July 22, 2021 3 min read
Sakai is quite possibly the best-known region for Japanese knives by folks who live outside of Japan. You can learn all about how things work in Sakai in this article. Hado, the artist formerly known as Oul Sakai, is just one of a huge number of knife suppliers in the Skai area. Still, Hado stands apart from so many others because they are one of only a few suppliers in Sakai who have their own in-house knife sharpeners. Traditionally in Sakai, blacksmiths, sharpeners and wholesalers are all completely different entities, and this often makes communication between the three difficult. Having a resident sharpener allows Hado to produce precisely what they want from an exact vision.
Maruyama-san, head sharpener at Hado.
Tadataka Maruyama-san started working for Oul Sakai in his mid-thirties as a sales representative and warehouse manager, but after 3 years, he told his boss that he would like to quit and become a knife sharpener somewhere else. It was a huge turning point for both Maruyama-san and Oul Sakai. The company president had always wanted to have their own sharpening workshop and saw this as an opportunity, so he introduced Maruyama-san to one of the sharpeners in Sakai that he could apprentice under but kept him employed with the company while he completed his apprenticeship. For two years, Maruyama-san trained under this master sharpener. While Maruyama-san is was undergoing training, the president of the Oul Sakai focused on building him a brand new workshop to use once his apprenticeship ended. Upon his return, he was welcomed by a brand new sharpening facility full of shiny new equipment.
“There was a lot of pressure,” Maruyama-san said when I interviewed him. When he returned from his 2 and a half years of training, he was expected to start producing double bevel knives. The issue was, the master sharpener whom he trained under specialized entirely in sharpening single bevel knives, so he had to learn how to sharpen double bevel knives pretty much from scratch. Fortunately for Maruyama-san, he had a brand new facility all to himself to use and practice in without any financial pressure. He spent a whole month on his own figuring out how to sharpen double bevel knives and very quickly started to produce blades that were good enough to sell. He faced a tremendous amount of pressure from his boss and overcame it with skill and determination, producing knives that are both beautiful to look at and impressive to cut with.
Maruyama-san, hard at work beveling knives.
One of the biggest reasons he has experienced such rapid success is that he was not bound by the traditions and rules most Japanese artisans are beholden. In most workshops, you cannot touch knives or really do anything except watch what your mentor does for the first several years. You are supposed to learn from watching rather than learning hands-on. By skipping this step, Maruyama-san was able to get right to work honing his skills from day one.
Now, two and a half years later, he is fine-tuning his skills and trying new things like the Hado Sumi line, which features a sexy kurouchi finish. This black finish was very uncommon on knives in the past, especially in Sakai, and Hado was one of the first makers to attempt the finish and absolutely nail it. The Sumi line is a proud collaboration between Knifewear and Hado. It features sturdy blades forged by master blacksmith Yoshikazu Tanaka (learn more about him here), ground, polished, and sharpened by Maruyama-san. We encouraged him to use the stunning Kurouchi finish and make shapes that he has never tried before, such as the ko-bunka. It features an exquisite handle made from a single piece of Japanese oak and a stunningly polished spine and choil. Our staff and customers are completely taken with this line; it’s definitely one of our new favourites!
The stunning Sumi line from Hado.
We're also excited to be stocking the incredibly thin and light Ginsan series, and the Hado Junpaku line. We can’t wait to see what else Maruyama-san comes up with, and we are honoured to be carrying the work of such a talented individual as part of our Small Makers Series.
Naoto came to Canada in 2007 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 the 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 Cultural Ambassador bridging Japan and Canada. You can also see him in SpringHammer looking cool and holding it all together.
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