A Japanese sword resembling the style of the “Nichirin Blade,” a black sword carried by Tanjiro Kamado, protagonist of the Demon Slayer manga series, can now be seen in the town of Okuizumo in Shimane Prefecture. It is a place known since ancient times for the tatara steelmaking technique.
The sword is now on display at the Okuizumo Tatara Sword Museum. Made by the tatara technique from a Japanese steel called tamahagane, the black sword exploded in popularity after a town employee posted about it on a social networking site in February. The exhibition, with the black sword as its showpiece, will continue into November.
The Okuizumo Tatara Exhibition 2020 is running from September 19 to November 23, with the much-talked-about Japanese sword displayed front and center at the venue.
Named ”MOONSASA,” the black sword was designed by Takumi Shimamura, a designer from Tokyo, to symbolize bamboo grass (sasa) shining black in the moonlight at the Oni-no-Shitaburui Gorge, a scenic spot in Okuizumo. Yoshikazu Takada, a swordsmith from Toyama Prefecture, then formed the sword from tamahagane steel.
Measuring 93 centimeters in length, the blade has a slight curvature and grooves on one side to symbolize the fibers of bamboo grass leaves. The sword was dyed black using a specialized processing technique at a metal processing company in the city of Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture. Dyeing the blade purportedly also works to protect the blade from corrosion and rust.
When preparing for the exhibition in February of this year, a town employee realized that the Tanjiro Kamado character carries a black sword, leading this employee to post a photo on the town’s official Instagram page with the hashtag #DemonSlayer when introducing the exhibition. Visitors to the museum then doubled.
The museum was closed from mid-April to early June due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but, after reopening, the number of visitors was soon on par with the previous year’s. Women and families have been notably numerous among visitors.
Symbol of the Tatara Brand
Home to the sword museum, the town of Okuizumo is the only place in the world where tatara furnaces still operate today. In tatara steelmaking, iron sand and charcoal are in turn put into a clay furnace, and bellows (like blowers) are used to blow air into the furnace to make the steel. Tatara steelmaking flourished from ancient times in Okuizumo, an area rich in high-quality iron sand and forest resources.
Although production ceased in the post-war era with the introduction of western steelmaking technology, in 1977, the Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords revived the industry to once again obtain tamahagane, the raw material for making Japanese swords. The only mill in the town to have inherited the technique, the Nittoho Tatara, now provides tamahagane for swordsmiths.
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The town launched a project in 2015 aimed at making tatara steel a local brand to revitalize the local economy. A certification system was established for the Okuizumo Tatara Brand, and new manufactured goods and other products using tamahagane have been brand-name certified.
Production of MOONSASA, the showpiece of the current exhibition and symbol of the Okuizumo Tatara Brand, began in 2016 and was completed in 2019.
Black Swords are Custom-Made
In addition to MOONSASA, the exhibition features short swords and eyeglass frames made using tamahagane, as well as jewelry made from impurities removed during steel smelting. The exhibition also introduces the benefits of tatara steelmaking for environmentally-sustainable agriculture, such as mountains cut through to mine the iron sand being converted into terraced paddy fields where rice and buckwheat are grown.
Hiroaki Abe, 43, of the town’s Community Development Promotion Division has high expectations. “Okuizumo’s autumn leaves are beautiful this time of year, and our freshly harvested rice and buckwheat are delicious. We hope this sword will spark interest in our town and tatara steelmaking,” said Abe.
Information on the “Okuizumo Tatara Brand” can be found on the brand’s official website.
The custom-made MOONSASA sword sells for ¥4.5 million JPY ($42,500 USD), tax not included. Inquiries into purchasing the sword have reportedly already been received. Inquiries on purchasing should be directed to Takumi Shimamura’s design firm, Qurz Inc (03-6089-0755).
(Read the original article here in Japanese.)
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Author: The Sankei Shimbun