Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Osafune in Okayama: The land of Japanese sword – Part 1 –

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/20 Traditional Culture, Travel & View point , , ,

Bizen country, its main area was southern part of the present Okayama prefecture, was very famous for swordsmithing.
It’s also famous for pottery called “Bizen-yaki”, but in this post, I’m going to focus on swordsmithing only.

Bizen

Pale blue coloured area is the present Okayama prefecture.
The darker blue area is approximate location of the old Bizen country.

 

Swordsmiths in Bizen

Swordsmith in Osafune

- Forging a sword at the Bizen-Osafune katana factory -

There were a great number of swordsmiths in Bizen.
According to several websites, it seems there were more than two thousands in total during “the old sword period”, which was before 1596.
It was more than four times the numbers in Mino (the present southern part of Gifu prefecture), the second biggest swordsmithing area in Japan.
Swordsmiths in Bizen were outstanding not only in numbers but also in their skills.

In the early Kamakura era (1192 – 1333), Emperor Go-Toba (1180 – 1239) loved Japanese swords so much that allegedly he even involved himself in making swords after he was forced to renounce the throne.
The cloistered Emperor established his smithery and summoned top-class sword craftsmen every month in 1208.
These swordsmiths were called as “Ban-kaji” (swordsmiths in attendance).
According to the book entitled as “(Shouwa) Mei-zukushi” or “(Shouwa) Mei-jin”, which is the oldest existent directory of swordsmiths *, seven of twelve swordsmiths were from Bizen.
In another story, although I couldn’t find the resource, two craftsmen were invited each month, so twenty-four in total and eighteen of them came from Bizen.

Now, almost 80 percent of existent swords forged before 1596 are Bizen swords, and around 40 percent of the swords designated as national treasures or important cultural properties are Bizen.

*– The book “Mei-zukushi” –
The year “1423” (the 30th year of “Ouei”) is shown in colophon of the book, but the year “1316” (the fifth year of “Shouwa”) is clearly printed in context.
So, the existent book is not the first edition.
You can read it here.
If you want to see the list of “Ban-kaji”, select Frame Number 37, two names each for every two months.
Or Frame Number 42, it’s the same list, but one per month.

 

Why Bizen?

[Iron]

This is probably the biggest reason why so many swordsmiths were in Bizen.
To forge a sword, iron ore was used in the early times, then iron sand superseded.
“Kibi” (area including “Bizen”) had been known as a major iron-mining area.
In a Japanese poetry, the phrase “magane-fuku” (iron-working) was used as an epithet for either “Kibi” or “Nifu”, acclaimed iron-making places.
See the poetry no. 1082 in volume 20 of “Kokin Wakashuu” (Collection of Japanese old and new poetry), which had been edited since 905 for around ten years, for example.
Actually, iron-production seemed to be low in Bizen *, but at least they could easily get iron from surrounding areas.
Also, there were many good trees to burn to refine iron.

*Note:
In a record in 796, there is a description saying, “Iron isn’t produced in Bizen. We have got to buy iron somewhere else to pay for tax.”

 

[Transportation]

There is the Yoshii River in the area, where many ships had been running.
It was quite accessible for people, materials, fuels, etc.

 

[Market]

In Fukuoka, a town along the Yoshii River, there was a marketplace.
So, a good marketing channel had been already established.

Old Osafune

- A rough sketch of the Old Osafune area -
Bizen-Osafune was a major swordsmithing place.
Bizen-Fukuoka was the town which had a large marketplace.
Osafune suffered severe floods several times.
The course of the Yoshii River was changed because of a disastrous flood.

 

Osafune

Osafune

- Osafune town around the Japanese sword museum -
The very countryside.

Osafune was one of the highly developed sword-making areas in Bizen.
Unfortunately, most swordsmiths were killed in the catastrophic flood in the 16th century.
It is said only a few of them survived.

However, you can still see how Japanese swords are produced in a museum and a workshop in Osafune.
I’m going to write more details in the next post.

Pachinko parlor in Kagato

- "WORLD CUP", a pachinko parlour in Kagato -
On the way to the museum from the Kagato station.
Its shape and name made me laugh.

 

How to get there

From Okayama station, take Akou line.
Get off at Osafune or Kagato.
It’s about 30-minute ride.
Single (One-way) ticket costs 410 yen from Okayama to Osafune and 500 yen to Kagato as of November 2014.

