Deepen your understanding of Japan’s people, places, and culture.


The Soul of the Japanese Blade - Traditional Tatara Steelmaking in Japan

Erich Pauer, France

  • Life, Food, Technology
  • History
The Soul of the Japanese Blade

View & Download
[PDF/2.2 MB]

hile iron is common all over the world, in Japan ore in the form of rock does rarely exist. Instead, iron sand has been smelted using tatara, a traditional steel-making process that produces low-carbon forgeable steel using charcoal and air blast for tools such as knives, chisels, drills, picks, and others – as well as for the famous samurai swords.
The deposits of iron sand are concentrated in the Chugoku region, now the Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori, and Yamaguchi prefectures in the west of the country, where well-preserved historic production sites can be visited. In one of these places, steel is produced three times a year according to traditional methods.

The author provides a detailed account of the historical background, the places and the people who continue to practice this traditional steelmaking technique, a craft that is only practiced in Japan.