Development of Western Style Knives
Earliest examples of contemporary Japanese swords date back to the 14th century and were crafted by Kaneuji and Kinju. All craftsmen who stem from Kaneuji and Kinju are called Mino Smiths, based in Seki-city. Although, katana swords were originally intended for nobility or military heads, during the Muromachi (1392-1573) period katana swords began to be mass produced for trade and war.
In the beginning of the 14th century, Japan opened their trade ports to the Ming Dynasty (China) after being completely isolated for thousands of years. It is reported that more than one hundred thousand katana swords were exported to China during the Muromachi period. The freedom to interact with other countries brought new business opportunities that influenced the development of Japan's market and made way for new social classes.
The victors of the Onin war overthrew the Muromachi Shogunates, which led to military leaders declaring themselves as feudal warlords of different regions and vying for for power. This state of Darwinism on a human scale marked the beginning of a century of civil strife, known as the Sengoku Jidai (Warring period 1467-1568).
During the Sengoku period, Mino smiths in Seki were faced with an incredibly high demand for katana from different regimes. Regardless of the availability of firearms, only few utilized them due to the samurai code of conduct (bushido). Bushido dictates that fighting opponents face to face with a katana is the only honorable way to fight, therefore it was considered cowardly to kill from a distance. To meet these demands, the art of sword crafting became a production line of massed produced blades.
Although the mass produced blades had little artistic value, they were practical and met the needs of power hungry military heads.The mass production of katana swords represents the change and turmoil manifesting in Japan during the Muromachi and Sengoku period. Although nowadays, sword crafting is limited by the government to a few pieces a year, Seki’s historical background has made the city into the center of Western style knife production. Craftsmen in Seki continue to polish strategies that have been passed down for hundreds of years and develop new advancements for kitchens worldwide.