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Japanese Knife & Sword City: Seki Experience ★ ONLY in JAPAN


City of Knives and Swords: Seki City Good morning! I traveled all the way from Tokyo to this spot Seki City in Gifu Prefecture for the “hamono festival” or the Cutlery Festival held on a weekend in October. Japan makes some of the best knives all over the world and today we’re going to get a chance to see some of them because Seki is the center of knives … … and swords … … and apple peelers … … and scissors … … and razor blades … … and where exactly is Seki you may ask? It’s down there in Central Japan’s Gifu Prefecture a short trip from Nagoya, Japan’s fourth largest city. It’s at the base of many mountains giving it loads of clean, fresh water. Spreading out from the city center are a lot of things to see and do. Welcome to Seki. Let’s have a quick look around. Seki is a charming place. Mino is a town nearby known for paper. It has an old well preserved village area. This is Monet’s Pond because it really does look like a painting, carp swimming through water color. The rivers are pristine and famous for Ayu sweet fish. This countryside restaurant prepares Ayu fish in so many different ways. Seki also has fantastic river unagi, chargrilled eel! One of my favorite dishes, don’t miss out on unagi, with that slightly sweet and salty soy taste that spreads deliciousness over the eel and rice – and this smile on my face. We’ve come here for the HAMONO MATSURI Seki’s cutlery festival where it’s world famous knife makers show off and sell their goods often at discounted prices. This is the Seki Hamono Matsuri or Cutlery Festival. There are 43 stands here so if you’re in the market for a knife — This is the place to be! It’s a showcase of knives. Seki is one of the most famous historical sites for samurai swords but after World War Two, the industry shifted to cutlery and they take pride in the many different products they produce. The Seki name is a brand in itself. At this festival, you’ll find rare and unique stock from vendors, the craftsmanship without question some of the best in the world. The events at the Hamono Festival spill out all over the city. You’ll find knives made from all kinds of strong materials. These knives are made from stone and cut like a champ. I was looking to buy an all-purpose knife 15 to 18 centimetres long. I have one question … Aren’t they expensive? 20,000 to 23,000 yen! (US$200 to $230) They’re expensive, right? Well, for people who do not cook much it may seem expensive but the materials used are special professional grade materials. Even the handle is polished by hand. It’s more of a work of art than a knife. Is it like a samurai sword at all? Not so much as a katana, but much of the process is close to it. The thing that really stands out to me is the pattern of the knife That’s right. This is called Damascus Steel, abd the material is unique to Japan. It is really popular overseas. It has 67 layers. What does the pattern mean? There are different types of Damascus Steel. The one here is called pattern-weld steel. This is not a print, but each of them is layered. 67 layers in total. Modifying that gives it a different design. The brand is Mcusta. Yes. Why is Mcusta in Seki? Seki City has a long history with the katana. Going back to the Kamakura Era (1185 to 1330). It has continued until now. After the World War 2, the knife industry boomed. So for scissors, pocket knives, kitchen knives and razors, we have the biggest share in Japan. So from the history of the samurai sword — That’s right. Started way back from there. So, Seki is known for its knives now because of its history with samurai swords. And you see the quality in what they make today it’s the same kind of quality that they made hundreds of years ago when the samurai were still in existence and that’s why Seki thrives as a knife making centre today. I’m looking for an all-purpose knife that can do it all but also beautiful. What do you recommend? What you often see in a household is the Santoku size. This one is most popular. This was made to be able to cut meat, fish or vegetables This is the one I recommend the most. I loved the handle and the balance. The weight was perfect. Never in all my life did I ever think I was going to spend about $180 on one knife, but — The quality, the workmanship, the history eventhing makes this such — a really valuable thing I’ll have for all of my life. I’m definitely going to buy it at this Hamono Festival. I brought my knife to a high end restaurant in Seki that served the area’s top wagyu beef. I wanted my knife to sink its teeth into something beautiful right away. This is Hida Gyu. Gifu Prefecture’s premium wagyu beef. This is a generous cut. And this — Seki-made knife. Hida Beef is a top Japanese beef brand from Gifu that rivals Kobe and Matsuzaka beef. Although not a challenge to cut, it seems the perfect compliment to my Seki knife. My new knife is beautiful. The handle is