Tsubamesanjo Niigata

Tsubamesanjo – Where Craftmanship and Utility Reside

How a Pivot Impacted the World

The term “monozukuri” is a difficult one to
accurately convey the depth of meaning in
a simple English translation. Some things
make more sense when experienced. A visit to
the scenic area of Niigata called Tsubamesanjo
offers the opportunity to experience first hand
a place that has managed to live this concept
even during difficult times. Tsubamesanjo,
Niigata’s “mid-prefecture,” makes a long narrow
stretch north to south like the
country itself. This region is a
known destination of interest for
Japanese, and hopefully soon,
gains greater appreciation by the
foreigner beyond the specialist.
Are you looking to dig deeper
into Japan beyond the typical
major cities? Only a two-hour
Shinkansen ride from Tokyo or a
three-hour drive delivers you to
this historic region.

A visit to this region offers
many photo-worthy attractions
like Matsumoto Castle, the
Jigokudani Monkey Park, and the
Iyoboya Salmon Museum. From
Edo days until now, the Japanese
recognize Tsubamesanjo for their
food. Delicious pork back-fat
ramen, thick curry ramen, the unique ‘hikozen’ and
all kinds of fresh produce can be sampled. Check
if asa café hosts one of their pop-up harvest and
eat experiences with local farmers during your
visit. Also consider visiting numerous factories,
shops, and even hands-on experiences that put

you in direct contact with world-class artisans
and their handcrafted products like knives, work
tools, metal plates, and other forged items. The
opportunity to observe “monozukuri” through
these craftspeople with your own eyes will
definitely give you a lasting impression.
It was not always this way, and times are still
tough as finding dedicated people to continue

practicing these traditional crafts is not keeping up
with the aging population. During Edo times, these
communities struggled to carve out their place
but found a way to prosper. Proximity to three
large rivers, including Japan’s longest river the
Shinano, brought both fortune and distress. They
were blessed with rich soil and water but also
encountered frequent seasonal floods. Nature’s
unpredictable impact gave residents of Tsubame
and Sanjo reason to explore
alternatives beyond agriculture.

Reviewing their history shines a
light on the making of Japanese
nails during the Edo period
(1603-1867) as a pivotal point.
Poor farmers were encouraged
to take up nailsmithing by a
local leader. Eventually, Niigata
prefecture’s agricultural growth
created a demand for more
farming tools. As the industry
grew and diversified, craftspeople
preserved their knowledge
while exploring new mediums
such as Tsuiki copper vessels
and sharp-edged craftsmen’s
tools. Residents of Tsubame
have branched out into metal
tableware and houseware. And residents of Sanjo
have incorporated various tools as well as items
for hairdressers and beauticians. Despite most
of the industrial worlds focus on mechanized
manufacturing, Japan continues to recognize
the invaluable contribution that communities like
Tsubemasanjo offer.

Craftman’s Pride


Links on Tsubamesanjo:


Visit a Factory

Visit one of these incredible factories. Witness artisans ply their traditional trade or take a lesson and try for yourself. Contact directly to schedule your visit.

Tsuiki copperware | 2-2-21 Chuodori, Tsubame-city
Founded in 1816, GYOKUSENDO produces Tsuiki copperware. Artisans use traditional techniques to craft a plate of copper into various kinds of vessels. Use them more to increase their luster. At their workshop you get a close look at craftsmen’s work.

Repair & sales of hoes | 2165-9 Inokoba Shinden, Sanjo-city
http://www.kuwa-kaji.com/ (J)*
Kondo Mfg. Co. Ltd. has specialized in producing quality forged hoes for over 100 years. As one of the few companies producing farm tools, Kondo has laid the foundation for this specialized production of Sanjo.

Chopsticks & table ware | 1662-1 Yada, Sanjo-city
Founded in 1939, Marunao has crafted chopsticks using hardwood, such as ebony, rosewood and more. At their factory visitors learn the history of Marunao and experience craftsmen at work. After stop into their showroom to view and purchase the finished pieces.

