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Tsubame-Sanjo is a city in Niigata Prefecture, Japan, known as a metalworking powerhouse that has carried on for over 400 years since the Edo Period (1603 – 1868). At the time, it was a center of sword-making; today, the city is known for producing a wide variety of high-quality metal products, including knives, tableware, and kitchen tools.

The longest river in Japan called the Shinano River runs through Tsubame-Sanjo. The Shinano River was once prone to frequent flooding, making it hard for the local farmers to grow crops. To improve the livelihoods of his subjects, Seibei Otani, the regional governor during the early Edo period, decided to invite blacksmiths from the capital Edo (now known as Tokyo) to teach his farmers how to manufacture traditional Japanese nails, known as wakugi, as a way to sustain themselves.

Seibei Otani’s decision proved popular, and within thirty years, over one thousand locals took up blacksmithing. No longer only crafting nails, Tsubame-Sanjo former farmers and their descendants were now smithing saws, hatchets, and kitchen knives. The discovery of a copper mine in the region and the migration of craftsmen from other places in Japan to Tsubame-Sanjo spurred further development and made it the center of metal works in Japan.

Unique to the industry, companies in Tsubame-Sanjo run an open factory system – visitors can stop by various factories in town without reservation and observe the craftsmen at work.





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