'Got any swords from 47 Ronin?'

'Got any swords from 47 Ronin?'

SINGAPORE - The prevalence of swords in pop culture, in movies such as Kill Bill (photo) and Lord of The Rings, has heightened interest in sword collecting here.

So says Ms Diana Phee, the director of major sword retailer Caesars, which has two outlets, at Plaza Singapura and Jem.

"We have customers coming in asking for a sword used in a particular movie or an anime series," says the 37-year-old.

"Many of our 8,000 members become interested in collecting swords after seeing them used in pop culture."

Recently, her customers have asked for swords used in Keanu Reeves' samurai flick 47 Ronin.

On the other hand, a spokesman from Sheares Marketing, another major sword retailer, says his customers are not interested in the pop culture aspect of it at all.

"My clients are willing to fork out the cash for genuine swords handmade by master Japanese swordsmiths," he maintains.

He refused to name who these swordsmiths are, but searches on the Internet revealed one Nakajima Muneyoshi to be known in his field.

The spokesman continues: "About 20 of them have spent upwards of $10,000 on swords with elaborate fitting. Blades are also more likely (to be) folded steel."

The spokesman adds that the most expensive sword sold in his shop at Selegie Road is about $50,000.

The cheapest? About $1,000.

In contrast, the cheapest swords in Caesars are priced at about $30 each and they are usually movie memorabilia.

The most expensive sword there is about $19,000.

The scabbard of the sword is covered in shark skin and wrapped around by a fitting which has detailed engravings of dragons.

Ms Phee explains that customers look out for different things when buying a sword.

She says: "It varies according to their interests - some of them want a matte finish, while others don't. The material of the blade matters too.

"Some may want a cotton wrap handle or a silk wrap handle."

She adds that customers with a clear idea of what they want often leave with a sword that is clearly different.

"When they hold a sword in their hand, it may feel uncomfortable because of the length of their hand and their build," she says.

"Many collectors buy their swords online, but I feel that it makes a difference to go down to the shop so they know if the sword is suitable for them."


Before getting that samurai sword

If you want to get hold of a truly authentic samurai sword, expect to pay handsomely. Indeed, a 13th-century Kamakura blade was sold in an auction for US$418,000(S$529,500) in 1992.

Here are some considerations you have to bear in mind when getting a samurai sword.

Steel: This is the most important consideration. One reason these swords are so sought after is that they have gone through an extensive process that removes the impurities in the raw iron ore.

Forging: Authentic samurai swords are forged. Many swords on the market are not forged and hence have weaker blades.

Design: The design of your samurai sword should be historically accurate. There are many swords in the market which have very little in common with the feudal-era sword.

Polish: Many swords today are polished on machines, and this does not contribute to the swords' efficiency or appearance.

Scabbard: This has to be made of wood with a water buffalo horn ring at the opening to prevent splitting.

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