Metal and plastic products | 2134-1 Tukanome, Sanjo-city
http://nozakilimited.co.jp/service3.html (J)*
Founded in 1902, Nozaki Works produces a variety of parts for home furnishings, table tennis and have recently added making specialty parts for wheelchairs, agriculture and construction industries. They concentrate on handcrafting aided by die press and spot welding techniques. Visitors can attempt to try their hand or just purchase finished products.

Nail clippers and pruning tools for gardening | 1332 Koanji, Sanjo-city
SUWADA has over 90 years’ experience of blacksmithing, particularly high-quality nail and professional-use clippers, and pruning tools for gardening. Take a tour of the factory select items at their showroom.

Hand-forged knives | 27-16 Higasi Honjoji, Sanjo-city
Tadafusa continues hands on production of quality knives made by their skilled craftsmen. Experience the thrill of grinders whirring sharpening knives coupled with powerful rhythms of blacksmiths pounding spring hammers as they forge metal at this Sanjo factory. See this process up close touring the Tadafusa facility.

Kitchen knives and other cooking utensils
27-16 Higasi Honjoji, Sanjo-city | https://www.tojiro-japan.com/
Tojiro, noted for quality pressed kitchen knives, is No.1 in the world for the amount of production of knives using compound materials. Visit the factory to see, hear and smell the rugged knife manufacturing processes of Tojiro.


Take advantage of opportunities that offer the chance to gain hands-on experience, shop, or learn more about this invaluable cultural heritage.

Experience/Business card holders | 14-3 Higashi Ohta, Tsubame-city
http://mgnet-office.com/ (J)*
Mgnet is known for their unique metal business card cases. Learn about a uniquely Japanese accessory. Join a craft workshop that shares the traditional industry of Tsubame and make simple Tsuiki Copperware or cutlery.

Expereince | 11-53 Motomachi, Sanjo-city | http://kajidojo.com/
Sanjo Blacksmith Training Hall is a facility to succeed and develop the traditional techniques and craftsmanship of Sanjo. Many people visit the hall to enjoy Japan’s traditional forging techniques, which makes this facility so unique. Visitors can try making Japanese nails, letter openers, or learn how to sharpen a knife.

Experience | 3633-7 Koike Tsubamecity-city
Polishing is a vital in the metal processing industry. Migakiya Ichibankan supports people who work in the industry and teach visitors polishing work. Skills to make items have a “mirror-like finish” is something to see. Contact in advance to schedule a guide with detailed knowledge to show you the facility and participate in special workshops.

Exhibition/Experience | 4330-1 Ohmagari, Tsubamecity-city
Learn about Tsubame’s roughly 400 year metal processing history. At TIMM you can learn about this cities phenomenal transition and even take part in a variety of fun workshops.

Display & sales/Tourist information/Experience
1-17 Sugoro, Sanjo-city | http://www.tsjiba.or.jp/kankou/english/index.html
The center is a base to dispatch information about “the city of craftsmanship” that has played a leading role in the world’s metal processing industry. Take part in workshops or purchase Tsubamesanjo area products.

Display & sales/Tourist information | 502-3 Shimosugoro, Sanjo-city
http://www.tsubamesanjo.jp/wing/index.html (J)*
Conveniently located on the 2nd floor of the JR Tsubamesanjo train station concourse, TSUBAMESANJO Wing is a space that showcases products created in Tsubamesanjo and shares the design and high quality that can only be obtained in Tsubamesanjo.

Experience | 12-38 Sakuragicho, Sanjo-city | http://sanjo-school.net/ (J)*
Come experience traditional techniques used to make Buddhist altars since the 18th century. For example try “Makie,” a traditional method of sprinkled gold or silver powder on an altar. Workshops are open every Saturday or Sunday. Visitors receive the guidance of an artisan who uses skills handed down from generation to generation.

*Japanese language only.


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