Tosho Knife Arts a History: The Layover
Business with Fonseca Sharpening was booming, and in 2010, we incorporated and started Tosho Knife Arts. With the help of others, we came up with this name that represents both the blacksmith, and the cut of a sword.
While searching for a storefront to call our own, it was serendipity that my yoga teacher at the time was renting out the basement of her rock store in Mirvish Village. The vibe was right; rocks above, knives below. In my yoga teachers words we could “cut up all the bad vibes”. It was rumoured that David Mirvish was born in our building and I’m not sure if we were spooking ourselves, but we had multiple sightings of ghostly things, as items moved around mysteriously and blustery breezes came in from a closet door that had no exit. Even after Kosuke (from Konosuke Sakai) experienced the cold room, he sent us a gift of a blessed plaque to keep spirits happy. We agreed earlier on that whoever this ghost was, they weren’t one to cause trouble. In fact, we were blessed with many interesting and strange circumstances in this old location. The multi faceted walls, ceilings and floors never met at 90 degree angles, always adjusting our doors and windows as the building aged. When it came to setting up internet, the thick set of abandoned wires were twisted along the side of our building and made for a confusing start. Even with these challenges, we met a lot of folks who despite the confusion, made things happen for us. We have been blessed with many of fortunes.
One hot day in 2011, we got a phone call from a production company to tell us that within a week, Anthony Bourdain would be visiting our shop for his Toronto episode of The Layover. I thought it was a prank made by someone who knew how big of a Bourdain fan I was. Turns out, it wasn’t, and Fortuna’s wheel had once again turned in our favour. After the episodes original air date, the American cult following would arrive in the early mornings with camera in hand, taking pictures out front to immortalize that they too had been where Anthony Bourdain had been. I felt like a happy side-show and I’m sure everyone else in Toronto he visited felt similarly. Many folks had a lot of questions and I realized, the one that we get asked time and time again is, “What did he buy?”. A 240mm HD gyuto by Konosuke Sakai with a custom designed linen micarta “gun-handle” by our very own Ivan Gomez Fonseca. Before deciding which knife he purchased he asked us what special knives we had. We went through our specialty models, and when I showed him the HD “gun-handle” knife in particular, he stopped. He asked me,”This was designed by and for you guys?” and I nodded. I didn’t think it meant much to him as it wasn’t a knife that was difficult to make at the time (it took a few months but not the kind of time compared to some others that seemed epic). He was set on this knife because it was “ours” and wanted to be supportive of our endeavour. He wanted us to thrive and I felt this was a massive compliment to the work we had done. His character, I felt, was romantic and generous.
The rest of his time at the shop was spent perusing our food manga display we had courtesy of @TheBeguiling. As he browsed the manga on display he noted that “GetJiro!” (the graphic novel he wrote) was among the bunch which he gave a smile and a nod to. After searching for a short while he came across something that piqued his interest, our entire collection of “Oishinbo”. He was unaware of the release of the rest of the translated English collection and purchased the ones he was missing.
By the end of the visit I think I thought that we would all stop and fall out of role and would have the time to hang out and chat, tidy up for a bit, but it wasn’t that way at all. He turned around after his purchases, escaped into the abyss of film land, out there where his team were hiding in various places. Set to be incognito and trailing his path, out into the streets of Toronto. When I think about the time he spent with us in the shop I get a little choked up. I'm not sure if he ever realized the impact he had on my life and on the shop, but I assume, just the same, he's had this huge impact on many others out there. He's a symbol for us to this day, of an integral, an authentic and free-spirit.
If it is that we can speak to the spirits who grace our paths, I hope he can and has been receiving our thanks.