Today, Japanese knives have been attracting attention and getting popular amongst the chefs from all over the world. Also, there are many visitors from overseas who purchase some knives in Japan during their trip lately.
Knives and steel tools can last long if you take a good care of them. Since those items are something you would use daily, don’t you think you would like to get some good quality ones to fit your needs?
In this article, we will introduce this special store where they will make your wishes come true!
The store, called Ubukeya, is located in Nihonbashi Ningyo-cho, which is near Tokyo station. They sell over 300 different kinds of miscellaneous steel products such as knives, scissors and tweezers etc. Fun-fact: One of the most famous Sushi restaurant Jiro use knives from this shop because of the trust for their high skills and beautifully made products. Ubukeya sells traditional and high quality items that have been loved by professionals and locals for so many years. This is one of a few stores in Japan who continues their business in a traditional way (we will talk more about this later).
We had the opportunity to talk with the 8th generation of Ubukeya, Yazaki Yutaka-san, and we happily share some of this stories with you.
Story of Ubukeya
Ubukeya was established originally in Osaka in 1783. The store today in Ningyo-cho is a three-story wooden building standing out among the modern buildings, which makes you feel like experiencing time travel. When you get inside of the store, you will see the display of the history of tools they have made. You can find sewing shears which is said to be the first sewing shears ever in Japan. They also have the big tweezers and you can see these playful works from the predecessor craftsmen.
The name Ubukeya comes from the Japanese word Ubuke (fuzz) and customers gave a compliment on their wrought steel tools which the first owner Kinosuke made and said “These can shave, cut and even pull a fuzz”.
As a craftsman and merchant
What makes them unique and considered as one of the important stores, is the way they conduct their business. It is called 職商人(Shoku Shonin) in Japanese. A “Shoku Shonin” is a craftsman but also a merchant. They run their own store and order high skilled craftsmen outside to make tools, but final finishing is done by themselves at the store. Hence, they sell only things they are content with.
At Ubukeya, they stock unfinished products such as unsharpened knives. There is a workshop at the back of the store where Yazaki-san and his son take care of polishing process. All products are polished carefully by their hands and then finally put on the shelves at Ubukeya.
Before the World War Ⅱ, there used to be more knife stores that operated in this way but not anymore. Today, only a few stores still conduct the traditional way of business like Ubukeya.
Yazaki-san also told the interesting story of how they developed the craftsmanship.
In Edo era, around 1700s, the peaceful era lasted long and the sword smiths were going out of business. At the same time, the culinary culture was developed and the needs for knives began to increase as people could spend more time on their hobbies. Along with this trend, people started to make home tools and that is how they improved their tool making skills.
Ubukeya started their business in Okasa first, but Edo (old Tokyo) was the best place to sell because they had the highest consumption in Japan, so they made a branch in Edo. Because they couldn’t find people to take over the business in the Kansai area, the stores there were closed and only the Edo store remains open until today.
The secret of Japanese quality
What makes Japanese products different from other countries?
Let’s take knives as an example, we would like to tell you the secrets of Japanese quality that Yazaki-san shared with us.
First of all, there were more high quality iron ores available in Western countries and people didn’t have to have great skills to make good products. On the other hand, Japan only had a low quality materials and they needed to have high skills to make good quality knives. Japanese craftsmen tried to make them better with their skills and kept putting more effort on improving. As a result of their hard work, in the modern era, when people use the same material all around the world, Japanese high quality knives stand out. When the materials are all the same, what decides their value is the craftsmanship.
Keep the tradition with face to face selling
Ubukeya believes it is very important to sell their products in dialogue with the customer. At the shop, they will listen to what their customers want and recommend them to check the feeling of the products, to choose the best thing for them. By asking the right questions in person, they would like to select the product that caters the customers needs best.
In todays mass consumption society, people are likely to throw away their stuff when it is done or when they get tired of it, it became much easier to get rid of stuffs and waste things. But Ubukeya hopes people keep using the good stuff for a long time. If you can go for a maintenance regularly, you can continue using it for longer than you think. Even if the tool you bring is not from Ubukeya, they are happy to take care of the maintenance.
Always cherish their relationship with customers
They cherish all their relationships in every way and that is the reason why they take care of the maintenance for tools even the ones customers bought at the other stores. At Ubukeya, they will always welcome you with warm and kind smiles.
Get many tools that match your needs and take a good care of them and understand the passion behind the tools with Ubukeya.
Main products lineup
At Ubukeya, they have various kinds of Japanese knives and Western knives that you can choose from, depending on your needs. Also, they have many kinds of tweezers, scissors and sewing shears, which are the main products of Ubukeya. You will be surprised by the number of steel products they have at the store!
Price List (tax excluded)
|Type||Usage||Blade length||Price (Yen)|
※All listed above are in stainless steel. Japanese knives in carbon steel are available as well.
There are many more stories to share about the history of tools and Ubukeya. Why not visit the shop and listen to their stories and see their beautiful works with your own eyes? Find your treasures at this special store while you are visiting Japan.