Tradition and History About 700 years ago, Kuniyasu Chizuru, a sword craftsman of Kyoto was searching for water that anneals excellent swords. During his journey, he happened to stay at Takefu and while there created swords and sickles. At one point Takefu was the biggest producer of agricultural tools in Japan and were sold by peddlers all around Japan. The blades were very unique to the Hokuriku area. Lacquer painters were traveling all over Japan to look for lacquer for their Echizen lacquerware. They used Takefu’s sickles, sold them and brought back orders for sickles that were specifically designed to be suitable for the areas where the farmers lived.
It was Mid-Edo Period when Echizen-Uchi-Hamono, especially Echizen Sickles (Kama) became number one in production in Japan. In the historical document that was written in Kanmon 8 (1668) about famous products in Echizen, Kama and Nagatana (same as Nakiri) were included. In the second book about local products, “Echihan Juuiroku”, written in the Kanpo period (1741-1744) Kama and Nata of Fuchu were mentioned as famous products. In Bunka 12 (1815), in “Echizen-kuni Meikeiko”, written by Sensho Inoue, Kama and Nata of Fuchu were mentioned as products of Fuchu-Takefu as well. Also, in a historical document written at the end of Edo period, there are facts about products that were sent to other regions from Echizen and their prices. According to the document, two million ryo (currency at that time) was made from selling Kama and Nagatana of Fuchu-Takefu. In the Meiji period, due to abolition of feudal domains, establishment of prefectures, disbandment of Kabunakama (merchant guild entrusted by the shogunate to manage its respective trade) and loss of perquisites from Protection Policy, a decrease of production and quality was observed. However, national production of Kama in Meiji 7 (1874) was estimated at about 3.53 million ryo. With that, 27.5%, or 970,000 Kama, were produced in Takefu. A runner-up was Niigata Prefecture where 250,000 were produced, significantly fewer than were produced in Takefu. In the beginning of the Showa period (1926-1989), the silk fabric industry was thriving and knives and Kama to cut mulberry were necessary for sericulture, therefore production of mulberry cutting knives and Kama increased. Additionally, nakiris and rice cropping kama were in demand, so knife industry in Takefu had stable growth. In January of Showa 54 (1979), Echizen uchi-hamono was designated as a traditional craft by the Japanese government, which was the first designation in the national uchi-hamono industry. The Uchi-hamono that were designated were knives, Kama, Nata and cropping scissors. There are plenty of historical resources regarding Takefu knives. They have a longer history compared to other Uchi-hamono blades. Additionally, Takefu knives have been highly recognized for supplying excellent products to the whole country for 700 years.
The value of current production is only about a few % in the country, so Takefu’s rank has been going down. Since Takefu knives received national designation in Showa 57(1982), Group of Four - Echizen Uchi-hamono Product started a cooperative framework to aim for industrial development, thus the Association of Product Union was founded. And then, in July of the same year, a development plan to promote the production region was approved by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
This history of the blacksmith tradition of Echizen was written by the Takefu Co-operative/association. Our translator Erina Olstadt did the translation.