Shimane: Ancient Japanese Tatara Iron Manufacturing Method Introduced; Facility Opens in Izumo

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Visitors view a model of an underground iron-manufacturing furnace at a new facility in Izumo, Shimane Prefecture.

IZUMO, Shimane — A facility introducing an ancient iron manufacturing method known as “tatara” has opened near the Koedo Tatara Site in Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, which is one of the remnants of iron manufacturing sites that used the traditional technique. Displays at the facility include panels and a model to introduce the method and the site.

Tatara is an ancient Japanese iron manufacturing method that involves burning charcoal in a furnace to melt iron sand and extract iron. The technique is essential in the production of Japanese swords. The Izumo region of Shimane Prefecture has strong ties to tatara iron production and is mentioned as an iron-producing region in an 8th century record.

The Koedo Tatara Site operated for about 150 years from the mid-18th century to the late 19th century. Located near the coast, it is known as the “tatara of the sea” because of its use of sea transportation from the procurement of materials, such as iron sand and charcoal to the shipment of iron products.

The new facility features a 2-meter-long by 2.6-meter-wide model of the underground structure of the ironmaking furnace. A video introducing the work area is also shown.

Admission is free.

“The exhibit shows the latest technology of the time, such as the use of clay pipes for the holes to release underground moisture,” said an official from the Izumo city government.