Tsubame-Sanjo area (Sanjo-city and Tsubame-city) is located along the Shinano River in central Niigata, with an area of 540km² and a population of 180,000. The area is regarded as having the largest number of company owners in the country, with tremendous numbers of small companies and factories, often family-run, manufacturing a variety of products.
Tsubame-Sanjo’s industry was born out of a group of local artisans producing a small batch of Japanese nails in the Edo period.
Since that time, artisans in the Sanjo area have continued to produce nails, as well as knives, farming and architectural tools, and - since the Meiji era - a variety of edged tools. Forged from red-hot steel, Sanjo-made tools are known to last for decades and occasionally find their way back to the original artisans for repairs. As new technology has emerged, production has expanded to incorporate a broader range of industrial tools.
In Tsubame, the introduction of metal casting technology saw factories commence the production of kitchen tools and homewares. Teapots and flower vases - made from hand-hammered bronze plates - are known for their long-lasting gloss, while the famed skills of local artisans led to the development of high quality western cutlery. As metal processing techniques have continued to develop, larger items such as kettles and pots have started to be produced.
Today, many techniques have been modernized, with factories in both cities using casting and pressing machines to make car parts or office equipment. Despite this, there are still many artisans who continue their tradition crafts; for example creating cutlery by mixing soft iron and hard steel. Such artisans are not merely following tradition; through the knowledge they have acquired through scientific research, they have renewed their techniques over time, constantly updating their products to meet the needs of the present day.
Tsubame-Sanjo has become one of the most concentrated industrial areas in the world and is a place where highly skilled artisans continue to produce a range of metal goods. We welcome you to come and meet the local artisans who look forward to demonstrating their unrivalled skills.