Takahashi Kajiya Seihin / Shimane
Takahashi Kajiya (Takahashi Smithy) is nestled in the crook of a river in Shimane Prefecture, 20 kilometres or so from central Izumo City. Steep mountainsides surround the old kominka home and adjacent workshop, red-tipped snow-poles line the roads.
A visit is like stepping back to a time where country living meant total self-sufficiency. The Takahashi family grow much of their own food - vegetables, fruit, chestnuts, rice - that they preserve and store ready for the harsh local winter. There's a good deal of processing involved but they're never short of a good knife. They are self-sufficient in that respect, too.
In his work knifemaker and artisan Takahashi san is a traditionalist in the deepest sense. His blades are shaped with the hammer in his hand and the energy expended in crafting them is his alone. There is no mechanical assistance in his workshop. None at all. It's for this reason that Takahashi blades are in the collection of the Nippon Mengeikan, the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo, an institution dedicated to the ways of pre-industrial Japan.
Mr Takahashi's knives reflect a hand-crafted aesthetic still widely appreciated here. Few if any of his blades are free of the 'imperfections' of a completely hand-made item.
But they are strong. Users looking for a kitchen knife that can be worked through pumpkin and pineapple call from around Japan, seeking the combination of old-style sharpness and a tough edge that these knives offer.