I took a train to Kagato because it looked nearer to the museum and the workshop and the fare was the same from where I got on, but trains to Kagato only run once or twice per hour.
Kagato is the next station to Osafune from Okayama, and there is a train which terminates at Osafune.
So, more train runs to Osafune and there seems to be a cycle rental shop near the station according to some websites.

 

[Kagato station]

Kagato station

- Kagato station -

It’s a desolate station.
Only the front door of the first car was open when the train arrived at Kagato, and the driver collected my ticket.
There are almost nothing around, although I saw a few restaurants.
A (bit smelly) public Japanese traditional toilet (a hole on the floor) is by the station.

Dog in Kagato

- A shy dog near the station -
He (She?) kept on coming in and out from his (her) house, so it was very difficult to take a photo.
Lovely!

 

Related posts:
#Katana : Japanese sword (1) (2)
#Osafune (2) (3)

The following two tabs change content below.

kara

A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

Kotatsu

New Year Holidays in Japan : Kotatsu

In Japan, except northern cold areas like Hokkaido, houses are usually built to suit Japanese hot humid summer. This means many Japanese houses are drafty, and in other words, it can be freezing even indoor in winter. Most of those houses are without a central heating system, so people keep warm with individual heating devices […]

Read Article

Gohan Kamehame Wave

Anime: Top 10 moves

Silly at times, but cool most of the time. Signature moves in Japanese anime are very common. You’ll find them in most animes that have a lot of fight scenes, and animes that feature sports. Here’s my top 10 favorite signature moves. My Top 10 Favorite Signature Moves 10. Phantom Shot Character: Tetsuya Kuroko Anime: […]

Read Article

Japanese tally five

Counting: Japanese tally and gesture

The “Correct” counting method in Japan How do you write when you count numbers of items? I know tally marks which are used in many countries, but Japanese people don’t use them. Instead, a certain Kanji character is used. The character means “correct”. As you can see, this consists of five lines. On counting, it […]

Read Article

Dazaifu47

Go west : Dazaifu Tenman-guu and Kyushu National Museum

Dazaifu Tenman-guu : The “ema-dou” area and around the pond The “ema-dou” (ema house) area There is a small square where “ema-dou” is located. “Ema” is a wooden plaques with people’s wishes and/or appreciation to God. The “ema-dou” was built in 1813, and it’s the biggest and oldest existent “ema-dou” in Kyushu island. A “sake” […]

Read Article

tp1

Himeji’s Taiyo Park

This was my second time in Himeji. The first was 4 years earlier in spring to see Himeji Castle. This time around, we went to Taiyo Park. Not many know about this place since its in a remote area with no bus/train stops nearby. We went there by car so no biggie. The Park Entrance […]

Read Article

fuji

Fuji-san (富士山): Japan’s Highest Mountain

There are many beautiful places you could go for a visit or sightseeing all over Japan. Almost every prefecture has developed and maintained some historical, cultural or natural spots not only for tourists but also for the Japanese people to visit with. One of the places people usually love to do sightseeing is the very […]

Read Article

judo

The “Gentle Way” of Judo – Competitive Judo

As noted in the history of judo, it was primarily made or developed by Jigoro Kano as a self-defense. As years passed by, it was expected for judokas to test their skills against each other. Thus, competitive judo began. History of Competitive Judo Competitive judo is a vital aspect of judo. It is where judokas […]

Read Article

A Weekend in Nagasaki

One weekend in June, my friend and I went to Nagasaki City for a weekend trip. Nagasaki City is the capital of Nagasaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. When we arrived at the Nagasaki station, we immediately went to their tourist help desk. Good thing there was an English speaking attendant who helped us […]

Read Article

eating utensils

Chopsticks in the Japanese Way: History and Etiquette

Lohb’s photo in Flickr Can you eat using your bare hands? Or you need spoon and fork? Or perhaps a knife? Well for me, sometimes I do prefer eating using my hands and I am lucky there is no issue with it in our country. We used to eat using spoon and fork but oftentimes […]

Read Article

sumo2

Sumo: More Than Just a Martial Art – Origin

Sumo (相撲, spelled as sumou in romaji, literally means “striking one another”) is a competitive full-contact wrestling sport where a rikishi (wrestler) attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring (dohyō) or to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