Mitja Kobal Documents the Japanese Way of the Blade Today

All images by Mitja Kobal. Used with Creative Commons Permission

Whether you’re a practicing photojournalist or simply interested in real-world photo narratives, today’s fascinating set will certainly inspire you. Many centuries after the samurai rose to power in medieval and early-modern Japan, the excellent craftsmanship of their blades persist to this day. This is what Vienna-based photographer Mitja Kobal has found and chronicled for an interesting photo documentary project.

In his incredibly detailed body of work entitled Way of the Blade, Mitja Kobal takes us to the workshops of Japan’s blade makers for an interesting peek at how the samurai-era swordsmithery has evolved in modern times. First, to equip the viewer with an in-depth context, he has included a concise but informative statement on the history of blade-making in Japan and why descendants of traditional swordsmiths had to look for ways to keep making what they know best.

When the katana was outlawed after the Second World War, only a handful of privileged Japanese citizens were allowed to produce and keep the iconic blades as cultural artifacts. As Mitja has found, many former sword makers with long family traditions turned to the next best thing: making beautiful Chef Knives to equip today’s culinary knife-wielders.

Mitja traveled across the main Honshu island to the Kyushu island down south to photograph these modern-day blade makers and document the way of the blade. In this compelling and moody narrative, Mitja made sure to put equal spotlight on both the master bladesmith and his work of art. We see the master craftsmen wield both traditional methods and modern tools to create exquisitely detailed culinary knives of the highest quality. Seeing the entire painstaking process and the sheer skills involved in forging every single blade through this documentary work is certainly fascinating.

“The effort, dedication, will and the ingenuity to produce a piece of art from a shapeless form of the hardest metals on the planet is unmatched in the world,” Mitja says.

Check out Mitja Kobal’s Behance porfolio to see the rest of Way of the Blade and his other impressive works.