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The Tatara's Structure

Tatara ironworking persists even today. While the tatara of The Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords (Nittoho) in the town of Okuizumo operates only a few times a year, the method continues even there. Perhaps some people reading this page have even seen it on television in Japan.

The tatara shown here was completed in the mid-18th century—the middle years of the Edo Period—and so the production process used with it is referred to as the early modern tatara ironworking method. The photograph shows an exterior view. There is a furnace in the center that stands 1.1 meters' tall, approximate 1 meter across, and approximately 3 meters' long. Fuigo stand on either side of the furnace for blowing air across. They were invented around the end of the 17th century and are called tenbin-fuigo (“balanced bellows”).

Exterior view of an early modern tatara furnace (Wako Museum)

As the figure shows, an elaborate subsurface structure (called a yuka-zuri) some 3 meters deep has been built below the furnace. It is a carefully conceived contrivance for maintaining high temperatures and protecting against dampness.

Lateral view of furnace

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