Forging disciples and Japanese sword making

Sword making fascinates me. Proper sword making. Not those novelty blades you buy at cheap markets and in trinket shops. It’s so tactile. There’s something romantic about a forge and the hammering of red hot metal. But its archaic at the same time. And pointless (pun intended). Nobody runs around with swords any more. Except ninjas.

Korehira Watanabe makes Japanese swords. He’s trying to recreate a legendary blade by feel, without instructions.

Handmade Portraits: The Sword Maker from Etsy on Vimeo.

From the Etsy Blog:

Korehira Watanabe is one of the last remaining Japanese swordsmiths. He has spent 40 years honing his craft in an attempt to recreate Koto, a type of sword that dates back to the Heian and Kamakura periods (794-1333 AD). No documents remain to provide context for Watanabe’s quest, but he believes he has come close to creating a replica of this mythical samurai sword.

He’s motivated by handing down a tradition. And he says this cool thing about his disciple.

“I want my disciple to surpass me as a swordmaker. It is my duty to build up a disciple who is better than me. Otherwise the tradition will wear thin with time.”

That’s a nice difference between being in business for yourself, and being in business because you love what you do, or because you feel vocationally called to preserve a tradition or truth.

Here’s a previous post about a Taiwanese swordsmith.