Discovering Japanese Quality Scissors and Knives Tour
On 19th April 2021, we visited the Sasuke workshop, owned by Yasuhiro Hirakawa, a small family blacksmith’s forge located in Sakai City in southern Osaka. His garden scissors and kitchen knives are known all over the world.
The Sasuke family business has been around for 150 years and it is the only officially recognized forge of traditional scissors in Japan.
The blacksmith master, Yasuhiro Hirakawa-san, his wife Tomiko-san, son Satoki-san and daughter Keiko-san run the small family business, maintaining the tradition of scissors and knives production.
During our visit to the Sasuke workshop, we learned that original Japanese knives are generally thinner, lighter and sharper than European knives. They are made of high-quality steel, following a centuries-old tradition of forging blades that is unmatched anywhere in the world. There is no doubt that Japanese kitchen knives are the best in the world.
Japanese scissors are generally lighter and also have a thinner blade compared to their European counterparts, so working with them does not require a lot of force.
All of Sasuke’s scissors and knives are entirely handcrafted using traditional methods by Master Hirakawa. The Japanese tradition of forging steel, initially for the production of swords, and later knives, dates back nearly 800 years, during which this art was mastered almost to perfection. Sasuke knives uses the unique method called awase bōchō -combining two different strengths of the iron materials – softer steel and hard iron for making sharp but durable cutting tools.
When it comes to mass production, the blades are first forged (raw metal pressed into a mold or die) to mass produce blade blanks, and then passed through a special hardening and annealing or tempering furnace. In some factories, the blades are also ground and sharpened automatically by a machine. At Sasuke’s forge, every knife and pair of scissors are ground using more traditional hand methods.
In Europe or the USA, softer steel is used for production, which was mainly due to the lack of availability of harder materials. Some of the best steels for making knives come from Japan. You might recall that the country was isolated from the rest of the world until the 19th century. Western knives made of softer steel, unfortunately, will never compete with the sharpness of Japanese knives.
Another point is the greater variety of Japanese knives. You can choose from more models of general knives, knives with specialized blades or traditional sashimi (raw fish) knives with a one-sided cut.
The basic tool of every bonsai lover is of course a pair Japanese scissors for cutting the roots, shoots and small twigs. Thanks to their design, Sasuke scissors allow very precise cuts.
It was surprising for us to learn that crafting a pair of scissors may take up to several weeks. But it does make sense. To produce a pair of scissors, you need to make two blades, not one. And these two blades need to be balanced for a perfect cut (properly shaped, with a slight curvature, so that the wedges come together perfectly when cutting).
The features that distinguish the shears and knives produced in Sasuke’s workshop are:
- Razor sharp
- Always a clean and accurate cut
- Extremely simple design for optimal ease of use
- Ultra light and very durable at the same time
Sasuke garden scissors come in handy when practicing the art of ikebana – for cutting flowers and herbs, or for gentle trimming of hedges. The tool is made of forged carbon steel and has traditional rounded handles, allowing for precise work in the garden and at home.
They are perfect for very precise shaping and care of bonsai and other plants in a Japanese garden. They fit perfectly in the hand. The blades of the scissors are very hard and forged from the highest quality Japanese steel.
The distinguishing feature of Sasuke’s tools are the decorations that Mr. Hirakawa marks his works with, mainly gold and silver motifs, just like how the old guns used to be decorated in the past.
Such an intricate metal inlay adds quality and attractiveness to an extremely practical, and at the same time, beautifully made instrument.
A good kitchen knife is an essential tool for a chef, and a good pair of scissors is a must have for a gardener . The Sasuke blades stay sharp for a long time and always provide an accurate, clean cut with minimal effort.
Although the production process is becoming more and more mechanized, the Japanese remain true to their traditions and beliefs.
Discover the fascinating world of Mr.Yasuhiro Hirakawa, the last Master Scissor Craftsman in Japan by watching our online tour.
Watch the past Tour
About 20 minutes from Nankai Nanba station to Asakayama station
10:00-19:00 (closed on Thursdays)
|Admission Fee||Free (need booking before visiting.)|
|Location and Contact No.|
3－4－20, Kitashimizu-cho, Sakai-shi, Sakai-ku, Osaka Prefecture
+81 072 – 233 – 6812
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