Yukihiro Sakai: Ultra-traditional Japanese Knives from a Young Blacksmith
August 23, 20222 min read
In ancient Japan, the Island now known as Kyushu was governed by a nation called Kumaso, who opposed being ruled by the central government that had come to rule the rest of Japan. The Kumaso people were furious warriors and had a unique culture, different from the rest of the islands. When Kumaso was eventually conquered and integrated into the rest of Japan, it was renamed to country of “Hi” (hee) or Hi no Kuni. The term Hi can mean 肥 (fertile) or 火 (fire) because of the massive volcano Mt. Aso, which brought fertile soil (肥 fertile) and the occasional eruption 火 (fire) to the region. Now, the region is known as Kumamoto. This is where Yukihiro Sakai-san is based, and his knives are branded as “Hi no Kuni” in honour of the history of Kumamoto.
Sakai-san at work in his home forge.
Yukihiro Sakai-san, 33 years old in 2022, is pretty young for a solo blacksmith. He had been intrigued by knives and blacksmithing culture since his youth, long before becoming a knifemaker. After graduating from university he knocked on the door of a blacksmith, Daisuke Nishida-san. Sakai-san chose him because he was intrigued by Nishida-san's style of knives and his blacksmithing philosophy. Nishida-san is a staunch traditionalist, viewing modern blacksmithing in Japan with much skepticism. He is a big believer of in-house forge welding, and that belief passed down to Sakai-san’s knife-making philosophy.
Sakai-san spent about ten years at Nishida-san’s workshop as an apprentice, then struck out on his own to set up his workshop at the age of 31. He has been making blades on his own for two years now, and he creates his knives by forge-welding two different types of steels together in-house. This technique is not particularly popular in modern kitchen knife makers because it requires great skills, is very labour intensive, and dramatically limits production. Despite this, he continues to use this technique for all his knives to preserve this important tradition. His motto is always to produce better knives than he made the day before.
While simple in design, Sakai-san's knives have a beautiful fit & finish.
Sakai-san’s knives are reflective of the traditional values that inspire his blacksmithing. The presentation is understated yet refined, with smooth, consistent bevels lovingly polished to a super smooth kasumi finish. Blades bear a rustic kurouchi finish that reveals the work put into each knife by hand, finished with a simple cherrywood handle. Considering just how much hard work is put into each blade, they’re incredibly well priced and an excellent entry into the world of carbon steel Japanese knives for the uninitiated!
Sakai-san not only forges kitchen knives but has been challenging himself to produce different shapes, such as outdoor knives. He also likes to learn other crafts, like woodworking (for handles), so he can incorporate them into his knife making. He truly lives and breathes craftsmanship, spending practically all of his ‘free’ time on these endeavours. He is young, passionate, eager, and still developing. We’re very excited about his future creations as he continues refining his craft and experimenting. We are confident his drive and enthusiasm will bring something incredible in the near future.
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.