Kiyochika Kanehama, the Okinawan Swordsmith

While Mark's brother, Matt, was visiting he mentioned that he wanted to check out the swordsmith on island. Um, the what?! I'm not sure how my husband overlooked the fact that there was a guy making legit swords on island, but he had. With a little digging, I got in touch with Kiyochika's wife, Jyunko, and we had an appointment to check out the shop!

We planned to meet them at 6:00PM on Sunday. We weren't really sure where we are going so, after spending the day at Okinawa World, we headed in the direction that we thought it was. Thanks to my amazing iPhone map skills, we found it pretty easily so we ended up being an hour early. We decided to take a drive around so that we weren't so early and at about 5:30 we, again, arrived at their shop.

With that said, their shop is attached to their home. When we got there, I noticed the pictures on one of the doors so I knew we were at the right place. I knocked on the door to the home... no answer. Uh oh! Was something lost in translation? I was a little panicky since I handled the reservation. As I was walking away I noticed a boy running past the window of the house. I hung out and, thank goodness, he came to the door.

A mischievous kitten that ran around like crazy while we waited!

Second problem? He couldn't speak an ounce of English and I cannot speak Japanese. Don't fret! He grabbed his tablet and I grabbed my phone. We had an entire conversation about how his parents weren't home, but how we had an appointment without saying a word. We "talked" it out and, eventually, he opened up the shop, brought us tea, and we waited as his parents returned from Temple. Thank goodness for technology!

Jyunko was so fantastic! Her husband doesn't speak English and she was so happy to translate for us. He makes the swords, she does all of the lacquer work. They're like the dream team! Kiyochika got swords out of his safe, one being the very first one that he ever made. He let Mark and Matt hold it (he would have let me, too, but I let the boys enjoy it all), he explained how he made it, and showed how to hold it correctly.

As great as their work is, it's also pricey. The smallest knife, a letter opener, runs around $400. They are AMAZING, don't get me wrong, but they just weren't in our budget at this point. The swords are around $16,000. Yes... I wrote that correctly. We felt terrible for not buying anything after they showed us around for nearly 2 hours, but we just couldn't swing it!

Jyunko's paper weights. 

 Some of Jyunko's artistic lacquer work.

 Kiyochika makes his own charcoal

Yes, that's Kiyochika in a 3 piece suit, standing in a hole to show us some of the steps of how to make a sword. So awesome!

Overall, this was such a great (and unique) find in Okinawa. I don't think that these extremely kind people would ever tell you not to come, but my recommendation would be to only go if you have the intentions of purchasing. This is how they make their money and spending 2+ hours to show us around to have us leave with only a smile was hard, but we just couldn't justify the purchase... and trust me, Mark tried.

Lastly, here's a video of Kiyochika himself. He showed us from the original file on his computer. So cool!!


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