NEW! 5 Exclusive Japanese Knife Experiences With Traditional Artisans

Experiences

2  comments

Rob Dyer promo The Real Japan

I hope you enjoy reading this guide.
If you need help planning your Japan trip
click here.

Discover the art of crafting Japanese knives with these 5 rare and exclusive hands-on Japanese knife experiences with traditional artisans.

From crafting a kitchen knife in Tokyo, to forging a samurai knife in Nagoya, to making your own culinary knife in Osaka, crafting unique blades in Kyoto, these small-group workshops offer unique opportunities to learn from master artisans. 

Immerse yourself in centuries-old techniques, from hammering red-hot steel to polishing with natural whetstones. Create personalised knives engraved with your name, and take home a piece of Japan's rich culinary heritage.

Get my free Japan Travel Bulletin:


Quick Navigation


Exclusive Japanese Knife Experiences The Real Japan

5 Exclusive Japanese Knife Experiences With Traditional Artisans
by Rob Dyer



Knives in Japanese culture

Knives hold a revered place in Japanese culture, embodying a legacy that spans centuries. From the legendary katana swords of samurai to the precise culinary blades of master chefs, Japanese knives represent the pinnacle of craftsmanship and functionality. 

These exquisitely-crafted tools are not just instruments but works of art.

They reflect the harmonious blend of tradition and innovation that defines Japanese society. The creation of a Japanese knife is a sacred process, involving specialised artisans who dedicate their lives to perfecting their craft. 

This cultural significance extends beyond utility, with knives often passed down as heirlooms or given as meaningful gifts, symbolising trust, respect, and the transfer of knowledge between generations.


Practical advice for the experiences in this list

By their very nature, each of these activities requires access to specialist equipment such as forges, so none of these take place in city centres. Bear this in mind when making your choice and including these in your travel plans. I've included a location map for each one so you can see exactly where each is located.

In most cases you'll be entering into an artisan's working environment, so dress appropriately. Some, like those using forges, will advise wearing attire that can get dirty, as sparks and ashes may fly. Dress in clothing that covers your skin to minimise contact with sparks. It is advisable to wear long sleeves and trousers to prevent burns, even in the summer due to the heat from the forges.

Specifics for each entry, such as guest requirements (e.g. any age limits), things to bring, booking deadlines, cancellation policy, etc. can be found by clicking on the 'Full Details' button below each entry and scrolling down to the 'Things to Know' section. You'll also find a calendar showing availability from where you can choose your preferred dates and times.

In a hurry? Here's my Japanese Knife Experiences Quick Guide

Best knife experience for those staying in Tokyo

Experience 1  is the only one in the list that's close to Tokyo - in Ome City, about 90 minutes by train from Shinjuku.

Best knife experience if you're staying in Kyoto

Experience 2 or Experience 3 both take place in Kameoka City, around 30 minutes from Kyoto by train or car.


Best knife experience for those staying in Osaka

Experience 4 is the only one in the list that's in Osaka - in Sakai a city famed for its knife-making tradition.


Best knife experience for those staying in Nagoya

Experience 5 is in Hashima city - just one stop from Nagoya on the shinkansen.

Best knife experience for the serious enthusiast

Experience 5 is the most in-depth and longest (at 7 hours), you'll need to set aside a day for this one in Hashima City (close to Nagoya).

Best knife experiences if you're short on time

Experience 3 or Experience 4, at 2 hours each, these are the shortest. If you're short on time, you should book one of these two.



5 Exclusive Japanese Knife Experiences - Overview

TOKYO (Ome)

1. Craft a Kitchen Knife of Traditional Tamahagane Steel at Hirata Sword Smith in the Tokyo Outskirts

At Hirata, murage furnace master Nodoka Hirata produces traditional tamahagane steel that toko blacksmith Sukehira Hirata works into fine blades with hammer and anvil.

Hirata Swordsmith Japanese knife experience

KYOTO (Kameoka)

2. Forge Your Very Own Knife with a Swordsmith in Kyoto

Masahiro Tantojo is nestled amidst the verdant mountains of Kameoka, Kyoto. Here, under the guidance of Yuya Nakanishi, one of Japan's few active swordsmiths, participants will create a kogatana, a small utility knife with a seamless blade-to-handle design.

Masahiro Tantojo Japanese knife experience featured

KYOTO (Kameoka)

3. Personalise Your Own Japanese Knife & Whetstone in Kyoto

The Tennen Toishi-kan, or Natural Whetstone and Hone Museum, is an interactive museum situated in the lush forests of Kyoto Prefecture’s Kameoka City, known for its world-class natural whetstone production.

