Sakai is one of Japan’s most populous cities, located in Osaka prefecture, at the edge of Osaka Bay. This city has been among the most critical seaports of Japan since medieval times. Sakai is known for its 5C keyhole-shaped burial mounds or Kofun. Also, the city is world famous for its rich history of producing top quality blades.
The Sakai blades rose to prominence in the Edo Period (17C) when the Tokugawa Shogunate honored their skilled blacksmiths with the title of “Sakai Kiwame” as a guarantee of their skills authenticity. But before that, it was the samurai’s who used the finest blades, made by the city’s own talented craftsmen.
Let’s take a look at the rich history of the city and how it came to be what it is today.
Sakai city and its Samurai connection
Even though most parts of Japan have held their culture and traditions intact, the rapid modernization and urbanization have taken a toll on Sakai. Today, the city has become a shell of its former self as it functions as a dreary southern Osaka suburb and a center for manufacturing.
Those who have read about the rich history of the city may find the current look rundown, and maybe even somewhat depressing. The city of Sakai has changed in such a way that even many Japanese people don’t know about its history and culture.
It is, however, a well-known fact that Sakai has historically manufactured the best quality blades in entire Japan. The city’s reputation dates back to the 14C when Japanese swords were forged for the samurai warriors. Many people even today consider the existing knife makers to be the descendants of samurai warriors.
As far as swords are concerned, they are either extravagantly expensive or illegal to purchase. One Sakai sword might set you back your entire life savings, and the genuine swords of the 14C are now revered as national treasures, which you cannot legally take out of Japan.
The old practices have had a direct impact on how artisans make cooking knives today. However, unlike the old days, there is no one person doing everything. There are, in fact, several areas of expertise that employs different Shokunin (craftsmen).
The blades of today
If you have the need to cut something, you can bet on finding the sharp edge you need in Sakai. The city’s Blade industry has set a benchmark for the world to follow, be it for kitchen knives or nail clippers. Sure, knives are produced in other parts of Japan as well, but the craftsmen here unique forging use a technique.
Today, the knives are made using the same technique that was used during the Nara Period, when the Japanese manufactured swords that would not deflect or bend. If these knives aren’t fit for a samurai, then what is? Despite being super sharp and highly durable, these blades are affordable as well.
What does the future hold?
Sakai’s future in knife making seems uncertain as the shokunin who are in their mid-60s are without apprentices. The skilled knife makers of today, who are direct descendants of samurais do not have apprentices because they are not ready to invest the time and effort in learning this craft. Only time will tell what the future has in store for the Japanese art of knife making.