Holiday Trip to Mainland Japan: Seki City, Gifu Prefecture

Our next adventure during on the mainland Japan route was Seki City, the city of swords! Mark and his brother, Matt, had looked into tradition Japanese knives and swords during his visit last year and both agreed that Seki was the best of the best! At first I was thinking, "Ugh, knives!" Little did I know, it would be one of the most memorable parts of our trip.
The adventure started by getting on the bullet train from Tokyo to Nagoya. We were both excited about being on the train, but were overjoyed when we realized we could see Mt. Fuji!! I got really excited and the man beside us started looking out the window. I asked him if he wanted me to take a photo for him, but he explained that he lived close-by and could see it nearly every day. Lucky!
Then, the madness started! We knew that Seki was in a rural location, but we didn't know how difficult it was going to be to get there. I had done a lot of research and was using my handy Hyperdia app and it just wasn't enough. 
At one point, I can't make this up, we were one stop away from our transfer location and our train started going backwards!! We got off at the next stop and I got our handy collapsible wine caddy out. It saved the day from lots of frustration and headaches. Whew, that was close!

Fast forward to finally making it to our destination... Mark made a quick phone call to The Kencrest Corporation because we were worried that they may be closed. Not only were they open, but Koki (the owner's son) picked us up at the train station! He took us to the shop and helped us navigate through all of the knives. 
Kencrest is a knife distributor, offering a wide array of knives from all over Seki. We saw so many beautiful knives that day, but the Iwahara family definitely outshines them all. Let me explain.

Not long after we arrived, Jemmy (the owner of Kencrest) arrived with his son-in-law. He explained to us that, because New Years was just around the corner, they were about to attend an End of the Year party and invited us to join them. We hadn't planned on staying in Seki, but after the long journey we happily accepted his invitation!

He took us to Kiku Matsuda's workshop. Kiku was the knife maker that was hosting the party and he was happy to have us join. We ate a ton of food and, afterwards, headed back to the workshop to check out his personal sword collection. 
I'm talking priceless katanas that are all older than the United States. I let Mark bask in the glory of these amazing art pieces and he had the time of his life! It was funny to hear Jemmy translate, "hold them far away from your face and don't breathe directly on the blade." It's serious business!
They drove us to Hotel Route-Inn, the accommodation Koki had reserved for us, and Jemmy made arrangements to pick us up in the morning. He had called his friend, Kanefusa Fujiwara, a 25th generation swordsmith and we'd be meeting at his home in the morning.

Let me remind you that it is now January 30th. Everyone in Japan was already celebrating the New Year with their families. However, Master Fujiwara allowed us in to his home, offered us green tea, and let us hold a katana that was over 600 years old! Now you see why I fell in love with Seki?! The knives and swords were neat, but the people were incredible. 

The family katana. The dragons were carved on each side and matched - very rare!

Master Fujiwara and his son, the 26th generation to join the family tradition, allowed us to hold a sword that every generation within their family had worked on. It was simply incredible! I still can't believe that this happened!

After they gave us a tour of the workshop and showed us each step in the sword making process, we sincerely thanked them for taking time away from their family and parted ways.

Jemmy took us to the Seki Sword Museum and we said our goodbyes to him, too. Mark passed off the only thing he had to offer, his unit challenge coin, and we promised to keep in touch. After the museum, Mark and I walked to the bus stop (behind Hotel Route-Inn, next to the library) and hopped on a bus back to Nagoya where we'd catch a bus to our last destination on the itinerary: Kyoto!

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