The chef at the sushi restaurant down the road does not know that the 17th-generation Yoshimoto bladesmith works in the neighborhood, yet this craftsman's knives are used in the White House and worldwide. Murray Carter's forge can be found in a garage at the end of an anonymous suburban block of small businesses in Portland, Oregon.

From the garage, a door smudged by sooty hands leads to an office and unassuming cutlery shop. Framed children's paintings hang on the wall alongside Japanese scriptures, one of them an account of Emperor Hirohito's visit to the Yoshimoto bladesmith shop in Kumamoto in 1931.

"I am the safe keeper of my lineage's documents and mementos, including a samurai sword my master's great-grandfather made," says Carter, a middle-aged man with light eyes and a boyish smile.