Metalwork in Kumamoto includes the following crafts: Higo-zogan, which originated from sword accessories; Kawashiri and Hitoyoshi-Kuma cutting tools, such as kitchen knives, farm hoes and sickles; and swords, the production of which dates back 750 years ago to the Kamakura Period.

Kawashiri Cutting Tools

The production of Kawashiri cutting tools dates back to about 550 years ago in the Muromachi Period. During the Edo Period, Kawashiri in Kumamoto was home to many blacksmiths, and a number of shipbuilding yards belonging to the Higo Domain (present-day Kumamoto Prefecture) were built. Kawashiri is famous for its knives, called “Kawashiri hocho.” Kawashiri knives are made by putting a piece of steel between two layers of soft iron and striking it repeatedly with a hammer. As long as steel remains, the knife can be repeatedly sharpened in this way.

Hitoyoshi-Kuma Cutting Tools

Hitoyoshi-Kuma cutting tools are made in the Hitoyoshi and Kuma regions of southern Kumamoto. The production of these blades dates back 800 years ago to the Kamakura Period. As many as 60 blacksmith forges gathered in one part of Hitoyoshi to make a blacksmith town. The smiths made farming tools during times of peace, and weapons during times of war.
The area now boasts a strong lumber industry, and so in addition to knives, other tools are produced such as axes, hatchets, sickles and saws.