Chukin is a casting technique where molten metal is poured into a mold to make a vessel or utensil.
The chukin technique dates back a long way to the Yayoi period and features a variety of casting methods: 'sogata' ('so' technique), 'rogata' (lost wax technique), 'sunagata' (with sand) and 'yakigata' (by firing).
Depending on the shape and form of the object to be cast, the correct method should be used. The casting processes invcolve great experience and advanced skill.
Living National Treasure Osawa Komin was born in 1941 in Takaoka-shi, Toyama Prefecture, an area famous for copperware. Osawa is designated as a holder of the important intangible cultural property of metal casting. Known as the master of 'yakigata' casting, Osawa researched and came up with an original technique called 'casting basis technique', in which patterns are directly impressed on the surface of the vessel.
Despite the responsibility involved in inheriting such a traditional technique, Osawa ingeniously applies the technique to meet the expectations and standards of the modern world. He always keeps in mind his original intentions, while constantly moving forward and expressing fresh, natural sensibilities and sensations. Osawa is constantly challenging himself in the world of metal casting.
Hoseki Okuyama was born in 1935, in Shinjyo, Yamagata Prefecture.
Hoseki's family was famous for the craft of 'tankin'. In 1995, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his tankin skills. Tankin is a metalcraft technique that involves hammering heated metal and molding it over a plate called an 'ate-kin'.
Hoseki has lived his life fully. He came to Tokyo when he was only 15 and became apprenticed to Soho Kasahara, a silver craftsman. Later, when he was 27, Hoseki became independent and established his own studio. In the years that followed, he was a working craftsman.
During the oil-shock of 1975, he received fewer orders, yet he chose to concentrate even more on his work. Over time, his skills were recognised and in 1984 he finally won a prize from the Director-General of the Agency for Cultural Affairs at the traditional Japanese handicrafts exhibition.
Sometimes it takes several months to make a piece that Hoseki is personally satisfied with.
Toshihira Osumi was born in 1932, in Ota, Gunma Prefecture. His real name is Sadao Osumi. He was designated a Living National Treasure for his 'to-kaji' technique.
In 1952, Osumi became apprenticed to Akihira Miyairi (another Living National Treasure) and studied the craft of katana swordmaking. When he was 28, Osumi became independent.
He energetically entered competitions held by the Japanese Fine-Art Sword Preservation Association. In the first two competitions, he won a prize for effort. But from the 3rd to 8th competitions, he won a special prize. Finally, on the 10th, 12th and 14th times, he won the Manamune prize, which is the highest prize of all. Despite winning many prizes, Osumi is not proud. He believes that the implications of craftsmen are deliberated through their pieces.
In 2001, Osumi presented an amulet sword to Princess Aiko, the Princess Toshi. Moreover, he has dedicated many other pieces to places like Ise Shrine and Ota District.
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.
Kyoto knives and the sophisticated art of making them date back to the Heian period. The entire process is done manually and the blade quality is unparalleled elsewhere.
It is claimed in 'Records of Ancient Matters' and 'The Chronicles of Japan' that knives were first introduced to Japan in the 4th century. However, the implements were more like swords. In the Heian period, proficient sword-smiths, such as Sanjyo Munechika, began to spread knife-making techniques around Japan. As time passed, these knives were treated more as a commodity. As a result, the craftsmen subdivided their work into swords, farming implements and other bladed implements.
As a result, techniques of metalwork and forging became more skilful and there was demand for the manufacture of implements used in fan-making, cuisine and dyeing. Nowadays, items ranging from knives to specialized swords are manufactured and are acknowledged for their quality.