Nigara Hamono: 350 Years of Blade-Smithing Mastery
July 09, 20213 min read
When folks in the west think of Japan, many of them immediately picture a samurai wielding a shiny hand-forged sword. While this can certainly be a stereotype, these handmade swords have had a large impact on culture in Japan, specifically the culture of knife-makers.
Japan's swordsmithing culture is very widespread, from the northernmost prefecture on Honshu island of Aomori, to the Southern tip of Kyushu island, Kagoshima. Since the Kamakura period (1185-1333AD), Japan was ruled by feudal lords consisting of a warrior class, well-known as Samurai and each feudal lord appointed swordsmiths in the region to produce special swords for the samurais in the area. The makers trusted with the creation of such highly-regarded blades were masters of their trade, often practicing skills handed down through many generations in their family.
Go Yoshizawa-san, the current head of Nigara Hamono.
The Nigara family was one such family of swordsmiths in the region of Tsugaru, forging swords for samurai in the surrounding area. Today, Go Yoshizawa-san is the 8th generation of Nigara Hamono, and is their head blacksmith. Yoshizawa-san utilizes the skills and technique that were passed down in his family for over 350 years to forge stunning kitchen knives that we are proud to carry at Knifewear as part of our Small Makers Collection.
Go Yoshizawa-san started his career as a blacksmith not long ago in 2011, when his uncle and head of the company at the time fell ill. He immediately returned to Aomori from Tokyo and joined the family business. He started making blades with very traditional steels like Shirogami and Aogami, but about 7 years ago, he saw the emerging demand for knives crafted from more modern stainless steels such as VG10. His first attempt with VG10 was, in his words, an absolute disaster. This newfangled steel that he had never worked with presented a much larger challenge than he expected. Even with this complete failure, he never gave up on the challenge of creating something new. He got to work learning how to work with these new materials, determined to make knives for the modern world.
The R2 Tsuchime line from Nigara Hamono, some of the best looking blades we've seen in a while!
Now, Yoshizawa-san has developed two main pillars that represent his work: The first is somewhat more efficient to produce, despite being a fully handmade products. This pillar includes his SG2 Kurouchi Tsuchime and Stainless Clad Aogami Super lines. These incredibly thin, precise blades are all hand forged and hand sharpened at Nigara Hamono, starting from a piece of pre-laminated steel. This is the way many Japanese knife makers, like the folks at Masakage,Fujimoto, and Haruyuki forge their blades. Yoshizawa-san has a great analogy for these lines, he likens it to new distilleries making delicious gins and vodkas while they slowly craft their single malts and sit on barrels of whiskey for years and years. The SG2 and Aogami super lines help him build his brand, and provide top-notch knives at an awesome price.
The aged single malt, on the other hand, are knives that test every part of his skills, technique, and knowledge. He calls these lines of knives “Anmon” and “Troll Killer”. These knives are made from hand-folded damascus steel, with exceedingly unique hammer and welding patterns that make his knives truly one of a kind. He forge-welds the steel in the ways that no other blacksmiths do, always trying new patterns. He has massive respect for Bob Kramer, the master of damascus steel. We have a few of these on the way, and we're beyond excited to see them in person!
Some of Yoshizawa-san's hand-folded blades. We can't wait to get them!
Yoshizawa-san is truly driving the world of knives forward, with his passion for carrying forward tradition while continually innovating. This philosophy is represented in his knives, and any of his lines are sure to delight you in the kitchen.
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.