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Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai - The Society For The Preservation of The Japanese Art Sword

 Japan - Main Branch: http://www.touken.or.jp/

European Branch: http://www.nbthk.net/

American Branch: http://www.nbthk-ab.org

As some of you have learned, Mr. Tanobe and Mr. Kobayashi have resigned their position at the NBTHK and are now enjoying full time retirement. Both Mr. Tanobe and Mr. Kobayashi had worked at the NBTHK for forty years, and had actually retired in 2007 which is mandatory policy upon reaching the age of 60. However, they both agreed to work on a part-time basis under an annual contract to assist the NBTHK with the workload of shinsa and research. During their tenure at the NBTHK, they have both made invaluable contributions to the study of Nihonto and Kodogu as experts in their respective fields and the magnitude of these contributions to the international study and appreciation of these art objects cannot be overemphasized. Without the support and assistance of Tanobe-san, it is doubtful that permission would have been granted for the formation of the American Branch.


"Japanese sword has been one of the most important and respected culture in Japan. We pay great respect to our ancestors who have kept a mind pursuing artistic significance as well as developing practical function. We believe that we have responsibility to take over this national asset to the next generation and help people in the world understand its beauty. Also we strongly feel we have to take necessary action to conserve Japanese sword in the right way." NBTHK Tokyo


The History of the Society

After WW II the Allied Forces ordered the confiscation and  destruction of all Japanese weapons, and this included Japanese swords. It was only through the intervention of Col. Cadwell that art swords were preserved.

The NBTHK was founded in Tokyo in 1948 through the efforts of Dr. Homma and Dr. Sato. They feared the total destruction of one of Japan's cultural heritages.  Currently the Japanese art sword represents the greatest number of all registered Japanese National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties.

The mission of the NBTHK was to separate, register and preserve the art swords from the bulk of confiscated weapons.  Every Japanese sword, whether it comes from abroad or is discovered in Japan, must be presented to the Tocho, a panel of experts who will issue a license which must be kept with that sword at all times.  If a sword is not licensed and registered, it is subject to confiscation, and the penalties for possession may be severe.



Exhibit Area at The Token Hakubutsu Kan

Exhibits include some of best swords, koshirae, armor, and tosogu in world. The exhibits are changed monthly.


Example of a Tokubetsu Hozon Kanteisho




Token Hakubutsu Kan

4-25-10 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku

Tokyo 151-0053, Japan


The Aims of the NBTHK



In the past, as today, the NBTHK has had the following aims:

. To preserve the Japanese art sword.

. To promote the understanding of, and to disseminate knowledge about, the art sword.

. The recognition, classification, registration, and certification of Japanese swords.

. To encourage the study of the Japanese sword and all the related arts.


The Activities of the NBTHK


The NBTHK, which is headquartered in Tokyo, has 90 branches in Japan, but only two branches outside Japan, the NBTHK European and American Branch. It pursues its constitutional aims through:

1. Registration, Classification, Documentation and Study of the Japanese art sword.

2. Operation of a tatara smelting furnace to produce tamahagane, the highly specialized steel suitable for forging Swords.

3. Running of contests for sword smiths, polishers and the other artesian of sword fittings.

4. Seminars for the study of the sword.

5. Publishing a monthly journal Token Bijutsu with analyses and presentations of important swords, tosogu, smiths, methods of manufacture, hints for care of swords, announcements of new publications, advertisements for sword dealers, and other topics.

6. Yearly exhibitions giving the possibility of "hands-on" study of swords.

9. Permanent and changing exhibitions of important swords at The Sword Museum.



NBTHK European & American Branch


The center of the activity of the NBTHK is of course in Japan, but the NBTHK Branches in Europe and America are the only ones outside that country and it offers collectors the fullest possible support and possibilities for learning with:

American Branch: Meetings at the  Tampa and San Francisco sword shows:

NBTHK/AB  - http://www.nbthk-ab.org

                                               - Hands-on kantei of important swords

                                               - Information on, and oshigata of, kantei items

                                               - Lecture on, and explanation of, the kantei swords

                                               - Displays of important swords

                                               - Displays of tosogu

                                               - Publication of catalogues of AB/NBTHK displays

                                               - International dissemination of information on stolen swords

European Branch: Bi-monthly meetings in ever-changing locations in Europe.


                       Study-courses and kantei


                       Hands-on study of important swords

                       Reports on sword-related studies

                       Guidance and hints on proper care, storage, and handling. 

                       Extensive impartial advice and opinions on every sort of question,     regarding the sword and its fittings, polishing, obtaining papers etc.      

                       Translations of the most important parts of the monthly journal Token

                                                Bijutsu into the English language.

The NBTHK is acutely aware of its special obligations, and those of every collector, to ensure the transmission of these extraordinary blades unharmed into future generations.  Improper care or handling, and especially ignorant cleaning and attempts at polishing, have done irredeemable harm to many a formerly good Sword. This sort of treatment may render it impossible to restore, and worthless. Conversely, a minor blade will never become an art sword, even with the best polish.

"When examining a Sword it is customary first of all to thank the previous owners for having treasured the blade and handed it down to succeeding generations. It is also proper to bow in a sign of respect for both the Sword and its owners." Kokan Nagayama
The Connoisseurs Book of the Japanese Sword 1997; 308 (Kodansha )