VISITS TO THE WORKSHOP
Well, on my last trip to Japan I happened to have the great fortune to attend some extraordinary workshops. This included going to a forge in Osafune village where I saw how raw tamagahane is formed into a workable billet. In fact the billet formed was to be used to forge a tanto for a customer in Great Britain. Him and I both had the pleasure to act as sakite, so, a part of our labour is incorporated within the subsequent tanto. A signal honour, I feel. As well at another forge I attended a course on the preparation of a kogatana for, and doing the yakire. I also had a chance to forge weld a billet of tamagahane onto a handle just as a smith would do as the first step to start forging a blade. Then it was on to a polishers, where I learned a lot more about that aspect of nihonto. All in all, I had my eyes opened as to the actual processes and the work and skill needed to create a sword. The following pictures can not show the extent of knowledge learned (a drop in the bucket), but may kindle your desire to do something similar. I am including contact information for those interested.
Here I am filing the yasurimei and preparing the kogatana prior to applying the clay mixture for yakire. Of course under supervision by an able apprentice.
In this picture I am attempting to inscribe a mei using a tagane. This is where I learned that it is very difficult to do and no matter the desire to be neat and clean nothing beats experience. I am afraid I would get an 'F' for this part of the excercise, if marked.
In the picture on the left I am applying the clay mixture. The right hand picture is showing adjustment of the shape of the kogatana.
The last picture in this series shows me as I am at the forge ready to forge weld the billet of tamagahane (kataha) onto the handle (tekobo てこ棒) used to forge a sword. Borax is used as a flux. The technique of doing this is very specific and I was quite proud of myself that I managed it on the first go. It made up for the chagrin I felt trying to carve the mei in the kogatana.
If anyone wishes to get further information about attending a Kozuka Koubo course, please contact Kakuta Yoshiki san at: http://www.budoshop.co.jp
KAWASHIMA SAN'S FORGE IN OSAFUNE
While visiting the workshops and museum at Osafune I had the good fortune to be introduced to a swordsmith, (thanks to Paul Martin), by the name of Kawashima Kazuki san who lives in Osafune and practices his craft in the traditional style and is a proponent of Zen Buddhism. I was impressed by this mans dedication and knowledge. After learning much at his forge and actually helping forge a billet of tamagahane to be used in the forging of a tanto for a customer, (Duncan Cadd, U.K.), who also helped in the forging as sakite, we were treated to an absolute feast at his house as guests of his family. What a great time was had by all.
A picture of the Osafune area.
Kawashima san's forge.
Inside the forge with Kawashima san at work.
Pardon me for the self gratuitous picture of Kawashima san and little old me.
Some practice on the hammer.
AT A POLISHERS
After being at a few forges and partaking in a little of that craft, it was time to visit the next stage of a swords construction, the togishi or polisher. The polisher I would meet was Sasaki Takushi san. This man lives on the outskirts of Tokyo (Saitama-ken) and has many students, some of whom live in his house (deshi). There were many magnificent swords there in various states of polish, including shinsakuto.