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Vintage Bokuto

Authentic Japanese vintage bokuto

The Beauty and Quality of Vintage Bokuto

In classical martial arts involving iaido and kenjutsu (sword drawing and fencing) practitioners often use a bokken (Bokuto in Japanese). A bokuto is a wooden sword specifically designed for practicing Japanese martial arts. More than 90% of the wooden weapons sold in Japan are manufactured in Miyakonojo, a region in Sothern Kyushu. However, old stock of quality wood has been declining, and as a result, many traditional crafsman have discontinued producing high-end bokuto. For example, the well-known Horinouchi Workshop closed in 2019, resulting in only three other bokuto craft stores left: the Nidome family, the Matsuzaki family and the Aramaki family. 

There are many other quality bokuto craftsmen still in Japan, however, the majority of them now use wood that is much younger. For example, the famous Honagashi (meaning “real” Red Oak”, very limited availability and very expensive) is now being replaced by Ichiiagashi (or Akagashi, meaning Red Oak). Even though scientifically, these two trees are close, the fact is that bokuto made from wood of the latter tree has had limited time to cure.

Besides Honagashi, other superior woods have traditionally been used to produce Bokuto. For example, Sunuke (a variety of woods of at least 300 years old) produces bokuto that are extremely dense and have a great scent. Second, Honbiwa (Japanese Loquat) has been used for excellent bokuto, but are not getting very pricey. Recently, artisans have started to use Camelia wood to substitute and even sell it as Honbiwa. Lastly, Ebony wood has been used to create some of highest quality Bokuto. Ebony Bokuto are often awarded as rewards for high rank examinations and are considered precious gifts.

The feeling of a vintage high quality Bokuto during suburi brings pure joy to any keiko session.

Chris de Feijter

Importing and Restoring Vintage Bokuto

Recently La Ronge Martial Arts Head Instructor Chris de Feijter has started to import vintage high-quality Bokuto from Japan. Together with one of his friends in Japan, he selects high-end and often unique Bokuto made of Sunuke, Honbiwa, or Ebony. These Bokuto are then carefully cleaned and restored so that each can continue to be used for another lifetime of the practitioner. Many of these bokuto come from registered craftsmen who are no longer producing bokuto. Many of these Bokuto are more than 50 to 70 years old and can outperform any modern-made Bokuto.

Availability and Cost

The availability of vintage Bokuto is very limited. A small stock is kept in Canada of Bokuto and have been carefully restored. When possible original certification stickers are not removed. As for cost, this depends on the original purchase price and shipping. For example, purchasing a new Ebony handmade Bokuto from Aramaki craftsmen would cost around $1,300. Recently Chris purchased and restored Aramaki Ebony Bokuto for much cheaper. Depending on the wood, quality of the work, age, and weight & length, vintage Bokuto that have been carefully restored sell from anywhere between $175 and $600.

But why buy a vintage Bokuto if you can purchase a modern, White Oak Bokuto (Made in Japan) for around $125? It all depends on what you are looking for. Novice practitioners should start with a good quality White Oak Bokuto from Japan (never from Taiwan or China). But intermediate and advanced practitioners – with developed skill – can benefit from the added weight and strength of a vintage Bokuto. When you compare a modern Bokuto to a vintage Bokuto, you will know and feel the difference right away. In addition, purchasing a vintage Bokuto will last a lifetime (at least) when they are maintenance properly.

Sunuke is Getting Rare

Trees (Isu no ki) from which Sunuke wood is extracted are now entirely protected. The only source now comes from trees that fell naturally, which is not enough to ensure stable production and resulted in a complete shortage of Sunuke. Therefore, new bokuto from Sunuke are extremely difficult to find. However, locally, our contact in Japan continues to find Sunuke bokuto in private (estate) collections.

Ready to Upgrade?

Chris primarily procures vintage Bokuto and sells these to his own students. If you are interested in looking at what is available at various price ranges, contact Chris directly. A new shipment is expected to arrive at the end November 2022. This shipment will include a Honbiwa bokuto, and various kodachi. 

Available Stock

HONAGASHI Bokuto, handcrafted.

  • Length: 104.5cm
  • Weight: 760 grams
  • Craftsmen: Yoshifusa 

Excellent Bokuto, carefully restored with Japanese sanding methods to be in optimal condition. Conditioned with nine coats of cold-pressed Tsubaki Oil (Camelia). The original certification stickers are in decent shape. This Bokuto is on the heavy side, excellent for suburi and regular kenjutsu keiko. A high-quality Bokuto for the intermediate to advanced practitioner. Bokuto is sold with a carrying and storage bag.

The photos displaying the Bokuto on the tatami mat are after restoration, the photos with the yellow background show the Bokuto before restoration.

MURASAKI KOKUTAN  Bokuto, handcrafted. (SOLD)

  • Length: 101 cm
  • Weight: 556 grams
  • Craftsmen: Horinouchi Noboru Seisakusho

Excellent Bokuto, made of Purple Ebony by one of the last masters of the bokuto, as the Horinouchi workshop closed in 2019. Now highly sought after, these bokuto are completely handcrafted. Carefully restored with Japanese sanding methods to be in optimal condition. Conditioned with nine coats of cold-pressed Tsubaki Oil (Camelia) and waxed with 100% organic locally sourced beeswax. This Bokuto is medium heavy, excellent for suburi and regular kenjutsu keiko. A high-quality Bokuto for the advanced practitioner. Bokuto is sold with a carrying and storage bag.

