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Umeki Shoji is a blacksmith who hand forges scissors and knives. After working for a steel company in Tokyo, Umeki returned to his native Tanegashima island. He served an apprenticeship with Makise Yoshifumi, the 37th and last master of a renowned blacksmith lineage. Umeki is now the sole keeper of Makise's artisanal heritage.


"I am trying my best to pass on the heritage with secure hands. Thinking of the people who will use my tools, there really are no corners to cut."


Based on Japanese sword-making techniques, Umeki 'forge-welds' steel of different carbon levels into each blade. The process has changed little since the Middle Ages, featuring repeated tempering and quenching, and hand-held hammering. The cutting edge of the blade is made of high-carbon steel, which is welded on to a milder carbon steel body to ensure its functionality and durability.  


Umeki's craftsmanship is rooted firmly in the island's natural resources and cultural background. Endowed with natural iron sand, Tanegashima has a strong legacy of blacksmithing. When matchlock guns were brought to the island by Portuguese merchants in 1543, the local sword-makers transformed themselves into the exclusive gun producers in a country where feudal warlords desperately wanted firearms.


Along with guns, fulcrum scissors from China were also brought and quickly reverse-engineered in the island. Fast forward to modern times, when arms and weaponry made way for kitchen knives and scissors, Tanegashima once again achieved nationwide success until mid-20th century.


Tanegashima's traditional scissor-making craft is listed as a Significant Folk Cultural Asset in Japan, afforded state protection.

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