Tennen-Toishi-kan Japanese knife experience featured

OSAKA (Sakai)

4. Legendary Knife Crafting at Wada Shouten, Osaka – with Personalization

At Wada Shouten, you can learn the craft of creating for yourself a knife so beloved by culinary masters, and take it home with you at the end. You’ll also learn knife maintenance, a vital skill that turns a tool into a lasting companion.

Wada Shouten Japanese knife experience

NAGOYA (Hashima)

5. Forge a Samurai Knife at Asano Kajiya, a Distinguished Blacksmith's Workshop in Nagoya

Located in Hashima City (25 mins from Nagoya by train), Asano Kajiya is a well-known blacksmith's workshop housed in a traditional Japanese farmhouse. Here, spend a day making a knife under the guidance of acclaimed swordsmith Taro Asano.

Asano Kajiya Japanese knife experience

Japanese Knife Experiences - In Detail

1. Craft a Kitchen Knife of Traditional Tamahagane Steel at Hirata Sword Smith in the Outskirts of Tokyo

3.5 hours

Mobile ticket

Min. 1 person(s)

Hirata Swordsmith Japanese knife experience featured

An authentic traditional smithy operated by husband and wife

In the outskirts of Tokyo City, at Hirata Sword Smith in Ome City, you can craft a kitchen knife using traditional tamahagane steel. (Tamahagane is a type of steel made using traditional methods. The word tama means 'precious', and the word hagane means 'steel'.)

This experience is led by Sukehira Hirata and his wife Nodoka, one of the world's only female tatara furnace masters. The 3.5 hour workshop, around 90 minutes from Shinjuku station, offers insight into ancient Japanese sword-making techniques. 

You get to engage in the entire process, from hammering red-hot steel to shaping the blade. The experience highlights the cultural significance of Japanese blades and the rare art of producing tamahagane steel.

You'll learn about the intricate steps involved in creating a high-quality knife, including the crucial quenching process. Taking this hands-on workshop will give you a deep appreciation for Japanese craftsmanship and a personalised, functional souvenir to take away with you.

Note: The experience length varies according to number of participants. 1-2 people: 3.5 hours, 3 people: 4.5 hours, 4 people: 5.5 hours.


Key features

  • Experience traditional kitchen knife forging with the guidance of a married couple of master bladesmiths in the outskirts of Tokyo, easily accessed from Shinjuku
  • Learn from traditional artisans who make their own tamahagane, the steel traditionally used for high-grade Japanese swords
  • The kitchen knife you craft will be finished and engraved with your name before being shipped to you after the experience

Experience itinerary

  • Workshop tour and talk on tatara steel smelting
  • Kitchen knife smithing

The above itinerary is a guide. According to the season and the weather, the contents can change.
You may request to have lunch with Nodoka and Sukehira after the experience. (Lunch is charged at the restaurant and not included in the experience. The translator will not accompany you for lunch.)

Location

Is this experience for you?

Ideal for those staying in Tokyo who want a hands-on experience with Japan's traditional steel. Perfect for history enthusiasts and those interested in both swordsmithing and culinary knives. Suits travellers with half a day to spare and who want to have their knife sent to them afterwards.

Reserve this experience



2. Forge Your Very Own Knife with a Swordsmith in Kyoto

4 hours

Mobile ticket

Min. 4 person(s)

Masahiro Tantojo Japanese knife experience featured

A young and ambitious swordsmith working in the heart of Kyoto city

At Masahiro Tantojo in Kameoka, Kyoto, you can forge your own kogatana, a small utility knife (ideal for use as a paper knife) under the guidance of Yuya Nakanishi, one of Japan's few active swordsmiths. 

This 4-hour private experience, about 60 minutes from central Kyoto, offers a rare opportunity to create a personalised blade using traditional Japanese sword-making techniques. 

You'll learn about the history of Japanese swords and engage in the entire forging process, from striking tamahagane steel to designing the blade pattern. The workshop covers various stages including hizukuri (shaping), tsuchitori (creating the blade pattern), and quenching.

You'll leave with their own handcrafted 15cm (5.9inch) blade, engraved and ready to use, along with a deeper appreciation for this ancient craft.

Extra personalisation is possible by adding an optional leather sheath with stylish stitching and wooden presentation box. The sheath can be personalised with a name or message, up to 15 alphabetical characters. A second option is to have your knife packaged in a special wooden presentation/storage box made from pailownia (noted for its strength and durability).

