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Chiharu Sugai, Korin Knife Master

CHIHARU SUGAI (03/04/1954 - 09/26/2018) was always fond of the arts, and was well known for his love of rare musical instruments such as the biwa. Thus when Korin began to carry knives, it was only natural for him to become fascinated in the dying art of knife sharpening.

He understood that in order to carry Japanese knives in the United States, Korin needed someone who fully understood how to care of them as well. He first began taking knife-sharpening lessons from Suisin’s president, Junro Aoki in Sakai City. When Mr. Aoki felt that he has taught Mr. Sugai all that he knew, he directed Mr. Sugai to Sakai City’s blade making association chairman, Mr. Oda. As a blade making association chairman of the most famous knife-making city of Japan, Mr. Oda taught Mr. Sugai the basic foundations of knife sharpening.

Even after several years of being taught by one of the most famous blade makers. Mr. Sugai yearned to learn more, and asked Mr. Oda to introduce him to Japan’s number one knife sharpener, Mr. Shouzou Mizuyama. Although Mr. Mizuyama has taught other knife sharpeners specific techniques, he had never taught an apprentice extensively. Regardless, Mr. Sugai received permission to watch as much he pleased, and he did just that.

For three years, Mr. Sugai traveled back and forth to Japan four times a year to observe Japan’s best at work in hopes to learn as much as he possibly can. In 1999, Mr. Mizuyama recognized Mr. Sugai’s determination and accepted Mr. Sugai as his only apprentice. Under Mr. Mizuyama, he learned the true art of knife sharpening. Mr. Sugai returned to Japan several times a year to learn under his 84-year old grand master, and used his extensive knowledge on knives to help grow Korin.

He began Korin's knife repair services, visited restaurants and culinary schools all over the U.S. to teach renowned chefs how to sharpen on whetstones, and checked the knives that Korin received from craftsmen to ensure their quality. To fill in for his absence, he began to train the next generation sharpener in 2009 when he took Vincent Kazuhito Lau in as his apprentice.

Nowadays you can find Vincent traveling to renowned restaurants around the world, repairing knives at our showroom, and passing on the knowledge that Mr. Sugai left behind through various social media platforms. The impact that Mr. Sugai had on the culinary industry will never be forgotten and his legacy lives on through everything he created at Korin.