Home > Technique & Knowledge > Kunikei
Kunikei is one of my most recommened chisel. The quality is without doubt among the top, along with Tasai and many other top chisel makers, yet the price is much much cheaper. Some people misunderstand Kunikei that it is a cheaper brand compared to Tasai, judging from the price, but this is a big mistake.... The reason Kunikei price is much lower than other top chisel makers is, because he hasn't increased his price from 4 years back, while every other blacksmiths has increased twice due to the raise in price of coal and iron price.

The following is an interview with chisel maker Ikeda Yoshiro (born in 1941) the blacksmith behind the famous Kunikei brand, from "Uchibamono Shokunin" from Knife Magazine (see the book section for this book).

"I'm the fifth blacksmith of my family lineage." says Mr. Yoshiro Ikeda. His ancestor was a Samurai retainer of a famous shogun in the Edo period (1603-1868). Because of their unique family history they were named the Samurai Blacksmiths. You can feel his Samurai spirit when you meet him. He states his opinions without any hesitation and makes clear assertions. You can feel his strong heart.

But when you talk about his training days, it's a different story. ?As soon as I finished my meal, I went out to have fun,? he relates. There were times when after work he would go straight to the bar and come home in the morning. "Of course I wasn't paid much. So I would ask my father or grandfather to let me work overtime". He would do any kind of work possible for drinking money. "I would go out after work and go to work after going out. I didn't really care", he exclaims with a smile.

But his life changed drastically when his father and grandfather got sick and were hospitalized. There were still a lot of outstanding orders, and Mr. Ikeda?s competitive spirit rose to the occasion. He made everything by himself. "Before", he relates, "my father and my grandfather were doing all the forging and quenching. If you make any mistakes while forging, you had to do it all over again." He had never done these processes before. But with lot of unfilled orders, he had no choice but to do it by himself . "I repeatedly went to the hospital to show my work to my father so that he could check it. I guess my father trusted me", he says, as he looks back upon the past. "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't know what to do."

When his father was released from the hospital and returned to work, one or the other would take the total responsibility of a tool from beginning to the end. So now, tools made by both of them could be sold with the Kunikei name. That made him too busy to go out like before. At the time he was 25 years old, and it was the birth of a new Samurai blacksmith.

When he was in his thirties his father past away. So it was necessary to do all the work by himself. "Even though there were times when I had no time to go home, I never cheated on my work. If you get a order to make a tool for ten thousand yen each, you can't just make a tool that's worth a little bit more than ten thousand yen. You have to make a tool that is worth three times the price to make the customer happy."

"When someone asks me to make something that they need, I can never refuse". These kinds of orders make only low profits because of the low quantity. "But that doesn't matter. There are people waiting? he says. He is a modest man but from this comment you can feel his passion as a blacksmith.

He was 15 years old when his father became his master. "I choose it on my own", he relates, "In the old days even before daylight you would hear the sound of someone using a hammer from all over the place". Sanjo City used to be a place where every blacksmith would start the day by forging together with his family. He started to work in those days and kept on doing it, even though a lot of blacksmiths around him have closed their workshops.

"It has to be handmade, if you want a real chisel", he says. You can feel the samurai spirit from his words.

[Go back]