From the third through the seventh centuries, it was customary to bury royalty in tombs covered by large, keyhole-shaped monuments. These tombs were called kofun and were constructed of earth and stone. Around 450 A.D. the kofun of Emperor Nintoku was constructed in Sakai City. The tombs ranked in scale alongside the Great Pyramid of Egypt, and the building project was so immense that it was necessary to bring blacksmiths to Sakai from all over Japan. They produced the massive amount of hoes and spades needed for the mound construction. By the time of the kofun was finally completely, most of Japan' metal craftsmen had settled in Sakai for good.
Gradually, Sakai became the center of all metal craft in Japan - famous for its swords. Sakai became known for rifles after the Portuguese introduced them in 1543, and later for kitchen knives. In 1570, the Tokugawa shogunate granted Sakai craftsmen a special seal of approval. The government decreed that only knives made in Sakai be used to Harvest tobacco and that all such knives be stamped to indicate this. As a result, Sakai became known for producing the finest Japanese cutlery.
A single yanagi knife requires at least four skilled craftsmen and two weeks to create. Even top knife companies can only produce knives at the rate of ten to twelve pieces per day. The knife making process is divided into four distinct stages: forging, blade making, handle crafting and assembling. A skilled craftsman conducts the blade through many different steps before it is passed on to the next craftsman. The number of steps varies from knife to knife according to the shape of the blade, the type of materials used, as well as the finishing procedures required. A top-grade knife undergoes upwards of fifty different steps.
It is a sharpener's duty to put forth knives to the public, therefore it is the sharpener who determines the quality and nature of the forged knives. A master sharpener only sharpens blades that are forged by master craftsmen, and a master craftsmen only sends the best within the best to be sharpened by a master sharpener. Craftsmen must be very careful about which forged knives they send to a master sharpener. In the event a master sharpener rejects a forged knife, they will no longer continue to sharpen the craftsman's knife. Due to this strict process, Sakai is recognized to be one of Japan's most famous traditional Japanese knife crafting city.
Until recently, it was not public knowledge who forged a knife and there were no famous craftsmen or records of them. However, records of master sharpeners and their many awards of acknowledgement still remain, one of whom is the late master sharpener Ino. Within the hundreds of forgers who wished to have their blades sharpened by master Ino, master forger Haruma was recognized. The masterpieces that Korin would like to present are knives that master Ino determined to be master Haruma's best work and saved unsharpened for 30 to 40 years. These forged knives are considered to be the best from that era, and knives of this material is no longer available on the market.
Please note: These blades are sharpened by master Ino's descendent. To avoid damaging the knife while being showcased or handled, they do not have a real blade and must be sharpened after purchase.