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The Making of...

As you've read elsewhere on this site, Tanegashima's edge tools are famous throughout Japan for the hardness of their forged steel blades and their kire-aji, the oh-my-goodness feeling you get when you cut with them. 

Some of our Japanese friends have asked us, how can you explain that quality on an internet page? Surely someone has to use them to understand?

Well, it's true. It's difficult to explain the new relationship one has with the humble tomato when you use a Tanegashima knife, how nice it is to cut card with a pair of tanebasami scissors, or the pleasure in snipping a flower stem knowing the cut is as clean as it could be.

For us it's more than just the cutting. We do use these tools every day and there is real pleasure in that, but we're interested in the history, too, the rarity - perhaps in some ways the novelty - and the culture of craftmanship that is part and parcel of these products. It's nice to be able to make that sense a part of your every day.

So anyway with that in mind we hope to do more than just give visitors to our site the opportunity to buy. Our feeling is that with products like these it's nice to have some background. Researching Tanegashima has been interesting for us and we hope you find it interesting, too.

Happily we found a YouTube video showing Tanegashima knives being made by our friend Mr Tabata, which you can see here. If you're expecting a mock Edo-era image of some wizened little fellow in traditional garb hammering away in front of a tatara earthen forge you might be disappointed, but we find it fascinating to think Mr Tabata can manipulate the molecular structure of steel in ways no-one else can, using skills acquired over decades and dating back centuries.

Recently we had the pleasure of another couple of days on Tanegashima and were fortunate to be able to see tanebasami scissors being made by hand. There's a short piece to read and some photos to see here.

One nice aspect of living in Japan is the depth of history to be discovered, always linked to language, food, festivals, seasonal pleasures, weekend destinations, you name it. Everywhere you turn there's a new page from history to be read. As an example, recently we learned that a little-used laneway near our home was at one time part of the Edo era freeway, off limits to all but the courier foot-runners carrying express messages and goods. Who'd have guessed.

More on topic, Tanegashima's history is very interesting, entwined as it is in some of Japan's most dramatic historical powerplays and technological developments. You'll find a brief history of Tanegashima and steel here. More to come!