History of Japanese Knife Making
Japan has a long tradition of creating some of the highest quality, and sharpest swords and knives in the history of the human race. The production of swords is thought to have begun as early as the fifth century AD when swords began being made in the Osaka bay region of Japans main island. Sword production remained important in the Osaka Bay city of Sakai with the introduction of the Samurai and different sword production techniques.
For more than 1,000 years the Samurai sword, known in Japanese as katana has been produced in the country to the highest and often secret specifications. Some of the techniques still used to create chef knives in Japan are based on those originally used in the production of samurai swords.
During the 16th century the first steps were taken in opening Japan to the western world, with the introduction of tobacco growing techniques from the European country of Portugal. Tobacco knives were required to cut the plants to ease the production and harvest of the plant, with craftspeople who would usually make swords turning their attention to knife production. Following the arrival of tobacco the western trade route was opened up whit the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in Tokyo Bay in the mid 19th century. At this point the movement of Samurai swords and Japanese knives began to grow towards the US and Europe.
Japanese knife and sword production remained popular around the world until World War II brought production and exports to a halt. With the Allied victory, Japan found itself under US rule immediately after the second World War and the restrictions on trade placed by General MacArthur. Restrictions and limits on trade affected every industry, including Japanese movie production and saw the production of Samurai swords banned for seven years after the War was over. Even with the return to a Japanese government, sword production remained, and still remains limited, prompting many of those trained in sword production to turn to knife manufacturing. The shift to knife production saw the traditions of Japanese sword production transferred to Japanese kitchen knives now sold around the world.