Higonokami Knife | A Traditional Japanese Folding Knife

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(Japanese) A piece of Traditional Japanese Knife History comes to Kickstarter from the only true makers of the Higonokami Knife!

Japankuru Funding

2021.4.1

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(Japanese) A piece of Traditional Japanese Knife History comes to Kickstarter from the only true makers of the Higonokami Knife!

Japankuru Funding

2021.4.1

 5 Generations Spanning 100 Years. 

One Traditional Knife - Higonokami Knife

A piece of traditional Japanese Knife History comes to Kickstarter! Now only produced by one company, Nagao Kanekoma Factory, the Higonokami Knife is a amazing piece of hardware that encompasses the Japanese ideal of WABISABI, and is in very limited stock!  Higonokami knives made by Nagao Kanekoma Factory are the one and only true Higonokami knife.

Miki City found in Harima (what now makes up the southwestern part of Hyogo Prefecture found in just west of Kyoto) and is known as a carpentry tool making town not only in Japan but also around the world. The Higonokami Knife and its manufacturing method has been passed down through five generations, and is unlike other tools. This folded knife was first created during the Meiji era (1868-1912), and its creation conforms to old traditional creation methods, forged and tempered one blow at a time. With this in mind, we have created a special model just for Kickstarter Users.




We have prepared 4 different types of the Higonokami Knife for this project! Every year our Higonokami knives are highly rated by the International Hardware Forum held in Germany, and has been written about in book JAPANISCHE SCHMIEDEKUNST by Rudolf Dick as well as being given a special 10 page feature in the French magazine PANORAMA.

As the Higonokami Knife has not changed design throughout the years, it is highly rated by foreign collectors, and seen as a rare piece of craftsmanship, with wait times of the knife going up to about a year!

So you may ask if the waiting time for production of the knife is a year, how can we do this project? This project came about after much deliberation from the producer of the Higonokami Knife, who at one point was thinking to decline. With the knife not being mass produced but being made one by one by Mr Nagao, it can be an extremely large part of his time. We finally were able to come to an agreement, and he told us that if he sets aside a period of time and doesn’t take holidays, he will be able to complete the knives within a few months.  The knives will be created under the stamped name of [Sadamitsusaku - 定光作] to give it an even more unique look. When broken down, the meaning of this kanji means true production of Mitsu, a link to the first kanji of Mitsuo Nagao the 5th generation owner of Nagao Kanekoma Factory!

This sets it apart from any of the other Higonokami knives that are available.  We are extremely grateful for his participation with this project!


The extremely hard to get “Extra Large Special Multi Layered Steel Knife” is only forged once a year

This special type of knife, which is highly sought after by foreigner collectors, is backed up by the beautiful hamon which is one of its main charms. As well as this, this version is extra large. This is only available for this Kickstarter Project!

The feeling when you pick up this weighted knife, the texture of the softer feeling iron and hard steel, the wider spine of the blade or mune,  all creates a feel of familiarity even for first time users. Opening the blade using the tail of the blade (chikiri) with your thumb gives you a sense of the power as the blade slides out revealing the beautiful knife.  This is truly a knife that will last a lifetime.

When it comes to Japanese art and manufacturing, the aspect of wabisabi is held dearly to many creators, which is in very simplified terms, finding beauty in the imperfect, and a want to remove the unnecessary, which with knives means taking away until there is nothing left to take away, creating a basic but beautiful knife.

Limited Edition Extra Large Higonokami Multi-layered Steel Knife in a specially made Paulownia Box

Each knife is created with a beautiful blade pattern or hamon that comes from overlapping various layers of steel. As they are done by hand, no one is the same. This type of hamon is only available to knives that are created in this way. The material used to create the blade is extremely expensive but what's more, the technique and skills that it takes to make such a blade are built over many many years, which is why the extra large size Higonokami Knives are expensive.

A look at how the hamon is visible on this special type of Higonokami Knife
A well worn, aged brass sheath featuring the Japanese Bamboo and Tiger imprint (XL Only)

What's more, a special sized Handy Sized variant of the Higonokami Knife will be available for this project! It is an amazing chance to get your own piece of traditional Japanese knife history, at an amazing price as well! 

The Handy Size Higonokami Knife, Only available on Kickstarter!

With this Kickstarter, you will receive a certification that the Higonokami knife that you receive is a truly certified Higonokami Knife, as well as the knife being stamped to mark that it is a true Mitsuo Nagao-made Knife. As it is pressed by hand, there may be differences in the characters.

Meiji Year 27(1894)

初代 | 永尾駒太郎 First Generation | Komataro Nagao

The Founding Father of Nagao Kanekoma. Started as Hirata Knife maker before then going on to create and manufacture Higonokami Knives.

二代目 | 永尾重次 Second Generation | Shigeharu Nagao

Took over the Higonokami production and had the Higonokami trademark registered.

三代目 | 永尾章 Third Generation | Akira Nagao

Carried on the legacy of his father.

四代目 | 永尾元佑 Fourth Generation | Motosuke Nagao

Took over during a turbulent time and carried on despite enormous trials finally becoming the one and only producer of Higonokami Knives.

