Mikami Shrine enshrines Mt. Mikami or popularly called Omi-Fiji, a 432 m conical mountain in Shiga Prefecture, and Amenomikage no Kami, the guardian deity of old Omi province and the deity of blacksmith and blade smith.
The main hall constructed in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) is a very unique building in the style called Mikami-zukuri, in which the architectural styles for shrines, temples and residences are combined together. The Buddhism architectural style can be seen in its 3-bay structure, the Irimoya-zukuri roof, white walls and lattice windows. As one of the oldest shrine building in the Irimoya-zukuri style, it was designated as a National Treasure in 1952. The Haiden Hall (oratory), the main gate, the main hall of an attached shrine, Wakamiya Shrine, and the wooden Chinese dog are nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties.
Zuiki Festival is held at this shrine in the middle of October every year. The word “zuiki” means the stem of a taro potato. Every year five Mikoshi (portable shrine), which are made of zuiki and decorated with vegetables, persimmon leaves and chestnuts, are dedicated to the shrine to express gratitude for the year’s crop.
A chisel is a tool used for making a bore hole or carving a channel in a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal. The origin of a chisel dates back to the Stone Age. In Japan, it was during the Asuka period (the 6th to the early 8th centuries) when a chisel in almost the same shape as today first appeared.
Chisels have a wide variety of uses. Many types of chisels have been devised, each specially suited to its intended use. There are so many different types of chisels that even a metalsmith who is specialized in making chisels doesn’t know the shape or use of a particular chisel, which he knows by name.
As a chisel is an indispensable tool for carpentry, it has contributed to constructiong various historic buildings existing in Japan. Just stand in front of those buildings to think of bygone days and imagine that this small tool did exist in those days and was used by an ancient craftsman in the same way as it is today. You will feel history more familiar than ever.
As the kanji meaning a sword blade was used for the name Tsurugi in the old times, it was a cutlery-producing town. The town was the distributing center of products from forest industry in Hakusan mountains and agriculture in the plain areas. Accordingly hoes and spades for both forestry and farming were in high demand and forgery thrived in the town. In the Edo period, a master forger, Ittetsu, was appointed as the Kaga clan’s sward manufacturer.
Tsurugi became famous as a producing center of high quality cutlery products and was producing a wide variety of cutlery for lumber jacks, farmers as well as household users. It reaches at its peak in the Taisho period (1912-1926) but gradually declined in the late Taisho period. At the present time, there is only one blacksmith in town, who keeps on manufacturing various items using the traditional outdoor forging techniques.
Mikawa Fireworks are a traditional industry of Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture. Fireworks first began to be made when gunpowder became openly available during the Edo period. The making of firearms developed here in Okazaki and soon evolved into the production of fireworks.
The first fireworks entered Japan when the King of England presented them as a gift to the Shogun in Edo during the 1600s. On the night of August 6th, 1613, Hidetada, the second Shogun of Edo, set off the fireworks to welcome guests. Soon after, many fireworks were made and displayed, but much time was still needed to perfect the methods and skills of its production. Due to the many injuries caused by fireworks, they were once banned by the government.
Some of the most famous Mikawa Fireworks are the sea-based displays and the goldfish fireworks. The first fireworks display to take place in Mikawa was part of a festival held in 1948. The Okazaki Fireworks Display, as it is now known, is still held annually today.
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.
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.