The character form has a left and a right side, which both, in the tortoise plastron and bone characters, were used with the meaning of the present complete character, of ‘army,’ or ‘master, instructor.’ The first form of 師 appearing in the tortoise plastron and bone characters is the left part of the character resembling the form of a big piece of meat fried on a skewer. It depicts the piece of meat the departing army uses to worship the ancestors when going to war praying for victory in war; by this time it alone had the meaning ‘army.’ The army always carried this meat around with it. The right part is the form of a knife with a blood stopper and a handle. Apart from the meaning ‘army,’ 師 was also used with the meaning of the person that has the authority to cut this meat. From the background that after retirement from active service these persons often were in charge of youth education, it also was used with the meaning ‘teacher.’
In contrast to ceremonies in Buddhism, the custom of offering meat afterwards was continued in Confucianism. In the realm of Confucianism, i.e. China, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Japan, when worshipping the previous sages and teachers of ancient China as, for example, in the 釈奠 ‘Sekiten, (Shakuten, Sakuten): Big Ceremony of Confucius Worship’ this is an important element of the ritual. In Japan, for example, meat also is at the center of the worship rituals for Confucius at the ‘Yushima Seido: Yushima Confucius Shrine’ in Tokyo.
Besides, the character form of 帥 ‘Sui: general, leader’ may well seem to resemble 師, if, however, one has a look at the tortoise plastron and bone characters, the left part depicts the doors of a board enshrining deities, and the right part 巾 shows a cloth. It is of a completely different lineage.
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.
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.
Shinshu forged blade is a handicraft in Shinshu-Shinano-machi, Nagano Pref. It was designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Minister of International Trade and Industry in 1982. Forging skills were introduced into this area during the warring state period in the latter half of the 16th Century, when swordsmiths came to this area and repaired weapons. The local people saw their work and learned the skills. Their forged weapons were used in many battles throughout the warring state period, and the swordsmiths made improvement in their techniques. Extremely soft steel is used as the base whereas high purity carbon steel is used for the blade, the combination of which produces appropriate hardness and persistent strength. The technique has been handed down for 450 years and is still producing excellent blades, which are wide, durable, and cuts clearly.
Sakai forged blades has the share of 90% in the market for cooking knives used by professional cooks. The No.1 standard of sharpness and traditional forging technique has increased their reputation. The history dates back the 16th century, when guns and tobacco were introduced into Japan from Portugal. In the late 16th century, Sakai’s “tobacco knives” to shred tobacco were known nationwide. The Tokugawa Shogunate granted Sakai a certificate seal called “Gokuin” to guarantee their quality and also the exclusive selling right, by which the reputation of Sakai forged blades spread all over the country. These knives are characterized by their distinctive sharpness that is only possible through the excellent smithing and grinding skills. The sharp blade edge produced by well trained skills represents the master’s pride.
Echizen forged blades, one of the traditional handicrafts of Echizen City,
Fukui Pref., has its own distinctive sharpness produced through 700 years of
its history, where craftsmen have competed in refining their skills. The
history dates back to the Nanbokucho period (1336−1392), when a swordsmith
from Kyoto came to this area. This swordsmith, Chiyotsuru Kuniyasu visited
Fuchu (present Takeo City, Fukui Pref.) in search of a suitable place for
sword-making. He also made grain sickles for the local farmers and this
evolved into forging in the area. Since then Takeo is a big producing area
of edged farming tools, which were spread throughout the country by peddlers
unique to Hokuriku region. Using aged-old Japanese forging skills before
being finished by hand, kitchen knives, sickles and trimmers are now
produced. Echizen forged blades were awarded the nationally recognized
Traditional Craft Product in 1980, as daily commodities combined with
accomplished skills and artistic sensitivity.