五代目 | 永尾光雄(Fifth Generation)  | Mitsuo Nagao

Took over and dedicated his life to the re-expansion of the Higonokami Knife

Miki City A Background

My grandfather eventually became a part of this tradition, becoming a saw craftsman, creating saws in a traditional way unchanged from historical times. Saws are in particular an item that needs various people to participate in its creation. With that being said, the craftsmen are said to have honed various skills in order to deal with the different areas of crafting. These skills are mainly passed down through generations, and in turn these skills are cherished dearly, and are something that many people in the area respect.

The Start of Nagao Kanekoma Factory

In around 1887, Meiji 20, founder of Nagao Kanekoma, Komataro Nagao, started to create knives in Hirata, Miki City. In those times, all knives were made by hand, with the steel being joined to the iron and then forged to create a knife. The sheaths were made with brass and iron. On these sheaths, elaborate illustrations were carved, featuring people, horses, flowers, as well as scenery. On a normal day, one craftsman would be able to create 5-8 knives.

The Introduction of the Higonokami Knife

In 1894, a craftsman from the south of Japan, Tasaburo Shigematsu, brought about a new style of pocket knives, which he called the Higonokami Knife, due to many of his customers being from the Higo province, (now present day Kumamoto). This pocket knife was created by folding the knife into the sheath and using a small tail, the chikiri, to make it easier to open.

The knife was different to many other knives, being a v shape, which gives it the ability to be used on both sides. The blade shape also changed a little as well, becoming straighter.

The Golden Age of the Higonokami Knife and the problems that entailed

In 1899 the Higonokami Knife Union was formed, which had over 200 members from 40 different companies. However due to problems with imitation knives on the market, the Higonokami was trademarked, with members of the Miki Knife Manufacturers Association being the only people allowed to make the Higonokami Knife.

In 1911, it was featured at the First Kobe Export Exhibition, where the future Emperor Taisho would buy one, rocketing the popularity of the blade even more, meaning that even more imitation knives were created.

The crisis of its continuance (1955~)

The Higonokami Knife was a popular knife for everyday use as well as a children’s crafting tool. However this era saw the introduction of electric cutters and electric pencil sharpening machines, and with that the use of knives for crafting plummeted and sales crashed. The creators of Higonokami Knives took a large hit, and many were forced to close their doors. This was compounded with a ban on carrying knives by the government at the time, making demand fall even more.

From a vast amount of companies that had the rights to create the knife, Nagao Kanekoma Factory was left standing, being now the only producers of the Higonokami Knife.

Putting the hopes on the fourth and fifth generations

Even so, this single company took it upon themselves to protect this tiny industry, focusing on making quality goods using perfect skill. This was followed by the hard work of Mr Mitsuo Nagao, the fifth generation blacksmith at Nagao Kanekoma Factory, whom with their best efforts, started the process of revival, forgoing holidays and even putting personal funds into showing off the skill and beauty of their work at various exhibitions both at home and abroad.  The results of this was a special feature of over 10 pages in a famous French magazine, and a various amount of collectors the world over recognising the work that goes into creating the Higonokami Knife. This eventually led to a second boom.

A revival of the imitation knife problem(1980s to now)

We then saw the revival of an old problem, the rise of imitation goods. With other companies, including those that don’t focus on the creation of knives, following the boom that the Higonokami Knife saw, they started to produce close copies of the knife.

These companies disregarded the years and decades of dedication that the true creators of the Higonokami Knife had put in, the amount of hard work that the previous generations had done to bring about the revival of the knife and protected it from its near extinction. They forget to show the respect that this amazing company deserves in the aim for profits, forgetting the dedication of amazing skilled craftsmen.

Miki City is a birthing ground for creators and craftsmen to come together and produce amazing products. It’s a place where if craftsmen need help, there is an acceptance of these craftsmen, and the locals try to accommodate as much as possible. We wish for other companies to keep this in mind, to not hastily make shoddy imitations and to come to respect the generations of craftsmanship that has been put into creating the Higonokami Knife.

The Higonokami Knife is a long lasting piece of beautifully crafted hardware. We recommend users both adults and children, to practice sharpening pencils with the knife. The size of the knife is quite large. We have heard of customers in France using it to cut bread!

A comparison between the blade face of the two types of Higonokami Knives

The knives that are available are one of two. 

The Extra Large Multi-layered Steel Knife has a unique hamon, or wave like pattern on the blade. This is the more expensive of the two blades. 

The Aogamiwarikomi Higonokami Knife is made using a steel core encased in a softer iron casing.

Chrome/ Tungsten Steel Alloy

A high quality steel alloy containing chrome and tungsten, which is used to make various Japanese crafted goods such as carpentry tools and kitchen knives. It is a harder alloy compared to other types of steel produced.

A hard steel core wedged between softer iron

For the Large/Handy/Mini sized Higonokami Knives, hard but slightly brittle steel is strengthened with a outer casing of softer iron, making the blade easy to handle and durable. Due to the iron used, care must be taken to prevent rusting.

