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Ikenami Hamono / Tanegashima Island

Master knifemaker Tabata san, relaxing at home.

The island of Tanegashima lies off the southern coast of Kagoshima Prefecture in far-western Japan. It's a big island with a unique culture and a fascinating history known to every Japanese. Guns, bread, pivot scissors, tobacco - all were introduced to Japan through Tanegashima.

Bladesmiths have been active on Tanegashima since the twelfth century. Yes, you read that right. It has one of the longest histories of steelmaking and bladecraft of any region in Japan. With the social upheavals at the end of the Edo era the island's revered swordmakers and ancient smithies evolved into a single guild of bladesmiths producing knives, scissors and shears, one of the most productive in all of Meiji era Japan.

Early in the twentieth century there were sixty island concerns producing forty per cent of the country's scissors (known as 'tanebasami') and believe us, if you can create by hand and eye two blades that work in perfect harmony, you can certainly make one.

The tradition continues. Tanegashima's knives are known nationally as 'Tane-bocho', the wonderful scissors are 'Tanebasami'. Local forging methods produce very hard steels with fantastic cutting feel and and lasting sharpness. Ikenami Hamono's range of knives includes high-grade professional knives, hunting knives, specialist fish knives for processors and easy-to-sharpen kuro-uchi (black-forged) knives for the home. They also produce a range of pro knives with blades of HAP40 tool steel clad in stainless. Incredible sharpness.