The craft of katana blacksmithing in Japan is an ancient and intricate art that demands profound technical skill and specialized expertise.
If you're enthralled by Japanese katanas and wish to embark on this path, here's a comprehensive guide on the steps to become a katana blacksmith in Japan.
Education and Experience Required
To become a katana blacksmith, one must undergo a minimum of 5 years of training under the guidance of a qualified master blacksmith. You also need to attend and complete an internship organized by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, called the "Training for the Preservation of Art Weapon Blacksmith Techniques."
This 8-day internship emphasizes the general knowledge and techniques of katana forging. It primarily serves as a practical test for blacksmith apprentices.
Finding a Master Blacksmith
The most challenging step in this journey is to find a master blacksmith who agrees to take you on as an apprentice. Most katana blacksmiths aren't financially well-off and are often hesitant to accept apprentices because of the associated responsibility. Thus, finding a master blacksmith can be tricky without a referral or a lot of luck.
Engaging in Training and Workshops
Professional and cultural organizations such as the All Japan Swordsmith Association (AJSA), the Japan Sword Culture Promotion Association (JSCPA), and the Japan Art Sword Preservation Association (JASPA) frequently offer training and workshops for individuals wanting to become katana blacksmiths.
These training sessions provide an opportunity to learn about the blacksmith profession, hear from apprentices currently in training, and become acquainted with various forging techniques.
Financing Your Training
The costs associated with katana blacksmith training vary based on the master blacksmith and the training location. Tuition is usually free, but you'll need to cover costs related to accommodation, food, materials, and facility usage fees, which might total around 30,000 yen (roughly $270, based on previous exchange rates) per month.
It's crucial to understand that blacksmith training isn't a job; it's specialized education aiming to impart technical skills.
Considerations for Women and Foreigners
There are no legal restrictions preventing women or foreigners from becoming katana blacksmiths.
However, it's quite challenging for women to find a master blacksmith willing to train them, given the job's physical demands and facility-related concerns. Similarly, foreigners might face difficulties finding a master blacksmith due to language barriers and visa issues.