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  • Hello World!

  • This is an Echizen Uchihamono,

  • which is a designated Japanese traditional craft.

  • What does that even mean?

  • Well, Echizen is the name of the city,

  • and uchihamono literally means "hitting blade".

  • In 1377, a katana master from Kyoto,

  • was searching for the perfect place to make katanas,

  • found Echizen had the best water and ingredients,

  • and so set up shop.

  • So important was he,

  • that to this day local blade makers worship him at his shrine.

  • And here we are, 700 years later.

  • How do you make one of these works of art?

  • You go to a guy like Koji Masutani.

  • If my grandpa wasn't a knife maker, my father wouldn't have been one either,

  • Counting from my grandpa, I'm the third generation.

  • So naturally, from when I was small, I thought I would grow up to make knives.

  • One of my main goals of the visit to the factory,

  • was to learn how these hand crafted knives were different to mass produced ones.

  • These steps are what we used to do,

  • but now steel makers do the three layers or the damascus cladding.

  • So we're going to hit and expand those thick materials.

  • This is the material we start off with.

  • We're using coke as the fuel.

  • In the heat of the summer, it's extremely hot.

  • In the depths of winter, it's so cold that their hands are frozen,

  • and they can't easily use their hands to eat.

  • So with these tough conditions, young people didn't stay.

  • This work is hard on the body.

  • So that's the tough part about the job.

  • But I push through it.

  • Among all the jobs that exist,

  • I think making knives is the most interesting.

  • I really wanted to do the work, so I was hoping to get this job.

  • And when I actually started, I found it very difficult,

  • but as I got better, I was happy and delighted to level up my skills.

  • I'm really grateful to have this great job.

  • I believe we put life into the knives.

  • I feel that making knives with automated machines is impersonal.

  • A knife makers loeses that connection when using automated machines.

  • There are several small factory buildings to accommodate the many, many steps

  • involved in the knife making process.

  • In the past, knife makers used to only use a hammer,

  • but we replaced it and now forge with this.

  • The surface of this plain rough metal becomes smooth when it's hit.

  • We also fix and straighten it if it's bent.

  • The plain one can easily bend.

  • But once it's been hit, it gets harder and tougher.

  • We just don't buy metal and stamp knives out.

  • It is totally diffrent from those ones at a glance.

  • Our knives are thick on the back and thin on the blade.

  • This might be confusing, but they do stamp out the knives at this point.

  • The difference from mass produced knives,

  • is that they hand forge and shape the knife beforehand.

  • From here we'll harden the knife.

  • The temperature for hardening is about 1060°C.

  • Figuratively speaking, here we are going to put life into the knives.

  • In this step, we are making the metal hard and strong,

  • which is called quenching.

  • This is also a sacred place.

  • This is kamisama.

  • I thought that Greg-san may want to try this step.

  • Returning back to the start, they let me try out the first step.

  • When watching from a distance, it looked so effortless.

  • But if my face isn't showing it well enough,

  • it was way harder than I thought.

  • You had to simultaneously use both precision and strength.

  • Apprentices learn each station one at a time,

  • and it takes years and years to be able to do it all from start to finish.

  • This job is very difficult to learn,

  • and even though I tried so many times, I couln't do it well.

  • But when I clear an obstacle,

  • I feel great accomplishment.

  • Although I still have so much stuff to learn,

  • I want that great feeling of achieivement,

  • and to create good knives,

  • so I keep trying everyday.

  • When I entered this field about 40 years ago,

  • there were so many great shokunins.

  • Although they had immense skill to pass on,

  • they had to close their businesses because of no apprentices to work with.

  • So I was wondering and asking why they weren't training apprentices.

  • Those owners said the main reaason is the work couldn't earn them a living.

  • If you see sparks, you are damaging the product,

  • so you need to use water when sharpening the knives.

  • We grind the blade untill this line disappears.

  • This middle one has only been grinded once so far,

  • but compared to the ones on the side, you can cleary see the difference.

  • If you haven't noticed, each process often has multiple stations.

  • So while this may look like the same footage,

  • we've now moved on to a finer whetstone.

  • On this one you can see a horizontal line from the grinding.

  • You may not be able to see it but actually it's not smooth.

  • This has to be smooth otherwise it won't cut.

  • You have to even it out.

  • That's what we're doing here.

  • To make it more attractive, we take off the handle and weld on a new design.

  • We try to use natural wooden handles,

  • or materials that other makers wouldn't use now.

  • Echizengama (sickles for farming).

  • It's dying as not many people make them anymore.

  • There is only one left out of more than 100 companies that used to exist.

  • Even with great knowledge and skills, no products can be sold.

  • I saw the bad situation happening and

  • thought what I can do with my company?

  • I thought of using traditional skills to make items that people want today.

  • So for example, I asked chefs what kind of knives they like?

  • Making connections, making friends, I get inspiration.

  • The top manager on the floor is 30 years old now.

  • We have 8 young people from 18 to 30 years old.

  • About 20 years ago when I placed a job ad, no young people applied at all.

  • Now we can't hire them all.

  • Because my father was born in the year of dragon,

  • we thought of the name Ryusen.

  • Think of Ryu (dragon) standing out of a sen (spring).

  • Ryu is very sacred in Japan.

  • A dragon standing up in a spring,

  • water dripping from its body making beautiful desigins on the surface of the water.

  • We wanted to put the desigh on our knives even though

  • it doesn't do anything to the sharpeness of blades.

  • The balance, the thinckness of the blade, the weight,

  • Every knife is so diffrent from each other.

  • So if I wanted people to see our products,

  • I had to go to department stores in Tokyo.

  • But for safety reasons, I had to keep our knives

  • in a glass case where no one could touch them.

  • So, he made his own gallery,

  • where people could play with his knives all they liked.

  • The sound itself is already different.

  • Yeah, you're right.

  • Wahh!

  • Wahh! Ahaha!

  • It feels so good.

  • One thing that I couldn't get off my mind,

  • as I learned about all the skill and dedication

  • that went into the knives,

  • was the thought that these knives weren't meant for everyday cooks.

  • I understand that customers are nervous to use these thin, beautiful knives.

  • But we make tools to cut food so that you can eat and live,

  • so please feel free and don't be scared of using one.

  • Something I continue to research as I makes videos about Japan,

  • is how smaller cities and towns are dealing with the decline in population,

  • and the move from traditional skills to more modern work.

  • I'm happy to report, that in this specific case,

  • it looks like the traditional craft of Echizen Uchihamono is going against the grain.

  • They're attracting young workers,

  • the business is growing,

  • and they're successfully blending the old with the new.

  • My apprentices get an opporutnity to sell their own knives once a year.

  • Talking to the customers in person, they gain their own fans.

  • This makes them motivated to get better for the next year.

  • Overall, their motivation to get better improves the company...

  • I think that in Japan, or in the world, there are not many people who use Echizen Uchihamono yet.

  • Around the world, I want more people to use our knives,

  • for them to become more famous,

  • and one day I would like to make the very best knives in the world.

  • Thanks for watching, see you next time, bye!

  • What are traditional crafts like where you're from?

Hello World!

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/20
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