The Swords of Seki
Seki is a small city with a lot to offer visitors; however, its Sword Museum is a real gem for people interested in the history, skill and art of sword-making. It is a city which can be easily reached from Nagoya or Gifu City. There are regular trains and maps in addition to helpful information available on arrival. Seki’s sharp history dates back to the 13th century.
Legend has it that the ideal conditions there were discovered by a master sword-maker called Motoshige. Its reputation for blades soldiers on. It is clear to anyone who spends a day there that the pride and skills which made this small city famous continue to live on in the local community.
That pride can be observed by observing the local knife sharpeners which maintain the traditions of their trade. More generally, the Museum displays work dating back 700 years and maintain and exhibits the katana (General sword) as well as Taichi Swords (straight and long blades) as well as a multitude of daggers. There is an historical overview which explains the origins and developments of Japanese blades, and there is the chance to pick up a Katana, albeit, whilst chained down.
The samurai sword is still commonly associated with Japan far away from its homeland. Samurai swords have become an emblem of coolness in Europe and the USA thanks to TV shows such as the Walking Dead and movies including Kill Bill. Yet, the world was introduced to the skills of Japanese metallurgy long before. In the early twentieth century a controversial Japanese figure called Inazo Nitobe was asked how the Japanese people and state managed to exist without a clear religion such as Christianity.
Mr Nitobe introduced the world to Bushido. The ethical code of Bushido became part of Japanese society and samurai beliefs for hundreds of years. It stressed the importance of politeness, honour, loyalty and self-control. Mr Nitobe pointed out that the samurai sword was considered the soul of its master, the samurai. That became clear whilst walking around the rooms showcasing the legacy of the samurai.
Dee Kernke is from Brisbane and visited the museum for the first time last January. She also had her knives sharpened in the traditional way. “The Seki Sworsmdth museum is an awesome place where one can appreciate the great beauty of Japanese sword! Seeing the wave pattern on the blade of the swords created by layers of steel being folded together is truly beautiful, together with the skill that goes in to the hilt is simply amazing”, she said.
The beauty and craftsmanship of the katanas was apparent by their light weight and intricate designs. There were long hiragana (Japanese phonetic alphabet) passages on some swords. Those passages were so small that it was necessary to use a spyglass. It was a testament to the value which was placed on the soul of the samurai. One cannot fail to be humbled by these cultural symbols seen up close and personal.
One the other hand, the museum also hosts a fine collection of blades in the modern exhibition hall. There is a vast array of cracking designs. Some have quirky color groups inspired by Japan’s Kawaii (cute) culture and manga and anime. And it does not stop there. The items exhibited inside the museum are accompanied by the process of sword making outside of the main building. The image of traditional sword forging with steel smashed with large hammers happens at specific times of the year.
Picture courtesy of Dee Kernke
Tourists experience a warm welcome in Seki, and the openness of the community is noticeable. Moreover, there are plenty of events to enjoy throughout the year. Of course, a visit to the museum on the same day as swords are being made would be an unforgettable experience. Alternatively, there is something for those cutlery lovers out there. The annual cutlery festival takes place on the second Saturday and Sunday in October. Be sure to visit.