The ancient art of Japanese swordsmithing is famous for its sophistication, its labor-intensiveness, and the unparalleled strength and durability of the swords painstakingly made in a process combining steels of different grades and folding them over and over. It was considered a sacred art with numerous Shinto rituals involved in the production. Crucial to the manufacture of Japanese blades, especially the katana favored by samurai warriors, is the special steel, called tamahagane (literally "jewel steel"), produced from iron sand, and the smelting process using a clay vessel called a tatara. Years of training and experience are required to master the various techniques involved. Short of doing an apprenticeship with a katana craftsman, it is difficult to grasp the nature of the process and the craftsmanship involved, although we have reviewed an excellent documentary project attempting to accomplish this.

Just like other Japanese craft and artisanal traditions, swordsmithing and related businesses have found ways of evolving and keeping up with the times. For example, we have seen katana paper knives, hand towels featuring swords of legendary samurai, sword umbrella bags to make you feel like a samurai drawing his sword, and even katana-shaped ice cream manufactured in the sword and cutlery capital, Seki, in Gifu Prefecture. Moreover, companies applying the knowledge acquired through centuries of swordsmithing to metal treatment and processing have emerged, many of them in Seki.

One such company, Kobayashi Heating Co., Ltd., specializing in yaki-ire heat treatment of Seki cutlery, has found an innovative way of paying homage to their city's swordsmithing tradition with a product that is relevant to modern times:

"Hamonogatari" is a business card or protective amulet plate made with the finest nickel damascus steel by artisans trained in yaki-ire, a crucial process within Japanese swordsmithing. Each plate has the beautiful wood-eye patterns or ripple patterns characteristic of nickel damascus steel blades.

According to their press release, "In business, especially when meeting someone for the first time, making a strong impression requires some amount of creativity. Imagine how fun and lively your conversation might be if you could make an impact on your business partner and have a topic of conversation at the same time." Hamonogatari is just the right thing to "leave a strong and lasting impression" in your business dealings.

Another version of Hamonogatari is a protective amulet plate, proposed as a modern-day equivalent of Japanese swords which were used in Shinto rituals, given as sacred offerings and presented as gifts to provide protection and good fortune. Thus, it represents the perfect gift when you want to inspire someone with the ancient symbolism of the Japanese sword, wishing them "a strong, unbreakable spirit, an unbending resolve, and the ability to carve out their own path."

It's also the perfect gift at weddings, anniversaries and other important life events, celebrations and commemorations.

If you're interested in getting one of these beautiful, one-of-a-kind steel plates / business cards / protective amulets for yourself, have 20,000 JPY handy and don't waste any time jumping over to their order page because they're only making a lot of 50. Fortunately for our readers outside of Japan, they do ship internationally and there are multiple English fonts available to print with.

Just make sure you don't sharpen the edges or that paper cut could run deep...

By - grape Japan editorial staff.