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Yoshimitsu Hamono / Nagasaki

Yoshimitsu Hamono, Nagasaki Prefecture
Yoshida san, enjoying his work

Yup, it's a small world. Things get really small though when you discover the head of the knife makers' association honeymooned in your home town and your home town is over 5000 miles away.

But that's not why we're here. Of greater interest is that Shimabara city's Yoshimitsu Hamono has been around since about 1650, and that the present generation - tenth in the current location - produces kitchen knives of stellar quality and sharpness. And beauty. With forging techniques rooted in family skills involving the creation of national-treasure-level blades.

These days locally produced tamahagane has been largely superseded by YSS Aogami Super premium cutlery steel. The clip-clop of passing geta has long since given way to the steady swish and hum of Shimabara city's modern main thoroughfare. Reflecting changing times, the number of kajiya in Shimabara has fallen from fifty in the Edo era to its present eight. 

What remains true to the past is the shokunin-no-waza, that spirit of fine craftmanship that is passed down through generations. Yoshimitsu Hamono company president Yoshida Shouji's father and four uncles lived it into active old age with the family business and duly passed it on.

Now Yoshida san himself oversees this thriving company, steeped in tradition, representing that very same spirit in a highly competitive and ever-smaller world.