Kumamoto Prefecture boasts numerous traditional crafts that have special places in the everyday lives of its people.
Passed down for more than 500 years, Kawajiri knives trace their origins to swordsmith Naminohira Yukiyasu, who lived during the Muromachi Period (1336-1573). In the Edo Period (1603-1868), the area’s ruling Hosokawa family emphasized Kawajiri as a center of development, resulting in the cultivation of crafts such as shipbuilding, woodworking and sword-making, many of which have been passed on to this day.
Kawajiri blades are characterized by a manufacturing method known as warikomi-tanzo, or cut-in forging, which is still used today. High quality steel is inserted into a base metal known as goku-nantetsu, or extra-soft iron, and thoroughly tempered by hand. The blades made using this method are sharp, durable, and have a dignified beauty. It’s said that it takes at least 10 years to master this technique and become a sword-smith.
Prior to World War 2, Kawajiri knives were manufactured in about 50 shops, but as of 2013, just two smithies take on the entire manufacturing process. However, their high quality still boasts a strong brand power, and requests are made from throughout Japan.
Kawajiri thrived as a trading port from its early days, and various crafts, including Kawajiri knives, have been passed down to modern times. Visitors can find numerous traditional crafts represented in the Kawajiri shopping district, with demonstrations of knife-forging presented at the Kumamoto City Handcrafts Promotion Center located right in the area.
Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Center
3-35 Chibajomachi Chuo-ku Kumamoto City Kumamoto Prefecture
1802-2 Oyatsu Mashiki Kamimashiki-gun Kumamoto Prefecture