OSAKA – A traditional knife-maker in Osaka Prefecture is enjoying such global demand that it is struggling to keep up.
Jikko Co. makes kitchen knives in Sakai, a center of knife-making, and its young managers have recently launched various initiatives to draw visitors to its workshop and boost sales.
Sakai craftsmen are famous for their kitchen knives and are believed to supply nearly 90 percent of the knives used by professional chefs in Japan.
To attract more individual customers and foreign tourists, Jikko recently opened a showroom and a space inside its factory where visitors can try sharpening knives and approach craftsmen directly for advice.
The company, founded in 1901, holds knife-sharpening workshops on an occasional basis, or upon request.
“We added an experience-oriented space where customers can find out everything about Japanese knives,” said the company’s director, 37-year-old Hiroaki Jikko.
“A knife gets blunt within a few months if you fail to sharpen it,” said Jikko, who is in charge of public relations. “We hope that visitors will learn the technique for sharpening a knife here.”
The company has raised its profile abroad since it started bringing its products to events around the world to introduce traditional Japanese knives.
Orders from overseas customers have been surging in recent years.
In the business year through the end of next month, annual exports of knives at Jikko are expected to total some 2,000, a roughly 10-fold increase from 2010. The company says its main customers are in the United States and South Korea.
The director said that although the company enjoys robust sales, it is struggling with a shortfall in inventory as its knives are all made by hand and the factory can turn out at most a few dozen a day.
At present, there are six craftsmen at the company, including Hiroaki’s brother, Toshiyuki, 38, who is the fourth owner and the president.
Jikko produces about 3,000 different kinds of knives, of which around 100 are on display in the showroom, priced at ¥5,000 to ¥1 million.
In the future, the company also plans to offer lessons on how to slice fish.
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