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How to become a Japanese Swordsmith 2005/8/25 16:56
I am Canadian who is pursuing a career as a swordsmith. I need to know where to start. Do I need to go to school or do ask for an apprenticeship? Any leads would be great. Thanks.
by Ares  

how to become a japanese swordsmith 2005/8/26 09:48
step 1. Become Japanese!
by musashi rate this post as useful

ya mama 2005/8/26 09:50
hahahaha thats what my japanese wife just said. but i actually asked her to see if she could help you. her answer was "well first of all, he has to become japanese!"
by ya mama rate this post as useful

It's possible!! 2005/9/21 11:14

you don't have to be japanese. It's also possible for a gaijin (non-japanese) to apprentice under a full licenced japanese swordsmith, who obtained a licence from the Agency for Cultural Affairs. But it's more complicated and harder for a non-japanese to go this way. To be fluent in the japanese language is very important and you also have to live with your master for five or more years together in his house. Ask for further information at the NBTHK (Organisation for the preservation of the japanese sword) They have a branch in nearly every country and they're the best ones for further information and help.
Today there are lots of skilled smiths outside Japan like Michael Bell, Rick Barret, Anthony Di Christofano, Markus Balbach... But there was only one, Keith Austin, who went to Japan in 1961 to become the only non-japanese swordsmith to ever, licenced by the japanese gevernment. He returned to the U.S. in 1970 and started to forge japanese swords in North California/Yuba City. Unfortunately he died in 1997. His biographie shows that its possible for everyone who's really interested in it.

Please excuse my bad english! I'm a native german, living in germany.
by Mirco "Mitsutada" Gillmann rate this post as useful

you 2005/9/21 13:49
yes that.... and become japanese. so there was a special exception for this one guy. im sure it was one of the most difficult things in the world to do. it could have to been that time period that helped. plus i think that no person in thier right mind would pay a fortune to buy a japanese sword made by a gaijin. they are called japanese swords not only because they are made in japan using japanese methods, but also because they are made by japanese people. i have asked several similar questions (mostly from this site) to my japanese friends, and all of them have laughed and said "gaijin people should stick to gaijin things, and stop trying to become japanese". be happy with the life you are born into
by whos army rate this post as useful

Interesting 2005/9/21 17:19
I'm really interested from where you got these information about the "special exeption" for Keith Austin from? Sure, it's not easy for a gaijin to be accepted as a student of a japanese smith, but I'm convinced that it's possible. Last year I had the wonderfull chance to see some japanese swordsmiths demonstrating their work during a festival at the museum for east-asian art here in cologne. These five smiths were from Gifu/Seki and working in the Mino-Style. Directly after the demonstration, I talked to one of them, Kojima Kanemichi, asking some questions. And I also asked if it's possible for me to become his student. He said yes, but it's to hard, first the apprenticeship and after it to earn a living with it(even for jepanese students). He told me of other interested gaijin who tried it, but failed because they weren't used to such a hard work. It's only the masters decision whether to accept a non-japanese student or not.

You're right that normaly no japanese at all would buy a nihonto made by a gaijin. But in Germany or the U.S.A. for example, lots of self-trained smiths concentraiting on japanese styles by using traditional methods, are very successfull with what they do. So I think it's more a japanese view of things, influenced by their strict feeling of honour.
To come to an end, I'll give another example: Japanese Sumo Wrestling is very popular in Japan and related to it's soul. And there are also some non-japanese wrestlers who are very sucessfull in this total traditional japanese "thing". Akebono and Musashimaru are non japanese and they reached the higest rank of sumo, called "Yokozuna" Very problematic for them in detail, but they did it. I'm not really sure, but I remember that both are japanese citizens now.
by Mirco "Mitsutada" Gillmann rate this post as useful

PBS 2005/11/11 03:29
I just watched a program on PBS about the samurai and japan and all that. there was a segment about one of the top swordmakers on there. He has a Brazillian apprentice. I forget the swordmaker's name as well as the aprentice's but he is 25, speakes and writes fluent japanese. He has been an apprentice for 3 years now and will be taking his test to become a licensed sword maker in 2 more years. (even pbs said this was astonishing as normally you must apprentice for 10 years) It didn't tell us how he got the apprenticeship but he also is training to be a mounted archer.
by Tyler Prashaw rate this post as useful

Also 2005/11/11 03:34
I do know that the swordmaker was in Kyoto. If it helps the name of the program was Japanland: Suburban Samurai
by Tyler Prashaw rate this post as useful

brasilian sakite 2006/1/3 11:17
Very interesting!
Thanks much for these infos. I haven't seen the report you are writing about, but I remember seeing a picture in the internet where you can see a japanese smith (toko) with a black-skinned sakite (hammering assistant). Surely, thats the brasilian apprentice you mentioned.
But I just wanted to add that a normal apprenticeship to become a japanese swordsmith normally takes five years of learning and working under a licenced swordsmith. After completing this five-year apprenticeship, you're able to take part in a final test to obtain the licence. This test lasts eight days and during these days you have to prove that you're able to make a small jap. sword, called wakizashi. When you pass the test, you'll get your licence. When you fail it, you need to learn another year with your teacher to get a second chance.
So, the five-year apprenticeship for a swordmith is normal and right. Only to become a swordpolisher, called togishi, you need to apprentice for ten years.

