Minosuke Matsuzawa, the founder of the Masamoto Sohonten Company started making knives in 1866. It was his dream that his family would come to be remembered as knife craftsmen throughout the generations. Now, five generations later, Matsuzawa’s vision has been realized and professionally crafted Masamoto knives have become widely regarded as the finest knives made for professional use.
“A knife produced by a skillful craftsman will develop a greater and greater sharpness with each resharpening. Remarkably, with continued maintenance, the blade will become sharper than it was in its original condition. Constant care and maintenance is essential for a knife.”
- Morisuke Hirano, President of Masamoto Sohonten Company
Founder of Masamoto Sohonten
The Second President of Masamoto
The third President of Masamoto Sohonten,
Sakichi and his wife
At the tender age of 16, Minosuke Matsuzawa left his hometown of Tokyo for Sakai to study knife crafting. Sakai was then considered the natural place for a young knife craftsman to go to study his art. During his apprenticeship, Matsuzawa identified the features in Inari clay, found only in Kansai, that made it the ideal material for use during the tempering process in knife forging. To his surprise, he found that a similar type of clay could also be found in Kanto (Tokyo). He was so excited by this discovery and so anxious to prove that superior knives could also be created in his own region that he deserted his craft master in the middle of training and rushed back to Tokyo, surviving the entire way on okara. Okara, the soy by-product of tofu production, was the only food he could get the tofu-makers to give him for free. Company rumor has it that every president of the Masamoto Sohonten since has been strangely fond of okara.
His new tempering process a success, Matsuzawa turned his creative powers toward the design of the knife itself. Matsuzawa’s most prized knife design was the takobiki, his original kanto-style sashimi knife. At first, many sushi chefs in the Kanto region used these knives, but nowadays most chefs use the kanto-style yanagi. Masamoto has a long standing reputation as a premier knife manufacturer that the sixth and current president, Masahiro Hirano, maintains to this day.
“Each one of our knives is inspected by Japan’s #1 sharpener, Master Mizuyama (Chiharu Sugai’s grand master), to ensure top quality. After they are inspected, we hand pick the best of the best to ship out to Korin. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Korin is the most trusted company in the world. We recognize Mr. Sugai as an accomplished sharpener, whom we give official authorization to honbazuke and service our products. Korin has a superb eye to look at knives and have a deep understanding of the differences in quality even with brand new products.” - Masahiro Hirano, Masamoto Sohonten’s Sixth Generation Owner.
The knives shown on the right are from the 1930’s. Long ago, after a knife was sharpened until it was completely unusable, chefs would inscribe the handles with messages expressing their gratefulness before disposing.