¥601,409
pledged of ¥10,000,000pledged of ¥10,000,000 goal
38
backers
32days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Fri, January 18 2019 9:00 AM UTC +00:00.

SETOUCHI CITYBy SETOUCHI CITY
First created
SETOUCHI CITYBy SETOUCHI CITY
First created
¥601,409
pledged of ¥10,000,000pledged of ¥10,000,000 goal
38
backers
32days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Fri, January 18 2019 9:00 AM UTC +00:00.

About

Although now home to only just over 40,000 people, the city of Setouchi in eastern Okayama Prefecture is widely known as the spiritual home of the Japanese sword and, in its heyday, produced more than half of the 2.8 million swords known to have been made in Japan. Bizen, where Setouchi city now stands, has possibly the longest-surviving sword-making tradition in the whole of Japan if not the world, stretching back unbroken roughly 1000 years. It is unsurprising then that these cultural icons hold a profound and deep-rooted significance in the minds of local people. To honour this great local tradition and the people who have kept it alive, our project aims to raise enough money to take the Yamatorige (山鳥毛) out of private hands and for the first time in its history put it on public display in the place of its creation.

A Museum Like No Other…  

The main gallery at the Bizen Osafune Museum
The main gallery at the Bizen Osafune Museum

Setouchi city is located in what was originally the birthplace of the Osafune branch of the Bizen School of swordsmithing. This tradition is commemorated in the name of the city’s most important institution – the Bizen Osafune Sword Museum – the sole publicly-run museum in Japan given over exclusively to the display of Japanese swords. In addition to its magnificent collection, the museum also houses craft studios where visitors can actually watch master craftsmen at work making various sword components. In combination with the numerous demonstrations, public workshops and masterclasses offered throughout the year, it truly provides admirers of these enigmatic weapons a unique learning experience that can be found nowhere else in the world.

Smiths performing ‘orikaeshi-tanren’ billet folding at the Bizen Osafune Museum
Smiths performing ‘orikaeshi-tanren’ billet folding at the Bizen Osafune Museum

The Bizen school produced an unparalleled number of high-quality swords, mainly during the 12th and 13th centuries, including a whopping 47 of the total 111 swords designated as Japanese National Treasures. While each of these could be called a masterpiece in their own right the ‘Yamatorige’, otherwise transliterated as ‘Sanchoumou’, is generally considered to stand head and shoulders above all the rest. Originally made in the 13th century, it eventually became the favoured blade of the renowned Uesugi Kenshin, one of the most powerful feudal lords of the 16th century. This sword thus not only boasts profound artistic merit, it also holds a special cultural significance for the people of Japan.

Despite its great importance, like many national treasures the Yamatorige had remained in private hands until, in January 2018, its owner gave the city an exclusive offer of sale. This isthe first time this has ever happened in the sword’s long history, and so is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city to acquire the most important National Treasure ever to come out of it. Our hope is that this will not just help the museum to attract visitors both from across Japan and around the world but that, in doing so, the increased tourism will aid in revitalising the local economy after the recent string of natural disasters.

The extreme rarity and high price-tags of National Treasures have largely put them out of the reach of all but the largest public institutions, with many now residing overseas in the collections of museums such as the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the British Museum in London. Despite its status, not a single Bizen school National Treasure can be found the museum that bares its name. The asking price for the Yamatorige is 500 million yen (approximately 5 million USD), a huge amount for a local museum. Over the past year, we have been busy trying to raise the funds required both domestically and internationally, both through small-scale crowdfunding and more traditional private investment. Our initial prediction was that we would be able to collect more donations inside Japan, but the heavy rains in July of this year caused widespread catastrophic flooding across the Okayama region and, understandably, diverted funds away from our project and towards the reconstruction efforts. It is looking ever more unlikely that we will be able to meet the domestic funding target that we had calculated would be necessary to achieve our required total. In response, we have chosen to launch our project here on Kickstarter, not just to reach our ultimate funding goal, but also to connect directly with you, the international fans and aficionados of these singular works of art.

Our team is led by a mix of passionate staff from Setouchi’s own city hall and the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum. Our numbers have been bolstered by a wide range of outside volunteers and collaborators, ranging from master sword artisans to renowned Japanese sword experts!

 Collaborators 

 Japanese Swordsmiths

The master swordsmiths at the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum have kindly teamed up with us by producing several backer rewards, including making beautiful hand-made paper knives, and participating in our exclusive documentaries.

Setouchi city is without a doubt one of the most important centres of Japanese sword culture and, as custodians of this millennia-long tradition, aims to take a lead in heightening public awareness and understanding of the philosophy and artistic value of Japanese swords throughout the world. Last year, with the help of our resident craftsmen, we produced a short video to explain from start to finish the entire complex process of forging and furnishing a katana. The video has been viewed by more than 22 million people on Facebook and Youtube. Our hope is that our acquisition of the city’s greatest masterpiece will help us to support and strengthen this burgeoning global interest still further.

