Business operator: Eighty Days Inc.
Project manager: Takehiko Yanase
Iai-giri is a technique to quickly draw one’s sword and instantly cut down a targeted object. The tour starts out with hands-on experience in Iai-giri. This is not only for allowing participants to enjoy the workshops of craftsmen and sightseeing spots, but also because the tour’s story line is Zen, which preaches the importance of feeling. The “SAMURAI Tour around the Sacred Grounds of Japanese Swords” planned by Eighty Days Inc. enables participants to personally experience, feel and become deeply familiar with Japan’s proud samurai and sword culture. A major sword-producing region since the Kamakura Era near the end of the 12th century, Seki City in Gifu Prefecture remains a rare region that even today gathers craftsmen engaged in a variety of Japanese sword-making processes. A visit to this area provides encounters with authentic Japanese culture that is unknown even to Japanese people. The tour also includes a visit to Inuyama Castle, home to renowned commanders during the Period of Warring States (from late 15th century to late 16th century). Here, participants can concentrate all their thoughts on Iai. Afterwards, participants will observe the indescribable energy and delicate skills of five sword-making artisans, namely, a swordsmith, metal collar maker, hilt-wrapper, scabbard maker and sword polisher. Participants will then savor local cuisine and enjoy Japanese hospitality at a charming hot springs inn. There is no other tour that can provide such an understanding of Japan’s unique culture of samurai and Japanese swords as well as the historical background that gave birth to this spirit.
Travel back in time to the days of military commanders
Inuyama Castle is a national treasure built atop a small hill of around 88 meters. In the past, powerful military commanders built their own respective castles in the surrounding areas, but each time they battled they would seize castles of the defeated commanders and burned them down. Inuyama Castle, which was fought over by Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa, escaped such a fate, making it an invaluable castle with the tower still intact from hundreds of years ago. The castle tower’s top floor offers a panoramic vista of Inuyama castle town. The castle conjures images of the days when the region bustled with military commanders and samurai.
Feel before thinking—Master Zen teachings and Iai
Even Japanese people rarely have opportunities to hold an authentic sword. However, on this tour participants get to hold a genuine sword and practice Iai-giri at Sekizenko-ji Temple before learning about Japanese swords. With their own five senses, participants can feel the aura, the sword’s cutting angle and the posturing of the Toyama-style instructor while also having the opportunity to hold swords for themselves. Tour participants can also experience Zen meditation within the temple premises. Here, they can immerse themselves in silence, be tapped on their backs with a wooden stick as they meditate, settle into their feelings and face nothingness.
Embodiment of a spirit handed down for several centuries
Participants visit a blacksmith workshop in operation since the Muromachi Period (1336–1573) and observe a swordsmith strike the iron to create a sword. Watching the molten mass of iron shaped into a sword makes you feel like looking at a mysterious living creature. The words and movements of 25th-generation Kanefusa Fujiwara captivate all who watch and listen. Witness the spiritual discipline of a great master who does not even feel the searing heat of the flying sparks.
Visiting each craftsperson’s workshop that embodies Japanese beauty, techniques and spirit
Besides toshou (swordsmith), Japanese sword production is divided among shiroganeshi who make metal fittings that affix the handle and the blade; tsukamakishi who reinforce and decorate the sword handle; sayashi who make the scabbard that houses the sword blade; and togishi who polish the sword produced by the swordsmith. The echoing sounds and the handwork and intense look of the craftspersons and their array of worn tools are sure to evoke emotion.
Nanami Granger was born in Tokyo and graduated from Keio University School of Policy Management. She subsequently joined a major securities company and was also involved in Japan-U.S. projects as a hands-on implementation support consultant. After working as an executive officer at a start-up company, she founded Eighty Days Inc.The historical background of samurai and Japanese swords and magnificent nature have an inseparable connection. Combining these when visiting fosters an even deeper understanding of Japanese culture. As such, the tour includes visits to the Itadori River noted for its dynamic valleys and beautiful clear streams; a mysterious Kabusugi cedar tree believed to be 400 to 500 years old; and a pond reminiscent of Claude Monet’s painting Water Lilies. The tour also incorporates seasonal events such as cormorant fishing, a traditional fishing method, to experience a variety of Japanese culture.
Eighty Days Inc. started out with the aim of laying a foundation for solving issues facing local regions in Japan, including depopulation, a declining population and an increase in shopping streets with closed businesses. Besides CEO Nanami Granger, the other founding members of Eighty Days are all foreign nationals. The SAMURAI Tour was formed utilizing the “perspective of foreigners,” which is a strength of these non-Japanese company members. Foreign visitors fascinated by Japanese swords visit Seki City in Gifu Prefecture and some even become sword-making apprentices. Local residents are also said to be cooperative in accepting these foreign visitors. Granger explains, “We are particular about the tour’s story. Rather than merely providing a simple cultural understanding and superficial knowledge, we seek to go further and provide a feeling for and understanding of the depth of Japanese swords and the underlying cultural background. At the same time, it would be great if we can foster an awareness that this culture is gradually vanishing and think together about this situation.” Granger also explains that besides such regular tourist destinations as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, she also hopes to attract foreign visitors to regions where amazing culture is still alive. This is precisely what will spur the birth of new economic sectors, invigorate local regions and preserve Japan’s treasured culture.
The historical background of samurai and Japanese swords and magnificent nature have an inseparable connection. Combining these when visiting fosters an even deeper understanding of Japanese culture. As such, the tour includes visits to the Itadori River noted for its dynamic valleys and beautiful clear streams; a mysterious Kabusugi cedar tree believed to be 400 to 500 years old; and a pond reminiscent of Claude Monet’s painting Water Lilies. The tour also incorporates seasonal events such as cormorant fishing, a traditional fishing method, to experience a variety of Japanese culture.
Eighty Days Inc. shares office space in a building near Osaki Station, an area in Tokyo where Japanese and overseas creators and venture companies have set up shop. The company is conveniently accessed from Haneda and Narita airports while Shinagawa Station, only one station away, is served by the Shinkansen (bullet train). The office location gives consideration to the frequent travel of company personnel.
Eighty Days Inc.
4F, 5-5-15 Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo