The unique sword known as a katana is a revered and sacred object and icon in Japanese culture. Practitioners of iai and kenjutsu bow to it to show homage before every practice. It stems from the influence of katanas and their use by the legendary samurai in ancient Japan. Many katana are known to last hundreds of years. Some are passed along from generation to generation, father to son, master to student.
Historically some swordsmiths are known to go through a lengthy purification process in which they are blessed by shinto priests before beginning the hard work of creating a new blade. The entire process could take up to a year. First the iron sand is collected from the rivers, then it is melted in a furnace before undergoing pounding and folding.
The pounding is done to remove the impurities and the folding is done to create layers which give the sword its toughness. After shaping, the blade is often passed on to a different craftsman who is responsible polishing and sharpening it.
After the Meiji Restoration and the end of the samurai class the Japanese government introduced strict rules about swords and their manufacture. Because of these strict rules, today in Japan there are only 250 licensed swordmakers and only 10% of them can actually making a living from their creation. Last year, 2015 only 5 apprentices in all of Japan took the test to get their licenses as swordsmiths, and all 5 failed.
In this video we were given a tour and the very rare opportunity to witness the ancient sword making process in Okayama prefecture, Japan.
Many thanks master sword maker Sukesada Ueta and to Kunio Morimoto sensei who requested the visit on our behalf.
More of Sukesada's swords can be seen and even purchased here http://www.osahune.com/ but be warned, as laws restrict him to making just 5 katana per month and the sword making process itself being a very lengthy one, be prepared to wait as long as a year if you put in an order!
To add to the experience, here are some pics from the sword museum, Bizen-osafune Touken Hakubutsukan.
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