As featured on SJX, September 30, 2019
by Su JiaXian
Acclaimed in ancient literature and collectible today, swords made by the Gassan school trace their lineage back centuries, as is only possible in Japan. The school originated some 800 years ago, dating back to the early Kamakura period, approximately the 13th century.
It started at the base of Mount Gassan, the highest of a trio of sacred mountains in what is now Yamagata Prefecture. Though the school became dormant sometime in the 16th century, it was revived sometime in the mid 1800s by a descendant of the Gassan family in Osaka. The revival was successful and the Gassan school made swords for several Japanese emperors in the 19th and 20th century.
Six generations on, the Gassans continue their craft with Sadanobu Gassan, and his father, Sadatoshi, now based in the city of Sakurai in Nara prefecture, about six hours southwest of Tokyo.
At Baselworld 2019, Casio announced its collaboration with Sadanobu Gassan to create the G-Shock MR-G “Gassan” MRG-G2000GA, which has key parts of the case and bracelet finished by Mr Gassan himself in his workshop. In essence, it links the Gassan family’s eight hundred centuries of tradition with the latest in Japanese timekeeping technology.
We got in touch with Mr Gassan to discuss his work for G-Shock, and also the state of his ancient craft. The interview has been edited and condensed.
What made you want to continue in your family’s footsteps?
At a young age, I witnessed my grandfather Sadaichi and my father Sadatoshi in their bladesmithing process and I began to harbour the dream of becoming a swordsmith someday.
However, my grandfather was unable to manufacture Japanese swords in post-WW2 Japan. Similarly, being a swordsmith himself, my father endured a lot of hardship, for he lived in an era with a lack of tamahagane, the steel used for making swords. Therefore, given the difficulties faced by both my grandfather and father in their professions as swordsmiths, neither of them mentioned passing the family tradition down to me.
That being said, my childhood dreams of becoming a swordsmith remained; when I was of age and my peers were entering university or beginning work, I decided to begin training to be a swordsmith under my father, Gassan Sadatoshi.
The Gassan school has inherited about 800 years of traditional craftsmanship techniques and today, the Gassan family is the bearer of traditional sword-making techniques and sword-forging techniques.
Read the full interview of Sadonobu Gassan Interview by SJX Watches here
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