaw coat in “Pennsylvania Tuxedo” red-and-black buffalo check plaid has kept me toasty warm in sub-zero temperatures day after day. This past week I wore the double mackinaw coat while flintlock hunting, and I never got cold. It was sub-zero every day.

Other wool clothes I wear are heavy camouflage Columbia hunting pants, Bass Pro Redhead heavy wool socks, Danner wool socks, knee-high SmartWool ski and hunting socks, and SmartWool long underwear. Yes, once in a while I break out the Eddie Bauer and Woolrich Adirondock plaid pants, jackets, and so on. They are real testaments to a world long gone, which dinosaurs like me cling to in misty eyed memories.

David Petzal is the gun writer for Field and Stream Magazine, and among many other witticisms and pithy one-liners, years ago he noted that all synthetic long underwear makes you smell like someone slaughtered a cow after a day, but wool long underwear can be worn for days without you or them being cleaned, and yet you don’t smell…too badly.

That’s the thing. Wool is natural. Like leather and fur, it is natural and fits the human body perfectly. We can sweat into wool for days on a hunt, and it just doesn’t smell bad. Oh, it may not smell fresh, but compared to the polypropylene synthetics, it does.

My Filson Mackinaw coat accompanies me on all my Adirondack wilderness hunts, serving as a blanket at night when the temperature inside the tent dips to 18 degrees. And yet after many years of being worn through thorn patches and rugged mountain brush, it shows zero signs of wear. That says it all.

Other favorites include the now discontinued styles of Tin Cloth logging jacket and Double Tin field coat, both of which I wear when hunting for small game in January and February, when thorns are a big part of the day. Some of these discontinued tin cloth coats have become collector’s items. Each one will last you your entire lifetime, and if you wax it at the end of the season, it will serve your kids, too.

So, kudos to Filson for making Best-quality, “old fashioned” clothing for a tech-happy generation. www.filson.com

Hallelujah, fur is back in style

A wonderful evening stroll down Fifth Avenue reveals that among the world’s top fashion professionals, natural fur has made a 100% comeback.

Clothing that even I recognize and admire as stunningly beautiful is covered, trimmed, made of, and surrounded by natural furs from many species of animals.

Recall that animal fur was denigrated as cruelly gotten, and bored activists would scream at people wearing fur, sometimes throwing red dye on them. The shallow activists never addressed how their leather shoes and belts and purses and car seats squared up with their public opposition to people wearing other sorts of animal skins.

If hypocrisy is a hallmark of screechy activists, fur was the best example.

Fur is, after all, natural, biodegradable, renewable, and under modern wildlife laws, sustainable. Those are all rare qualities in a world filled with cheap plastic junk manufactured in an enormous prison camp called China.

The luxurious furs I looked at represented incredible skill. From the trappers who artfully snared the critters without damaging the pelt, to the tanners who carefully turned them into soft leather capable of being worked, to the cutters and seamstresses who took the supple leather (with the hair on, like a cow hide) and turned them into gorgeous clothes, throws, and warm accoutrements, the entire process is a long chain of long-enduring skills and appreciation of natural beauty and utility.

If fur was long politically incorrect, but now it is acceptable among the PC elites who run the fashion industry, what does this say about the philosophical leanings of the individuals behind this surge? One cannot help but think that the many gay men in the fashion industry, once emancipated in general society, would eventually hew to a more pragmatic view of life and politics.

After all, once you own a home and work for people willing to spend thousands of dollars on a single garment, you really do have a stake in the capitalist enterprise.

Perhaps the fur on display at Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, and other stores I looked at is a social statement by a bunch of quiet pragmatists, who have also had it with the faux anger and the overwrought hostility and the ubiquitous unhappiness that characterize Leftist politics.

Well done, chums.

And as a pretty bad but committed trapper myself, thank you.

I love America. That is why I fight for her

I don’t doubt that the people on the left “love” America.

What I also know is true is that their definition of “love” of America is 100% the opposite of mine.

My love of country is frequently called “jingoistic” in online debates, a term once used by America’s arch-foe, the Soviet Union, and their treasonous allies planted on American soil.

The left’s “love” for America is for its rich opportunity to be turned into a fantasy utopia, the likes of which Marxists have been pursuing one way or another for over 100 years.

Leftists would take all of our material success until now, and convert it into state-controlled property, to be doled out sparingly to everyone equally.  That policy failed awfully in the Soviet Union, but as someone once close to me used to say, “Communism failed only because the Soviets did not implement it correctly.  It is otherwise a great thing and still ought to be pursued.”

The Soviets failed, and the Berlin Wall fell (25 years ago), because a tidal wave of individual hope for freedom and liberty continually corroded state power; eventually, the system just leaked throughout its faulty pipes.

