The story of Takefu Knife Village
It was 1970s, when people enjoyed the biggest prosperity after WWⅡ bringing various new changes in their life as a result of the high economic growth.
In this flourishing period, the young craftsmen of Echizen knife were worried about their future. They were the subsequent founders of TAKEFU KNIFE VILLAGE, who were in the new generation of 20-30s' at this time : Katsuyasu Kamo, Katsushige Anryu, Hideo Kitaoka, Hiroshi Kato, Haruji Totani, Masanobu Okada, Shiro Kamo, Takeshi Saji, Kazuyoshi Honda, Late Masami Azai.
The situation of hand-made knife industry became harsh due to the spread of stainless or cheap punch-out knives by mass production so that the small family-run factories were being forced to go out of business.
What they faced was the big problems to be solved in Echizen knife industry such as sales slumping, aging of craftsmen, shortage of successors, noise troubles with neighborhood. So, in 1973, they established the study group, Takefu Forged Blade Industry Study Society, to talk about the future of Echizen knife and find the breakthrough solution every night after their work.
The days working from morning to evening and talking each other till midnight had continued until the fateful encounter to change their life.
The encounter with a designer, Kazuo Kawasaki
It was the spring of 1982 when they fatefully met the worldwide designer, Kazuo Kawasaki, who was also born in the same area.
He was introduced by Industrial Testing Institute of Echizen city for the new product development project to bring the concept of industrial design into Echizen knife or traditional craft. In August, they decided the brandname as TAKEFE KNIFE VILLAGE and started the development of new products.
The sketches for the new products he submitted were more than 30 pieces. It was the big surprise for the craftsmen seeing the innovative proposal. In their retrospect, they wondered how they could realize such a shape.
However, they picked up some feasible ideas for proceeding to the drawings by the designer to produce the novel merchandise.
Ahead of them in this project lay full of difficulties. They gathered after their work and repeated the improvements by making the prototypes until midnight.
The days of trial and error were continued for one year while the craftsmen and the designer argued over and over again; sometimes it became a heated exchange but it was because of their common vocation: handing down the tradition of Echizen knife to the next generation.
Revival of "Echizen" brand
In 1983, after one year of trial and error, they completed 17 items of the new products and held TAKEFU KNIFE VILLAGE exhibition at the Axis building in Tokyo Roppongi.
In 1986, the exhibition in New York was also ended in success after having held local exhibitions energetically.
Still now, the craftsmen recall that the moment was like dream: the knife lead them abroad. They launched new products one after another. The items produced by the fusion of traditional technique in Echizen knife and the contemporary industrial design are enchanting people even after the passage of 30 years.
Next challenge of masters
The subsequent project after the establishment of TAKEFU KNIFE VILLAGE brand was to create the base for them. Even though they could complete new products, they still had worked separately in their own workshops and were so small, so they embarked on building for the new cooperative facility "TAKEFU KNIFE VILLAGE" to create more great Echizen knives and spread them throughout the world as well as training new generations.
Elaborating the plan with Mr. Kawasaki until 1992, they ordered the design to the popular architecture in Japan at that time, Kiko Mozuna, with the construction fee of 300 million JPY. It was indeed do-or-die game once in their lifetime which made them owe 30 million JPY for each without any subsidy.
In May of 1993, TAKEFU KNIFE VILLAGE was completed at last. The base of the cooperative association combining the cooperative open factory and the direct sales store for 10 companies: Kamo Knives, Anryu Knives, Kitaoka Knives, Kato Knife Manufacturing Inc., Totani sharpening, Okada Knives, Kamoto Hamono LTD., Saji Knives, Honda Knives, Azai Knives, kicked off their activities.
It was the beginning of their great adventure to the future.