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Old Hyde Park: Deadly art unsheathed to expose its beauty

Handmade Japanese swords shine at the Florida Token Kai society's show this weekend. A 10th-generation swordsmith will talk about his work.

By JONATHAN MILTON
Published February 13, 2004

Like an original Rembrandt or Monet, the Japanese sword is held in high regard and value. Individuals travel around the world to collect and learn more about the Japanese swords and their history.

In 1990, four men from the Tampa Bay area started the Florida Token Kai Japanese Sword Society to further the study, preservation and appreciation of the Japanese sword.

"All of us have an interest in swords and we thought that there was room for another sword club in the United States," said Troy Baxley, president and treasurer of the group, who lives in Old Hyde Park. Baxley, a retired military officer, started collecting Japanese swords 30 years ago.

This weekend, more than 400 Token Kai members and Japanese sword enthusiasts will attend the group's 14th annual sword show held at the Airport Marriott Hotel.

The show includes sword demonstrations, more than 1,000 swords and a live auction. People from Canada, Japan, England, South Africa, Germany and South America are expected to attend.

"When individuals see these swords, they immediately ask how much they are worth. To us it's all about the history. Everything about these swords are done by hand," said Keith Hostler, vice president of the society, who owns a collection of swords that date 500 years.

Interest in swords has increased since the movie the Last Samurai came out in December. The film starring Tom Cruise highlights swords and their significance in traditional Japanese society.

Collecting swords can be compared to collecting paintings. Collectors can spend up to a million dollars on an ancient sword, the highest form of artwork in Japan. A handmade metal blade, without the handle, can cost up to $30,000.

This year's show features special guest Yoshindo Yoshihara, a 10th-generation swordsmith who is ranked among the top swordsmiths in Japan. Yoshihara will give a seminar about the construction of Japanese swords.

Sword collectors say buying and learning about swords can be a lifelong passion.

"When you're too old to go fishing or play golf, you can sit at home and study swords," Baxley said.

- Jonathan Milton can be reached at 226-3374 or milton@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 12, 2004, 12:51:07]

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