If you have a taste for the buckwheat noodle “soba” from Japan and you like it so much that you find dining on it at a restaurant occasionally does not satisfy you, then it could be time for you to start making your own soba at home. The alluring smell of freshly made soba, its texture and taste are true bliss and it can be experienced whenever you desire by making your own soba. Essential to the preparation of soba, you will need to use a professional broad knife especially made for cutting soba by a master craftsman. The soba knife with Kuroda-shiage (black finish) is made by sharpening only the blade leaving the upper part with its original black color. It uses Yasuki Hagane White Steel, premium silver high carbon steel, which is suitable for cutting noodles into thin slices. It weighs 650g so pressing down on the dough to cut it into noodles is easy. The price is not too high but they are professional quality. It is always a good item to have in your kitchen.
Takefu Knife Village is a brand created in 1982 by local curter artisans in Takefu, the biggest cutlery producing district that proudly maintains over seven hundred years of history.
In 1983 with the collaboration of Kazuo Kawasaki, a design director who was born and raised locally, Takefu launched its new series of kitchen knives, ARTUS.
While using the traditional method to create the blade part and by utilizing a unique design to unify from the tip of the blade to the handle, it achieved a simple yet innovative, hygienic and highly aesthetic product.
ATRUS is made by “fire casting”, a traditional craftsman’s striking technique, which uses a three-layer structure with steel forged by hand that is inserted between stainless steel. It is this technique that enables the knife to be sharp and resistant to rust.
ATRUS was born from a great trinity: the seven policies based on the Takefu’s commitment to create wonderful hand-made products; its traditional cutlery making method; and outstanding design by Kazuo Kawasaki. Its excellence is evident as even more than 20 years after its initial introduction it is still sold without any modifications.
Blade forging industry in Yoita area in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, has a history of about 400 year. The products are well known for being sharp and trouble-free.
The making of Echigo Yoita forged blades dates back to 1578, when a retainer of Uesugi Kenshin invited wordsmiths from Kasugayama to the area and asked them to make various kinds of forged blades. In the Kyoto era (1716-1736), carpentry tools from Yoita became known as Tohi-nomi and Hyobu-nomi. At the start of the Meiji period (1868-1912), the wordsmiths in Yoita turned their hand to making plane blades, which soon became famous all over the country.
In 1986, chisels, planes, axes and chona (a Japanese ancient hand ax) were designated as a Traditional Craft Product, Echigo Yoita Forged Blades by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (present METI).
Yoita forged blades are made by traditional hand forging even today, in which the hard steel being laid on the soft metal is heated, and then it is taken out of the forge and beaten with a spring hammer. Careful and hard-working efforts are made in these repeated tempering processes, which result in creating such reliable tools.
The making of bronze gongs was introduced to present-day Ishikawa Prefecture about 400 years ago and it has become a traditional handicraft of the prefecture since then. The origin of the instrument is said to be in the percussion instruments in the ancient southern islands of Java and Sumatra. Later the gong came to Japan through China and Korean Peninsula. In Japan, they were mainly used as the signal for a start on a voyage and the tea ceremony. In Ishikawa Prefecture, gong manufacturing developed as tea ceremony gained popularity in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598).
It was Iraku Uozumi (1886-1964) who devoted himself to gong making in Kanazawa. He got absorbed in the study on sahari (alloy of copper and tin) casting and succeeded in creating gongs with superb resonance. He was designated as a Living National Treasure.
The pivotal point of a gong is its tone quality. The material used in bronze gong is sahari, or alloy of copper and tin. Sahari is one of the most difficult metals to alloy and the balance of composition decides the resonance quality. At the present time, the 3rd Iraku Uozumi has succeeded to the traditional techniques.
Nihon-tou is a sword created by techniques unique to Japan. It is manufactured using Tamagane, by applying low heat on refined iron sand. It is formed from a combination of two different steels, softer steel for the inner core of the blade (shingane) and harder steel for outer skin of the blade (kawagane) and the edge of the blade (hagane). This unique combination imparts the Nihon-tou with the distinguished feature of “won’t break or bend, but cut well”. The ridge line of blade that can be seen today was invented by the end of Heian period. Swords manufactured until the Keichou period (1596 ~ 1615) is called Kotou (old swords) and, after the period, called Shintou (new swords). They are also valued as art or crafts, and highly regarded not only in Japan but also abroad. Many proverbs and words were born from Nihon-tou, a proof that swords have a deep root in Japanese way of life.
The town of Osafune, in Okayama Prefecture, thrived as the land of swordsmiths from the Kamakura period. The Bizen Osafune Touken Village is a unique museum specializing in Japanese swords, a once flourishing craft that continues today.
At Bizen Osafune Touken Village, each process relating to swordmaking can be seen closely. There is a forge, for example, where the 'tamahagane' metal is heated and extended at a temperature of 1,300℃. There is also a sword craft center, where swords are sharpened and sword hilts are made.
The reason why Bizen thrived as an area for sword production was, firstly, because high-quality materials and fuel were easily found here. Secondly, Bizen lay at a key junction for transportation between the Sanin and Sanyo areas. The iron sand found in the Chugoku Mountains was good for swordmaking, while the local sawtooth oak trees provided good fuel for the strong fires needed for the forges. In addition, the Sanyo-do highway running east-west was a major transportation route at that time. This enabled the easy circulation of materials and fuel for swordmaking.
Ikuji-naka Bridge spans the Kurobe Fishing Harbor and is the first bridge in Japan that rotates to the side on a fixed axis. The current bridge is actually the 4th-generation version. The original was installed during the Taisho period, with the 2nd built during the early Showa period, and the 3rd during the 30s in the Showa period.
The 3rd generation was installed as an elevating bridge. Due to deterioration and the increase in size of fishing boats, the canal where the bridge was installed was expanded, and the third bridge was rebuilt as part of the general reconstruction.
The new fixed-axis bridge, which was completed in Showa 56, is what spans the canal today. The bridge is 38.4m long, 7m wide, and weighs 307 tons. The bridge can turn up to 78 degrees, and on a busy day, opens between 15 and 20 times.
Oku-Izumi Tama-steel handicraft is one of the industrial arts of the town of Oku-Izumi, in Shimane Prefecture, which became prosperous in iron production.
Iron production began in the Muromachi period. Oku-Izumi is the site of the legend of the slaying of the Yamatano serpent recorded in the ‘Kojiki’. It is said that Kusanagi’s sword appeared from the serpent’s tail, and was an excellent source of steel.
Until the mid-Meiji period, Oku-Izumi supplied 70 percent of Japan’s iron . But as iron production became more prevalent with greater demand and easier production methods, the Tama-steel technique died out in the fourth decade of the Showa period. Only the ‘Nippo sword Tatara’ crafted by Toriue Iron Factory survived in Japan. Tama-steel and Wa-steel are manufactured using a traditional technique of refinement, using ‘Tatara’, which is made from iron sand. This Tama-steel has such good adhesion that a steel can be wrought that is strong enough to make beautiful swords.
Tama steel is still made by hand and the artisans are working on new forms of iron handiworks; they maintain the tradition and the knowledge of the manufacturing process.