On day 2 of the trip I got to visit Seki City and Gujō City, both in Gifu Prefecture.
The first stop was Seki kajidenshōkan to learn about samurai sword making. Seki city is famous for making samurai swords and knives and their blades are known to be of best quality. In fact, it is one of the best places in the world for blade production. Samurai and their swords plays a big part in Japanese culture, so this city is culturally important.
The sword is actually made from iron ore and slowly refined into a sharp blade.
The swordsmiths uses traditional methods to create the blade.
The heated iron is continually pounded with the mallets and this process is repeated for 6 months until a sharp sword is produced. That’s right, it takes a whole 6 months to produce one sword.
The swords can cost thousands or tens of thousands even due to workmanship.
9-1 Minamikasugacho, Seki-shi, Gifu-ken, Japan
Not many would think of buying a samurai sword home but there are many other blade involving products which may be more useful like kitchen knives and tools. Such items can be found in Seki City in good quality.
This is a shop I got to visit that sells all sorts of metal products.
But first, we were greeted with a sword dance.
The knives here are rather expensive but apparently they are of really good quality. I was particularly interested in a multi-function mandolin slicer which would be handy to slice zucchini thinly and do many more tricks as well. Knives, scissors and all sorts of kitchen accessories can be found anywhere else too but at Seki City the quality is known to be better. I wouldn’t know for sure because the products I brought home hasn’t been put to the test for a long enough period to tell, but so far I am loving the mandolin!
After knife shopping, the next destination was Gujō City, were the rest of the afternoon was spent. Gujō City is known for having very clean water, and apparently the water from the rivers are drinkable and better than bottled water. It might have the best water in the nation. Gujō Odori, and their wax food replicas. Yes, the sort you see outside Japanese restaurants which looks like the real thing. Gujō City is where the leading supplier of food replicas is.
Here at Gujō Hachiman Sample Village Iwasaki I learnt how a skill I probably wouldn’t need anywhere else in life – but it was fun.
The making of tempura.
The making of cabbage. When I see how the wax turns into shape upon contact with water I was in awe.
Cute isn’t it!
Lunch was not very fantastic.
The afternoon was spent exploring Gujō City and I found this cute bridge.
Gujō Hachiman is in a valley where three major fast-running rivers meet – Yoshida, Nagara and Kodara. This poster explains the types of fishes found in Yoshida River.
And that was all for Gujō City.
In the evening we headed back to Gifu City to witness Cormorant Ukai Fishing on the Nagara River. This is a practice where cormorant birds are used to catch ayu (sweetfish) from the river.
It was once a traditional practice but nowadays it’s become a tourist attraction. This is available every year during the months of summer from 11 May – 15 October and I was lucky to be able to catch it before the season ends.
You can either charter a boat or board a scheduled boat. Quite a number of boats sail out each night to view the fishing because this is a popular attraction in Gifu.
As the boat leaves around dinner time, you can have your meal in the form of a bento on the boat while waiting for the fishing to start. In my bento I have ayu served in 3 different ways. My first time having ayu was in May last year at Kichisen and because the season just started, the ayu I had was tiny like sardines. Now it’s October, towards end of season, and I am surprised to see how big the ayu has grown! Apparently it is said to be able grow really big, beyond recognition and I have to agree.
The boats moved really fast and it was hard to snap a pic but the whole process of catching fish was really fast and furious. The traditional method of cormorant fishing on the Nagara river has been retained and this is pretty much a traditional practice, even though it has become a tourist attraction nowadays.
The largest tool is the cormorant boat (鵜舟 ubune) itself. This 13-meter boat holds the three riders, the cormorants and the night’s catch. Hanging from the front of the boat is an iron basket (篝 kagari), which is supported by the fire pole (篝棒 kagaribō) and holds the fire in front of the boat. That fire (篝火 kagaribi) is used to light both the fishing master’s path and make it easier for the cormorants to find fish. The fishing masters use split pinewood (松割木 matsuwariki) because it burns easily and brightly. Also, the cormorants are controlled by the fishing masters through the use of ropes (手縄tenawa).