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Morihei: Tools and Natural Stones

Morihei(森平) is a knife and whetstone supplier located in Asakusabashi, Tokyo. They have been a part of the industry for over 100 years, including the predecessor of Morihei “Oguro-Morihei-Shouten (小黒森平商店)“. At one point in time, more than 20 groups of blacksmiths and sharpeners were working exclusively under Morihei. They are one of the only companies in Japan with a long-standing history of relationships with blacksmiths and whetstone and natural stone makers that still exists today. Mr. Akimitsu Oguro, the president of Morihei, is the advisor for natural stone researchers from universities and government groups. People who visit Morihei for technical information from Mr. Oguro include researchers, blacksmiths, sharpeners, chefs, craftsmen, and knife shop employees. Morihei is like a school for the industry people, the source of all knowledge.

Crftsman used to work under Morihei

The start of Mr. Oguro’s remarkable career began at a traditional knife sharpening shop, the kind that can no longer be found in Japan. It consisted of four to five sharpening stations where the sharpeners were working independently. If the sharpener had superior skills, people were waiting in his/her line. New sharpeners were in charge of flattening other sharpeners’ stones if nobody stood in their line.

Back in the old days of Morihei, blacksmiths and sharpeners would have disputes in regards to each other’s quality of work, and placed pride on some ranking of superiority. Morihei the company acted as the peacekeepers and decision makers of these rankings, and developed a better understanding and eye for quality than other craftspeople.

Mr. Oguro's father and Chiyozuru-Korehide

At the age of 23, Mr. Ogura hand-delivered natural stones for Morihei. He experimented and tested out each of the stones before his deliveries, providing detailed information about the products for Morihei's customers. One of their customers was a Japanese sword polisher who offered him the opportunity of a placement as a sword polishing disciple. Normally a student of a sword polisher would graduate after 5 to 6 years of daily training, living in-house. This sword polisher made Mr. Oguro an exception of being a part-time student since he had his other job at Morihei. After 15 years of weekend training, he graduated as a sword polisher. These are just some of the reasons that Mr. Oguro and Morihei are known for having such a wealth of history, experience, knowledge, and skills related to Japanese knives and whetstones.

Mr. Oguro and Swordsmith Kiyoshi Kato

Some synthetic and natural whetstones from Morihei have serial numbers on them that are traceable from the beginning: when they were mined and made, to the people who currently own them.

Morihei’s exclusive and in-house brands include: Hisamoto(久元), Kiyomitsu(清光), Yoshitomo(義友), Kisaku(喜作), Kunihide(國秀), Kikuyu(菊勇), Seppu(雪峰), Edomitsu(江戸光), Sukefusa(助房), Hakuraku(博楽), Hatsutora(初虎), Chiyomasa(千代正), Hisahiro(久弘), Kikumitsu(喜久光), Setsugetsu(雪月), Honkunihide(本國秀), Gousaku(豪作), Shigezoku(重族), Munetsugu(宗次), Unsen(雲仙), Koshiro(幸四郎), Kesa(ケサ), Kikumitsu(菊光), Korenobu(是信), Azuma Hisamoto(東久元) and Korehisa(是久). Mr. Oguro has set aside some knives and tools for the next generation of blacksmithing and sharpening. If you are lucky, you may be able to see his gallery.

Morihei

Morihei 1-28-6, Asakusa-bashi, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0053, Japan
TEL:03-3862-0506 FAX:03-3861-0377
Business hours:10:00 - 17:45 (Weekend and holidays closed)

Photographed, documented and written by: Hokuto Aizawa (Hitohira)
Edited by: Olivia Go (Tosho Knife Arts)

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