The left would ignore all that and return us to those dark days.  Oh sure, they don’t say the days will be dark.  Neither did the Soviets, and neither do the Chinese or the North Koreans – they all say things are just rosy.

I love the America that was founded in 1776 and 1787 and 1794 and 1812 and 1867 and 1922 and 1948 and 1954 and 1964 and…….Yes, America as it was founded had the tools built into it to overcome the many challenges the young nation inherited (slavery and abolition) and later worked through (women’s suffrage, Negro voting rights, etc.).

America is not perfect – what nation is? – but America is perfectly designed and built to successfully process all challenges.

The challenge we face now is the same we faced when the Soviets had their agents working to damage us on the home front.  We face domestic political opponents who really do not believe in the America as it was founded.  They do not really love America, as it was created.  They are like little Benedict Arnolds, riding through the countryside at night, doing their utmost to un-do all the goodness.

I and tens of millions like me, however, we do love America as it was founded and as it has progressed since its founding.  And we will not sit idly by as our great nation is “transformed” into something unrecognizable.  Our fight is as much with liberals in the Democratic Party as it is with liberals in the Republican Party, and there are plenty there, too.

Speaking of the traitor Benedict Arnold, he was caught by two ragamuffin Patriot soldiers, more militiamen than regulars, and he offered them huge sums of money if they would but let him go to his British handlers waiting for him not far away.  Our two boys were destitute of money, but not of spirit, and in their ragged clothing they held him at the end of their loaded barrels and marched him back to patriot lines.

Today, people like me, no matter how much money is thrown at us, for or against us in supportive politics or opposition politics, we are going to keep on fighting to bring back the America we once knew – The America that offers full and equal prosperity to all who are willing to work hard and contribute to a society bound by Constitutional obligations and opportunities, and nothing more, or less.

Ukraine: Obama batting zero, his cheering section still loud

Math was not always my strongest interest (although I did self-learn calculus in graduate school), so disregard the headline here. Obama’s foreign policy is such a catastrophic failure that he is way in the negatives; he is not at zero.  Being at Zero would actually be a success.

Here is a partial list of countries and peoples seeking freedom from tyranny who have had the rug of American promises pulled out from underneath them by Obama:

Poland (defensive missiles).

Georgia (South Ossetia, invaded by Russia).

Israel.

Iranian citizens.

Syrian citizens.

And now it’s Ukraine that has learned the hard lesson of Obama’s recklessness. Whatever promises were made to get Ukraine’s nuclear weapons, like protecting Ukraine from Russian imperialism, have been openly tossed out the window by an Obama administration bent on destroying America from within.  Wrecking America’s international standing is one way to destroy America at home.

Allowing aggressive imperial powers like Russia, China, and Iran to  willfully expand their spheres of influence and domination lets Obama off the “aggressor” hook.  He can claim he’s no “warmonger.”  But his inaction and failure to live up to his own red lines and promises of American protection have created a vacuum into which the aggressors, the real warmongers, have stepped.

Growing up in a pacifist household, I used to ask the hard questions that no one could answer, like Why should someone not actively oppose an Adolph Hitler and a Nazi Germany?  Answers were hard to come by, because there are no substantive answers to these questions.

Pacifism is evil because it legitimizes evil.  Pacifism equates doing nothing with active aggression, imperialism, domination, subjugation, tyranny and all the barbaric cruelty that goes along with them.  By failing to act, by failing to confront evil in a meaningful way, pacifists lend credibility to the aggressors.  If Russian imperialism in the form of subjugating Ukraine is not confronted and thwarted, then it must not be so bad. Such is the message from Obama and other pacifists, intended or unintended.

This unwillingness to act creates a vacuum, and this vacuum is seen correctly as  weakness.  It invites even more aggression.  History is replete with examples, so an Obama would have to willfully ignore the obvious historical truth in order to do what he is doing (and not doing) now.

I know Obama has his cheering section.  That is the greatest sadness of all, because those same people claim to be ethical, humane, loving.  So strong is the messianic love for this charlatan among his believers, that they will forgive and forget his greatest deceptions, his greatest failures, the trail of destruction and misery in his wake.  Other people, other families, then pay with their lives, at best to be the subjects of pity by groups like OxFam and Rotary, intent on picking up the few broken pieces later on.

For shame.

Meanwhile, Obama hands off US relationships to Russia

Amazingly, Obama has managed to hand off a great number of America’s most important relationships to Russia and China.

By engaging Iran in meaningless negotiation, and easing sanctions with nothing in return, Obama has managed to alienate Saudi Arabia and Egypt, isolate Israel, and drive everyone towards China and Russia as the new sources (!!) of stability and strength.

