While this is the third time I am visiting Japan this year, it is actually the first time I am here for work. In January I was here for a short ski trip in Hokkaido and the second time in April, it was a one-day transit after the Hotelex trade show in Shanghai.
For me, it is a tradition to visit the suppliers and makers every now and then in order to discuss the products; provide feedbacks I received from customers and talk about the future plans / orders. Basically, it is a trip to touch base, and associate with my Japanese friends.
Some say you can just do that over the phone / email. My answer is that while I could technically do everything via phone and email, yet nothing beats discussing the details face to face, particularly if it is about a very small detail such as tweaking a profile or stressing the importance of thinning, for example.
Some will ask “what are you bringing back to Sydney?”. Well I don’t bring anything in luggage back to Sydney with me, at least not anymore. This is because once I brought 4 knives to Japan to explain the problems, and along the way I brought back another 3 news knives. The Aussie customs gave me a hard time upon landing, for taking total of 7 knives into Australia, since I couldn’t prove that I took 4 with me from Sydney at the first place, oh well.
My “tour of Japan” usually start in Osaka. My very first Japanese city that I visited years ago is Osaka and I have been to Osaka countless of times since I became a professional knife vendor. I like to start from Osaka is because my business partner is based in Osaka, and we always travel together in Japan. However, the main reason is, of course, Sakai Takayuki.
Sakai Takayuki is a close ally of Knives and Stones, we often work together to come up with unique products that suits the taste of knife enthusiasts and professional chefs. From the Syousin Sakura to the “James Honyaki”, Takayuki always give me 100% support, and I remain a close friend with Toshikazu Aoki san, so a dinner in Osaka is a must :)
(Me, my business partner Kyo and Aoki-san having a beautiful dinner at Sushi Ayase)
(The juicy Otoro sashimi at Sushi Ayase)
From Osaka I usually drive to Echizen (Takefu Knife Village and Ryusen), followed by a stopover in Toyama to visit Hanaki-san of Sukenari, and later to Sanjo to meet with the masters there, like Hinoura-san. We will than make our way to Tokyo to meet with Hirano-san of Masamoto Sohonten, before finally jetting back to Sydney.
For a knife enthusiast, the one place that you have to visit is the Doguyasuji (Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shotengai, 千日前道具屋筋商店街/insert link/). It is conveniently located in Namba, and can be accessed by multiple railway stations: Namba station (Subway Midosuji line), Nakai Namba (Nankai line) and Nipponbashi station (Subway Sakaisuji line).
Doguyasuji is the equivalent of Kappabashi kitchenware town in Tokyo, albeit in a smaller and more intimate scale. In here you can find all sorts of kitchen related things. There are professional clothings shops, decoration shops, ceramic / glassware, urushi (lacquer) products, bakery items, cookware supplier, commercial kitchen hardware supplier (signs, dockets, furniture), and of course, lots of knives shops.
(The entrace of Doguyasuji, Osaka)
（Ceramic shop at the Doguyasuji, Osaka)
(Cute chopsitkcs rest, 320yen each)
(Decoration supplier, with lots of cool lanterns)
Historically the Doguyasuiji is targeting the pro kitchens and you may find the knives here more towards the professional side apart from Ichimonjichuki (一文字光秀) and Yamashita Co. (山下金物). Yet I bet you would LOVE to visit here just for the vast selection of all kitchen related items and the super cute Japanese ceramic tableware. Given the easy access to shopping district, there is no reason not to visit the Doguyasuji if you are in town. And why would you shop anywhere else when you can buy from Knives and Stones ;p
I am not visiting Sakai this time because I didn’t realize that today (15/July) is a public holiday (Day of the Ocean) when I planned the trip, so it will be a topic for next time around. Tomorrow will be a busy day since we will travel from Osakai to Echizen first, followed by driving to Toyama. It will be a few hundred kilometers of drive, so ciao for now.