As the sticker atop this fierce-looking implement attests, the art of tanzo, or forging, is important business in Japan. It has been for at least a couple thousand years. What’s truly remarkable about Japanese metallurgy is the dearth of examples of "primitive" smithing – in other words, it’s as if casting and forging arrived in the country fully-formed, ready to take on the world.
Such skills first emerged as part of the Yayoi culture between 300 BC and AD 300, the period that essentially heralded the end of Japan’s Neolithic era of the previous 10,000 years. Only a century separated the emergence of bronze and iron techniques – a sped-up version of the western evolution of metalwork.
Among the earliest objects found were the famous "Dokatu," bronze bells dating to the second century. But perhaps the most complex and fascinating example of metalwork is the curved carpenter’s blade known as "yariganna." This sophisticated tool actually fell out of use for a few hundred years before being rediscovered in the in the last century. Blacksmiths still marvel at the craftsmanship on display in the earliest relics.
Dokatu, yariganna, samurai swords – Japan’s metallurgists were at the very center of the country’s powerbase for centuries. Little wonder that the tradition is proudly carried forward by each new generation.
The bear claw might be a gardening tool, but it wouldn’t look out of place as part of a Japanese warrior’s armory. It’s not hard to see the hoe as part of a continuum, the next stage of the country’s old, illustrious steel-making tradition.
Designed for outside use, this tool should last for many years if properly stored inside a shed or garage when not in use. Coat blades in oil to prevent rusting. The handle will take on a varnish from the natural oils of the hand.
The blade is wrought from carbon steel in the Saga prefecture in Japan's south. Here, the Kusakichi brand is run by steel manufacturer Yoshida Hamano, renowned for their discerning standards - from material selection, through the forging and casting process, and on to shipping their goods all over the world.
Strong, durable hand hoe for harvesting and digging. This claw is made from hand-forged carbon steel, with a white oak handle. Its strength lies in the sharpness of the blades. Made in Japan.
Blade: 4.75" x 4"
Total length: 13.5”
hand-forged carbon steel, Japanese oak
Saga Prefecture, Japan
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