The Japanese Artisans Behind Wazakura Bonsai Cutters
The city of Sanjo, in Niigata prefecture, has been called for centuries the 'Town of Metal'.
Located in the rural and peaceful are of Tsubame-Sanjo, the seasonal floodings of Shinano River made necessary for its citizens to find an occupation different than agriculture in order to survive. Luckily, the city was built on land where mineral resources have always been abundant, so it was easy to find a livelihood from occupations related to the coal and metal obtains from the surrounding mountains. Because of all this, metalworking became the main industry.
Despite this and being considered one of Japan's leading manufacturing towns, nowadays there are not many blacksmiths still business in this once bustling city. Fortunately, here in Wazakura we are lucky to have found the manufacturer of our bonsai cutters in one of the remaining workshops. Founded in 1912, they are one of the oldest workshops still functioning after operating for more than 110 years, which is not that common in the area.
Third generation of a family of Japanese blacksmiths, Mr. Yuki used to sneak and play around the workshop in Sanjo since he was a little kid. Back then, he did not have access to quality materials, so he was told his scissors were not god enough and did not work well. These words got stuck with him and, as a proud blacksmith and craftsman, he started to improve his technique and find which materials and metals performed best in order to create the best bonsai scissors possible. As a result of constant self-improvement and many years of technique development, he even carves the mold for his tools himself instead of using a pre-made one. "When I make a mold, I think about how the tool would feels when used and what would be the shape of the finished product", he comments.