The art of making knife blades began hundreds of years ago in Japan. As techniques were refined over time, the process continuously improved until blacksmiths were producing remarkable cutting tools. Today, handcrafted Japanese knives have gained recognition all over the world for their exceptional sharpness and superior performance. Here’s a short history of Japanese knife crafting by region.
Many of the skills that modern Japanese craftsmen use to make knives originated with creating swords for samurai. In the fifth century, an abundance of blacksmiths settled in the city of Sakai near Osaka to produce tools needed for the construction of a massive tomb for Emperor Nintoku. As time passed, these blacksmiths became renowned for creating swords. Later when the government changed hands, swords became less in demand and eventually, the artisans that made these weapons transferred their knowledge to smaller tools, namely knives.
Another notable city known for its knife-making is Seki City, located in Gifu Prefecture. This area has all the right resources for blacksmiths—clay, coal, and rivers for cooling metal. During the Sengoku Period, when warlords were in a constant struggle for control over land, a new technique was invented for blending four variations of steel into one strong composite metal. However, as the political situation between warring clans changed and decrees banning sword usage came into effect, the craftsmen turned to forging knives for kitchen and domestic use, rather than for weapons.
Takefu, a city located on the island of Kyushu, was first introduced to sword making through a craftsman from Kyoto over 700 years ago. For generations it was a center of agricultural tools.
The region is also famous for echizen lacquer, contributing to some of the most beautiful handles available anywhere. Although the area has national recognition for producing some of Japan’s best knives, a lack of apprentices to learn the tradition has been a problem. To combat the decline in people learning the art of knife crafting, the region created a cooperative to promote the region’s work and continues today to support and promote the superior knives coming out of Takefu.
Tosa (kyushu) Kurouchi
Tosa, located on the southern part of the island of Kyushu, has a remote geography with mountains on three sides and the Pacific Ocean to the south east. This isolating geography created a unique culture that extends to the regions tradition of knife making.
Knives forged in this region are made in the kurouchi style, where the final blade is left un-polished, leaving a rustic dark finish.
Akira Saku, Karaku, Matsubara
With Japan’s extensive history in metalwork and blacksmithing, it’s no wonder that traditional Japanese knives made in the modern age are simultaneously functional and beautiful. If you’re looking for a handmade Japanese knives from a variety of regions, contact Chubo Knives. We’re committed to connecting chefs with the incredible products that Japanese knife-makers have been making for generations.