It all started when I bought my first sword at the age of 18. Dissatisfied with the available references, and an internet which was still in its infancy, I started to study Japanese a couple of years later, in 1998, followed by studies on Japanese history and culture, also in Japan. Soon it turned out that I was not a collector and so I concentrated first of all on etymological and ancient studies, with a focus on the Shōsō’in repository (正倉院) in Nara and on calligraphy. Thus, my basic research is also reflected in my publications. In 2005 I became a member of the European Branch of the NBTHK, the Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Swords. By communicating with collectors and other enthusiasts it seemed logical to offer a translation service, which lead to a regular translation of selected parts of the monthly Japanese Tōken Bijutsu magazine. From 2008 to 2018, I was working as a freelance translator and author in the field of Japanese arts and antiques and have published several relevant books in both German and English. From 2018 to August of 2021, I was Visiting Researcher in the Department of Arms and Armor of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which resulted, with September of 2021, in a permanent position as Associate Curator of Asian Arms and Armor.
About this Blog
I want to welcome everyone who found the way here. The idea for this blog was born from my everyday work as translator when often interesting finds suggest themselves to be shared with other interested parties. As I am mostly working with texts on swords, sword fittings, and armor, the vast majority of this blog will be about these subjects but I reserve the right to post from time to time other things which might be of interest (or are at least for me). Since English is not my mother tongue, I politely ask the reader or commenter for forbearance. However, I am always open to suggestions and corrections if certain passages are ambiguous or completely incomprehensible.
Thank you for visiting, and I wish you a pleasant reading!
Japanese Arms and Armor
Oak Ridge, North Carolina
I’m member oif the Netsuke Society..sometimes need to translate signatures (2-3-4 characters) or dates, or inscriptions…please how much is the fee to offer such servie?…and with absolute correct guatantee about translation?…tks.
An absolute correct guarantee is difficult. I can give you at least a guarantee about how characters are read in names according to the nanori-jiten (the offical dictionary of how characters are read in names) but this covers not all readings, especially those of artists (there was a certain freedom in choosing readings). What I can do is to show how a signature is read by experts (Ueda for example) and explain possible readings. It is hard to determine a fee for this service so I offer what I suggested for free. Anyway, if you are uncertain about a reading of a signature or character, you can contact me via the address given in the imprint.
Sir…I have two mei that I wish translated. I have pictures of the writing that I can send you. Would you do this translation for me and what would be your fee and what method would I be able to pay you.
Thank you very much. My best to you and yours,
I usually don´t charge simple mei translations unless there is a lot of research necessary to understand them. So please send me some pictures to “email@example.com” and I will have them translated for you.
Hello Markus, wonderful work bringing light to little-known facts of history. Where do you get your archive info? I wonder if you’d be interested in a story about the second son of a king, who moved north?
Thank you! Regarding the info, I have an extensive library, access to several Japanese university servers, and I am in constant exchange with likeminded nihontô enthusiasts. Please email me with details on the story you mentioned (email can be found on the imprint site).
Hi, Mr Sesko. I find your blog really interesting. I´m mananging and Aikido and Koryu online magazine in Spanish: http://www.aikidoenlinea.com . With your permission, I would like to translate some of your articles, and include your books in our affiliated library. Thanks for yout attention, and keep doing this good job!.
Mr. Rodríguez, please feel free to translate any article you want to Spanish. Thank you very much for your kind words and for including my books in your library!
Markus, I have an old Yumi, (Japanese longbow, pre WWII, that has a signiture. Would you look at a photo and translate for me? Thanks, John Weeks
I’d be glad to. Please send the pics to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I find your articles about swords wonderful. It is difficult to find insights such as yours
in the perspective of the Japanese.
Thanks very much David!
I’m trying to see if you can translate and give me some background what Japanese characters in a WWII helmet might mean. I would like to see if there is any history behind the characters or what it says or implies.
I will send you an email
Firstly, I really enjoy you articles! Much of the information is a bit above my head, but I guess it’s just a learning curve! LOL!
Do you know if there is a translation of the 2018 NBTHK Juyo Tōken Shinsa available on line?
Dear George, glad to hear that you enjoy reading my articles, thank you! As for the 2018 Juyo Shinsa, and to my knowledge, there is no translation of the 2018 results online. If you are referring to the most recent, the 64th Juyo Shinsa, submission was just last month and the NBTHK usually reserves a period of about 3 months for the process before theoretically any results would be known.
Thank you so much! After I mailed you, A friend of mine found a sword blog mentioning that the September 2018 Juyo shinsa results would be on the NBTHK site TOMORROW, the 9th! What are the chances?!
He didn’t tell me what blog it was, so I guess I might be skeptical! LOL! According to him, it’ll be in Japanese anyway.
I really thought results would be after the first of the year but maybe earlier.
Trust me, I’ll be reading a lot of your articles to learn!
Thank you for what you do!
If I find that blog, I’ll send you the link. Maybe bogus.
Best to you…
If you do find that blog and share it with me, that would be really great! Thank you and best regards, Markus
Found that blog!
Posted by “Pete Klein”
Posted 02 November 2018 – 01:04 PM
10月 64回重要 刀剣
刀装具 済 11/9
From the NBTHK homepage. Juyo shinsa results November 9th with origami around 12/2019.
Ah, thank you. I found the update on the NBTHK website:
As Pete said, results are in on November 9. Items that did not pass will be shipped back on November 14 and those that pass on April 30, 2019.
Are successful Juyo candidates on display at the museum for a period or just returned?
Will the results be at this same link?
Just an update…
I’m hearing that the Juyo list might be posted either in December or in their December “newsletter”. We shall know!
I did get good news about one Juyo candidate!
Not sure you will be celebrating Thanksgiving, but best to you and family!
Hello George, I was waiting for the official announcement in the Token Bijutsu magazine a well. A happy Thanksgiving to you too (I am going home to NC to see my wife and family). Best regards, Markus
Hello, Markus. I’d just like to thank you for the work you put into your reference guide on identifying Japanese seal script. It’s incredibly handy and easy to use!
Thank you Orin, I appreciate your comment! Markus
Dear Mr. Sesko,
I wanted to ask your opinion about the possibility of translation your books into Russian and if you agree I will be happy. I’m asking for permission to use translated materials to study students to improve their knowledge in art forging. Let me know if you don’t mind if I translate your books.
Hello, Mr. Sesko!
Can you let me translate your books to russian?
With best regards,
Hi Mr. Sesko I was wondering if you have done any translations on children’s swords. I have been looking for children’s swords and information on them. I know they were not made for children to fight each other with them. But not much has been written or recorded about them. I have received some information and fittings from a Watanabe sensei in Japan many years ago. I have been collecting these for many years. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Best Regards, Albert Furuto pres. Japanese Sword Society of Hawaii.
Hello Marcus, I had an inquiry I was hoping you might be able to assist me in narrowing down some information on. I have in my possession what appears to be a ww2 katana, however, the tang is not stamped with a serial, nor have a been able to procure any markings other than the 2 styles of fuller. (I don’t know the gramatically correct term off hand) It took me several months following procurement of this sword to find any information from what I could find in the form of similar styles from your articles following “Heianjō-jū Mitsunaga”. (Specifically related to picture 3 of the Kantei-4 article) I can provide you detailed imaging through email, I discovered twisted papers hidden beneath the silk wrapping of the hilt, I am not aware if this is significant to my line of question of not. I simply would like to narrow my search on its origins in general.
Hi Andrea, please send me some pictures of the sword and tang to email@example.com. Thx!