Key features

  • Create a personalized knife by hand at the swordsmith's forge, designing the blade pattern and making a 15cm (5.9inch) long blade
  • The swordsmith will provide guidance on crafting your knife, along with sharing his knowledge on Japanese swords and their proper appreciation
  • The blade can be crafted from tamahagane, a high-purity steel material traditionally used in Japanese sword making

Experience itinerary

  • Learn about the history and appreciation of Japanese swords
  • Sword making (hizukuri, annealing, tsuchitori, and quenching)

The above itinerary is a guide. According to the season and the weather, the contents can change.

Location

Is this experience for you?

Best for those staying in Kyoto seeking an in-depth, hands-on swordsmithing experience. Suitable for anyone fascinated by Japanese sword history and willing to dedicate four hours to crafting your own blade. Ideal for detail-oriented enthusiasts who enjoy personalization.

Reserve this experience



3. Personalise Your Own Japanese Knife & Whetstone in Kyoto

2 hours

Mobile ticket

Min. 2 person(s)

Tennen-Toishi-kan Japanese knife experience featured

An interactive whetstone and hone museum in the mecca of natural whetstones

In Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture, the Natural Whetstone and Hone Museum offers a special 2-hour private experience. 

Guests receive an exclusive tour from museum director Aki Tanaka, exploring the world-renowned natural whetstones of the region. The interactive experience includes hands-on activities such as natural whetstone processing, knife sharpening, and test cutting.

Learn about the geological history of whetstones and their significance in Japanese craftsmanship. The highlight is crafting a personal natural whetstone and using it to sharpen an engraved Japanese knife.

Both items are taken home as keepsakes. This experience provides deep insights into an often-overlooked aspect of Japanese artisanal culture, connecting you with centuries-old traditions of blade maintenance.

Key features

  • Dive deep into Japan’s artisanal culture, learning about Kyoto’s traditional natural hones and what makes them such prized tools among cutlery enthusiasts the world over.
  • Enjoy an exclusive private tour from museum director Aki Tanaka, who is not typically available for tours
  • Craft your own natural hone/whetstone and sharpen an engraved Japanese knife with it – then take both items home with you as keepsakes of the experience.

Experience itinerary

  • Guided tour from museum director Tanaka
  • Hone/whetstone-crafting experience
  • Experience edge-grinding and engraving a handle of a black-hammered knife
  • Instruction, training, and experience sharpening for blade maintenance
  • Test cuts on paper, followed by handover of keepsake natural hone/whetstone and black-hammered Japanese knife

The above itinerary is a guide. According to the season and the weather, the contents can change.

Location

Is this experience for you?

This would be perfect for those interested in the maintenance aspect of Japanese blades. It's ideal for hands-on learners who want to understand the geology behind knife sharpening. Suits visitors to Kyoto with a couple of hours to spare for an educational cultural experience.

Reserve this experience

Download this post as a PDF guide:



4. Legendary Knife Crafting at Wada Shouten with Personalisation in Osaka

2 hours

Mobile ticket

Min. 2 person(s)

Wada Shouten Japanese knife experience

Wada Shouten, a longtime fixture of Sakai blade making

At Wada Shouten in Sakai City, a suburb of Osaka, visitors can take part in a 2-hour private experience crafting their own personalised Sakai knife. 

This workshop, steeped in 150 years of tradition, offers you a chance to create one of three knife types: Santoku, Deba, or Sashimi. The experience begins with a visit to the Sakai Knife Museum, followed by hands-on knife making under expert guidance.

Fit the blade to the handle, brand the handle with your chosen design, and learn essential knife maintenance skills. The experience focuses on the durability and craftsmanship of Sakai knives, highlighting their importance in both professional and home kitchens.

You'll leave with a high-quality, personalised knife, ready for decades of use.


Key features

  • Create your own knife, branded and engraved with your name, in an exclusive private experience.
  • Choose from three types of knife: Deba, Sashimi, and Santoku
  • If you love cooking and love to develop a long and close relationship with your tools, this experience is a must.

Experience itinerary

  • Tour the Sakai Cutlery Museum
  • Practice knife sharpening
  • Practice blade-handle fitting
  • Brand your handle
  • Package the knife and take it with you

*Please note that this knife crafting experience does not include forging.
Above itinerary is a guide. According to the season and the weather, the contents can change.

Location

Is this experience for you?

Great for cooking enthusiasts visiting Osaka who want to create a practical souvenir. Suits those interested in learning about different knife types and maintenance. Ideal for travellers with a few hours to spare who enjoy hands-on cultural experiences.

