Step 1) Tamahagane / raw material iron making
Today, about 80 Japanese sword smiths exist. These masters of their craft continue to make swords in the traditional way. All masters purchase a special iron of superior quality called tamahagane from the western city of Izumo, in Shimane Prefecture, which is the only place that still produces the raw materials necessary for swords. (Actually Izumo is called “home of gods” where all 8million gods in Japan gather here during October.) Custom does not permit the material in question to be imported. The Ministry of Culture defines as a Japanese sword only thos blades made of this special raw material. The tamahagane is made by smelting sand-iron and charcoal together in a traditional clay furnace. Tamahagane manufactories, in keeping with the traditional way, only operate in winter. This is to prevent the tamahagane from being damaged by humidity.
Once mined and brought to a sword smith’s workshop, the tamahagane is heated and flattened, then broken into pieces of approximately equal size. These pieces are piled onto spatula made of iron of the same quality. Because the iron contains impurities despite its superior quality, 10kg of it are used to extract 1kg of sword-worthy material.