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Day Trip Ideas: Katana Artisans’ Workshops

10,Sep 2015 Day Trip Ideas

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Despite the samurai class having been disbanded over a century ago, their history, customs, and lifestyle still continue to draw interest from all over the world. There appears to be a universal fascination for their weapons of choice – the katana. Once produced exclusively for this privileged social group, today the katana can be owned by almost anyone, though they have by no means become ubiquitous; neither have they lost their stunning and beautiful form achievable only through painstaking crafting by master katana swordsmiths.

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In the area near Kifu no Sato alone, there are plenty of sword smiths who are happy to open their workshops to visitors who would like to observe the forging of a katana. For example, east of Yunogo in Sayo Town, sword smith Takami Kuniichi enthusiastically allows visitors to handle the lumps of steel used to forge swords, and also watch him hard at work in front of his forge. Afterwards, it is also possible to have a conversation about katanas, the forging process, and more with Takami-san over a cup of tea.

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South of Yunogo lies Osafune, which has been renowned as the ‘city of katana’ for a long time. Here, there is a huge concentration of sword smiths you can watch at their work. Kawashima Kazuki is one such sword smith who receives visitors. For a sum, you can watch him at his work, sometimes try out part of the forging process under his instruction, and also receive a steel plate with your name (in either English or Japanese characters) as a memento. Afterwards, it is also possible to sit down with Kawashima-san for tea and conversation.

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For those who are able to time their visits and do not mind braving the crowds, on the second Sunday of every month, it is possible to watch artisans at work at the Osafune Sword Museum. There are two time slots – 11am and 2pm – and the sessions last for an hour, with commentary in Japanese. Afterwards, it is possible to walk around the museum and look at the exhibits. Although English explanations are few, the magnificence of the katana need no words, and some exhibits are explained pictorially, so it is possible to understand even without Japanese knowledge.

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If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact Kifu no Sato.

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