In Seki, we visited the new factory of master knifemaker Kiku Matsuda. He is still moving machinery there, but production is still moving forward with knives being made while the shop is being set up. His tactical style is unique among makers in Seki and is popular with government agencies in the United States. Kiku's style of side grinding has made him famous, as seen in his stunning craftsmanship.
The next stop was to see the generous family of the late Seizo Imai. After a pleasant visit (of which I only grasped a few words), we then spent some time looking at rare and discontinued knives there. From more recent custom made knives to vintage knives made for Parker and Explorer, to even older knives made circa 1940s-1950s by Seizo Imai's father. What a great collection!
We picked up several thousand inventory pieces that remained, including many older Parker Brothers and other variations of Parker and Frost knives, Olsen, C.I., Rhino, Imax, etc. Mrs. Imai was an excellent hostess, who enjoyed showing us the many knives made by her late husband.
A little on the Imai history: Consistant with Seki tradition, Mr. Imai walked along his family's path toward fine knifemaking. At the age of 17 he began at the knife factory of his father-in-law, taking it over himself a decade later. The next step was a collaboration with Parker, which led to the building of a new factory and an era of blade production spanning two decades of knives marked Parker-Imai.
Business was good; and there were around fifty employees at the factory at its height. But Imai, ever the artisan, concerned himself with the quality of what was being produced. Closing the factory's doors in order to continue doing what he loved, Imai spent the final two decades of his life hand custom making knives which were sure examples of Seki artistry.
He attended fewer knife shows and expos than other knife makers, preferring the personal relationship between knife maker and collector. This is why each of his knives equals a labor of love; and the great variety of Seizo Imai knives available are each one a treasure!
Another stop was at the old Kondo distributor shop. Located in an area where there used to be about eight knifemaking shops, now there are no more shops there and Kondo is also closed. However, they still had many knives available for us to pick up and we were able to pick up the remaining stock, including many older Parker, Explorer, Howa, G.Sakai, and many others. It was a great experience to meet such great people!
Finally, to wrap up the day, you have to eat lots of sashimi!