The Etsy Blog

Handmade Portraits: The Sword Maker

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(Music by MONO, courtesy of Temporary Residence Ltd.)

Korehira Watanabe is one of the last remaining Japanese swordsmiths. He has spent 40 years honing his craft in an attempt to recreate Koto, a type of sword that dates back to the Heian and Kamakura periods (794-1333 AD). No documents remain to provide context for Watanabe’s quest, but he believes he has come close to creating a replica of this mythical samurai sword.

Takeshi Fukunaga is a NY-based filmmaker, specializing in directing and editing. His works have been featured in diverse venues ranging from Anthology Film Archives and The National Arts Club to Tokyo Fashion Week.

3 Featured Comments

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  • peonylovespink

    peonylovespink says: Featured

    What a great artisan. I liked the part where he said he wanted his disciple to be even better than he is because it was about preserving/passing down a tradition. He is a true master of his art.

    2 years ago

  • rmoralespottery

    rmoralespottery says: Featured

    When I was a boy I read a book about Japanese sword makers that really captivated my imagination and curiosity. This video is the closest thing I've seen to this great tradition and masterful creations. Mr. Watanabe is an incredible craftsman. His passion and soul are beautifully captured. Thank you.

    2 years ago

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    ThePolkadotMagpie says: Featured

    Fantastic. I am married to a knife maker. Although he rarely makes his own damascus steel, I have been to many a "hammering off" weekend where they are forging fancy steel. My husband always comes home with holes in his socks from the sparks that fly!

    2 years ago

  • ohbabydotcom

    ohbabydotcom says:

    Wonderful video. True craftsman.

    2 years ago

  • FOYI

    FOYI says:

    Wow! I always loved swords, and now I appreciate it as well. Thank you!

    2 years ago

  • SPUNKbyCM

    SPUNKbyCM says:

    We need more people like this swordsmith who try to preserve ancient crafts.

    2 years ago

  • thebeadgirl

    thebeadgirl says:

    oh my. serious coolness. a true artisan. thank you for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • PaperAffection

    PaperAffection says:

    I'm in love with the quiet, devoted, passion this man has! Great portrait.

    2 years ago

  • funktionslust

    funktionslust says:

    We should all aspire to be as authentic as he is

    2 years ago

  • wwbc

    wwbc says:

    A wonderful video. Truly one of Japan's living treasures.

    2 years ago

  • MootiDesigns

    MootiDesigns says:

    Great video. Thank you for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • ChezaIndigo13

    ChezaIndigo13 says:

    Too cool and awe inspiring for words. Thank you for posting this and thank you to Mr. Watanabe for existing and creating.

    2 years ago

  • HerHandsMyHands

    HerHandsMyHands says:

    Thank you for sharing with us.

    2 years ago

  • DelightBunnie

    DelightBunnie says:

    Amazing. I wish I could be a sword maker like him. (But I'm not Japanese).

    2 years ago

  • renaissanceartisan

    renaissanceartisan says:

    This is what being a master crafstman is all about. I've never seen or heard it expressed more perfectly. We can only hope someday to reach the same level as Korehira Watanabe in our own efforts.

    2 years ago

  • Colettesboutique

    Colettesboutique says:

    What an amazing video! thanks for sharing.

    2 years ago

  • AlisaDesign
  • manicarteest

    manicarteest says:

    Great video, i agree with keeping traditions alive. Very aspiring.

    2 years ago

  • just4theartofit

    just4theartofit says:

    Great video! If it wasn't for people like Mr. Watanabe ancient crafts and history would be lost forever.

    2 years ago

  • oldyellowhorsegifts

    oldyellowhorsegifts says:

    It is really great to see someone working to keep the culture and traditions alive in their art work. Without people preserving the old traditional ways, no matter what their ethnic back ground is, this type of craft work is at risk of becoming extinct, whether it be basket making with black ash and birch bark, saddle makers, leather work, traditional farming and seed saving, blacksmith, weavers, spinners, the list goes on... thank you for sharing your inspirational story ! Oh and the photographers who help share these wonderful treasures =)

    2 years ago

  • theroyal

    theroyal says:

    wow... i honestly do not know what other word would be more appropriate.. WOW!

    2 years ago

  • theroyal

    theroyal says:

    and MONO is the soundtrack!!!

