This spring Knifewear is getting in what is most likely the final stock of one of my favourite knife lines, the Masakage Kujira. If you haven’t heard of this line, you will be forgiven, as it’s been a number of years since we’ve stocked it. This line of knives from Masakage that were made by a very talented, now retired, gentleman named Ken Kaguera. Kaguera-san makes homemade suminagashi steel out of recycled scraps and clads it around blue carbon steel to make truly unique knives. Due to the nature of the scrap metal suminagashi, or Damascus steel, their unique look evolves the more you use them. I am the very proud owner of a Masakage Kujira 150mm gyuto.
In October of 2016, I was lucky enough to visit Kaguera-san’s home and workshop with Kevin and Visti. it was one of the most incredible days of my life. Words can’t express how beautiful Shikoku Island is. I strongly considered hiding in the bushes hoping to be left behind; maybe I could get a job stocking Coffee Boss at the Family Mart or pumping gas at a rest stop. I am sure I could have made it work.
We drove for about two hours through small towns and massive tunnels on our way up the mountain. Once we made it to Kaguera san’s shop, he got right to work demonstrating how he makes his own Damascus-style steel from recycled metal. Here is how it’s done as best as I can understand.
Some other cool things we learned about Kaguera-san and his process.
After our lesson in blacksmithing, we were invited into his beautiful home for lunch. The ceiling beams were all huge logs, the doors were made of paper and the entire house smelled like cedar. We sat around a long table and had a delicious meal of sushi, tataki, fruit, tempura, and sashimi. There was easily enough food for double those present.
After we ate, we visited a friend of Kaguera-san’s, Rogier. He is a Dutch ex-pat who has been living in the area for about 34 years making traditional Japanese paper. He grows the plants, harvests them and makes paper from scratch in his home. Back to the shop and Garage Sale shopping. I picked out about a dozen really slick knives, Kevin grabbed some Damascus axes, some badass hatchet/hammers, and a few hunting knives. I bought myself a really gorgeous santoku with a Western style antler handle.
Funnily enough, I don’t have that antlered handled santoku anymore. I traded it to a friend for a damascus hatchet from that same trip which I haven’t used yet because it’s so sharp that I’m afraid that I’ll never be able to sharpen it that well again. It’s damn near perfect.
I know that some of our regulars in Ottawa will be excited to hear that we’ll be receiving a small run of knives from Kaguera-san. Rumour is that he has wandered back into the workshop to make a smattering of blades. I’m personally very excited about the possibility of getting a 240mm gyuto; hopefully there’s one left after the dust settles. Kaguera has a very unique technique and philosophy when it comes to making knives and that shows in his work. It’s a shame that he never trained anyone, but he must have had his reasons. Whether or not I get that 240mm gyuto, at least I already have a couple of his pieces to show off to all of my knife nerd pals.