This material is excerpted from, "Nakajima
Monogatari" as written by Francis Boyd. The work was originally
published as a series of articles appearing in the Northern California
Japanese Sword Club Newsletter beginning in 1994. The articles
have also been published in various Japanese Sword newsletters
in the US, England, and Australia. The essay was written out
of respect, admiration, and dedication to his teacher.
Mr. Nakajima Muneyoshi was born in Tokyo on February
26, 1922, the seventh child in a family of twelve children. His
father was a knife sharpener, his mother came from a family that
owned a large silk factory on the northern part of the main island.
His father would walk around Tokyo every day with his toolbox full
of whet stones, setting up his workshop on the sidewalk wherever
he could find work. As a young boy Nakajima said that he often
went with his father to sharpen knives, and it was there that his
love of sword polishing began. Another thing that Nakajima did
as a boy was to learn English and Chinese from the Finnish Protestant
missionaries. Both of these languages were to prove useful to him
later in his life.
Around the time he turned fourteen Nakajima moved
to the house of the Saya Master Suzuki Manzõ to become an
apprentice. Mr. Suzuki was a koshirae and shirasaya maker. He did
all of the horn and woodwork for mounting Japanese swords. He also
did repairs required on old swords whose mounts had been damaged.
Nakajima liked Suzuki san very much but had great difficulties
with a fellow student. About one year had passed when Nakajima
decided to move on to a better situation.
Nakajima's next teacher was a sword polisher (togishi)
who had been a hatamoto to the last Tokugawa shogun. This man so
loved the sword that when they were banned by the Emperor Meiji,
and the samurai class was abolished, he became a sword polisher
so that he could be near the swords that he loved. Nakajima said
that after only three months of working with the old hatamoto,
who was in his late eighties, the man passed away. Because of the
hatamoto's passing, his students were distributed among the old
samurai's friends so that the apprentices would not want for work.