Unlike western knives that are predominantly fully steel

The advantage of the Higonokami Knife is that while western knives are mainly fully steel, we use different materials that helps to keep the edge sharper for longer as well as helping to combat cracking and splitting.

Double Sided Knife

As the knife is double sided, it can be used by both right handed and left handed.

A special Fastening Technique

Each Higonokami Knife is made one by one, meaning that the tightening of the fastener that keeps the knife in place varies slightly with each knife. If the knife is slightly harder to open, it can be done by using a hard surface to move the blade out by pushing the chikiri down or softly banging it.

The forging of the Higonokami Knife is done by a practiced smith, who has honed his skill over many years. Each one is created by hand, they have very minute differences in the chikiri tail as they are shaped by a hammer. This is done with the smither determining when and how hard to hit by looking at the colour of the metal after it has been heated. It is only possibly for skilled blacksmiths to do this.

Mitsuo Nagao, the fifth generation owner of the Nagao Kanekoma, has been doing this for decades, and graciously let us be guided through the process, showing off the work and dedication, as well as the black smithing passion that he holds for creating these knives. Please take a look at the video below to see the traditional work that started over 100 years ago that carries on even today.

 の動画サムネイル
音ありでリプレイ
音声ありで
再生

The years of dedication to his craft, means that Mr. Nagao can tell just by looking at the colour of the knife to determine when to work it.

 の動画サムネイル
音ありでリプレイ
音声ありで
再生

 の動画サムネイル
音ありでリプレイ
音声ありで
再生

A look at some of our promotion overseas:

Germany:

・Cologne International Hardware Exhibition

・JAPANISCHE SCHMIEDEKUNST By Rudolf Dick

France:

・PANORAMA Special edition

Taiwan:

・Taiwan Hardware Show

Cologne Messe Exhibition Centre

The Specifications of the Higonokami Knives

Each blade is hand made so there will be a small variance in the length. We therefore measure the length of the sheath or saya as the blade is made to fit comfortably in the sheath when folded.

Limited Edition Higonokami Knife Multi Layered Steel (Extra Large)

Length of the Sheath (Saya):120mm

Rough length of Blade: 90mm
  ②Limited Edition Higonokami Knife Aogamiwarikomi Version (Large)

Length of the Sheath (Saya):100mm

Rough length of Blade: 80mm

Limited Edition Higonokami Knife Aogamiwarikomi Version (Handy Size)

Length of the Sheath (Saya):75mm 

Rough length of Blade: 55mm

④Limited Edition Higonokami Knife Aogamiwarikomi Version (Mini Size)

Length of the Sheath (Saya):50mm

Rough length of Blade: 40mm

The mini size is only available as a set with the large Super Early Bird and Early Bird Returns.


March 2021: Project Launch

May 2021: Project finishes

July 2021: Knives are shipped

How we will use the funds

The funds of this project will mainly go into manufacturing costs for returns, as well as the delivery costs. But we also wish to allocate some of the funds into parent child classes to help foster the future generations of craftsmen.

 Project Creators

Project Creator  alphakogyo Co. ltd | Yukiko Moriyama

I was born in Miki City, Hyogo Prefecture in 1974 and now I have two wonderful children. My grandfather was a smither of craftsmen goods and had a large impact on my life. As well as this, I had the opportunity when I was younger to craft bamboo dragonflies with my father during a arts workshop with my father during the summer holidays in 1983. These two parts of my past have had a profound impact, and I have always wanted to promote Miki’s amazing culture of craftsmanship to the world, as well as help my daughters learn about the city that they are from. 

The Creators of the Higonokami Knife

Nagao Kanekoma Factory

While I may be the project creator for this campaign, it is down to the hard work at Nagao Kanekoma Factory that the Higonokami Knife can come to life. I have so much respect and gratitude to them to let me be a means to bring their work to light on the world stage. We are all surrounded by things that we use daily, but they are all created by amazing manufacturers. Without them, no matter how much money you have, you aren’t able to create these products without the people behind them. I am so grateful to them for letting me be a part of this project! 

Anvils that were used to forge now turned into commemorative monuments at the Miki City Hardware Museum.

 Points of Caution when using the Higonokami Knife

・The knife has been sharpened, so please take care when using.

・If you try to cut overly hard items with the knife, it may cause damage to the knife.

・Please keep out of reach from children.

・Please don’t use out of specified guidelines.

Upkeep of the blade

・Please clean after using, wiping with a cloth that has been moistened with rust preventative oils and keep in a low humidity environment.

Useful for emergency situations

・As the Higonokami Knife is easy to carry, we recommend having it for emergency situations. It can help you do a variety of things that might need a sharp object.

Other points

・If you have any questions regarding sharpening or upkeep, please don’t hesitate to ask. If you have any suggestions we would love to hear them.

・If you have any questions, please direct them to Alpha Kogyou, as while we are providing the Higonokami Knife from Nagao Kanekoma Factory, they do not have the ability to answer questions, and we will do so on their behalf.


This Project is promoted by Japankuru Funding, Bringing Japanese Products to the West!

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