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  • Master Blacksmith Masashi Yamamoto in Vancouver

    June 19, 2018 3 min read

    Master Blacksmith Masashi Yamamoto in Vancouver

    On April 14 and 15, Sakura (Japanese for cherry blossom) Festival was held in Van Dusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver. We brought Masashi Yamamoto-san back for his third visit to Canada to showcase real Japanese craftsmanship. Last year we brought Masashi-san last year to  the Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa but Vancouver didn’t get a chance to meet him. It was so exciting to have finally brought him a Canadian city with such a vibrant and active Japanese community.

    Prior to the Van Dusen Garden event, Masashi-san was greeted with many of his fans at the Vancouver store. There, he engraved customers knives. Masashi began his blacksmithing career as his uncle’s apprentice, and one of his first regular jobs was to engrave his uncle’s knives with his name. He’s done this for many years, and still does it to this day on his own. Being an expert engraver he was happy to share his skill with his customers by engraving their names, or the names they’d given their knives (in Japanese characters) on their knives.

    Masashi-san engraving a Kuroshu Nakiri

    In order to do a forging demonstration, we needed the standard equipment used by  blacksmith’s around the world: a forge and anvil. Masashi’s anvil is a little too heavy to take as a carry-on. With help from our customers, we found local blacksmith, Peter Hammer, (appropriate name, right?) to help us out. He was very nice and lent us his tools. Masashi-san and Peter had a great chat about knives, steel and blacksmithing!

    The Sakura Days Festival at Van Dusen Garden is one of the biggest Japanese-themed festival in Vancouver area. More than 10,000 people attended the festival to celebrate cherry blossom season. This is also a special time of year in Japan. During the blossoming of sakura trees, people in Japan will spend afternoons having a picnic below the blooming flowers. This time of year is called Hanami. At the Vancouver festival are many vendors representing aspects of Japanese culture. 

    Here the Consul General of Japan in Vancouver tries one of Masashi-san’s knives!
    Here the Consul General of Japan in Vancouver tries one of Masashi-san’s knives!

    The forging demonstrations we put on are always entertaining and dramatic. In addition to this, Masashi-san likes to make the ones he holds educational. If you’re reading this blog, we assume you know that Japanese knives are made with harder steel than North American or European ones. The harder a material is, it usually follows that it is more brittle. Therefore, the knife needs something to protect the hard brittle steel. Japanese blacksmiths attain it with technique called “forge welding”. What it means is that a blacksmith takes two different steels with different hardness and use heat, hammer and some flux powder to forge-weld them together. This is not a skill that every blacksmith has — even in Japan — and it is extremely hard to demonstrate in an open and not-so-familiar environment and with borrowed tools.

    After all was said and done, Masashi successfully carried out 7(!) demonstrations in 2 days to crowds of fascinated people. After two very long days of very very hard work, Kevin asked him what he wanted for dinner. After some thought, he said “traditional Vancouver food”. Well guess where we ended up taking him for the dinner? The most Western-Canadian restaurant we could think of, Earls! And what more appropriate order than the “Steak + Sushi”? We thank Masashi-san for a successful and entertaining visit, and we also thank the people of Vancouver for being such a friendly crowd. They really showed Masashi that Canadians appreciate his craft. We can’t wait until we can bring him back to Canada, he’s not only an amazing blacksmith, but also a great friend of Knifewear, and of course our staff.

    Our next blacksmith visit will be July 2018 when Takayukui Shibata, Yoshimi Kato, and Takumi Ikeda visiting the cities of Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. You can get more info about this visit HERE.

    Do you have any blacksmiths that you’d like to see visit Canada? Let us know in the comments, or on twitter at @knifewear!