Handcrafted Knives of Sakai
Old industrial town on the outskirts of Osaka, from where famous chefs of the world source their knives.
South of bustling and busy Osaka sits the laid-back port city of Sakai, home of the legendary handcrafted Japanese steel knives, a 600-year-old craft passed down with meticulous precision from one generation to another.
The craft of Japanese knife smiths is acclaimed worldwide, and it’s not uncommon to find tourists fresh off the airport bus making a beeline for knife shops. If you’re passionate about cooking or simply a knife nerd, head for Sakai City, the most preeminent among the few handmade knife-making centers left in Japan. In fact, Sakai makes around 90 percent of Japan’s handcrafted knives.
Before you invest in a traditional Sakai knife, it’s important to know that each knife has been through the hands of at least four master craftsmen – the blacksmith, who forges the carbon steel through a seven-step process; the sharpener who bevels the edges of the knife with wet ceramic and wooden grinding wheels; the handle maker, who customs the right size, shape and weight of magnolia, karin wood or ebony into handles with buffalo horn trimmings and finally hafting in the hands of an assembler, who securely aligns blade to handle ensuring the product is finished with a level of quality that has now set the benchmark for knives worldwide.
It not uncommon to hear the staccato of hammering from houses while walking the streets of Sakai. Traditional blacksmith forgeries and sharpeners of Sakai usually operate out of small workshops attached to their residences. Head out to this northern pocket of Sakai to visit knife shops.
We have compiled a list of are a few of the most renowned knife shops in the city. Here are the Top 3.
Kawamura knife shop
With walls stacked high with knives of every shape and size, the Kawamura shop has a no-frills down-to-basics atmosphere, which gives you a feel of how this business has been conducted for the last couple of generations. At the far end, workers are busy sorting their product, and once you’ve selected the knife you’d like to take home, Toshio Kawamura, fourth-generation owner, will himself engrave your name on the blade. This practice has become a tradition, since buying a knife of this quality is akin to investing in a family heirloom.
- 3-1-7, Zaimokucho Higashi, Sakai City, Osaka 590-0942
Jikko knife shop
In sharp contrast to the traditionalists, Jikko showcases its knives in an avant-garde modern showroom. From trendy music streaming overhead to glass display cabinets, this is a shop that aims to bridge the gap between its age-old products and young buyers. Toshiyuki Jikko, the owner, works with his co-workers on the ground floor workspace and has converted the upstairs area into a sleek state-of-the-art shop.
- 1-1-8, Yanagino-cho Nishi, Sakai City, Osaka 590-0930
Sakai Traditional Crafts Museum
Sakai is also the birthplace of several other Japanese crafts, such as incense making, carp streamers and carpet weaving. However, it’s the knife industry of Sakai that is truly the “king of the crop” largely evident by the huge knife mounted on the face of this small building. On the weekends, knife sharpening and maintaining demonstrations are held here.
Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum
- 1-1-30, Zaimokucho Nishi, Sakai City, Osaka