One reason I went to Nishiki Market in Kyoto was to make the pilgrimage all foodies make to eat things we can’t eat at home.
Like fresh roasted chestnuts
osembe (rice crackers)
and oden (fish cakes)
But the other reason I went was to check out the world famous knife shop: Aritsugu.
Here we gave our stomachs a break and let our eyes do the feasting. Aristugu has been making knives since 1560 and is currently operated by the 18th generation. The business got its start making swords for the Imperial House, then shifted their business to kitchen knives as the need for swords diminished and peace/delicious food prevailed.
Nowadays the brand attracts connoisseurs and chefs alike. Some of the knives go for thousands of dollars each which might seem absurd. But once you see the hand-made craftsmanship, I could see how someone would think they’re worth it.
While I didn’t have thousands to drop on a knife, I hadn’t bought anything on the trip and wanted a special souvenir from our trip to Japan. Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons probably wouldn’t last forever. But this carbon steel knife sure would. They even have a guy who carves your name into the blade— it was meant to be!
So now it was just a matter of choosing a knife that I’d get a lot of use out of. Naturally I was interested in fish knives, and recruited this young man to help. He showed me all sorts of knives— some specialized in slicing paper-thin sushi while others expertly pulverized fish bones. Some were for big fish, others for small. I’d almost forgotten that this was a country that eats their body weight in fish each year. The selection was overwhelming and I quickly realized I was in way over my head. Since I already have a filet knife and a couple of great chefs knives, I figured I might go for something uniquely Japanese (ok, Asian)— the vegetable cleaver.
Excited that I’d found my souvenir that would last as long as my new marriage (forever) I started fantasizing about what I’d have engraved in the blade. Before heading over to the man with the chisel, I ran through basic care with my sales guy.
Me: Do I need to sharpen with wet stone?
(yes, I am one of those people who drops articles when speaking English with non-native English speakers in hopes it makes me easier to understand)
Him: Yes, wet stone.
Me: Ok. And wash by hand?
Him: Yes, wash by hand.
Me: Ok. Then wipe dry?
Him: Yes, wipe dry.
Me: Ok, great!
Him: And then hair dryer.
Me: Hair dryer?
Him: Yes, hair dryer. Please dry with hair dryer.
My mind started racing. “Hair dryer”? What rhymes with “hair dryer” that he could be trying to say instead of “hair dryer”? I tried to clarify in the only way I knew how— acting out using a hair dryer. He nodded. I laughed, then sighed. Then I put down the knife. I take good care of my knives, but there’s no way I’m busting out a hair dryer for this puppy when I don’t even use one on my hair. My sales guy smiled and bowed. Then he returned the vegetable cleaver to its case and bowed again.
So this is a long-winded way of saying that I went all the way to Japan and all I got was this husband…
(note: actual husband feet at wedding!)