Police assemble task force after 40 blades are lost in flooding.

Once upon a time, there was a man who lived in the town of Seki, in Japan’s Gifu Prefecture. For centuries, Gifu had been known for producing samurai blades of the highest quality, and the man, in carrying on that tradition, had become a swordsmith.

However, in early summer torrential rains came to Seki. The Tsubogawa River, which runs through the town, swelled in the downpour, eventually overcoming its banks and washing away the swordsmith’s warehouse. When the storm stopped, the swordsmith searched the area, but could find only a portion of the weapons that had been stored in the building. So he contacted the rulers of Japan, who assembled a team of 10 men to seek out the remaining unaccounted-for swords, in a quest that continues to this day.

The sword-scattering storm took place early in the seventh month of the 30th year of the Heisei era…or, in more modern terms, last weekend.

▼ Last week’s flooding in Seki


Yes, despite sounding like the framework of an epic folktale or exciting anime series, this sword hunt is a completely contemporary undertaking. While swordsmithing is a rapidly shrinking industry in Japan, katana makers still exist, and Seki’s reputation for quality pieces persists, even as many of the town’s craftsmen have switched to making scissors, shaving razors, and other less combat-oriented bladed instruments.

On July 8, a police officer on patrol noticed that the warehouse of a 33-year-old Seki swordsmith, who’d been away from home the previous night, had washed away in the flood. After returning to the area, the swordsmith was able to recover roughly half of the 40 or so swords that had been in the warehouse, but on July 10 officially reported the rest as missing.

The Gifu Prefectural Police have since organized a 10-officer task force to look for the missing swords. The swordsmith says he used the warehouse for storing rusty or defective pieces, which he would later melt down for metal to use in new projects. As such, their monetary value is limited, but he and the authorities are worried about the potential for injuries they pose.

▼ Tsubogawa

Needless to say, anyone who comes across one of the blades is asked to contact the authorities, no matter how tempting it is to think of it as a sword of destiny bestowed upon you by samurai warrior spirits. Meanwhile, no flooding has occurred in Aomori Prefecture, meaning that its recently discovered book of ninja secrets is still safe and sound.

Source: Livedoor News/Asahi Shimbun Digital via Hachima Kiko
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