In March we decided to make a trip to see the blacksmiths that make the majority of our knives that we sell here at Cutting Edge Knives.
Thankfully they are under the same roof at Takefu Knife Village in Echizen so it was going to be pretty easy travel wise to catch up with them all.
We had the one and only Shibata San of Masakage (he is one of Japan’s best sharpeners) as our guide and seeing him on his home turf instead of in the UK like we normally do was pretty special, it was great being shown around by him and his hospitality was pretty special.
What were we hoping to get out of the trip? We really wanted to see the blacksmiths in action, to talk with them and meet the other members of the team that help the master-blacksmiths out. Seeing their work for yourself and learning from them has no comparison, you know the facts and figures and processes in your head but to see a knife come to life is magical; watching them hammer the metal by hand, using the forge and shaping and grinding what will become the knife you the customer will use at home and proudly display on the wall is incredible.
We also wanted to experience the culture and the food, it being intrinsically linked to the product but we only had 4 days so we knew it was going to be frantic and we weren't wrong.
We landed early morning on day 1 and and met Shiba and Kev (of Knifewear fame) for our first taste of proper Japanese ramen before travelling to Takefu.
This display at Takefu train station suggests a town famous for its knives!
In the evening we were hosted at an Izakaya restaurant, likened to an informal pub or tavern apparently, where you sit at low tables and the food and drink flows and you share, a bit like tapas. Amongst the group were Anryu San, Kurosaki San, Kato San and of course Shibata San. We had a room to ourselves and the food (and the beers!) definitely kept on coming! For the non-initiated the customs and culture (especially with severe jet lag) was quite overwhelming at times.
One of the many, many beautiful looking dishes to arrive on the table.
The following day was spent hanging out with the blacksmiths in Takefu knife village and trying our hand at making our own knives under the expert guidance of Kurosaki San.
Anryu San at the furnace.
Pete, who does all our repairs and sharpening relished the opportunity to make a knife from scratch.
James hammers out his knife under the watchful eye of Kurosaki San.
Our 3rd day in Japan started with a bullet train to Kyoto. We were spending the second half of our sadly too short trip of 4 days sightseeing in Kyoto with Shibata San and Kev Kent from Knifewear. The intention was to soak up the culture and eat more delicious food!
We visited Nijo Castle.
Kyoto is full of ordinary people who dress up in traditional dress for the day.
We strolled through Kyoto market a veritable smorgasbord of every foodstuff under the sun.
We were taken to Kev's favourite restaurant (he writes beautifully about it here in his blog), a yakiniku (grilled meat) place that specialises in offal.
We ate skewers of meat and drank sake and 'crazy juice'!
For breakfast we were treated to breakfast ramen!
Followed by more sightseeing at Kinkaku-ji temple with Shibata San.
Our trip ended far too quickly and hopefully next time we will stay for longer and experience the incredible Japanese hospitality again!