Many knife enthusiasts dream of working alongside a master craftsman to make their own knife. And Japanese craftsmen and the knives they produce have a particularly high reputation. But a few years ago, it was difficult for foreign visitor to visit a forge, meet the swordsmiths, and craft a knife in Japan. Now though, some workshops have opened their door to tourists motivated to learn about this art.

So in this guide, I’ll show you how you can make your own knife in Japan, and give insights into the different knife making classes and courses in Japan.

You might also like: 67 Unique Cultural and Traditional Things To Do in Japan where I introduce the best Japan has to offer.

Why are Japanese Knives so Popular?

In a sense, Japanese knives are the iPhone of the knife industry. Great quality, slick aesthetic, and also a status symbol.

First of all, Japanese knives are exceptionally sharp, durable, and lightweight. Made from high-quality steel, they hold their edge longer and allow for precise, clean cuts. Chefs appreciate their design too: thinner, sharper, and the handles are often wooden and lighter, giving better balance.

But they’re also popular because their craftsmanship is rooted in centuries of sword-making tradition. And knife enthusiasts appreciate and have a deep respect for this craftsmanship, making the knife all the more valuable. Over time, Japanese knives have become a symbol of great quality.

Choosing a Knife Making Class

When choosing a knife-making workshop in Japan, consider factors beyond just the location. Budget, class size, language support, and the workshop’s atmosphere play crucial roles in shaping your experience. Whether it’s a private session with a master blacksmith, a budget-friendly group class, or a workshop offering English support, each aspect contributes to making your knife-making journey unique and memorable.

Where to Find Knife Making Courses in Japan

Below is my selection of classes where you can make your own knife in Japan, that you can book online. I selected 4 different workshops at different price ranges to satisfy all budgets:

Workshop NameLocationPriceThings to knowReservation Link
Kikyo HayamitsuHyogo¥19,950/person– Certified Swordsmith
– The master might not speak English, but use an English translation device
– Duration: 3 hours
Klook
Wada ShotenSakai, Osaka¥29,000 / person– Sakai has been a city known for its knife-making for six centuries
– Create the whole knife from a pre-forged blade
– Personal interpreter
– Private class
(only your group)
– Duration: 2 hours
Wabunka
Asano KajiyaGifu– Between ¥42,000 and ¥58,000/person depending on group size
– ¥5,000 for non-participating companions
– Certified Swordsmith
– Includes pick-up and drop-off at the nearest station
– Includes lunch
– Duration: 7 hours
Rakuten Travel Experiences
Masahiro TantojoKameoka, Kyoto– ¥162,000 for a group of three people or less (from ¥54,000/person)
– ¥216,000 for a 4-people group (¥54,000/person)
– Certified Swordsmith
– Personal interpreter
– Private class (only your group)
– Duration: 4 hours
Wabunka

If you’re reading this blog, you know I particularly affectionate Wabunka as I constantly recommend them. I’ve been working in the Japanese travel industry for over six years and they offer by far the best experiences I’ve ever seen. Each experience is private, meaning only your group will be there. You will be accompanied by a guide-interpreter, allowing you to connect with the artisans (and Wabunka only works with the best artisans in Japan) on a much deeper level than any other experience available on the market.

And if knife-making classes are too pricey but you’re looking for a hands-on experience in Japan, check out chopstick-making classes where you can make your own personalized chopsticks. They also offer immersive journeys into Japanese traditional craftsmanship at a more affordable price.

What to Expect During the Knife-Making Course

Hands of a man in a black t-shirt sharpening a Japanese knife on a sharpening stone
Photo by Lucas Law

When you step into a Japanese knife-making workshop, you’re not just entering a creative space but a realm where tradition meets artistry. Here’s what you typically can expect during your knife-making experience:

  1. Introduction and Safety Briefing:
    • The session usually starts with an introduction to the history and significance of Japanese knife making.
    • Safety is paramount. You’ll receive instructions on how to handle tools and equipment safely, especially important due to the presence of hot forges and sharp materials.
  2. Demonstration by the Master:
    • Watch a demonstration by a skilled blacksmith, showcasing the techniques you’ll be using. This could include metal heating, hammering, shaping, and cooling.
  3. Hands-On Experience:
    • You’ll get hands-on experience under the guidance of the master. This could involve heating the steel, hammering it to shape the blade, and sharpening the edge.
    • The process is meticulous and requires patience, but it’s incredibly rewarding as you see your knife take shape.
  4. Finishing Touches:
    • Once the blade is formed, you’ll work on refining and sharpening the edge.
    • You might also have the opportunity to customize the handle, adding a personal touch to your creation.
  5. Cooling and Polishing:
    • The final stage involves cooling the knife and polishing it to a fine finish, revealing the beauty of your handcrafted blade.
  6. Reflection and Learning:
    • Workshops often conclude with a session reflecting on what you’ve learned and how it ties into Japanese culture.

Preparing for Your Knife Making Class

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience, here’s how you can prepare for your knife-making class:

  1. Clothing:
    • Wear long-sleeved outfits and long pants made of cotton to protect yourself from sparks and heat. Clothes and shoes should be comfortable and something you don’t mind getting dirty.
  2. Safety Gear:
    • While the workshop will provide essential safety gear like gloves and eye protection, it’s good to be prepared with your own if you have specific requirements.
  3. Hydration and Snacks:
    • These sessions can be lengthy and physically demanding, so bring water and some light snacks, especially for longer workshops.
  4. Mental Preparation:
    • Knife making is a process that requires patience and attention to detail. Be prepared to focus and immerse yourself in the experience.
  5. Questions and Curiosity:
    • Have questions ready for your instructor. Engaging with the master blacksmith can enrich your experience and understanding of this art form.

Final Words

Making your own knife in Japan offers a unique glimpse into an art form that is as enduring as the blades it produces. So, prepare to roll up your sleeves, learn from the master swordsmiths, and take home not just a knife, but a piece of Japanese history!

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