Live by the sword, open mail by the sword.

Japanese is a country full of traditional arts and crafts, but as time drags on these centuries-old skills are increasingly hard to maintain. Take sword-making for example; the painstaking effort that goes into making a Japanese sword is amazing, but there just isn’t as much demand for such weaponry in modern life.

As a result it can be hard to attract younger people into the very disciplined trade. This is a problem that a former beautician who calls himself Nishikan is trying to remedy. Having worked with scissors for much of his life, he appreciated the feel of a good blade and wanted to support the art by sharing it with a wider group of people.

And so, launched the Hitofuri project and its first endeavor is to sell handmade letter-openers crafted using the very same techniques as real katana.

These letter openers are made by Hiroyasu Ando of the famous Bizen Osafune school of forging in Okayama, that dates back nearly 1,000 years. Although there were some challenges in scaling down the age-old swordsmithing techniques to make a small piece of stationery, Ando saw the potential it had to reach out to more people.

▼ Hiroyasu Ando

The office blades are currently being sold through the Japanese crowdfunding website Campfire. A pledge of 15,500 yen (US$135) will be rewarded with a standard Bizen Osafune caliber letter opener, but those willing to part with 35,500 yen ($310) will get a tamahagane letter opener.

▼ The openers are available in a wide variety of sets including stands, cloths, and more

Tamahagane is a steel used in Japanese sword-making that has been smelted in a traditional wood and clay furnace called a tatara, only a handful of which still exist. In fact, certain pledges can also receive a lump of tamahagane.

▼ It’s surprisingly pretty in its own sort of way

It’s also important to note that while these are essentially miniature swords, they were designed so as not to run afoul of the Firearms and Swords Possession Control Law. That being said, you’re still probably better off not walking around with one to avoid any run-ins with law enforcement.

For those who still want to contribute to the art but feel uneasy around weaponry, there are also ways to pledge money to Hitofuri and receive other items like coasters, wallets, and phone cases featuring the project’s adorable egg-shaped mascot Hitomaru.

The crowdfunding will continue until March and orders will begin shipping in April. Also, in August a proper Hitofuri website will be set up for future traditional sword-themed merchandise ideas.

These swords are such exquisite works of art that many people would probably just want to leave in on their desk rather than commit seppuku on a stack of bills. On the other hand, they are battle-tested blades that can probably handle their own against the thickest of Manila envelopes. Just be careful against pens, because I hear they can put up a pretty good fight.

Source: Campfire, Japaaan
Images: Campfire
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