Hoes and Magic Metal from Tsubame Sanjo
For a limited time only, guests to Japan House London’s Ground Floor can explore a selection of hoes and ‘magic metal’ from the Tsubame Sanjo area of Japan’s northern prefecture of Niigata, famous for its metalworking.
Originally displayed as part of the Biology of Metal exhibition at Japan House London in 2018, these items illustrate the precision and skill of the craftspeople from numerous small metalworking factories and workshops.
These businesses have developed ultra-fine metal-polishing techniques and the area now produces the majority of Japan’s cutlery, as well as all cutting tools used for the shaping of bonsai.
Learn more about the items on display
Polished Four-Pronged Hoe (Komitsuki-migaki-yonhonguwa)
This hoe is designed for the hard soil of Tokyo and is used in the cultivation and harvesting of root vegetables.
Furo Hoe (Furuguwa)
Suitable for all varieties of soil throughout Japan, this hoe is used in the cultivation of rice. It has a number of functions for the farmer including shaping, tilling, ploughing, weeding, and harvesting. This shape is considered the prototype of all Japanese hoes. It is said that the name derives from the time when hoes were made entirely of wood, produced by craftsmen who also made bathtubs (furo).
Chūetsu Hoe (Chūetsu-guwa)
This tool is mainly used in the cultivation of root vegetables to create ridges in the soil. It is suitable for moving all different types of soil including clay. Its relatively large width makes it an efficient tool.
Magic Metal, Die (Kanagata)
The die is the keystone of metal manufacturing. Created by expert die-makers from Takeda Kanagata Seisakusho, Magic Metal demonstrates the high level of mastery that goes into the workshop’s dies. In the example shown in the display, (see the image above) the protruding characters 工場 (which translate as ‘factory’) are pushed down into the metal plate. The characters seem to disappear without a trace, leaving behind an apparently solid bar of metal. The device is not made by carving out the characters, but rather each part is manufactured separately and then assembled.
Visit the display on the Ground Floor until Early Summer 2022 to find out more.
Items acquired with support from JTI UK. Display designed by SoHoKo.