Tools for Satoyama

Satoyama are the managed forest areas that border the cultivated fields and the mountain wilds in Japan. Historically they provided fertilizer, firewood, edible plants, mushrooms, fish, and game, and supported local industries such as farming, construction, and charcoal making. Balancing the interaction of wetlands, streams, forests, and fields is an important component of the satoyama landscape and allows for sustainable use of the rich resources they offer.

About the Project

The Tools for Satoyama project is inspired by this mutually beneficial interaction between humans and the natural world, a robust way of life that sustained both for centuries. Among the goals of the project are contributing to the growing awareness of the satoyama concept, sustainable practices, thoughtful approaches to intentional living, and related historical learning.

The four styles of kotanto knives designed for the project are named for the four main areas found within the satoyama landscape: stream, field, forest, and mountain. In addition, the forest and mountain models also come in a full sized tanto configuration. Some of the core characteristics of the knives produced for this project are the reclaimed and natural source materials, use of traditional techniques, and a humble and simple style of carving and finishing.

A charcoal forged blade, water quenched with clay, sharpened with waterstones, and finished simply and humbly in the age-old style of farm and foresting tools used in managing satoyama, the borderlands between village and wilds.

Design a Knife (currently on pause)

One of the components of the Tools for Satoyama project is the ability to design and customize a knife online at the time of ordering. Four basic blade types are offered and the size, materials, textures, and colours can be suited to personal taste and specific use cases.

The characteristics shared by these custom knives are the classical tanto inspired blade, the nihonto peg-mounted handle, the humble appearance of faceted hammer marked steel and hand carved wood, and the simple unfiltered natural urushi lacquer finish.

Design your own knife here: Tools for Satoyama or see finished examples in the online shop.

More About Satoyama

While the term satoyama has only been commonly used during the last century, the environments and practices it describes have stood for centuries. The effects of declining management of satoyama have been noted in the last several decades as the move to urban centres vacated large areas of the countryside. Increasing efforts such as the Satoyama Initiative are being made to understand and restore the balance, not only in Japan but worldwide.

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from natural and reclaimed materials.

Some Views of Satoyama From the Archives

Japan Photo Essay: Hinoki Forest Management

Japan Photo Essay: Chashitsu-goya

Japan Photo Essay: Inaka Architecture

Japan Photo Essay: Orchard Garden

Japan Countryside

Japan Photo Essay: Mountain Forest & Bamboo

Antique Japanese Farming Tools

Japan Photo Essay: Traditional Architecture

Japan Photo Essay: Garden

Island Blacksmith: Charcoal forged knives from natural and reclaimed materials.

Additional Resources on Satoyama

Satoyama Initiative:

Satoyama Experience:



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