This bokuto includes an inscription outlining it was an expensive gift for passing a 5th dan examination in Iaido. A one of a kind product. 

MURASAKI KOKUTAN  Bokuto, handcrafted.

  • Length: 100 cm
  • Weight: 600 grams
  • Craftsmen: Horinouchi Noboru Seisakusho

High quality Bokuto, made of Purple Ebony by one of the last masters of the bokuto, as the Horinouchi workshop closed in 2019. Now highly sought after, these bokuto are completely handcrafted. Carefully restored with Japanese sanding methods to be in optimal condition. Conditioned with nine coats of cold-pressed Tsubaki Oil (Camelia) and waxed with 100% organic locally sourced beeswax. This Bokuto is medium heavy, excellent for suburi and regular kenjutsu keiko. A high-quality Bokuto for the advanced practitioner. Bokuto is sold with a carrying and storage bag.

Sunuke  Bokuto #1, handcrafted.

  • Length: 101 cm
  • Weight: 595 grams
  • Craftsmen: unknown

High quality Bokuto, made of Sunuke.

Sunuke is a rare and expensive wood from the center core of old and rotten Isu tree. Only Isu core wood that has been dry for over 200 years has the colour, hardness, solidness and superb balance which make this Sunuke Bokuto so highly appreciated in Japan among high-ranked instructors from different martial art schools.

This bokuto has two small dents that have been restored using epoxy wood filler. The structural integrity of this bokuto has not been impacted at all. In fact, the balance is amazing and the feeling is rich!

Carefully restored with Japanese sanding methods to be in optimal condition. Conditioned with nine coats of cold-pressed Tsubaki Oil (Camelia) and waxed with 100% organic locally sourced beeswax. This Bokuto is medium heavy, excellent for suburi and regular kenjutsu keiko. A high-quality Bokuto for the advanced practitioner. Bokuto is sold with a carrying and storage bag.

Sunuke  Bokuto#2, handcrafted.

  • Length: 101.5 cm
  • Weight: 681 grams
  • Craftsmen: unknown

High quality Bokuto, made of Sunuke.

Sunuke is a rare and expensive wood from the center core of old and rotten Isu tree. Only Isu core wood that has been dry for over 200 years has the colour, hardness, solidness and superb balance which make this Sunuke Bokuto so highly appreciated in Japan among high-ranked instructors from different martial art schools.

This bokuto is in perfect condition, with a few small scratches. Carefully restored with Japanese sanding methods to be in optimal condition. Conditioned with nine coats of cold-pressed Tsubaki Oil (Camelia) and waxed with 100% organic locally sourced beeswax.This Bokuto is medium heavy, excellent for suburi and regular kenjutsu keiko. A high-quality Bokuto for the advanced practitioner. Bokuto is sold with a carrying and storage bag.

Sunuke  Bokuto#3, handcrafted.

  • Length: 101.5 cm
  • Weight: 674 grams
  • Craftsmen: Aramaki Workshop

High quality Bokuto, made of Sunuke.

Sunuke is a rare and expensive wood from the center core of old and rotten Isu tree. Only Isu core wood that has been dry for over 200 years has the colour, hardness, solidness and superb balance which make this Sunuke Bokuto so highly appreciated in Japan among high-ranked instructors from different martial art schools.

This bokuto is in excellent condition, with the name of the previous owner engraved in the tsuka (handle). Carefully restored with Japanese sanding methods to be in optimal condition. Conditioned with nine coats of cold-pressed Tsubaki Oil (Camelia) and waxed with 100% organic locally sourced beeswax. Certification stickers are all in tact. This Bokuto is medium heavy, excellent for suburi and regular kenjutsu keiko. A high-quality Bokuto for the advanced practitioner. Bokuto is sold with a carrying and storage bag.

Sunuke  Bokuto#4, handcrafted. (SOLD)

  • Length: 101 cm
  • Weight: 759 grams
  • Craftsmen: Horinouchi Noboru Seisakusho (1989)

High-quality Bokuto, made of Sunuke, with wooden tsuba and a commemorative inscription celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Tokyo Shudokan.

Sunuke is a rare and expensive wood from the center core of old and rotten Isu tree. Only Isu core wood that has been dry for over 200 years has the colour, hardness, solidness and superb balance which make this Sunuke Bokuto so highly appreciated in Japan among high-ranked instructors from different martial art schools.

This bokuto is in excellent condition, with various inscriptions. There are a few dents and scratches from general use. Carefully restored with Japanese sanding methods to be in optimal condition. Conditioned with nine coats of cold-pressed Tsubaki Oil (Camelia) and waxed with 100% organic locally sourced beeswax. Certification stickers are all in tact. This Bokuto is medium heavy, excellent for suburi and regular kenjutsu keiko. A high-quality Bokuto for the advanced practitioner. Bokuto is sold with a carrying and storage bag.