Be amazed at the sharpness of Japanese blades!

The secret to the sharpness of Japanese blades.

Japanese blades have been developed through the constant pursuit of improved skills and efficiency, in order to make them the optimal tools for all kinds of situations. This is the result of finding the best materials, shapes, and manufacturing methods to suit various applications. The roots of these blades can be found in the Japanese swords that were used in warfare from the 12th to the 16th century.

Japanese swords.
Bizen sword Photo courtesy of: Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum
Forging.
A blade being forged.

Japanese swords needed the ability to cut well while not breaking in the battlefield. This led to the development of a forge welding technique by joining steel and iron to increase sharpness, and repeated heating and hammering to increase durability.

Kitchen knives.
Kitchen knives for slicing sashimi.
Nail clippers.
Nipper-type nail clippers also used by manicurists.

As Japan entered a relatively peaceful era in the 17th century, Japanese swords were valued more as works of art, and blades were developed in accordance with how they were used by craftsmen and the common people. There are currently many kinds of Japanese blades, ranging from craftsmen’s tools to kitchen knives, nail clippers, and other daily commodities.

Visiting famous blade production areas.

There are several famous blade production areas across the country. Let’s take a trip, looking for some of the blades that have been developed with their own unique features in their places of origin.

Seki (Gifu Prefecture)

Ancient forging methods.

Seki, boasting the value in swords distributed in Japan, has been a famous production area of swords for over 780 years. One particularly famous swordsmith was Magoroku Kanemoto in the 16th century, who made many swords for influential warriors, which in turn granted Seki fame throughout the country. Today, many types of blades, including kitchen knives, are produced in Seki. A famous German blade manufacturer has even established a factory there for its line of finest blades. The Seki Kaji Denshokan Museum periodically gives demonstrations of traditional Japanese sword forging. The hall of blades also offers about two thousand and five hundred types of kitchen knives, scissors, and other types of blades for sale.

Gifu Cutlery Hall

Address: 4-6, Heiwa-dori, Seki-shi, Gifu Prefecture

Access: About a 1 minute walk from Hamonokaikan-mae Station on the Nagaragawa Railway

Tel: 0575-22-4941

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Closed: December 28 – January 1

Sakai (Osaka Prefecture)

Sakai Hamono Museum

The area surrounding Sakai has been producing excellent tools and weapons since ancient times. In the 16th century, it became a huge production area of guns, which were introduced by Portugal. The Sakai area later began to produce knives for cutting tobacco leaves, and in the 18th century, developed the “Deba” knives for cleaning fish. This led to it becoming a huge production area of kitchen knives. The Sakai Hamono Museum shows visitors how blades are manufactured, and has finished blades on display. There are also blades that can be purchased.

Sakai Hamono Museum

Address: 1-1-30, Zaimokucho-nishi, Sakai-ku, Sakai-shi, Osaka Prefecture

Access: About a 3 minute walk from Myokokuji-mae Station on the Hankai Line

Tel: 072-233-0118

Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Closed: December 29 – January 4

Sanjo (Niigata Prefecture)

Sanjo Blacksmith Dojo
Experience
A paper knife (left) and Japanese nail

Sanjo blade-making originated in the 17th century, when farmers started making Japanese nails. These nails were used in side jobs for Japanese architecture during the winter, among other uses. Since then, Sanjo has expanded to saws and billhooks, and it is now known as the representative town of metalware in Japan, producing anything from work tools to household hardware. At the Sanjo Blacksmith Dojo, visitors can make tools, such as paper knives and Japanese nails, out of heated iron using hammers.

Sanjo Blacksmith Dojo

Address: 11-53, Motomachi, Sanjo-shi, Niigata Prefecture

Access: About a 3 minute walk from Kita-Sanjo Station on JR Yahiko Line

Tel: 0256-34-8080

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Closed: Mondays (open if it is a national holiday, and closed the following day), December 29 – January 3

Miki (Hyogo Prefecture)

A production area of blades since ancient times. Although much of it was war-torn in the 16th century, it was restored and developed into a production area of carpentry tools. Route 175 Service Station Miki, offering a resting place and souvenirs for drivers, has about twenty thousand blades and tools on sale at the metalware exhibition and sales corner on the second floor.

Route 175 Road Station Miki

Address: 2426 Aza, Mikiyama, Fukui, Miki-shi, Hyogo Prefecture

Access: 10 mins. by taxi from Miki Station on the Shintetsu Ao Line

Tel: 0794-86-9500

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Closed: December 28 – January 2

Osafune (Okayama Prefecture)

Photo courtesy of: Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum

A representative sword production area in Japan that still produces swords even today. Historically, many swordsmiths were from Osafune, and eighty percent of the famous swords that exist today were made there. The Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum, which introduces the appeal and history of Japanese swords, gives demonstrations on ancient forging methods to the public once a month. Visitors can also learn Japanese sword maintenance and how to make paper knives.

Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum

Address: 966, Osafune, Osafune-cho, Setouchi-shi, Okayama Prefecture

Access: About 7 mins. by taxi from Osafune Station on the JR Ako Line

TEL: 0869-66-7767

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (admission until 4:30 p.m.)

Closed: Mondays (excluding holidays), December 28 – January 4, days following national holidays

Admission: 400 yen for visitors 65 years old and above, 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for students, no admission fees required for visitors 15 years old and below

Take a blade back with you as a souvenir.

Areas such as Tokyo and Kyoto have famous shops that specialize in Japanese blades. Be sure to visit some of them during your trip to Japan.

Nihonbashi Kiya (Tokyo)

Kiya

A shop that offers various kinds of blades that have been manufactured with experience and skills that have been fostered since their establishment over two hundred and twenty years ago. They are extremely knowledgeable, have a wide network, and have services available in English.

Nihonbashi Kiya

Address: Coredo-Muromachi. 1F, Nihonbashi-Muromachi 2-2-1, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo

Tel: 03-3241-0110

Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Closed: January 1

Aritsugu / Nishiki Shop (Kyoto City)

Aritsugu

A long-established kitchen knife shop in the famous Nishiki Market known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”. Here, you can find various items, including kitchen knives and other cooking tools used by traditional Japanese chefs.

Aritsugu / Nishiki Shop

Address: Nishi-iru, Goko-machi, Nishikikoji-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto Prefecture

Tel: 075-221-1091

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Closed: January 1-3

Please note that there may be restrictions on the blades that you wish to take back with you on your flight. It is recommended that you ship them back via international mail. Please ask about maintenance and other aspects concerning your tools at the shop where you purchase them.

Japanese blades have been developed over a long period of time. Be sure to see for yourself how wonderful they are.

Top image courtesy of © TETSUFUKU.com