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Traditional Japanese kitchen knives


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Being a Japanophile, I subscribe to a number of newsletters and forums. Once in a while something pops up that I can share with my other interests. Here's one--
Harema's Sakai Hocho - PukiWiki
here's the newsletter that had the link-

Hello from Japan! This is Kimono Flea Market ICHIROYA's News Letter No.320.
It has been like a later summer here in Osaka. The temperature was more than 20C degrees 68F degrees). We assumed there must have been many tourists in Kyoto and other area in Japan.
Yesterday, we visited Harema san's workshop. He is a first-class 'hocho'(kitchen knife) artisan-a blacksmith in Sakai. Sakai is in southern Osaka (next to Tondabayashi city where we live), and is the famous product center of hocho. Our friends from Germany knows him well, and she introduced us to him, so we could visit his workshop which is not open to everyone.
His house is in the old town of Sakai, and his workshop is behind his house. He inherited his work from his father, and have made hocho through all his life. He says that it is necessary to train at least 10 years long to become a fully-fledged hocho artisan. His knives are made of steel and iron, and it is very difficult to joint these two different materials - very subtle temperature management is needed for welding(and of course, it needs be controlled in the very high temperature around at 1200 degrees C!). Everything looked black and sooty in the workshop- we have never seen the place like this before.
In that sooty workshop, Harema who is in his 60's and was working silently in his white shirt. His shirt looked so white but it was because of the room which has no color except the blackish gray color.
He was in a corner, in front of the furnace. There was a wooden box filled with coke beside the furnace. A stick of iron was hammered while it was red and
a piece of steel panel was put together with iron and they became like one stick while we were watching. The stick looked so soft and making the shape looked amazingly easy with his unwasted motion. The red iron looked very soft, and amazingly with no yardstick, the piece became hocho(knife) shape.
His sister was telling us(she was SO nice and sweet person), his right arm might be longer than his left harm because of years of hammering.
Hammering has been done repeatedly by the machine(the very simple machine, manipulated by his foot)and by hand, both with heated iron and also when the iron was cooled off. Then cutting and grinding followed. When he started grinding, the long spark suddenly appeared in the sooty room, like fireworks.
He completes all the procedure by himself except the sharpening(his brother is a sharpner).
Working in the kobo(workshop)alone day after day-an old fan outside was seen from the small window. There was no airconditioner, so working in the workshop summer time must be a very tough thing.

Wa-bocho(Japanese cooking knives)are quite different from western knives because of the blade.
Curved blade with a single cutting edge is the characteristic of most of wa-bocho.

In Japanese cuisine, 'cutting' is one of the most important skilles. For examples, taste of sashimi (fresh fish) is said to be determined by cutting skill.
Good chef minds about fiber of fish meat and the surface of the cut meat.
Good chefs want to use very sharp knives(hocho), and for real Japanese cuisine, they say they have to have wa-bocho.

Harema san says that the secret of the hocho's edge is the angle of the edge. Usual edges of knives are made of straight lines, but Japanese hocho's edges are made of curve lines and its angle is way sharper than usual knives. (Please refer below figure). Chefs ask Harema san to make hocho for them and keep sending their hocho for sharpening or repair years after. We heard one chef brought his hocho which has been 20 years since it was made to Haremasan to
make it usable again.

There are chefs who cannot cook without his hocho. At the entrance of his house, the samples of hocho which his father made was placed in a glass case.
We did not want to take interrupt his work, so we told Harema san only a short time watching will be good but he said, it might be once in a life time experience to come to such place, we could stay longer and see the whole process. We were so glad he kindly invited us and allowed us to watch his work.
While watching his work, we were so impressed and imagined about his years of work in this workshop. It must be a solitary work but he looked satisfied and noble.

Here are the photos of Harema san.
Harema's Sakai Hocho - PukiWiki

(If the link doesn't work, please click from top page of our Funfun-Japan.com. )
Funfun-Japan - PukiWiki

Thank you very much for reading to the end!
Today we will list various obi, sakiori obi, medashi & pattern sample bolts. We are very happy if you find your favorite among them.
Have a nice weekend!

Ichiro & Yuka Wada
Kimono Flea Market "ICHIROYA"

Cheers!- Jim

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