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About Tatara

Murage

The person who oversees the technical (skilled) side of tatara operations is called the murage. Over successive days and nights, the murage keeps an eye on the tatara's blaze and conditions inside the furnace from a hole called the hodo-ana situated on the lower part of one of the sides of the tatara. At the same time, the murage will also be giving precise directions regarding the introduction of more iron sand and charcoal, as well as the speed at which the bellows are walked on. His goal is to keep furnace conditions stable.

“My father who himself was a murage taught me that the flames burn with the color of the rising sun during the komori phase on the first day,” explained Mr. Horie, a now-deceased former murage. “On the second [middle] day, they burn with the color of the mid-day sun, and during the kudari phase on the last day it is the color of the sun sinking behind the mountains to the west.”

Because they look directly at the insides of an extremely hot furnace for many years, the eyes of a murage weaken quickly due to the intense light, and they eventually lose their vision entirely. A murage makes iron through a truly heroic struggle with fire.

Kihara-murage working at the tatara.

Mr. Kihara has been recognized by the Minister of Education as a maintainer of the “tatara-bukitama-hagane manufacturing technique, a Traditional Craft Designated for Preservation.


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