Growing up Quaker did nothing for my ability to see reality. The Quaker discomfort with conflict is legendary (with the exception of making genocidal war against Israel), and that pacifism informs the foolishness now passing as “peace” in Obama’s relationship with evil Iran.

The longer Obama is in power, the less stable the world becomes, the stronger evil nations like Iran and evil groups like the Muslim Brotherhood become. And Obama’s supporters wonder why people like me question if Obama really is a Christian and really is pro America. You can’t do what Obama is doing and make those claims. America is becoming more vulnerable every day under Obama.

Happy Singing Russian-Chinese-Nazi American Children

Anyone who has seen the Goodby-Silverstein children’s chorus innocently singing away about how electing Romney will result in a destroyed planet, and how those same children already blame their parents, can only be reminded of the past use of children to attack parents in totalitarian societies.

Mao’s China, North Korea, the Soviet Union, and most infamously the Nazis, all used children’s choruses to both brainwash whole generations and also inculcate a loyalty to the big government that superseded family ties. That loyalty to government was used to break familial bonds and reinforce horrendous injustices by those governments.

Commentators have said for years that the Democratic Party had become the heir to both socialism and the totalitarian methods necessary for socialism to succeed. Over the years, I have come to that same conclusion, with some exceptions.

Watching these little children singing about hating their parents for voting for Romney sends chills up my spine. Here it is, right here on our American shores, kids raised in middle and upper income families, sending a message that the people who created and nourished them are Public Enemy Number One. If this is representative of the Democratic Party, then we are in for a true battle for the soul of America.

And piggy backing on that message is today’s Doonesbury (Gary Trudeau) political cartoon, saying that Romney will win by voter suppression, and voter fraud, and that riots will follow. Why this partisan activist continues to get published next to family cartoons is a testament to the mainstream media’s overwhelming political bias. Is there a right-wing equivalent to Doonesbury? No? Do you think that one would ever be published?

But if riots do happen, God forbid, will Liberals suddenly embrace the Second Amendment? Conservatives are generally a well-armed bunch, having spent the past fifty years voting for the Second Amendment both in the voting booth and with their wallets at gun stores. In a physical confrontation, I’d put my money on the gun, not the knife, or Gary Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” pen.

Ultimate Prosaic: What The Heck Happened to American Made Hunting Boots?

America made the best hunting boots, a fact known as surely as Einstein was the smartest person ever and Raquel Welch was the hottest babe, ever.

Until now. Now, hunting boots by even the most storied makers like Danner and Irish Setter are made in….where else…China.

Call me confused, but let me ask you, Are the Chinese big on hunting? Do they know how to hunt, what to wear hunting, are they gear hounds, etc. ? My sense, apparently now shared by a lot of other American hunters and outdoorsmen, is that the Chinese really do not know hunting or hunting boots. In fact, the Chinese suck at hunting (although I once watched a video of Chinese soldiers happily picking off gentle, unarmed Tibetans who were walking through the Himalayan snows to escape their China-occupied country, so I guess the Chinese are good at murdering, but that’s unrelated to hunting), if their products are any indication.

The proof that the Chinese stink badly at hunting is that they keep on manufacturing hunting boots, and the hunting boots keep on getting returned by increasingly surly buyers. Label says waterproof. Wallet says you just paid $200 for high quality, waterproof boots. Your wet feet say “These ain’t waterproof.” And back to the store they go.

Some guys (and ladies, too), are returning three pairs of the same model before they give up on either that model or on the entire brand. A lot of people seem to be migrating toward spending no less than $300, and easily up to $375, on a pair of hunting boots that they know will not fail them when they are alone, a long, long way from civilization, and dependent on their footwear to get them around and back home at the end.

Does three hundred and fifty bucks sound like a lot of money for hunting boots to you? Holy smokes, it sounds like a lot of money to me. A pair of fancy dress shoes by the best makers rarely go for that amount, even on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Something is afoot here, friends, and it is not pretty.

On the one hand, a lot of hunters are kvetching about their low-quality boots online and in product reviews. So hunting as a sport is clearly taking a hit. On the other hand, Chinese boot manufacturers are hazing hunters, forcing many of them to spend a small fortune on the only American-made hunting boots, thereby restoring comfort to their feet and honor to our crumbling nation. I am at that point myself, having purchased, worn, and returned several expensive pairs of boots by the most storied names in boot making history.

The question is, with boots this expensive, are guys going to begin comparing boots at camp? That will make me feel quite uncomfortable. The last thing I want is to be associated with effete city slicker behavior. It’s like pollution in a pristine environment. It’s a Chinese plot to destroy hunting, one way or another. God help us.