Essential Japan: the Higonokami folding Knife

December 01, 2018 2 min read

The Higonokami knife is one of the most practical Japanese items we have ever owned. With an interesting history originating in the Japanese sword-making tradition in the Hyogo region (not far from Kobe), generations of Japanese schoolchildren, craftsmen, gardeners and hikers have used these simple knives on a daily basis for everything from sharpening pencils to peeling apples or pruning plants.

In the same way that Japanese fountain pens are designed around the highest quality available nibs at a specific price point, the Higonokami is designed around the blade. These very high quality blades are made of different grades of folded steel (just like katana - swords), the simple handle is made of a folded over sheet of metal, often left unfinished.

The Higonokami is a folding knife first manufactured in Miki, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan in 1896. The knife has no locking system, it is kept open by the pressure of one's thumb on the chikiri or lever on the blade to prevent the knife from folding during use.

Higonokami refers to "Lord-of-Higo". Higo was an old province in Japan, on the island of Kyūshū, today's Kumamoto Prefecture. "Kami" literally "protector" was used as an honorable title for Samurai of high rank bestowed by the Shōgun.

In 1899 a knife maker’s guild was set up in Miki and in 1907, the name “Higonokami” was trademarked. Only guild members were allowed to make these knives.The Higonakami was a huge success quickly becoming became an iconic element of Japanese everyday life.

Today a number of Japanese knifemakers still make traditional styled Higonokami, or modernised versions, albeit in smaller quantities, due to legal restrictions on knives in Japan introduced in 1961, following the assassination of a prominent public figure.

Despite the simple design and rustic finish, the knife had some outstanding qualities. It has a high quality sanmai carbon blade that is easy to sharpen and stays sharp and it is 
inexpensive and compact. Carbon steel sharpens better than stainless steel.

Check out our Superior Labor x Nomado Store Higonokami & Pen Case which comes with a beautiful Higonokami knife from Hyogo!