Kamila Hankiewicz, a Polish lady residing in London, began a kitchenware firm highlighting minimalist Japanese design three years in the past following a difficult seek for the right Christmas reward for her accomplice. She stumbled upon some Japanese kitchen knives product of Damascus metal however was deterred by the greater than £500 ($614) price ticket.
“After looking by way of a number of kanji-filled web sites and having little luck (many Japanese web sites have their kanji textual content pasted onto the web site as a picture so you’ll be able to’t even copy and paste to make use of Google Translate), I lastly discovered one blacksmith who made me a customized engraved knife,” Kamila instructed me. “It was an ideal reward.
“I noticed an enormous hole available in the market and a good greater alternative. It simply so occurred that on the identical time my pal Anna was on the lookout for a brand new enterprise concept, and that’s how Japana was born.”
Japana sells a wide range of Japanese knives and kitchen tools and equipment like forged iron teapots, porcelain dinner plates and a modern picket serving tray. Their knives, which embody chef’s knives, filleting knives, paring knives and vegetable knives, are made by professional blacksmiths with years of expertise handed down by way of a number of generations.
Japana’s traditional chef’s knife, that includes a brilliant sharp 210-millimeter blade created from premium, stainless Japanese Damascus 46-layer metal and an octagonal ambidextrous deal with created from stabilized Italian maple wooden will set you again a hefty $374, nonetheless Kamila notes that by giving up the identify of the blacksmith making the knives, the corporate is ready to supply them at round a 35% low cost (in comparison with the costs they might demand with the identify connected to the blade). “We’re additionally producing and sourcing wooden and stabilizing it with our native craftsmen which permits us to maintain prices down,” she mentioned.
Discovering Japanese blacksmiths to work with Kamila and her co-founder was one of many first challenges they needed to overcome once they began Japana. “Establishing a model and buying and selling out of the country like Japan was a giant problem, however much more so in a male-dominated trade with a stereotypically conservative and patriarchal enterprise system like blacksmithing,” Kamila mentioned. “At first, nobody took us severely.
“We had been the alternative of what a Japanese provider seeks in a enterprise accomplice; an older Japanese man working for an organization with a few years of custom. We needed to study the variations in communication with the Japanese suppliers, studying a extra light and affected person strategy—a distinction to the simple European etiquette. [Additionally] we tried to earn folks’s belief the best way we Polish know; on our final journey to Japan to satisfy with contractors we introduced numerous sweets and our Polish vodka.”
Ultimately, with the assistance of a translator, Kamila and Anna discovered Japanese blacksmiths to work with. “Among the blacksmiths we’ve been coping with are 13th technology (e.g. Moritaka was based in 1293),” Kamila mentioned. “It’s the males (together with cousins, uncles, and many others.) who produce the knives and the wives of the blacksmiths that handle customer support. As ladies, we’ve related the perfect with these wives who noticed our ardour for selling Japanese craft they usually gave us an opportunity to commerce their merchandise.”
Initially Japana was a distributor, reselling knives branded with the blacksmith’s names, however they’ve since pivoted to change into an authentic tools producer (OEM) to develop their firm and supply their knives to clients at extra inexpensive costs.
To make the knives below their model, Sakai Kyuba, the blades are made and sharpened in Sakai, a metropolis in Japan’s Osaka Prefecture. The deal with, made with “extraordinarily restricted European maple burl, is dried for round two years to be appropriate for the method of stabilization and colour dying,” Kamila defined, “If the wooden shouldn’t be completely dried, it’s going to crack. It must be completely waterproof and final for years.” As soon as sufficiently dried, the carpenter sends it to Japana’s native craftsman to form the wooden blocks into an octagonal form and fix the completed handles to the blades.
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