We met Hosokawa-san of Gihei for the first time back in 2013 when we were visiting Sanjo. I remember it was a part of the Open Factory (Kōba) festival that the Tsubame-Sanjo area was holding for the first time. Kevin Kent, the owner of Knifewear, is literally big in Japan (well he is more than 8’ tall) so he often gets more attention than regular Japanese guys like me. So, naturally, he was interviewed by a crew from a local TV network and was being followed by them. We showed up at Hosokawa-san’s workshop with the TV crew, he must have been surprised by the big group of people visiting them!
Atsushi Hosokawa-san and Takashi Hosokawa-san, a father and a son, are the two blacksmiths behind the Gihei knives. The 3rd and 4th generation knife makers work to preserve the traditional skills that have been passed down to them, while trying new skills, techniques and materials. They make knives from steels like Shirogami and Aogami, very traditional high carbon steels that many folks find high-maintenance due to their rusty nature. While the Hosokawas enjoy working with these traditional materials, they recognize that many folks would prefer a high performance blade that won't rust easily. This drove them to seek out steels that would offer the best of both worlds.
Their signature knives are the HAP40 Kazahana and ZDP189 Zuika lines. HAP40 and ZDP189 steels are extremely unconventional in the world of traditional blacksmithing, yet both are considered to be 'super steels'. Both HAP40 and ZDP189 are extremely hard, to the point that most blacksmiths can't even forge with them. The Hosokawas are exceptional for their ability to work with these unusual materials, and the and the persverence it took to master forging them paid off: the hardness and wear resistance of these steels allow kitchen knives made from them to retain their edge longer than any other line we've seen. While this also makes them more challenging to sharpen, their mind-blowing performance is well worth it.
After the brief meeting at their traditional tatami room during our visit, Atsushi Hosokawa-san took us to their workshop and showed us how he forges the HAP40. As once would expect, he heated the steel in the forge and started hammering with his springhammer. The steel was red hot, yet barely moved under the immense weight of his power hammer. The sound was totally different too, a hollow , deafening clang like a metal pipe being dropped. Good thing most blacksmiths wear ear protection.
The result of this highly unusual forging process are simple, unassuming blades that will change your definition of sharpness and keep their edge far longer than any knife you've ever owned. They really let the steel speak for itself. Their Aogami line is phenomenal too, an elegant, traditional polished blade that slices beautifully. While lesser known, Gihei makes truly outstanding blades that knife nerds like me adore. I hope you will too!
Naoto came to Canada several years ago and we aren't letting him go back. After getting angry with his roommate's dull knives, he started to dream of sharp Japanese knives. Naoto graduated from University of Calgary with a bachelor degree of art, majoring International Relations and finds that selling Japanese knives is his own way of doing international relations. Naoto is our Head of Shipping and receiving. You can also see him in SpringHammer looking cool and holding it all together.