Kris Armitage, the Manager of our Edmonton shop, got to tag-along with Kevin on a pre-Garage Sale trip to Japan. The fellas visited several of our favourite blacksmiths, ate a tonne of food, drank all of the sake in several cities and sang some karaoke with Takamura-san. If you missed part 1 of his story, you can catch it here.
We had a brief stop over in Kyoto and did a bit of the tourist thing. Visited Kiyomizu-dera temple, saw many lovely kimono (and some that were a little tacky), drank the best coffee in Japan at % Arabica, and enjoyed the nightlife of that wonderful city. We wandered up and down the buzzing streets enjoying random grilled animal parts on sticks, amazing and beautiful sashimi and maybe a little bit of Nihonshu (sake).
We had met up with the impeccably dressed Shibata-san on the way to Kyoto and he joined us for the next day’s trek to Takefu, home of Masakage Knives. We were picked up at the Takefu train station by Ikeda-san, who from what I can tell is the hardest working man in Fukui. He then brought us for the largest lunch I had in Japan; 3 huge breaded pork cutlets and a breaded soft boiled egg over rice. I barely managed to finish, while Ikeda finished his and the other gaijin's leftovers and still ordered more rice; the man is a machine. We then headed to Knife Village to get to work. After some quick intros with the blacksmiths, I was taken to the “Learning Shop” with Wada and Ikeda to start my brief immersion into the world of blacksmithing.
Wada was my sensei in Takefu. He was unnecessarily shy about his English as it is much better than my non-existent Japanese. Over the course of the afternoon and the next morning, I completed my first and only knife from start to finish. I forged, I annealed and I straightened. I did all of the grinding on the huge water wheel. I attached the handle, sharpened the edge and even engraved initials into the blade by hand. It was amazing.
The appreciation that had grown while working with the Moritakas, grew even more while working at Takefu. I can fully understand why these guys apprentice for as long as they do. Making a knife is all about practice, practice and more practice. I used to be a chef and I can cook a steak and know when it is cooked perfectly just by looking at it. I have literally done it thousands of times. It took many over or under cooked pieces of meat to get to the point where I am perfect 99.8% of the time. We shouldn't take these knives for granted because it took many hours of back breaking, sweaty work to get to the point where those knives are as close to perfect as they are.
Knife Village is an impressive complex. So many amazing craftsman sharing the same space to create a wide array of sharp things. It is loud, hot, dirty and produces some of the most fantastic knives we have the pleasure of using.
Stay tuned for part 3 of Kris’s Japan adventures.