Tour theme - blacksmithing & swords

Tour itineraries:

One of the most celebrated Japanese craft traditions is blacksmithing. Samurai swords and handcrafted knives of legendary cutting quality have perhaps been the most famous of its products. However, the Japanese blacksmithing tradition encompasses a wide range of other applications including farming and garden tools, lamps, fasteners and fittings. Archaeological evidence indicates that blacksmithing in Japan was underway by about 2000 years ago. By the 5th century, steel production was well established in western Japan, and the first steel Japanese swords manufactured. However, for much of its early history, the Japanese blacksmithing tradition mainly developed to serve daily needs of local inhabitants, and it was only from the 12th century onward that the great Samurai sword tradition developed.

The Izumo region of western Japan has a renowned steelmaking and blacksmithing tradition dating back to at least the 6th century. The region was a major centre for the Tatara method of traditional Japanese steel making that established an enduring reputation for blade steel of superior quality, and underpinned many of the famous sword and knife-making traditions throughout Japan including Seki. The tradition lives on today in the blacksmithing workshops scattered through the countryside, and in the Yasuki Speciality Steel manufactured by the Hitachi steelworks. Izumo’s history of steelmaking is intertwined with ancient Japanese mythology and the local culture including food and crafts—sometimes in the most unexpected ways. What is remarkable is how the regions’ people, for centuries, managed the environmental impacts of mining and steelmaking to co-exist with healthy, productive and sustainable natural and agrarian ecosystems. Organic farmers and the ‘real food’ culture of the region continue this tradition in environmental sustainability today.

We invite you to participate in our tours that take you deep into the fascinating world of traditional Japanese steelmaking and blacksmithing in the Izumo region. Unlike other tours, our tours are carefully constructed to provide you with a ‘complete picture’ of the region’s steelmaking and blacksmithing tradition with its environmental, cultural and historic context. Through our personal connections in the regional community, we offer authentic experiences in places rarely accessed by international tourists. Inspect small family-run blacksmithing workshops where artisans continue to individually craft knives and farming tools for local needs as well as innovative objects for modern-day living. Learn about traditional steelmaking at the only remaining historic Tatara furnace in Japan. Delve into the curious connections between steelmaking, ancient mythology, farming and local cuisine while staying with farmers in a traditional country house nearly three centuries old. A variety of other experiences await you, including visits to historic sites and regional museums (including a sword forging demo and one of the best collections of Samurai swords in Japan), inspecting traditional craft and artisan food workshops, and rejuvenating yourself in classic Japanese onsen baths.

If you are just after a taste of the Japanese blacksmithing tradition among a variety of other experiences, why not consider some of our tours to other regions of Japan, including Niigata (Sanjo) and Akita. We would also be pleased to run customised tours themed around blacksmithing, handcrafted knives and Japanese swords to cater for your specific needs.

Through your participation in our tours, you will be directly supporting artisans dedicated to preserving the Japanese blacksmithing tradition—one of many traditions in Japan threatened by aging and economic hardships—and individuals, local businesses and communities devoted to regional revitalisation, preserving cultural heritage, and environmentally sustainable agriculture.