Holy Grail of Japanese Knives Can Be Found Downtown

Keijiro Doi, the greatest knife-smith in Japan.Photo: Salon.com
The conjunction in the last few days of a Salon article and a Discovery documentary about the greatest living Japanese knife-maker, Keijiro Doi, and his fiery arts has had chefs buzzing around town. Most all of them fetishize Japanese knives: The Salon article name-checks Thomas Keller, Jean Georges, Eric Ripert, and David Bouley. But the commanding figure in the article is Doi, and it so happens that the only place in America where you can actually buy the 80-year-old blacksmith’s legendary creations is here, at Korin Trading Company downtown. Korin sells a $4,720 yanagi, or sashimi knife, although it is so rare it isn’t even on the company’s Website, as well as a lesser yanagi, a bargain at $720. Korin founder Saori Kawano tells us that Doi inspired her to found the company, the premier Japanese-knife story in America, as a way to honor Japanese knife-smithing.

“I visited his studio years ago,” Kawano says, “and met Mr. Doi. He’s tiny, skinny, like a bone-and-skin type of body. He’s very calm and relaxed. But in front of the fire, his face changes. The way he works is like somebody — maybe God? — controls him. He pounds the knives and stares deeply into the fire, watching for the colors to change to tell him when to take the knife out. His whole body is filled with passionate energy; every day he thinks about how he can make his knife better than yesterday’s. He has been thinking that every day for the past 60 years.”

This Blade Slices, It Dices [Salon]