With so much information to give you we'll try our best to keep it to the point! First and foremost, my recent trip to Japan was a resounding success. The following is a brief report:
I set out for Japan on July 4th. I flew via Los Angeles, but concluded after this trip that even though more expensive, direct flights from Portland would be the preferred way to fly in the future. The connection and wasted time add too much burden to the international traveller.
The day after I arrived in Tokyo, my family and relatives set out for a famous tourist destination by train; Hakone Hot Springs. Besides soaking in the hot baths three times in less than twelve hours, there are many other things to do in Hakone such as ride a cable car to the top of a live volcanic mountain, visit several different modern art museums and taste regional cuisine. Returning to Tokyo we got the front row seats on the "Romance Car" train and watched Japan roll by through large windows in the front of the train. It was an unusual and awesome experience.
From Nagano I drove my rental car to Sanjo City in Niigata Prefecture. Sanjo is a major center for steel tools as well as metal smithing of all kinds, also including several famous bladesmiths. There I visited with Mr. Hinoura, a famous Japanese Nata bladesmith and was treated to dinner at one of Sanjo's finest traditional restaurants. The ladies in their kimonos were simply charming and the food exquisite. I promised to bring the tour group back again to that restaurant in October.
In Sanjo I also visited the local crafts museum which has a wonderful static display of the local products and a fantastic video presentation in English which, among other things, features Mr. Hinoura's work. From there I visited Sanjo Kaji Dojo, or Sanjo Smithing School, which has eight forges for students and visitors to try their hand at forging traditional Japanese nails. This will also be a destination for the tour group in October. Hand sharpening with stones is another class they teach there.
From Sanjo I drove to Takefu City in Fukui Prefecture. This was the longest leg of my journey at about 400 kms long. In Takefu I visited a long-time friend Takeshi Saji, who is one of Japan's most prolific Japanese style knife maker. He and his five employees produce about 8000 knives a year. I had a lovely dinner with Mr. Saji and plan to head back to the same restaurant in October to sample the delicious Daikon radish salad they served there.
The next day I visited the Takefu Knife Village. It is a cool combination of live bladesmithing with museum and shop/gallery. From the gallery visitors can walk on a cat walk overseeing the bladesmiths below at work; forging, heat-treating, grinding and finished the blades. Mr. Saji had phoned ahead of my arrival and I was met with VIP status. When taken out to the shop floor to meet the bladesmiths, Mr. Katoh, a 72 year old veteran, allowed me to forge a kitchen knife in his forge. Once he saw my proficiency (I do this all the time, right!) he insisted I finish the remaining five blades so that he could go take a break! Naturally, all the Japanese people in the vicinity had to come watch the gaijin forge blades, and much to their chagrin, there was no room for constructive criticism! I'm just lucky it was something that I am very used to doing and wasn't a task outside of my expertise. Anyway, the conversation that ensued over a coffee break was invigorating, and the staff at Takefu Knife Village is excited for me and the tour group to visit again in October.
After the Knife Village, I visited Takefu Specialty Steel Company, where they specialize in laminating metals. This company has been operating for 60 years. I had a wonderful meeting with the family members who now run the business as well as one of the steel technicians who has worked there for nearly 45 years, and then got a special tour of the factory. The huge billets of layered steel coming freshly out of the roaring hot furnaces, to be forced through giant rollers in the laminating process was a sight to behold. From many feet away you could feel the heat radiating from the red-hot steel. I was like a kid in a candy shop and although I have never used any of their steel, we talked about that possibility and also of potential partnerships in the future. That evening was punctuated by another meal of delicacies, a treat of the company boss. He insisted I bring the group again in October, not only for the factory tour, but for dinner as well!
The rest of the trip was full of visits with old friends and acquaintances where I was able to solidify relations and express my gratitude and appreciation for their friendship.
It was a marvelous trip, despite the heat and super high humidity, and I greatly look forward to guiding my tour guests in October when the weather will be better to most of the places I visited on this trip.
Japan Tour 2013
This year Murray and four guests will travel around Japan learning the intricacies of local cutlery production, and for any North American/European knife enthusiast, this is a rare glimpse into the heart of the Japanese knife industry that is sure to be the trip of a lifetime!
If you'd like to attend next year's Tour of Japan, October 2014, contact Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss travel arrangements. Seating is limited to four (4) persons. A reservation deposit of $1500 is requested.
Upon Murray's return back the shop has been incredibly busy finishing production on various models. We have numerous High Grade, Stainless Fukugozai Riveted Handle, International Pro Kitchen Knives and Neck Knives that will be completed intermittently over the period of August, so be sure to subscribe to our New Product alerts to be notified once they're available.
Speaking of new designs, have you purchased your copy of Murray's second book, 101 Knife Designs? Purchase it directly from Carter Cutlery and have it personally signed by the author!
In keeping with what you've come to expect from Carter Cutlery, we raised the bar once more by attempting something never filmed before:
Thank you once again for a wonderful month, we're honored to be able to serve you and your cutlery needs.
Murray Carter & the Carter Cutlery Staff
ABS Master Bladesmith
We will give a free hand-forged kitchen knife and complete media package, a value of over $400, to any lucky person who registers for the 2014 Japan Trip in the next seven days. Call 503-466-1331 or email Murray at email@example.com
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