The Hamono Festival

by Shinichiro

If you come to 鏡野 (Kagamino) park in 土佐山田 (Tosayamda) town on a Saturday or Sunday middle of October, you’ll find many people there. What are they doing? It seems to be a festival.  As you can see the picture, there are so many cutlery. We Japanese call cutlery to 刃物 (Hamono). That’s why this festival is called ‘Hamono festival’.

But what is Tosa-uchi-hamono? We’ll get to that, but first, about the festival.

Since the festival is held in October, I was unable to go and see with my own eyes. However, I interviewed the organizer of this festival. I asked him why this festival was first held. “Hamono festival,” he exlained, “was begun in order to promote 土佐打刃物(Tosa-uchi-hamono) to local people as well as to other prefectures.”

He continued, “in this festival, you can see and buy beautiful traditional Tosa-uchi-hamono and with  luck you might be able to see smith artisan’s show of how to make it in old traditional way. You’ll never seen such a performance. Also you will be able to sharpen cutlery for free. Even if it’s first time for you, you don’t worry about that because some smith artisans will teach you how to do it politely. It must be great experience in your life.”
“This festival has one more interesting event,” he added. “That is かかし(kakashi) contest.” Kakashi are scarecrows  made from bamboo and straw to keep crows or other harmful birds away from the huge fields. Originally, kakashi looked like humans,  but you can see non-human kakashi in this contest.

 

He explained the content of this contest. “Kakashi contest is an event where people bring their own original kakashi and compete for prize money. First prize is 300,000 yen, second is 100,000 yen, and third is 50,000 yen. There are various forms,  animals, famous characters. People come not just from Kochi but also other areas and we have more than one hundred entrants every year.”  These works are so real as I can’t tell if they are real human or kakashi in the pictures.

Now about the Tosa-uchi-hamono. Actually, it is said about one of the traditional industrial art objects in Japan, therefore, it’s very important thing in Kochi. However if I ask some friends from Kochi about it, nobody knows. Is it not that popular?

Kochi has a good climate for woods or forests, so people have been used cutlery for the forestry  for ages.
The history of Tosa-uchi-hamono begins with 五郎左衛門吉光派 (Gorozaemon Yoshimitsuha) who came to Kochi from 大和国 (“Yamatonokuni”) prefecture , present-day Nara. A swordsmith, he established a foundry that made swords for samurai between 1306 (鎌倉 Kamakura period) to 1580(室町 Muromachi period). This man inspired many people to build foundries in Kochi area.

Another chapter began more than 400 years ago when ,長宋我部元親(Chosokabe Motochika) began his reign as Daimyo of Kochi and brought a sophisticated smith with from 佐渡(Sado) 新潟(present-day Niigata) prefecture to Tosayamada town in Kochi. That’s why there are so many smiths in Tosayamada town now. The peak of demand of this cutlery was in 江戸(Edo) period when people developed farming and cultivated field to plant rice or other foods.

These days, it’s exported to Germany, Australia, the United States, China, Korea and other countries. European is famous for industry of cutlery. Especially, Solingen in Germany, well known as cutlery town. My interesting teacher, Davey, found 土佐型包丁(Tosagata-bocho), which is at left side above the picture, on the Internet. I haven’t known about that since he had introduced it. What’s the difference between Tosa-uchi-hamono and Tosagata-bocho?

Tosa-uchi-hamono can be classified into kitchen knives, sickles, hatchets,  axes, hoes, saws and others. Kitchen knives can be divided into 中華包丁(Chuka-bocho), 鰹包丁(Katsuo-bocho), 刺身包丁(Sashimi-bocho), 土佐型包丁(Tosagata-bocho) and etc. So, Tosagata-bocho is a kind of Tosa-uchi-hamono.

Generally, This kitchen knife is called 鎌型包丁(Kamagata-bocho) or 文化型包丁(Bunkagata-hocho) in Japan, but Kochi people call it Tosagata-bocho. This kitchen knife looks similar to 舟行包丁(Funayuki-bocho), which is right side picture, however the shape is little bit different from each other. A edge of Funayuki-bocho is slightly bended. On the contrary, Tosagata-bocho has completely straight edge. You can cut vegetables or fishes off smoothly and need less power, when you use Tosagata-bocho.  I found many Tosa-uchi-hamono at Sunday market. I asked to a Tosa-uchi-hamono shop owner  “How long have you been sold these in here?” He said slowly “I’ve sold these cutlery since a long time, perhaps, over 30 years long.” I asked his permission to take some hamono pictures. Then, he brought something and said  “You should take this picture.”

“How many people buy these things in a day?”, I asked. “Many people bought these things a long time ago, but customers have been decreasing these days. I suppose the biggest reason is developing useful machines. Today’s machines are more effective than using cutlery by hand. Actually, I heard from artisan that Tosa-uchi-hamono smith shop were 200 in around Tosayamada town in 1975, but it has decreased to 50 shops today. 10 or 20 years later, shops might be disappeared. So, I want young people to protect our traditional Tosa-uchi-hamono.”, he said a little bit sadly. I felt very sad to think of losing this traditiom. I really want Kochi people to know this dire situation and have interest in it to protect local culture.

The Hamono festival is not just a festival but a great event to know Tosa-uchi-hamono and also people can have an interest  through some experiences that seeing an performance or sharpen it by myself. I believe this festival plays important role not to disappear traditional Tosa-uchi-hamono. If you have an interest, I recommend to go this festival.

3 thoughts on “The Hamono Festival

  • 2011/08/08 at 4:43 pm
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    I haven’t heard the name ‘Tosa-uchi-hamono’ and its festival, till I read your article.
    It’s a pity that traditional things has been disappearing in various fields.
    I’m glad to meet one of them from your writing, and hope it can survive.

  • 2011/08/08 at 4:58 pm
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    I didn’t know about Hamono festival, but I know just Kakashi contest. In the news, only Kakashi festival went put when I watched TV. This is why? Anyway, I use Tosa-Uchi-Hamono and I know this knife is very useful. So, I want to continue to use this knife.

  • 2011/08/08 at 5:09 pm
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    I was so surprised that Tosa-uchi-hamono has been exported to all over the world.
    I bet it means the qualityof Tosa-uhi-hamono is great.
    My kitchin knife is being old and it makes me so lazy to cook anything nowadays.
    So I’ll get tosa-uchi-hamono and cook delicious food with it!

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