We are offering backers a diverse range of special katana-related items, including some hand-made by our local swordsmiths exclusively for the project!

 For more images of the rewards, you can visit:

Folders: Series 1; Series 2

Oshigata hand towel

T-shirt in: Light blue or Dark blue

Paper knife: 1, 2, 3, 4

Oshigata: 1, 2

Where is the Money Going? 

Because of high prices in Japan and to maintain parity with pledge levels in the project we are running in parallel domestically, pledge levels are set higher than in most comparable international projects. We have tried to keep the price of each backer level as low as possible, while still insuring that a reasonable percentage of each pledge will go towards the Yamatorige. All prices also include the 10% Kickstarter fee.

As one of the first of its kind in Japan and as part of a proud tradition of public Japanese sword education and awareness in which Setouchi plays a leading part, the Yamatorige project has been widely reported on in the Japanese media. However, we are constantly striving to reach as broad and varied an audience as possible. If you work in media, publicity or even just run a Facebook group that you think might find our project of interest, please feel free to get in touch at: setouchisi@gmail.com

      
 

Image Credits

We would like to thank the following people for allowing us to use their photos and images:

Takemi Nishi - For his photographs of the craftsmen at the museum and the museum galleries

Q2 Japan - For their photograph of Kawashiro Kazuki

Tumi Markan - For his photographs of Ohashi Yuji and Mori Mitsuhide, and of the paper knife

Risks and challenges

While this Kickstarter project is scheduled to complete in late December 2018, our deadline for all crowdfunding efforts is the agreed date of purchase of the Yamatorige (March 31st 2019).
While we are hopeful of being able to attain our ultimate target of USD 5,000,000, should anything prevent our purchase of the sword, including a failure to reach the offer price, all money pledged will be refunded (minus the 9.5% Kickstarter fee).
Our partners (including our own artisans) are ready to go into production on the backer rewards as soon as the project has been fully funded and the Yamatorige has been purchased. Up until that point, we will not be manufacturing any of the backer rewards, so as to avoid any potential failure of the project negatively impacting our ability to offer full refunds.
As with our backer rewards, anything we plan for the Stretch Goals will also be produced after the Yamatorige is acquired in 2019.
As an official government body, we are bound by a strict code of conduct and have access to a full support network. Any problems that are encountered will be swiftly and effectively dealt with and, should they impact our backers, will be communicated through the Kickstarter page in both English and French.

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    Selfless Donor

    Our eternal thanks and your name on our online list celebrating you, our generous backers!

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    Documentary Download

    Choose one of our two Kickstarter Exclusive Documentaries

    1.An in-depth documentary about the Yamatorige and the wider Bizen tradition featuring insights from world-class sword scholars and artisans.

    2.A meticulously-detailed feature-length video documenting the processes that the artisans at the Bizen Osafune Museum go through when crafting one of these enigmatic weapons.

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    Documentary (DVD)

    Choose one of our two Kickstarter Exclusive Documentaries, but this time as a high-capacity DVD!

    1.An in-depth documentary about the Yamatorige and the wider Bizen tradition featuring insights from world-class sword scholars and artisans.

    2.A meticulously-detailed feature-length video documenting the processes that the artisans at the Bizen Osafune Museum go through when crafting one of these enigmatic weapons.

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    Pledge ¥4,000 or more About US$ 35

    Swordsmith Clear File

    Five specially designed folders celebrating the craftsmen who keep this unique Japanese tradition alive. Collaboration between Tom Kishida and the All Japan Swordsmiths Association

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    Documentary DVD Bundle

    DVDs of both our documentaries at a discounted price.

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    Full-Size Oshigata Towel

    A custom-made towel featuring an oshigata of the Yamatorige, produced by Tamaki Jōji using actual hand-made casts of the original sword.

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    Early Bird Bundle #1

    Our set of files and oshigata towel at a discounted early-bird price.

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    Pledge ¥14,000 or more About US$ 123

    Early Bird Bundle #2

    Our set of files; oshigata towel; and both documentaries all at a discounted early-bird price.

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    Hand-Forged Paper Knife

    A limited-run paper knife hand-forged by one of our master swordsmiths, presented in a solid-wood paulownia box.

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    Premium T-shirt

    Show your support for the project with this premium Kickstarter-exclusive screen-printed T-shirt, featuring imagery of the Yamatorige and the spell-binding landscape of modern Bizen.

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    Yamatorige Oshigata Scroll

    This beautiful piece shows a traditional sword oshigata, carefully printed on traditional ‘hososhi’ – long used in Japan for calligraphy and hanging scrolls.

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