Deba bōchō @ Matsuzaka

People dream about beef, oily fatty beef, Matsuzaka gyu, those black female cows from Mie Prefecture. A non-descript town, the station says it all, a small with not very much except an old-fashioned tacky Japanese styled French bakery.

You walk out to the high street and the shops are mostly out of date, and you feel as if this is not Japan. From time to time we pass a shop that looks traditional, either no one is inside or it is dark and you almost feel unwelcome. There isn’t much going on in Matsuzaka except balck Gyu (Japanese black cows).

Walking to Wakadin, I stumbled on a shop that was founded 35 years ago. A small shop, the owner missing, we go inside to see what they have. A well equipped shop with some interesting tools and knives, but it looks a little passé. I felt as if the business is on its way to closing and I can’t imagine tourists are interested in buying knives in this town.

I found this knife which I couldn’t resist, a deba bōchō designed to behead a fish. Its thickness, weight and balance makes it easy to handle. It has a more obtuse angle on the back of the heel allow it to cut off the heads of fish without damage. The rest of the blade is then used to ride against the fish bones. It is hand engraved with a dragon and it weighs just over one kilo. I have another knife coming from the same shop, it is rather large in comparison. I wait on it.

For those of you who follow mesubim, I am a small time knife collector. I have been collecting selected blades for years, and I frequent knife exhibitions in Japan. I wouldn’t call myself fanatical, although I am keen to acquire knives I feel are unique.

Those collectors knives I purchase serve little purpose in the kitchen, and are mostly for display. The inspiration came from Lorenzi in Milan, a shop I frequented for over twenty years and will soon close. The culture of knives is fading as mass production takes over and people search for practical and easy.

As a side note, I was in a shop in Ise-shi, a town 4 hours outside of Tokyo. I was intrigued by the multiple choices of knives in the window display. Once inside I talked with the owner’s daughter. I asked about their Katana, and her smile disappears and she gets a little more serious. Explaining her family business was established in 1904 when they were still making Katana, but today “no more”, as they mostly sell souvniers.

Mr. Lorenzi in Milan is a fanatic and a master collector. I took my son there a few years ago, and he became thrilled. So we started collecting together and he had the most amazing miniature knives. He insisted to carry them in his own small bag, until one day in Zurich.

He was carrying his knives and someone at the health food shop swiped them when we turned our back at the cashier. We never forgot or believed this could happen in Switzerland. Since then, I am adamant about guarding our small collection and they stay at home.

For those that are interested in katana here are some facts:

The cutting edge Up: a katana is displayed edge up on a horizontal stand, which comes from a samurai wearing his katana edge up and on his left side, so that he can draw his katana with his right hand and cut downwards.

Handle to left: when you face a displayed katana, if the handle is pointing to your left, it means there is no hostile or threatening attitudes as the handle cannot be drawn with the right hand.

Handle to right: when you face a displayed katana and the handle is pointing to your right, it shows an aggressive and guarded attitude, as the katana can be drawn directly from the stand with your right hand and respond to any immediate attack.

Display a katana in scabbard: the general way of displaying a katana is to keep the blade within its scabbard.

Display a katana out of scabbard: anytime you display your katana without its scabbard, this expresses an aggressive and guarded attitude. The handle of your katana should point to your right.