    2 years ago

  • Benally

    Benally says:

    Beautiful and engaging short. Makes me want to see more! Ive only recently started bladesmithing so this is very inspiring.

    2 years ago

  • RedorGrayArt

    RedorGrayArt says:

    beautifully produced video of a special craft person!

    2 years ago

  • Modrn

    Modrn says:

    Now that, is an artisan crafter! Truly inspiring.

    2 years ago

  • SeanClayton

    SeanClayton says:

    Very cool! Believe it or not I was just thinking about this a couple days ago. And how many people were still maintaining the craft. I surely wish him good fortune.

    2 years ago

  • erinag

    erinag says:

    Beautiful

    2 years ago

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts says:

    Great story!

    2 years ago

  • BeadSoupJewelry

    BeadSoupJewelry says:

    Wow, amazing video! It is so important to pass down what we know to the next generation, and hope that they can take it to the next level. My dad is a welder by trade and he passed the trade down to my brother, now my brother is doing cutting edge stuff in his trade!

    2 years ago

  • morij

    morij says:

    It is truly amazing what you can do when you follow your heart. I believe no matter who is saying you can not do something, there are always people that have the same passion for whatever you love and will really enjoy what you create because no one else can create what you can.

    2 years ago

  • Verdurebydesign

    Verdurebydesign says:

    My children have enjoyed this look into such an historical art. Thank you.

    2 years ago

  • davkadeergirl

    davkadeergirl says:

    very cool, thanks.

    2 years ago

  • mwest0425

    mwest0425 says:

    I am very intrigued by this man and would like to visit his studio. Very nice film. MW

    2 years ago

  • Judalon

    Judalon says:

    when someone says that it takes a lifetime to perfect something and never quite get there, then you've met a true artist!

    2 years ago

  • hanaleib

    hanaleib says:

    Thank you so very much for your film on the lost art & history of swordsmiths. It is absolutely fascinating to watch the art of sword-making! Mr. Korehira Watanabe is Truly an Amazing Man.

    2 years ago

  • finethreadz

    finethreadz says:

    Love this! It's very intriguing to learn more about other cultures and craftsmanship! Thanks for sharing this.

    2 years ago

  • PuchiMo

    PuchiMo says:

    Great video , Great artist, Thank you !

    2 years ago

  • ErtheFae

    ErtheFae says:

    His swords are beautiful... Glad to see he is passing his art along to a disciple who can continue to preserve the tradition.

    2 years ago

  • DanaCastle

    DanaCastle says:

    So cool! I have to share this with my husband!

    2 years ago

  • jokamin

    jokamin says:

    Beautiful swords and the koto with japanese letters, wow!

    2 years ago

  • NamasteWings

    NamasteWings says:

    I absolutely loved this, it was very inspiring to see someone doing something they were passionate about, and doing it so well! We need more people to preserve old crafts and traditions for the future generations.

    2 years ago

  • peonylovespink

    peonylovespink says: Featured

    What a great artisan. I liked the part where he said he wanted his disciple to be even better than he is because it was about preserving/passing down a tradition. He is a true master of his art.

    2 years ago

  • DeiDeisempai07

    DeiDeisempai07 says:

    thats amazing, to keep such an old yet genius practice alive after all of these years. i myself collect swords, wow 8O

    2 years ago

  • AnnTig

    AnnTig says:

    Wow!

    2 years ago

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez says:

    So cool! Thanks for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy says:

    that's amazing.

    2 years ago

  • KarKarStyle

    KarKarStyle says:

    how cool... and pictures are so beautiful..!!

    2 years ago

  • quirkyshop

    quirkyshop says:

    Interesting!

    2 years ago

  • ThePattypanShop

    ThePattypanShop says:

    Amazing!!!

    2 years ago

  • kararane

    kararane says:

    Mr. Korehira Watanabe is as his swords.. persistent, sharp, beautiful, soulful. A true visionary who has lived his passion. An inspiration to all artists who must overcome tremendous obstacles just to create & perfect their craft. thank YOU Takeshi Fukunaga, great hand-made video portrait.

    2 years ago

  • jamiespinello

    jamiespinello says:

    Yay! Metal and Fire! Best swords in the world!

    2 years ago

  • karisuma

    karisuma says:

    Incredible. Such passion and patience is hard to come by these days.

