The master swordsmith known as Kaneshige (or Kinju) moved to the Seki area sometime in the 14th century and, with Kaneuji, founded the Mino sword-making tradition. The blades they crafted were coveted by lords and samurai throughout Japan.
The tradition lives on, although now the blades are put to much more conventional uses, and available for purchase.
Seki is accessible by JR lines.
From JR Gifu Station take the JR Takayama or JR Taita lines to Mino-Ota and change onto the Nagaragawa Railroad. Seki Station is seven stops along the line.
Since the Mino swordmaking tradition was founded in Seki area, this place has been synonymous with blades. When Japan embraced modernity in the early Meiji era (1868-1912), however, samurai were banned from carrying swords and the bottom fell out of the market. Artisans diversified into knives, scissors, cutlery and other tools for which Seki is still renowned.
You can catch a glimpse of one of Japan’s most respected arts at the Seki Swordsmith Museum, just a few minutes' walk from Nagaragawa Railway Hamono-Kaikanmae Station.
In addition to displays of every aspect of swordmaking, on designated days you can watch the smiths at work, pounding steel and literally making sparks fly. January 2 is the day you most want to be there, when the first forging of the year is accompanied by solemn rituals and festivities.
Between the museum and the station, a well-stocked shop offers every kind of blade you could hope to purchase, from nail clippers to replica swords and kitchen knives and garden shears. The samurai sword scissors are a particular favorite with visitors. Some staff speak English.
Seki Zenkoji, a short walk beyond the museum, is named after the much bigger and more famous Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City. It also features a pitch-black underground passageway, where you walk with your hands touching the walls either side and try to find the metal door handle purported to lead to the realm of the dead.