red wood, the three rivets look great. The handle made for crushing garlic. The Damascus steel pattern a combination of steel that makes it light, strong and razor sharp. Knife in paradise. Now it’s my turn to sink my teeth into that steak. Hida gyu just melts in your mouth, not as oily as Kobe beef, even more tender — and more than satisfying after a day of knife shopping. No need to say another word. SAMURAI SWORDS! A performance at center stage during Seki’s hamono festival showed the discipline and skill of the samurai – and the importance of their sword. In the Seki Sword Tradition Museum, you can see many of their swords on display. Seki has been a center for swords for over 700 years and they are very proud of that history. This is a real samurai sword. Weight: 1.0 -1.3 kilograms. They are dedicated to the materials and the craft, and it shows in their skill a focus on perfection with acute attention to every detail. You can see a Traditional Japanese Sword Forging Demonstration at least 4 times a year here – and during the Hamono Festival. Air is pumped into the fire to make it very hot. Temperatures reach about 1350 Celsius which makes the steel soft without melting. It’s needs to be soft for this: Hammering it flattens it out so that it can be cut and folded over which strengthens the steel. It’s put back in the fire then the process is repeated, each time making the steel stronger. It’s cut and bent back then folded. It’s folded front to back and then side to side to create a cross pattern for strength and this also eliminate any voids in the metal. A typical samurai sword is folded 10-15 times. This not only makes it stronger, folding the steel removes impurities The technique has been passed down from master to apprentice since the 13th century. To become a swordsmith, you must go through a 5-year apprenticeship to become licensed and sword-smiths can only make 2 long swords per month, each sword made must be registered with the Japanese government. The steel is coated in a mixture of clay, water and straw-ash to protect it between foldings. The total process to make a samurai sword in this traditional way takes about 2 months including the assembly, decoration, polishing and mounting with scabbard. Swords can be made in more modern ways in 3 to 4 weeks by master craftsmen The average price of a real nihonto sword is 400,000 to 600,000 yen or $4,000 to $6,000. If you want the best, be prepared to pay $13,000 to $20,000 – or even more depending on the craftsman. Each one is forged special in this way. The block is then elongated, cut, folded, and forge welded again. As the steel gets stronger from being folded, it requires a trio to hammer. As you can see, there’s a rhythm to the process. Tamahagane or jewel steel is the type of steel used, made in the traditional Japanese way, in a clay tub furnace. It contains around 1% carbon content. Oh, and it’s illegal to export Tamahagane steel! That ensures that the best swords are only made in Japan. In this demostration, the metal is hammered and folded only 5 times. For the forging demo, that’s enough. The work to lengthen, craft, polish and sharpen will katana will take a lot of skill as well. On the table you can see the steps of sword construction. Respect to the master swordsmiths of Seki. This chambara performance made me want to buy a sword! But for me, maybe not a real one. If you want to buy something cheaper, there are display swords which you can take home with you for less than US$100. The edges are dull but they look the part. This doesn’t have a blade. It really doesn’t! You can tell right away. This also can’t cut anything. Right, but the weight is the same as a real one. The same? Well, this is only for display. That’s right. How much is it? This is — 10,000 Yen ($100) It’s really is beautiful. Thank you. This is a display kodachi or short sword. Pretty cool! Unlike the these professionals who wield real katana, I’d best stick to non-lethal weapons for now. WHAT’S A DISPLAY SWORD GOOD FOR? It can become the most dangerous looking mirror in the world. Good hair day. Seki and the cutlery festival was a lot of fun. The city mascot even has knives as ears. The Homono Matsuri or Cutlery Festival is the perfect time to visit Seki. TIt’s not just for knife and sword enthusiasts. It’s a place where we can say the soul of japan still exists strong, in manufacturing something so well, it’s perfect. Japanese knives are some of the best in the world if not THE best and Seki city is the place to be if you’re interested in knives because it’s back with centuries of making Samurai swords and that kind of history is put into the knives they make today. Seki knives are a cut above the rest. Next time I head to Kagoshima’s SAKURAJIMA for the volcano experience. Thank you for watching ONLY in JAPAN! Check out the latest episode, playlist and don’t forget to subscribe. Produced by John Daub See you next time. Mata ne~

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