Sumikiri n’ stuff 炭切りとか
As usual, I stayed with my friends Kazu, Chiharu and their daughter Hana for the first part of my trip to Japan. Normally, I end up joining Kazu at his workplace and photograph him as he creates his swords. This trip was a little different however as we only ended up going to his workshop once as he was meeting with clients or had other things to do during my time there. This time too, he was busy with an equally important though far less dramatic part of his work: sumikiri. In Japanese ‘sumi’ is charcoal and ‘kiri’ is to cut. Charcoal is an integral part of the crafting of a Japanese blade. Not only does the forge run on it but during the heating of the iron, charcoal is imparted into the steel and helps to create the hard yet supple quality that make the Japanese blades such a work of art.
Cutting the charcoal is actually difficult and very dirty work. The only part of the charcoal that isn’t used is the dust. As I watched him separate the tiniest pieces from the dust, I had to wonder how many swordsmiths in the past died of various lung diseases before they invented the disposable surgical mask?
At the risk of offending my other friends who either have kids or are uncles/aunts, I’m convinced that Hana is the cutest kid in the world. Being around kids is always a learning experience. This particular trip, I learned how to draw Doraemon.