The deadly but beautiful katana is Japan’s most famed ancient weapon. Foreign and local people, for centuries, have been fascinated by its deadly beauty and rich historical value. Katana’s are most commonly linked to traditional Japanese warriors like the Samurai, Ninja (Shinobi), Onna-bugeisha, and Kunoichi.
There’s plenty of information on how finely crafted these weapons are but little on who the mighty craftsmen are that create these fine instruments. Where do they come from? Why they become so popular? What does the Katana industry do now?
For the past 800 years, and counting, almost 90% of Japanese katana have been made in Seki city. It first began during the Kamakura Period (1184 – 1333), however, it wasn’t until the Muromachi period(1338-1573) where sword smithing in Seki really took off and more that 300 sword-smiths resided in the city. Nobunaga Oda, Japan’s most legendary daimyo, also originally from Gifu, had a deep appreciation for swords made from Seki, thus, greatly amplifying its popularity.
Today, there are still families that continue the traditional art of crafting katana. Gassan Sadatoshi, is a craftsmen from one of those families his master pieces fetch a luxurious price of US$45,000. While the price is expensive, there is no doubt in the extravagant quality and work that goes into creating the sword.
To make a katana they start with tamahagane iron—a special made raw material from ironed sand; the tamahagane is placed inside a tatara to dry, then heated at 1000 °C before being mixed with charcoal. This raw material is not only used in Katana crafting, but also scissors, knives and other tools.
Seki city, to this day, is still renowned for its katana culture. The city is crawling with smithing public demonstrations festivals, and shops.
Once a year, on the 2nd of January, the Uchizome-shiki ceremony is held, which marks the first katana forging of the year. It’s not only an important time for sword smiths, but it creates a traditional feeling within the community; participants generally wear traditional attire as they watch the forging.
Not everyone can fit in their schedules to join Uchizome-shiki, luckily you can visit the Seki Sword Tradition Museum, 関鍛冶伝承館 (Seki Kaji Denshokan) all year round. There’s also the Seki Cutlery Festival, 関市刃物まつり（Seki-shi Hamono Matsuri), which hosts loads of interesting events, guests and marketplace with many great brands. Checkout the seki cutlery brochures Here