Copyright Robert Cole 2014

For those who are not familiar with this value system a little explanation will help. There are five levels described directly. These ascriptions each have a particular meaning which has evolved only slightly over the years.

Use of a few simple terms:

    SAKU means "made" or manufacture
    CHU means "medium" or middle
    JO means "good" This is a designation of high quality
Putting JO-JO together accents the "good" to mean "very good" or acutely good. The expression, exemplified in this way, comes to mean: "very, very good".

The designation of SAI in SAI-JO SAKU means excellence or supreme excellence, but it is clearly a reverential term and given only to the very finest development of the art in a given endeavor. These designations might seem confusing at first because the scale of value they assign, slides with respect to the historical or artistic level of the smith being judged.

It is important to understand that the value system speaks differently about different smiths. A SAI-JO SAKU, SHIN-SHINTO smith is not considered in any way equal to or on the same level as a SAI-JO SAKU, KAMAKURA smith or a smith of one of the great KOTO period schools. A designation is always relative to a smith or of work from a known school or time period.

A JO-JO SAKU later MINO smith would not be comparable with a JO-JO SAKU, KO-AOE BITCHU smith, for example. They are both JO-JO SAKU, but are as they say, apples and oranges.

SAI-JO SAKU or any of the following list has come to mean a level of importance, more than just value or quality. An award in in this system can be a purely historically based level.

The rule to remember here is: "Awarded according to historical environment."

      The levels are:
            SAI-JO SAKU "excellent"
            JO-JO SAKU "very good"
            JO-SAKU "good"
            CHU-JO SAKU "medium good"
            CHU-SAKU "medium made"
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