Reserve this experience



5. Forge a Samurai Knife at Asano Kajiya, a Distinguished Blacksmith's Workshop near Nagoya

7 hours

Mobile ticket

Min. 1 person(s)

Asano Kajiya Japanese knife experience

Learn Japanese bladesmithing techniques as you make a knife at a historical farmhouse

At Asano Kajiya in Hashima City, Gifu Prefecture, you can forge your own samurai knife in a traditional Japanese farmhouse setting. (Hashima City is around 30 minutes by shinkansen from Nagoya City.)

This full day (7-hour) experience is led by renowned swordsmith Taro Asano, who provides detailed explanations in English. Engage in various stages of the bladesmithing process, including heating and hammering iron, shaping with a metal file, tempering, and sharpening. 

The workshop, located near Gifu-Hashima Station, offers a rare opportunity to learn from a master with 30 years of experience. You'll create a one-of-a-kind knife influenced by factors such as weather and personal disposition. 

The experience provides deep insights into Japanese blacksmithing techniques and the cultural significance of blade crafting.


Key features

  • Challenge yourself as you spend a day making a knife at Asano Kajiya, a blacksmith's workshop near Gifu-Hashima Station (just one stop from Nagoya Station by shinkansen)
  • Learn from master swordsmith Taro Asano, who has around 30 years expertise in bladesmithing and holding lectures and workshops overseas
  • Make a knife that is uniquely your own - the knife's finish will be influenced by factors such as the weather and even your disposition

Experience itinerary

Morning
09:00–11:30 am — Knife forging (hammering iron; adjusting by polishing the surface with a metal file)
11:30 am–1:00 pm — Lunch (note: you will have lunch separately from the artisans)

Afternoon
1:00–3:00 pm — Knife shaping (tempering, sharpening)
3:00–4:00 pm — Knife making ends
4:00–4:30 pm — Drop-off at Gifu-Hashima Station

The above itinerary is a guide. According to the season and the weather, the contents can change.

Location

Is this experience for you?

Perfect for dedicated enthusiasts willing to spend a full day immersed in traditional blacksmithing. Suits those who want to create a more substantial blade. Ideal for travellers staying in or around Nagoya and seeking an in-depth, hands-on cultural experience.

Reserve this experience



Which Japanese knife experience is best for you? 

Hopefully this shortlist has helped you identify at least one of the best Japanese knife experiences. There should be something for everyone in the list, even for those with only a passing interest in the craft. If you're still unsure, go back and look at my quick summary at the top of the page.

Don't feel you have to rely only on this post. You can also click on the 'Check Availability / Full Details' button below each entry to be taken to a dedicated page on the Wabunka website, where you can find more detailed information on each experience.

If you have any feedback or questions simply leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer. I respond to every comment left on this blog.

Oh, and if you've already taken any of these or similar Japanese knife activities, please share your feedback by leaving a comment below so others (me included!) can benefit from your experience.

If you found this post helpful - please help spread the word by sharing this:

Exclusive Japanese Knife Experiences The Real Japan
Rob Dyer The Real Japan

About the Author

A writer and publisher from England, Rob has been exploring Japan’s islands since 2000. He specialises in travelling off the beaten track, whether on remote atolls or in the hidden streets of major cities. He’s the founder of TheRealJapan.com.

Resources

Travel & Planning eBooks & Audiobook bundle The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Leave A Comment / Ask A Question

Book Your Trip: Japan Travel Essentials

Click to See My Recommendations

Book Your Flight
Find the best flight by using Skyscanner. It's my go-to flight search engine because it has the most comprehensive global search options.

Book Your Accommodation
I frequently use Booking.com as they consistently offer the cheapest rates and most flexible cancellation options for hotels and guesthouses. Use Hostelworld if you're looking for budget-priced options.

Book Your Japan Rail Pass
The best official agent by a country mile is JRPass.com. Clear and easy to use website. Excellent customer service.

Book Your WiFi
I never travel in Japan without pocket WiFi. Get Ninja WiFi for unlimited internet everywhere, use Google Maps, supports up to 10 devices.

Book Your SIM Card or eSIM
Order your physical
SIM Cards or eSIMs to stay connected and in touch while in Japan.

Book Your Hire Car
Rent a car in Japan without speaking or reading Japanese via Booking.com's Car Rental portal.

Ready To Book Your Trip?
Check out my Recommended Japan Travel Resources. The list covers all the essentials. It’s filled with carefully selected travel resources. And I only include the best travel resources - those I use myself or recommend to my clients.

Need Help Planning Your Trip?
My
Japan Travel Store includes essential travel items as well as my books, travel guides and more.

Leave A Comment / Ask A Question

    • Thanks Patsy, pleased to hear that! If you try any of these I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    >