Mesmerized by the absolute beauty of a sword in his house when he was about 10 years old, Shimbo san decided to become a swordsmith. Since then, he has been producing many award-winning swords, long and short or even spears for about 6 decades.
His sword was also chosen as a special offering to the Grand Shrine of Ise, the shrine for the Imperial Family.
I can imagine how honored he was!
Now, I'd like to introduce Motohira Shimbo(新保基衡) or Master Shimbo, the only swordsmith on Sado Island(佐渡).
He is an exceptional craftsman and I feed honored to be acquainted with him.
We can often admire the beauty of Japanese swords when we visit museums in Japan, many of them have historical value like national treasures. But meeting a swordsmith and learn how to admire swords is completely a different story.
For swordsmith, the workplace is sacred because we find sacred rope in there and rarely open to the public. It's the place where they put all of their energy and soul into forging and producing swords of their ideal. So, no one should disturb them.
If you ever have a chance to visit them and see them forging swords, you have to follow the instructions from them because it's not a "show" or "performance" but a never-ending pursuit of creating something special.
Disciplined, motivated and faithful like samurai
Shimbo san has a drawing room with the display of his swords. Visitors(1 - 5 person) are accepted with admission fee and he is happy to explain about swords when he is available.
But please be sure there are do's and don'ts when you visit swordsmith. I give you one example.
Before visiting him, please wash your hands. Shimbo san himself wash his face and hands several times in a day.
Can you guess why?
Swordsmith deal with "tamahagane" or raw material steel and have to avoid "salt". Swords are much more delicate than we imagine!
Also in his room, please ask him what you can touch or hold and when.
To avoid confusion or trouble, I ask you to bring tour guides or translator.
If you follow rules, I'm quite sure that talking with him will be a memorable experience.
People in general have been attracted by the shinning beauty of gold or silver. But what makes us admire Japanese swords with its subdued beauty?
Because the blade is like a canvas for swordsmith and they draw mountains or waves or other scenaries on it.
Actually, there are many ways to admire the beauty of Japanese swords.
I'm still a novice but would like to learn more about swords itself and steel/iron, too.
Japanese swords are definitely one of the representatives of Japanese culture and spirituality!