Sakai, Sanjo, Echizen, Seki and Miki – these are places known for kitchen knife production in Japan. Sakai is best known for making 90% of Japan’s single bevel knives. But there were many bladesmiths in Tokyo before. When speaking to anyone of that particular era, they will always remember the sounds of forging throughout Tokyo every day. [*photo1]
During the Edo period, Ieyasu Tokugawa, the head of the Edo Shogunate had the intent of building a strong trade community where Edo would be filled with master craftsmen. When they came together, Kajiya-cho (Blacksmith Village) was built, which the name still lives on in Kanda Tokyo today. Edo City was known for street fights and fires, so when fire broke out, the skilled blacksmiths would be responsible for creating the fine tools that the woodworkers would use to rebuild the damaged structures. After the Meiji period, swords were prohibited. Many swordsmiths were not able to find much work, so they turned to forging woodworking tools, farm tools and kitchen knives. Since Edo City was established, this tiny geographical space called Tokyo has one of the largest populations in the world, which resulted in more tight-knit communities. The communication between users and makers were a common part of every day, while the gap between them was very small, if any. Any complaints about the tools by the users would quickly get back to the tool makers, which then resulted in many legendary blacksmiths, such as Chiyotsuru-Korehide (千代鶴是秀) and Ishido. [*photo2]
Chiyotsuru-Korehide with the Previous president of Morihei
Around 20 years after the end of World War II, Japan faced to a period of high economic and population growth. The sounds of forging, however became less welcomed in the streets and the blacksmiths had to move out of the city. Today, blacksmiths in and around Tokyo are rare, but reside around the area, in cities like Saitama, Yamanashi and Chiba. With the disperse of the city blacksmiths, their work is well respected, but they lost their union that they once had to put Tokyo on the map for well-made forged tools.
Morihei has been a knife and whetstone supplier for more than 100 years. They are one of the few companies left in Japan with a long-standing history of relationships with blacksmiths and whetstone and natural stone makers today. At one time, more than 20 groups of blacksmiths and sharpeners worked under the name Morihei. When some of the blacksmiths decided to resign, Morihei asked them to make a large number of knives before they left, for the future of Morihei’s original customers who may want to continue the use of those same knives.
Craftsman used to work for Morihei
These knives are the last Morihei’s stock, which were kept in storage for the past 20 years. These are the final pieces from the blacksmiths in Tokyo since the Edo period. Each knife is stamped with the engraving Tokyo (東京) . We are not sure how much longer we can be selling Tokyo-Made knives, but we hope that each one will go to someone with a heartfelt sense of care for these knives.
*2 Katsushika Hokusai, Ikari-kaji of Tsukuda-tou
*3 Unknown https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NewlyBuilt_Nihonbashi_1911_Tokyo.jpg?uselang=ja *4 Yodalica https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tokyo_from_the_top_of_the_SkyTree_(cropped).JPG