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Kaniman Kaji Koubou, Island’s Blacksmith Who Revives Scrapped Iron
post : 2017.06.03 18:00
“Everybody used to hide knives in their pockets.”
A man who reminds me of a character of River Phoenix from a movie “Stand by Me” said quietly.
Right after the ground battle of Okinawa, for the most people, living was eating, and living was to make something. They used to pick up some useful things in the town or open fields. Later, they made these things into living tools including toys and musical instruments, and spent everyday lives. Teijun China spent his childhood like that.
“Many junior high school students had army knives, so I was very jealous of them.”
China likes knives very much since his childhood. While he was working at the local museum for decades, he saw knives of in and out of Okinawa, and visited blacksmiths.
“You see, here, the tip of this knife is sharp and forming a big curve. This is good for cutting fish, chicken, or pork. When you use this curvy part as a lever, you can push and cut the hard routes. This flat part is for cutting board.”
Irons were valuables especially in Okinawa back in the old days, so one knife had multirole then. Later, it fragmented into knives for sashimi, meat, and leaves.
When it comes into his own hands, he can change spring material of automobile, claw of tractor, and blade of sugarcane harvester into any types of knives. There are many kinds of irons, and each of them has different nature. The best thing about his job is to transform irons into knives by figuring out the nature of each iron.
For example, strong spring material is for billhook, and claw of tractor is perfect for edged tool to get rid of weeds because it hardly wears down.
One of the tips to figure out the nature of each iron is the color of spark. It’s been 8 years since China became a blacksmith, and he is able to figure it out at some level after taking the statistic on his own.
Currently, knives that are made of press are the mainstream, and handmade knives are rare.
“These might not look good, but they can cut cleanly.”
Just like making the sticky rice cake after steaming sticky rice and pounding it with a beetle many times, he can make knives that are sticky, strong, and able to cut clearly. The traditional handwork is fading out since it takes time and effort. However, it has a great value to survive for many years.
“This knurled handle is for non-slip, and it is an Okinawan-original shape. It actually has a good reputation among elderlies who have weak grip and people who have poor eyesight because they can use it easily.”
Traditional wisdom for everyday life of Okinawa can be applied to universal design in modern life. China told me confidently and framed his mouth into a smile.
Not only edges, but also handles are handmade. It would be good to find your one and only knife in this world.
*You can purchase knives of Kaniman Kaji Koubou at Matsuda Hanbaiten or Mirai Ginoza near China’s factory.
*Local trees that are used to make handles of knives. Ryukyu Island pine has lots of grease and able to withstand repeated water exposure. Yanabu tree is also used to make canoe since it grows in the coastline. Flowers of Adeku tree look like white sparkler, and they decorate the mountain in Yanbaru area.