A Seven Hundred Fifty Year Family Tradition of Fine Craftsmanship
Kikuichi Cutlery has a history of bladesmithing dating back to the days of the samurai. Our company was established in the 13th century during Japan’s Kamakura period (1185-1333) which saw not only the rise of the Samurai class, but also of the sword smiths who elevated the art of sword making to new heights. At the time, five schools were competing to forge weapons for Nara’s famous warrior monks. One particular maker, Kanenaga of the Tegai school, was renowned for his superior skills as a sword maker and made the Tegai school the leading sword makers in all of Japan. It is from this master craftsman that Kikuichi Monjushiro Kanenaga, Inc. was born.
Skilled trades in Japan, such as sword making, are historically passed down from one generation to the next. In this way tradesmen can ensure the success and survival of the family business. Kanenaga eventually passed his skills and knowledge to his son, who then passed them to his son, and so on. It is through Kanenaga’s grandson, Shiro-zaemon, that we come to an interesting part of our family’s story. Young Shiro was known for his devotion to the god of wisdom, Monju Bodhisattva, and could often be found deep in prayer while forging. It is said his devotion was so sincere and praying so fervent that Monju himself appeared before the young sword maker and instructed him in creating a blade unlike any seen before. Shiro’s new style of smithing eventually spread to other regions of Japan and came to be known simply as “Monju”. To this day you can find Shiro’s divine inspiration in our workshops and in each of our finely crafted blades.
Kanenaga’s legacy lives on in other ways, too. From his lineage six swords have been designated as “Important Cultural Property”, while a further nine are listed as “Important Art Objects”. His namesake sword, crafted by the legendary Kanenaga himself, is designated as one of Japan’s national treasures. The Chrysanthemum symbol is still recognized in Japan for its connection to the royal family and you will still find it on all Kikuichi Cutlery. The continued use of this symbol both preserves our family history and assures every customer that Kikuichi Cutlery upholds the highest standards of quality.
As Japan modernized in the 19th century, the demand for hand forged swords declined, due in part to the reduction of the samurai during the Meiji restoration in the 1860s, this led the Kanenaga family to found our modern company in 1868. For more than 150 years, Kikuichi Cutlery has been producing knives with the same commitment to quality and craftsmanship as our samurai swords. Our knives are not manufactured in a large factory, instead, our production method is similar to the old guild style of manufacturing common in Japan and Europe. In this production method, artisans specialize in a specific part of the production process to create a single knife. Bladesmiths, Sharpening masters, Handle makers, and Finishing experts all contribute to the production process. A minimum of 4 master craftsmen work on each knife before it is ready for our logo and the chrysanthemum symbol.
Today, Kikuichi Cutlery continues to add to their historic legacy. Kikuichi Cutlery has been operating within the same family for 4 generations. With the retirement of Yasuo Matsuoka in 2017 after more than 50 years at the head of the company, the reins of the company passed down to a new generation, our current President and CEO, Ikuyo Yanagisawa. Not only did Ms. Yanagisawa take the lead of one of Japan’s most storied cutlery companies, but she is the first woman in Japan to ever be in this role.