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The making of
Kyo-hamano
Kyoto Knives.
A GREAT DINNER ALWAYS
STARTS WITH SHARP KNIVES.
THAT’S WHY WE VISITED A 300 -
YEAR - OLD KNIFE MANUFACTURER
TO FIND SOME OF THE BEST
KYO-HAMONO IN THE WORLD.
 
Knife maker
Tatsuya Shirai
Yoshisada
Cutlery company
The Yoshisada Cutlery company dates back to the 1700s; today, it houses one of the few remaining knife ateliers in Kyoto. The name originated from Fujiwara No Yoshisada, who lived in a district south of central Kyoto. His surname was passed on through 10 generations. Today Kyoto residents associates his surname with quality knives.


We entered a tiny, dimly lit factory that has just one room. Only Tatsuya Shirai, age 32, sits here amidst flying, glowing sparks. Ten years ago, he entered an apprenticeship to become an artisan, a knife maker. He works with the most crucial blade-making stage in the forging process. As we watched, he carefully inspected his most recent work of art. “Learning and working here fulfills a life-long dream,” he said, “I always wanted to learn a trade and create something with my hands.”
At this very well hidden location in a Kyoto suburb, some of the best blades in Japan are produced – by hand. A process during which only one person makes the blade from start to finish. That is craftsmanship and dedication.
Today, the cutlery industry is still a drawing card for traditional artisans – perhaps because of its rigorous standards. For example, to be called kyo-hamano (Kyoto knives), knife makers must forge a special type of steel and use iron sand from southwestern Japan; charcoal carbon from pine trees in northern Kyoto; soil from Mount Inari in southern Kyoto, and sharpening stones from western Kyoto.
 
We can only bow our heads in
respect for the craftsmanship,
dedication, and skills that reside
in this man’s hands. Hands that
are passing on a 300-year old
tradition into the future.
 
7 Limited edition knives
Exclusively made for NN07
Like cooking? Or are you just like us –
a nerd when it comes having
a well-equipped kitchen?
We special ordered 7 knives from
Yoshisada Cutlery, a 10-generation
knife manufacturer.
Master Tatsuya Shirai created the
knives and we customized them with
a number from 1 to 7.
KYO-HAMANO (KYOTO-KNIVES)
Special requirements must be met when creating Kyo-hamano. The knife makers must use only clean, pure water from Kyoto; satestsu (iron sand) from Izumo in southwestern Japan; zumi (charcoal carbon) made from pine trees in Tanba in northern Kyoto; and tsuchi, soil from Mt. Inari in southern Kyoto. Their sharpening stones must come from the Narutaki are in western Kyoto. Finally, only one person are allowed to make the blade from start to finish. Otherwise, it’s not Kyo-hamano.
 
THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
The demand for good knives evolved via the imperial court and surrounding society when Kyoto was the capital and home to the imperial family (794–1868). Consequently, specialized tools were a necessity for the arts and everyday living. There were special knives for doing ikebana (flower arrangement), making kyo-sensu (fans) and kyo-ningyo (dolls), and of course, for preparing kyo-kaiseki (Kyoto’s traditional seasonal cuisine). Japan and Japanese artisans have always been recognized worldwide for producing quality knives. Especially the Kyoto region, which is rich with natural resources, such as clean water, excellent soil, and other valuable materials. Taken together, these and other details contributed to the industry’s development in the Kyoto region.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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