Carter Cutlery "Shiro" brand knives by Kenichi Shiraki
I was introduced to Kenichi Shiraki in 1993 by a vendor who traveled all over Japan selling steel. I was just an apprentice smith at that time and hungry to learn all I could about Japanese traditional cutlery. I asked the vendor candidly who he thought was the very finest bladesmith in the country. He told me about Mr. Shiraki, but I was disheartened to discover that he lived and worked so far away from where I was living in Japan at that time. I was down south in Kumamoto and he was up in Osaka, the industrial capitol of the nation.
Feeling compelled to meet this living legend, I hopped on my motorcycle at the time, a Honda CRM 250 and burned rubber up to Osaka. The next day I was guided to Mr. Shiraki's shop by the steel vendor's friend. Entering into his shop I beheld a small man in a traditional bladesmith work-pit deftly pulling bright orange steel from the fire and welding it masterfully under the power-hammer. And what precision and blinding speed! In ten minutes he forged as many blades as most smiths make in half-a-day! We were introduced and my admiration for this man grew and grew.
Although we held no formal arrangement, I wound up paying Mr. Shiraki a visit about once every year, where he would teach me as much as I could retain during my week-long visits. In 1999, Japan's national TV network, NHK, appraoched me to star in a one hour long documentary called "The Blue-Eyed Bladesmith". Much of the filming was done with me and Mr. Shiraki in his shop, and even several (somewhat embarrassing) scenes at his house. I made some fine blades under his expert supervision which passed close examination of Japan's IronChef Michiba Rokusaburo.
Although I have made close to one hundred kata-ha blades in Shiraki's style, I have realized that it takes thousands to master what is the uncontested world's most complex blade to make properly. Compared to my hundred blades, Mr. Shiraki has made more than 700,000 kata-ha blades. (50 years X 60 blades/day. In his prime he could forge over 250 blades per day, so this estimate is very conservative). Kenichi Shiraki has made every possible shape, form and size in this style of blade-forging. To date, he is the only bladesmith in Japan that can successfully complete any quantity of Hitachi White Steel #1 Honyaki blades at will. There is no more difficult blade in the world metallurgicaly.
Besides his intimate knowledge of steel, proper forging temperatures and uncanny sense of timing, Mr. Shiraki ensures the greatest potential in the steel by heat-treating every blade in finely cut pine charcoal. Once the blades are forge-welded, forged, annealed, cold forged and heat-treated, they are sent to professional sharpener's for grinding and polishing.
I am proud to offer my loyal customers kata-ha blades from Japan's finest kata-ha bladesmith Mr Kenichi Shiraki. Carter Cutlery named this brand "Shiro", which is the Kanji character chiseled into the blade. We chose "Shiro" for many reasons; it means "White" which is Murray and Mr. Shiraki's steel of choice, it is the symbol for purity, implies simple elegance and is also the first kanji character of Mr. Shiraki's name!
As an expert in my own field of neck knives and three-layer laminate kitchen knives, I can assure you that you will not find better kata-ha Japanese knives anywhere, at any price!