The Japanese sword (Nihonto) has always fascinated me, it is the pinnacle of man’s creation with steel and a spiritual icon of Japan’s rich culture and long history. In terms of function, it’s considered the greatest edged weapon ever made, it was renowned for it’s cutting ability and admired throughout the centuries as an object of true artistic beauty. The soul of the samurai.
My name is Andrew Ickeringill, I’m from Melbourne Australia, and I’m a fully qualified Japanese sword polisher (togishi).
A togishi is a scholar and a craftsman whose job it is to appraise and restore Nihonto using traditional Japanese techniques.
My training in Japan was under a master togishi named Sasaki Takushi, a student of Nagayama Koukan who was ranked a living national treasure of Japan (Ningen Kokuho). My training was in the form of a traditional style apprenticeship which lasted over 6 years, entering into this type of training is like living in a completely different world, a different time.
Our school of togishi are part of the Honami tradition, which has existed for over 7 centuries, making it the oldest surviving school of Nihonto scholars in history.
My schedule was 7 days a week, 8 – 12 hours a day, and that was just the training, not including the chores and other responsibilities that came with being a full-time apprentice (uchideshi). In fact, come to think of it, perhaps ‘uchideshi’ would be better translated as ‘disciple’ rather than ‘apprentice’.
I have now officially finished my training and gained permission from my sensei to go independent. My aim is to provide the rest of the world outside of Japan with the knowledge and techniques I’ve learnt from within it.