Born in 1948, young Takeshi Saji started his apprenticeship in the art of knife making at the age of 14 with his uncle, then amongst the most revered knifesmiths in Japan. Their hometown of Takefu has been at the forefront of knife making for over 700 years – add the word Uchimono to the original name of Takefu – Echinzen - and it translates as ‘hammer forged knives’. It was the purity of the Iron steel; from nearby Yasuki, the clarity of the spring water and the highest grade of pine charcoal that secured Takefu a place amongst the 4 most important knife making centres in the world.
From the outset it was obvious that young Takeshi had a unique talent for creating outstanding knives. So great is his natural affinity to this art that at the age of 30 he was awarded the accolade of ‘Traditional Craftsman’ and at the extremely tender age (in knife making terms) of 38, the Ministry of Culture honoured him as a ‘Living Treasure’ of Japan – the youngest person to ever receive this high honour. Saji san from the beginning has always made recreational, sporting and hunting knives – amongst the most challenging blades to make and an area to which highly accomplished Nokaji are particularly attracted. The consumers of such blades are particularly demanding.
In 2006, on a visit to Takefu to meet 2 other knifesmiths we have been working with for several years, we had the fortune to also meet Saji san – who at the time was President of the Takefu Knife Village Association. On seeing his knives, their awesome rustic beauty and level of performance – we were determined to convince him to make some kitchen knives for us, which at the time he was too busy to consider. 2 ½ years of constant persistence paid off and in late 2008 he agreed to produce a very small but complete collection of kitchen knives over 2 ranges – one with Aogami Blue Steel (129 Layers) and Stag Horn handles, the other with VG10 (49 Layer) with Bubinga (Malaysian Teak) Wood handles.
As can be seen, these knives are definitely inspired by their ‘hunting knife’ heritage as well embodying the needs of busy chefs and dedicated home cooks. In our opinion these knives represent not only amongst the finest tools but also stunningly beautiful examples in the art of hand forging.
The Saji Craft collection comprises 130mm Paring & utility, 150mm Utility/boning knife, poultry, fish and game, 180mm Gyuto Chef, 175mm Santoku Chef and a 210mm Gyuto Chef.