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From Value One, Summer 2005 No. 09  

Seki City in Gifu Prefecture is globally known as a production center of cutlery, particularly for its SEKI brand. Cutlery craftsmen in Seki are now in pursuit of the "world's sharpest cutlery." The main role here is played by German cutlery manufacturer Zwilling J.A. Henckels. The German company established a manufacturing subsidiary in Seki in October 2004 and started full-scale production in Japan.
Solingen in the West and Seki in the East are recognized as the world's top producers of cutlery, including table knives and cooking knives. Solingen is an industrial city in northwestern Germany , known since Medieval times for its excellent swords. Zwilling J.A. Henckels is the top manufacturer there and a true representative of the traditions of Solingen. Its "twins" logo is known worldwide as symbolizing "supreme kitchen cutlery." However, Henckels adopted the art of the Seki craftsmen for the manufacture of its highest-level products. "For Western kitchen knives, strength and durability have always been the benchmark, while for their Japanese counterparts, sharpness has always been valued most," according to Mr. Jiro Ando, General Manager of the Marketing Division, Zwilling J.A. Henckels Japan. "Pursuing the world's best cutting quality indispensably needs the art of kitchen knife-making, which has been handed down from generation to generation in Seki."
A knife is "edged." Its edge is kept in contact with a grindstone turning at high speed. Successful edging is vital to the sharpness of a knife.

A roughly shaped kitchen knife is heated red-hot in the quenching process.

After this step, the knife undergoes final polishing and is shipped out.
"Quenching" gives a knife hardness and "edging" sharpness. Finishing a kitchen knife requires 30 or more steps of work, all done by hand. The highest-level kitchen knives are made by the top manufacturer in Solingen, and their world-class cutting performance will be further sharpened by the superb skills of Seki's craftsmen.
The whole process of knife-making, in pursuit of the world's sharpest cutlery, is done by hand.
For further information, please contact Zwilling J.A. Henckels Japan (Tel:+81-6-6313-7155)

[Seki Swordsmith Museum]
9-1 Minamikasuga-cho, Seki-shi, Gifu
Tel:+81-575-23-3825
Closed: Tuesdays and the day following a national holiday (excluding holidays)
Admission: ¥200 for adults, ¥100 for elementary and junior high school students.
A three-minute walk from Hamono Kaikan-mae Station of Nagaragawa Railway.

The history of cutlery in Seki City goes back to "Seki Kaji" (Seki smithcraft) in the late Kamakura Period. Although "Seki Kaji" lost its past prosperity as the demand for swords shrank in the Edo Period, Seki is still Japan's biggest center for cutlery, shipping out goods worth some ¥36 billion a year. Nationally, its approximate share in terms of shipped value stands at 52% for kitchen knives, 56% for table and other knives and more than 70% for barbers' tools, including razors.
There is a museum dedicated to the 700-year history of smithcraft in Seki called Seki Swordsmith Museum, where you can see swords representative of Seki. There is also a smithy for traditional Japanese swords in the museum.
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