Experience the knivemaking art of Nagasaki in Omura City, Japan

Photos by Yashira M. Rodríguez Sierra
Photos by Yashira M. Rodríguez Sierra

Experience the knivemaking art of Nagasaki in Omura City, Japan

by Yashira M. Rodríguez Sierra
Stripes Japan

Omura City in Nagasaki Prefecture is known for centuries of blacksmithing tradition. It was after the Battle of Dannoura 800 years ago, when Yukiyasu Naminohira of the Heike Clan settled in the region in 1474. Naminohira brought with him the technique of knife and metal utensil production that has been passed down from generation to generation to this day.

As of 1991, the knives produced by Naminohira at Matsubara Forge are recognized as a traditional art of Nagasaki Prefecture.

I was interested in seeing these metal masters in action, so I headed to Shu Matsubara to visit the workshop of Kama Kogyo Tanaka, who is the fourth generation of blacksmith. Tanaka and his apprentice son craft knives and run a retail shop.

These knives made in Omura stand out for their unique details that can be seen on the metal’s surface. To achieve those great details, Tanaka and his family’s forging technique is based on the Japanese proverb “Ju nin to iro” which translates in “Ten people have ten different preferences.” In other words, each knife has a one-of-a-kind pattern style. With the help of my tour guide, Tanaka explained that the knives created in his workshop do not rust easily, are very sharp, lightweight and easy to hold.

It was nice that Tanaka let us to experience this art. We were allowed to flatten the piece of metal with the help of a very old machine that functions without electricity. The fire used to forge the metal reaches temperatures of up to 1300 degrees Celsius, which makes this job a very dangerous one. During the demonstration in Tanaka’s workshop, it was remarkable that skill, discipline and safety standards are very important in this trade. We concluded our tour with a stop at Tanaka’s shop.

The shop is housed inside a cabin and displays a wide variety of knives crafted by Tanaka available for purchase. Here visitors can get their hands on Japanese paper knives, kitchen knives, farm tools and more. You can also ask for custom engraving on the blade.

At the end of the visit, it was evident that the effort, knowledge, and love for the trade of these Matsubara blacksmiths may encourage you to not see these knives only as an object, but as a piece of art. Much like the blades produced there, this experience is also a one-of-a-kind that I definitely recommend you try!

Experience the art of knives

Shu Matsubara

Address: 371 Matsubarahonmachi,  Omura-city, Nagasaki Pref

Website

 

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Author Bio: Yashira M. Rodríguez Sierra is originally from Caguas, Puerto Rico. She is assigned to Sasebo Naval Base. Rodríguez enjoys nature and moving to Japan was a dream come true. Before joining the Navy she was an artist and journalist.

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