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Katsuhide Kajiya / Kochi

Yu Kikuchi, Katsuhide Kajiya
Yu Kikuchi, Katsuhide Kajiya, Kochi Prefecture

At the end of a Great Big Story from 2018 featuring Kikuchi Yu, the final subtitle reads < upbeat music >.

That just fits so well. Kikuchi san is an infectious personality and seeing what he's achieved, it's hard not to feel more than a little upbeat yourself.

We first encountered Kikuchi san's journey in a full-length NHK documentary that followed his initial induction into the art of blade-craft under master blacksmith Matsumura Kosaku, and how he and his wife and partner Miki san adapted to their new and unfamiliar lifestyle in rural Kochi prefecture. It was a fascinating insight, although Kikuchi san's training was presented as rather strict and serious. (The story ended with Kikuchi san selling his first knife. It was quite emotional.)

In contrast to that vision of arduous training under an unforgiving master, our recent visit was warm and welcoming and full of good humor. Tokawa is a lovely place! Master Matsumura is a wonderful character, and Kikuchi san is carrying the torch with serious commitment, enthusiasm and a smile, in a very handsomely built riverside workshop.

Katsuhide Kajiya specializes in forging traditional nata, the hatchet-like bushcraft blade that combines sharpness, heft and rugged durability. A very purposeful tool for cutting woody plants such as saplings and small branches, for hedging and for snedding (thanks wikipedia for that word).

Hunting is another family pursuit and Kikuchi san brings first-hand understanding to his carefully hand-crafted outdoor knives.