Otsuki-san also specialises in making farming tools such as sickles & spears for Gobo (Japanese burdock), lotus root, peeling wild nuts, and pruning stone fruit trees in winter.
Meet the Maker Q&A
Otsuki knife owner Takeshi-san and CIBI sit down for a chat
CIBI How long have you been crafting Japanese knives?
Takeshi-san It will be 54 years this year.
CIBI The tradition of Japanese knives is very rich, how is this tradition passed down from one generation to the next?
Takeshi-san In the past, there was an apprenticeship system where people would become apprentices to craftsmen and learn techniques while sharing clothing, food and housing. I didn't have a manual, so I looked, tried, failed, and honed my skills. Nowadays, people who want to become blacksmiths are rare, and the number is very small. I want to pass on this Japanese culture to future generations.
CIBI How did you acquire and develop your skills, and did you complete an apprenticeship or work alongside a mentor or master?
Takeshi-san I became an apprentice at the age of 23, and after 12 years of training, I became independent. My master was a strict man but blacksmithing suited my personality, so I never disliked it. It's fun and rewarding to make not only knives but also various products according to customers’ requests.
CIBI What is a typical day look like for you in the workshop/studio?
Takeshi-san In the morning, I perform a forging process called fire making. Put the iron in the fire and hit it with a hammer to adjust the shape and thickness. I often do sharpening work in the afternoon.
CIBI How long does it take to craft a single knife from beginning to end?
Takeshi-san In the case of kitchen knives, I make about 50 at a time and it takes about 5 days due to heat treatment.
CIBI What temperatures are required when forging metal to create a knife?
Takeshi-san 800-900 degrees Celsius.
CIBI Japanese knives are very popular outside of Japan, why do you think this is the case?
Takeshi-san After all, isn't it the best sharpness and longevity
CIBI What type of Japanese knife would you recommend for a home cook who has never owned one?
Takeshi-san I would recommend a Bunka Knife (Santoku Knife). It is an almighty kitchen knife that can process all kinds of ingredients such as meat, fish and vegetables with one knife.
Hand-made knives from Takahashi City, Okayama Prefecture, Japan