Bizen Osafune Sword Museum

See sword-making and metal-crafting in practice

By Kenji Chida    - 3 min read

I studied ancient Greek when I was in college and although fascinating, it was hard to use phrases like, "the donkey pulls my cart" in everyday conversation. Sword making is an ancient tradition in Japan and as with ancient Greek, I was curious as to whether it held some utility in today's society. I got myself over to the sword village to find out.

Located in Osafune near the border with Bizen City, you'll hardly miss the plethora of blue and white signs depicting an abstract figure doing something related to sword making. After being greeted by a more than knowledgeable guide, I soon understood why it is called a village and not a museum.

There are actually master craftspeople on site practicing the art of sword making, representing every stage of production. There is someone who makes the blade, someone who makes the sheath, someone who makes the handle and someone who makes the piece of metal that keeps the blade from going too far into the sheath. There is someone who polishes the blade, someone who paints the sheath and someone who engraves the blade. For all the samurai movie fans out there you'll love it!

The first thing you have to know about Japanese swords is that they can be disassembled much in the way modern assault rifles can. Yet, what they have over the modern assault rifle is the ability to be personalized. It was explained to me that samurai would change the handle and sheath of their swords depending on the occasion. There were accessories for a battle or a night on the town. In the case of the latter, the sword would be adorned for maximum beauty.

Manta ray skin was used for maximum grip on the handle and not simply a fashion statement. The Tombo or dragonfly was a common motif used to decorate the swords because when they died their bodies remained intact. For the samurai this was a powerful symbol used to represent the longevity of their families and the fortunes they built.

When I arrived home after my visit, I noticed dozens of dragonflies whirling around the parking lot and felt the sense of hope that the samurai must have felt when they looked at their swords. I learned that although we don't need to use a samurai sword today, we can still use its spirit. It is intact at the sword village.

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Kenji Chida

Kenji Chida @kenji.chida

I was born and raised in Baltimore City, Maryland in the USA after which I moved to New York City at the age of 21. I lived, studied and worked in New York for five years then moved to Okayama in 1998 at the age of 26. After living in Japan for 5 years I decided to try to naturalize. I was granted Japanese citizenship at the age of 33. I am interested in education, political philosophy, and Japanese society. I enjoy playing softball with my kids, driving and motorcycles. I can't say I enjoy running but I often join local 5k races. I want more people from abroad to come to Japan for a visit and I hope that some portion of that group decides to stay. Japan is for everyone!

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Scott Brause a year ago
This is a really nice piece on swordmaking. Makes me want to visit Osafune/Bizen!
Hi everybody I live in Thailand. I've sukesada "yosaezaemon" mei-o 1492-1532.
if you interested contact me at gattawua@hotmail.com
maea 7 years ago
Tomorrow is the opening of The Bizen Osafune Sword Museum and Evangelion Event. Get to Setouchi City to be part of this fan-fun event.
Sasa Jancikic 7 years ago
Very nice. Want to go there now.
maea 7 years ago
When I visited this museum the other week I was told that Okayama Prefecture has the largest number of sword craftsmen in Japan. During the Evangelion event from July 14th Okayama will be host to the largest collection of masters. Come down and join us for this 2 month event. It will be worth the travel no matter where you are based.