First, to Kamigori まず、上郡へ行く
As usual, I had a great trip to Japan. Managed to see some places I hadn’t before and saw those who I planned to. Photographed my friend Kazu in his workshop this time around as well and managed to catch something new there too. On the day I arrived he was putting the final touches on a katana he would be submitting to a contest the next day. The last thing to do with a sword is called “meikiri” (mei = name, kiri = cut). Essentially, he was carving his name and possibly other information about the blade into the tang of the blade. It has become a tradition for his wife Chiharu to help steady the blade during this process as every blade she has done so has won a prize of some sort. This time turned out no differently as the judging was completed over the weekend and he did win in one of the categories. She’s a good luck charm.
The second process is called yaki-ire. This is the process by which the pattern or “hamon” is put on the edge of the blade. Kazu first decides on what the pattern is going to be, often by consulting photos of historical blades and then he applies a coat of clay to each side of the blade before “baking” it.
We all took a bit of a day trip east to the city of Kurashiki in Okayama prefecture. Specifically, we went to the Bikan area of Kurashiki which is the “old quarter” that has been retained. It has examples of Edo, Meiji and Taisho eras (1603 – 1926) in its buildings. Nice to wander around but we seemed to choose one of the hottest days in which to do it.
The trip ended on somewhat of a sad note. On the day that I was to head into Osaka, Kazu, Chiharu and Hana drove me into Kobe where they had some errands to do and I would then take the train the rest of the way into Osaka. Being the rainy season, we had rain during the entire drive into Kobe but didn’t think too much of it. It wasn’t until they got back home that they discovered that Kazu’s workshop had been flooded by about a metre of water. The whole area was flooded and several people did lose their lives during the flooding. The irony? The government was just putting the finishing touches on improvements to the river due to the last flood 5 years ago. Kazu has a new blog so you can go see the results of the flood here.