Steel & Magnolias – Samurai Swords, Tatara Ironworks and Flower Parks in San’in

Steel & Magnolias – Samurai Swords, Tatara Ironworks and Flower Parks in San’in

- San'in Travel Diary Vol.3 -

It’s Tom here with another travel report from the San’in region. This time my travels took me to the heart of Japanese traditional steel making in Okuizumo, the majestic Ishitani Residence in Chizu, and the refreshing Tottori Prefectural Flower Park. I hope you enjoy the report.

By Tom Miyagawa Coulton

Okuizumo Tatara and Sword Hall

There are also exhibits of samurai swords forged in Okuizumo – some even 500 years old. I was lucky to time my visit with a sword demonstration. With poise and concentration, the sword master sliced through tightly rolled up straw mats, exhibiting the terrifying strength and sharpness of the blade. There was also a live Sword tempering performance run by the Kobayashis – a family of traditional sword smiths who still create Japanese samurai swords. Audience members were invited to help push the bellows and strike the hot steel in an entertaining demonstration.

The sword tempering performances are held on the second Sunday and fourth Saturday of each month. There are no set times for the sword demonstrations, so you’re lucky if you manage to witness it.


Ishitani Residence

Look up and you see the high, open ceiling exposing gigantic beams that criss-cross above your head. Inside, the immaculate rooms and finely manicured Japanese gardens and a heart-shaped Japanese paper screen window show the imagination and attention to detail that went into every aspect of this building. This is Japanese craftsmanship at its zenith and a joy to behold.


Tottori Prefectural Flower Park

The centrepiece was the impressive Flower Dome – an enormous glass dome measuring 50 meters in diameter and 21 meters in height, housing an array of tropical and subtropical fauna and flora. Katsumi explained the park’s main flower is the lily and Japan is famous for its varieties of lilies. In the East Wing (accessible via the walkway) there is a beautiful variety of lilies on display all year round.
During the park’s construction, Tottori Prefecture reached out to the world famous Dutch flower garden Keukenhof. To celebrate this collaboration, tens of thousands of tulips come out in bloom every April in the Keukenhof Corner, also known as the Flower Valley. It was a wonderful experience visiting the flower park. It had the perfect balance. Even though it was a manmade space, it felt like nature and being inside the natural world.


Tour Guide-Interpreter Request

After visiting these three locations, I came away with the feeling the people of San’in take enormous pride in their work. Whether it’s producing the finest steel for the best swords in the world, or creating an awe-inspiring Japanese house, attention to detail and an inventiveness to keep pushing the boundaries of traditional crafts and skills were clear to see. An enlightening experience. (Visited in November 2017)

This article is the third in this series. Follow our Facebook account for notifications on the latest articles.


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