    2 years ago

  • ourfrontyard

    ourfrontyard says:

    Wonderful Video! A True Artisan!

    2 years ago

  • rmoralespottery

    rmoralespottery says: Featured

    When I was a boy I read a book about Japanese sword makers that really captivated my imagination and curiosity. This video is the closest thing I've seen to this great tradition and masterful creations. Mr. Watanabe is an incredible craftsman. His passion and soul are beautifully captured. Thank you.

    2 years ago

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    ThePolkadotMagpie says: Featured

    Fantastic. I am married to a knife maker. Although he rarely makes his own damascus steel, I have been to many a "hammering off" weekend where they are forging fancy steel. My husband always comes home with holes in his socks from the sparks that fly!

    2 years ago

  • Unify

    Unify says:

    That was such a beautiful video.

    2 years ago

  • elleestpetite

    elleestpetite says:

    This is so amazing. It would be a shame if the tradition of sword making died out. I would love to learn.

    2 years ago

  • ivangovaerts

    ivangovaerts says:

    true art.

    2 years ago

  • JesseDanger

    JesseDanger says:

    Thank you for this, very inspiring!

    2 years ago

  • AliceCloset

    AliceCloset says:

    What a great job!!! I love swords nad japanese ones are the best :D Thank you for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • RossLab

    RossLab says:

    Very inspiring video!

    2 years ago

  • sbellestri

    sbellestri says:

    This is so beautiful and so very important to carry on such an ancient tradition. I love this video.

    2 years ago

  • AmandaKLockrowJewels

    AmandaKLockrowJewels says:

    I recently found out that one of my ancestors was a Samurai sword maker and so I am so excited to see this video about passing on the tradition. I feel more connected to my ancestors knowing now why I was drawn to working with metal in college more than any other material.

    2 years ago

  • CheapBastid

    CheapBastid says:

    Sublte point from a neighbor who is a sword polisher: "The blurb on the site describing it has a subtle error. He said he's trying to reproduce "Koto" an ancient sword of the early periods. The problem is there is no such thing as a blade called Koto. He is trying to recreate the swords of the Koto sword period which was actually many hundreds of years long and had 5 main styles of smithing with literally 10's of thousands of smiths working. The time periods he lists (Kamakura, etc.) are some of the early time period "subsections" of the vastly longer Koto period. Basically all Koto means is the time of "old swords". As contrasted with Shinto or new (shin) to (swords), or closer to the end of the 18th and 19th centuries when we were in Shinshinto (new new swords). Today they call the period "Gendaito" or "modern swords". Any sword made before the unification of Japan under Tokugawa marks the Koto period. Once things settled down sword styles changed and skills were lost/altered."

    2 years ago

  • bunnyontherocks

    bunnyontherocks says:

    That was a wonderful video. Sword making is such a beautiful art, I wish I could buy one of swords!

    2 years ago

  • happyowl

    happyowl says:

    Amazing. Thank you for introducing me to this!

    2 years ago

  • betheldt

    betheldt says:

    Is it possible to get contact info? If this is his living, I want to have one made for me.

    2 years ago

  • JulienDenoyer

    JulienDenoyer says:

    Such an amazing video...just the sort of thing I could watch for hours! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

    2 years ago

  • prwade

    prwade says:

    As to contact, I found this, which appears to have a mailing address (second guy on the list in the Hokkaido section): http://www.tousyoukai.jp/english/member_e.shtml From everything I have heard, buying a classical sword in Japan is a complex business (licenses, etc) so you will probably need help from someone who speaks Japanese and has done this before.

    2 years ago

  • fukunaga

    fukunaga says:

    He just put up a simple website, and you can find his direct contact there. http://www.korehira.com/ Thank you everyone for viewing and leaving a comment. I'm so happy that I could share his story with so many people thorough the film.

    2 years ago

  • Shippodo

    Ryosuke Ueda from Shippodo says:

    I agree with his idea of preserving Japanese beauty and aesthetics. Although for me it might be a long journey on understanding this concept. Yet every day, month, and year there is something to learn or experience. Plus removing the honshitsu or the core values or idea would indeed be meaningless to continue the tradition.

    2 years ago

  • maranetama

    maranetama says:

    Does mr. Watanabe sells its katanas for some foreigner, like myself? Anyone is aware of that? I want a katana so much...

    134 days ago