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Tentetsutou, the Sublime Japanese Sword Hewn From Meteorites


In the hands of a real artist, even the toughest materials become pure beauty.

Japan has a long and proud tradition of warriors, followers of a fierce code of honor that is materialized in the art with which they carry a sword. But the sword (katana) itself is the materialization of the warrior’s spirit: the fusion of the warrior and the sword is the real indestructible combination. Aware of this relationship, in Japan there are specialist metalworkers who make katanas, an icon of the national identity of the land of the rising sun.

One of the strangest and most beautiful katanas ever fashioned is without a doubt the “sword of the sky,” or Tentetsutou, made from a four-billion-year-old meteorite found near Gibeon, Namibia, in 1838 and which is a fusion of iron and which fell into the able hands of prestigious swordsmith Yoshindo Yoshihara.

Regarding the sword’s creation, Yoshihara said: “I never compromise [my profession]. It’s easy to make concessions. But we maintain our pride and we dedicate our lives to making swords.”

Yoshihara is one of the last artisans who is truly committed to creating swords, a work for which one must train for no fewer than ten years. Apprentices do not receive any kind of instruction or teaching. Yoshihara has six apprentices, as, he says: “we don’t need apprentices that cannot learn by themselves, observing.”

Yoshihara’s workshop is one of ten dedicated exclusively to making swords. The tools used and the processes have not been standardized as in other manufacturing sectors. And the type of product demands a very special process, directed by people who are truly devoted to their art. “This is why becoming a swordsmith takes so long. But the number of people who can forge swords as their only occupation is rare. Because a swordsmith creates products on which people spend millions, hard work is important, of course, but talent is also necessary.”

A swordsmith must not only learn how to work steel but also be an expert in all the details that a sword requires: the crest, the handle, even the calligraphy with which every sword is identified as unique require extraordinary work. Even the tools used to make swords are made in the workshop. “Antique tools like this are not found anywhere,” Yoshihara says.

The Gibeon meteorites were the largest rain of extraterrestrial objects that has fallen to earth. The sword can be seen in all its imposing beauty in the Skytree tower, the tallest building in Tokyo, of course.

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