Amin Abbas Dubai
Japanese Katana smith or Kaminasa Shinsuke Ohwaku told Arab News Japan he found inspiration from the Middle East after his visit to the UAE a few years ago.
Ohwaku been making genuine Japanese swords using traditional Japanese craftsmanship for many years.
“My career started when I was eighteen and just out of school. In 1992, I went to Gifu to Seki knife festival and met my master, the first KANEMASA,” he explained. “I studied six years under him, then I received my license to forge katanas from the Japanese government.”
Ohwaku said in his master’s eyes, he needed twenty years of experience to master the traditional style of swords.
“Japan had a limited amount of steel, so we had to treat it with the upmost skill. We would assemble the steel and fold it many times over to give it strength and flexibility,” he said. “I am a blacksmith & I only make the blade. To build a Katana, I have to enlist the skills of another five craftsmen, the polisher to sharpen the blade (TOGISHI), the sheath to do all the wood carving (SAYASHI), a jeweler to do the decorations (SHIROGANESHI), and the leather worker to make the grip (TUKAMAKISHI) and do the lacquer work (NURISHI).”
The swords are made of a combination of pure carbon steel and iron, called Wako.
“From the (WAKO) we take the best portion and that is called (TAMAHAGANE). From two tons of (WAKO) lump only around 10% can be considered (TAMAHAGANE). For my part in the making of a (Katana), it takes six months to a year,” he explained.
The Japanese blacksmith said his many visits to the UAE inspired him after he watched how everyone prayed together, whether rich or poor, young or old.
“This idea that everyone is of the same importance is something that I took away from the UAE and try to live by here in Japan,” he added.
“My first visit was in 2005 for the Abu Dhabi International Hunting Exhibition (ADIHEX) and I was nervous the first time that I came because I did not speak the language and I could not find any information in Japanese,” Ohwaku said.
“However, the people of the UAE are very friendly, and its culture matches that of traditional Japan. Now I have many friends and I feel more comfortable in UAE than at home.”
Ohwaku said he recommended that those looking into buying a Japanese sword or Katana should read the history behind the craft.
“The history of katanas will only make you appreciate them more. KATANAs were not only for the protection of the house but also for the spiritual protection of the family. For that reason I hope that you would have one made over buying an antique,” he said.
He added that a Katana “has a life.”
“I have dedicated myself to persevering that life. A new KATANA starts a new history and keeps the old history alive. I presented a KATANA to H.E. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. It is my hope that it protects his tribe for 1000 years,” Ohwaku said.