Best regards


by Mirco Mitsutada Gillmann rate this post as useful

Brazilian apprentice sword maker 2006/1/7 03:22
Thought you might like this bit of info: Masamune is a 24th generation sword maker,
in Kamakura. One of his apprentices is in fact from
Brazil. His name is Roberto.
You can read about it in Karin Muller's book Japanland "A Year in Search of Wa". Hope this helps.
by Dana T. rate this post as useful

It's true 2006/4/16 01:14
As far as I know there are only two gaijin in Japan permitted to make swords. Roberto is one of them.

In 2001 I received my first invitation to come to Japan to study Japanese swordsmanship under the tutelage of the late soke Nakamura Taizaburo in Tsurumi. At the time Roberto lived in the Nakamura household and was half way through his apprenticeship under Yamamura Tsunahiro, a 24th generation sword smith (Masamune) in Kamakura.

Roberto is also a well respected sword polisher; skilled kendo and Japanese sword practitioner.
And yes, foreigners require Japanese citizenship to be granted a sword makerfs license.

Hans Fricke
Nakamura Ryu Battodo Australia
by Hans Fricke rate this post as useful

Swordsmithing 2006/4/21 03:27
I am Canadian who is pursuing a career as a swordsmith. I need to know where to start. Do I need to go to school or do ask for an apprenticeship? Any leads would be great. Thanks. I am a GAIJIN and i want to become a sword smith so if you can give me the email adress for the NBTHK so i can get started plz do thenk you. my email adress is T_Fresh_666@hotmail.com
by Tony Moyer rate this post as useful

Japanese swordsmith apprenticeship 2006/5/11 03:56
I've been looking for ages for some info on apprenticeship to a swordsmith. I hope this thread is still going and would appreciate any help. Thanks!

by keen rate this post as useful

Swordsmithing 2006/10/11 13:56
Hello, I am a Canadian and have been a blacksmith/swordsmith for several years. I think if you are Gaijin it might be wise to see if there are any blacksmithing or bladesmithing guilds near you, I know there are many throughout Canada. Some Guild members might give courses, and once you know something about smithing you can go from there. I think if you want to learn how to PROPERLY make Japanese blades, the only way would be to learn from a true Japanese swordsmith and since it would be very difficult to find one willing to take you as apprentice, maybe you should consider European swordsmithing.
by Ian rate this post as useful

practice 2008/8/12 00:41
by jason rate this post as useful

Yes, it can be done 2008/8/12 02:52
It can be done. You pretty much have to dedicate your life to Nihonto though, and it is incredibly tough. You do know that there is a Canadian in Japan who is a year or 2 away from being qualified? I am not sure if this is the OP who did eventually manage it, or if it is just a co-incidence you are both Canadian. However Pierre would be the guy to contact and ask. Getting a master to teach you would be the hardest thing to do.
Check out http://www.soulsmithing.com/EN/AcceuilEN.html for a lot of info, and demonstration that dedication can pay off. He will be licenced in a few years, and is a fantastic young guy with the dedication and perseverance. It is a pity Keith Austin passed on a few years ago, the Japanese held him in high regard.
by Nihonto rate this post as useful

link 2008/8/12 02:59
Forgot to add:
here is the best article on the subject you will find. http://www.soulsmithing.com/SWORDRESSOURCES/BecomeApprentice...
It explains everything. It is not something to be taken lightly. You won't become rich ever. But you will continue a 1000 year old tradition.
by Nihonto rate this post as useful

why do they think this? 2008/10/16 06:20
" i have asked several similar questions (mostly from this site) to my japanese friends, and all of them have laughed and said "gaijin people should stick to gaijin things, and stop trying to become japanese". "
I found Japanese people trying to act western, but when they figure out they can't be they say things like the quote above. Why can't anyone do what they want no matter where you come from?
by Beto rate this post as useful

sword smith school 2008/11/6 12:28
there are five schools in japan for swordsmithing but i don't know where they are.but that's were id look.that's you're best choice if you wanna learn the traditional and proper way.
by jason rate this post as useful

dont know 2008/11/9 11:36
i dont know how hard it would be to be a master forger much less an apprentice....however im interested in obtaining a sword forged by Tsunahiro Yamamura...descendant of Goro Nyudo Masamune....how would i go about this?
by gaijin sword collector rate this post as useful

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