Since the early days of settlements in villages living as farmers and hunters, there were always blacksmiths among people who created tools of steel aiding their daily lives. These tools were customized carefully to fit to the environment’s demand and life
style of the working people. The blacksmith was a profession that always supported the foundations of the local culture and economy.
In 1926 Tetsuo Kiryu, the head of a blacksmith family originating from the end of the Edo, era established the Kiryu Steel Mill and its own brand “Tetsuhiro”. Shortly thereafter “Tetsuhiro” became known widely for its sensitive and high quality treatment of its bladework with knives, sickles, and kitchen wear. The brand steadily grew as they increased their number of artisans they housed, and became to be known as a reliable and guaranteed producer of steel blade products.
When the entire country of Japan entered the international world war arena, “Tetsuhiro” among other studios of hardware in Sanjo, Niigata joined the weapons industry for the military. Since “Tetsuhiro” was proficient and possessed vast experience in creating katanas, the brand produced blades for military swords and bayonets to support the war.
Blacksmiths in Japan used magnetite that could be obtained locally as ingredients until stainless steel started being imported from the west after the world wars. At this time the daily customs of ordinary citizens had also changed, and the traditional Japanese kitchen knife grew out of demand in favor of the western model made with the stainless steel.
These new kitchen knives were indeed superior in the sense that they did not rust easily and required less maintenance. However, because the performance of the blade and its sharpness did not match the Japanese kitchen knife, professional chefs hesitated to use them. Tetsuo Kiryu, the head of the family and the studio at that time attempted to tackle this issue through series of experiments. He ultimately succeeded in crafting a method that would allow the stainless steel to be wrapped around the traditional metal. This was met with praise and the mass production of knives was started applying this method. The studio also made its renovations in becoming a full modern factory updating its equipments and work process.
In 1975 the The Kiryu Steel Mill (Kiryu Industry Co., Ltd.) was established. Then president Katsuyoshi Kiryu concentrated in exporting abroad the stainless steel kitchen knives that had been met with continuing foreign praise.
As the mass production line grew, a new issue involving the temperature of the metal had to be solved. Iron steel required approximately 800 °C for quenching, while stainless steel required much more as hot as 1050 °C. However, at such a high temperature a thick oxide film formed around the metal corroding it and hindering accuracy for the rest of the forging process. Katsuyoshi was able to solve this after several experiments creating an automative conveyor system that hooked each steel alloy at a time as they were inserted into the furness. The method was first met with criticisms until it proved to be capable of preventing the oxide film to form, thus keeping the metal and its end product’s quality intact.
Most of Niigata’s stainless steel kitchen knives are still being produced by this method and furnace.
To this day Kiryu Industry Co., Ltd. continues its production of “Tetsuhiro” in line with its historical origin, spirit, and tradition. The wisdom and skill sets accumulated over generations are one of a kind, nowhere to be found in Japan or abroad. The continued support of our customers is the testimony to our product that evolves together with our rapidly changing world.
Modest though it may look, each work we create is the culmination and legacy of generations of blacksmiths with their energy and design. It is our mission and belief to answer with these works, to the universal and daily needs of our lives.