Japan Trip, July 2019, Day 3: from Toyama to Sanjo

Japan Trip, July 2019, Day 3: from Toyama to Sanjo

Posted by James Zhang on 31st Jul 2019

Annual Sukenari Visit

As a tradition, we visited the Sukenari factory next morning. From the first meeting, I make sure to visit Sukenari every year, just as Hanaki-san said: “Partners need to see each other often”.

Historically, Sukenari has been working for Aritsugu and Masamoto for generations, therefore one might think they are a very traditional maker, sticking to the “basics” like the white steel single bevels. Truth is, Sukenari is probably one of the most unconventional makers that I know.

They are always exploring new types of steel, and trying to maximize their full potential. Water quenching Aogami Super (Hitachi Blue Super) to HRC 67; and treating HAP40 to HRC 67 (which even surprised Hitachi technicians) are some of the examples.

(Back in 2016, when I first visited Sukenari, I won myself an Aogami Super Damascus Gyuto, water-quenched to HRC 67, you can read more about the experience here. )

This time around, it is the younger generation’s turn.

(Younger generations: Left, K&S Shanghai's service representative Tony Zhu receives a word or two from master Hanaki; right: a young craftsman now working at Sukenari.) 

I managed to get a glimpse of the upcoming SG2 Yanagiba. I can’t wait to get my hands on them, as there are many many customers asking for powdered stainless Yanagiba, yet it is basically non-existent (at least the affordable ones). 

(To be released Sukenari SG2 Yanagiba on the bottom left)

I took some footage for the visit and put together a short clip, hope you love it. 

(Sukenari factory tour, July 2019)


From Toyama to Sanjo

We left Toyama before noon for Sanjo.

The motorway from Toyama to Sanjo is the Hokuriku Expressway. It actually starts at Maibara, head north into Ishikawa, and finish at Niigata, so our entire road trip was entirely covered by the Hokuriku Express Way (link, Takefu). However, the fun part is arguably from Toyama to Sanjo. This is because as you are traversing through the Alps of Japan, as you will go through about 26 tunnels in a short section of the motorway, and 8 of these tunnels are longer than 2000 meters. Driving through this section feels like fast switching between the eternal night and day. Also, because the tunnels are not that well lit, going into the tunnel at a high speed sometimes brings out your fear, and subsequently adrenaline rush. You can visit this Wiki page for more info about the Hokuriku Express Way.

Once drive pass the tunnels, a vast Japan Sea opens in front of your eye and you are quite close to Sanjo. 

(Having a break at a motoway in Niigata, with the Sado island at the far horizon)


Yoshikane

Our first stop upon arriving Sanjo, is Yoshikane. Unfortunately that day was their maintenance day and the craftsmen there were fixing machines, doing general cleaning up, so we didn’t get to see any knife making. Yamaomoto-san did showed us around, and there was this gianormous deba sitting in one of the display cabinets. This is literally the largest deba that I have seen. I didn’t ask the size but by the look of it, it is edge is certainly longer than 30cm, and would probably require two people to operate. There are two of these deba in Sanjo, one is at the factory and one is at the Tsubame-Sanjo Regional Industries Promotion Center, I will have a post about this EXCITING place soon.


(The gianormous deba on display at Yoshikane, it is hard to get the idea about its true size but the following pic from their website is pretty obvious)

(Probably not the same Deba, but you get the idea)

(The KU damascus Sujihiki at Yoshikane)

So what next for Yoshikane? Are we getting the famous KU Damascus? Probably, but for now, however we have the K&S Amekiri by Yoshikane. It is now available from K&S Website.

Mazaki

We planned to visit Mazaki as well however he was on a planned holiday back to his hometown, so we missed him this time around. My next visit to Japan is October, will see if I can catch up with him.

That said, he did deliver us a new batch of knives before he left and apart from the Migaki line, among the knives there is also one super rare hon-sanmai Blue 2 Gyuto. Hon-sanmai here means the sanmai (3-layer, for double bevel knife) billet is cladded by the maker using traditional forge welding method rather than using a pre-cladded billet from the steel factory. These days, most makers are using pre-cladded billets in order to speed up the production and reduce the chance of failure, because forge welding the iron clad with the steel is a point of failure during the knife making process, as the welding could fail if not done properly resulting in a crack forming between the cladding and steel, sometimes even a total split. (Another point of failure is during the heat treading process). As a result, cladding a sanmai billing can inherently be trickier than just doing a nimai (2 layer; for single bevel knife) billet.

I have one of such hon-sanmai 240mm Gyuto available to my blog readers and it can be purchased here , it is not mentioned anywhere else, and is hidden on the K&S website here. Let’s see who is the lucky guy to grab it.