Forgive – Don't forget , The return of a Japanese Sword to Japan


i've got a horagi, a conch shell trumpet to signal other samurai ! pheffft! why isn't it working ? i think you need to take out the conch first...

Last week Ford posted a link to an interesting project on kickstarter. A couple of guys were looking to fund their documentary where they want to return the  sword of a Japanese Officer (that ended up in the USA as many of them)  to his family in Japan.

Since i really liked the idea, i contacted Brad to see if he was interested in an interview in order to catch some extra attention. A couple of mails later the case was closed and the interview ready to publish..

By the way, i liked the idea and gave them a small amount of cash, i hope if you have a “Yeah great, i like to see that documentary !!! ” feeling too, you donate a few bucks as well. Disclaimer : I’m not affiliated with the project at all, i just think it’s a nice thing to give some attention 🙂

Here you go :


1.Where did the idea and interest  come from to return a Japanese sword that was collecting dust for decades somewhere in a closet and try  turn it into a documentary ? I assume none of you have any deep interest in Japanese swords ?

The idea for returning the sword  originally came from Paul, he told me about the story of how he got the swords one day at his house. He mentioned  “how cool it would be” to return this sword to it’s original owner in Japan, and make it into a documentary out this whole process.

We knew we could make this happen as we both are video producers in Virginia. Paul and I just have general interest in Japanese swords, as most men like sharp objects=)


2. Which dots needed to be connected to even start the search ? Was there a name or other person specific details engraved/attached  (in)to the blade that gave you the first dots for the search or was it rather info from your grandfathers side that made it possible? 

We ultimately need to find this officer’s family in Japan. Yes, there was info on the IJN officer who owned this sword, except it wasn’t engraved on the sword…but rather on a surrender tag attached on the outside of the swords sheath(Which revealed name/rank) . We also found out this officers’ regiment(65th guard unit) and where he was stationed(Wake Island) during the war. We took the sword for further finding to an sword expert in NC, by the name of Ed Hicks.

He told us right from the beginning that this blade was hand forged, and took apart the sword piece by piece until we got down to revealing the tang. This IJN officer actually hand a thin cloth covering the tang to make sure it didn’t come loose. This took forever to get off, but when Ed unraveled the cloth it revealed an unsigned/unmarked tang.

Info on this sword’s owner:

  • Name: Asai Masaaki
  • Rank: LT(JG) in the Imperial Japanese Navy (communications officer)
  • Regiment: 65th Guard Unit stationed on Wake Island

We were pretty bummed to find this out, but heard it’s fairly common to have an unsigned sword from the maker. We had no info from Paul’s grandfather, or father as they both have already passed.


3. Do you feel there’s some kind of ‘destiny’ in play here since most of the WW2 were ‘mass made’ weapons and therefore can not be returned to Japan  . The piece that was found in your closet seems to be a traditional made piece.

Definitely, as soon as Ed Hicks(Japanese sword expert) told us that this particular sword could go back to Japan because it was a hand made blade, it was so clear to us that we needed to tell this story by returning the sword to the owner’s family in Japan.


4. Following up the previous question, swords that want to be returned to Japan need to get licensed and  go to an appraisal (shinsa) first. What would/will happen with the project  if the sword doesn’t get licensed and therefore can not be returned to the owner/family ?

Obviously that would put a damper on our efforts. We did however get contacted by The Department of Social Welfare and War Victims relief Bureau in Japan(responsible for helping return article war to it’s original owners). They want to help us track down the family. We also received help from a former Vice Admiral of Japan.  I think we already have a lot of Japanese aid towards our project. If for some reason that still doesn’t help with getting this sword back in the country…..all of our efforts will be in vain….that’s why we support!


5. There is a chance that the Japanese family will see the return of the sword as a dishonor.  How do you personally feel/think about this ?

We have thought of that scenario before and hope it doesn’t end up like that, however we understand why they possibly could feel that way….but the bottom line is we are trying to make peace with the past, regardless if they take the sword back, or if we don’t find the family at all….there is still a story to tell and we want to talk to people in Japan about our project and efforts. Ultimately we want this sword to tell a story all on it’s own.


6. You guys seems to be very passionate about this project but will the adventure stop when the $30.000 can not be raised through kickstarter (i really hope you make it by the way 🙂 ) or is there a plan B and C to possibly back it up ?

Yes, there is backup plan if our Kickstarter page doesn’t reach it’s funding goal. We have already submitted to film grants, we are also open to private funding via philanthropy and investors. It’s just a matter of time before we go to Japan. We are so excited about this project already know it has mass appeal. Please support our project Forgive-Don’t Forget =)