1. Tell us a little bit about the company.
What makes Edit Japan unique is that we apply the techniques of traditional Japanese craftsmanship to products designed to suit modern lifestyles. We have connections with craftspeople throughout Japan, with whom we collaborate on everything from product development to production. This is especially highlighted by our flagship product, our indigo-dyed Japanese kitchen knives. In addition to knives, we also make indigo-dyed plates and foster other forms of traditional Japanese craftsmanship.
2. How did the company start?
After attending high school in Canada, I worked in overseas sales for a foreign manufacturing company. That experience helped me to realize that people outside Japan have very little exposure to the artisanal complexity of Japanese craftsmanship, while at the same time Japanese craftspeople tend not to emphasize new product development and self marketing. This realization inspired me to combine my experience in manufacturing and foreign relations to start Edit Japan seven years ago. The name ‘Edit Japan’ was inspired by my desire to reassess and practically apply the work of Japanese design and craftsmanship.
3. What inspired you to start Edit Japan?
Modern society values multi-taskers over people willing to dedicate their life to singularly perfecting a skill or trade. Conversely, Japanese craftspeople commit themselves wholly to the disciplines necessary for their intended creation, operating without concern for marketing or promotion. Our artisans embody these values, humbly preferring to express themselves by perpetually improving upon and perfecting their chosen craft. I am endlessly inspired by the opportunity to bridge this gap and showcase to the world the overwhelming refinement of Japanese work ethic.
4. What do you hope to inspire in others with your products?
Although I understand that global mass production fuels our economy, I also believe there is always a market for handcrafted products that fuel the customer’s imagination and build an empathetic personal connection to the product’s creators. By collaborating with artisans from different fields we are creating more than just everyday objects, we are amplifying the beauty of what already exists to inspire positive emotional experiences within our customers.
5. What’s the process for creating the pieces?
Our products are a collaborative effort between multiple artisans. The handles are carved by woodworkers then passed along to indigo dyers who give the knives their unique color as well as waterproof treatment, and the blades of our knives are made by metal workers who specialize in Japanese knives.
The process begins once the woodworkers source premium quality lumber. When the handles are carved, inspected and deemed complete, they are given to the indigo dyer who adds the distinct blue gradient using natural indigo, and finalizes the process with waterproof coating.
Steel selection is held to the same premium standard as wood, with only the highest quality alloys sampled for consideration. Once the premium steel is in the hands of the metal workers it's brought to extreme temperatures (over 2,200 °F), forged into the classic kitchen blade shapes, and sharpened to precision. The blade is then attached to the indigo-dyed handle and subjected to one final rigorous inspection.
6. Tell us a bit about the indigo dyeing used on the wood handle, and why you choose to do incorporate this dye.
Centuries ago, farmers wore indigo-dyed garments to protect themselves from bugs, and indigo leaves were common ingredients in homeopathic medicines. Despite the distinct gradation of the indigo, this method is a practical approach rather than an aesthetic one. Knives are generally used in the kitchen, where they are constantly exposed to moisture and other conditions that can easily spread germs. Wooden handles only enable this problem, but the market is already saturated with stainless steel handle knives. It occurred to me that by adding true Japanese indigo dye (藍染) to the wood, the handle becomes naturally anti-bacterial and achieves both a more personal feel in the hand and striking visual appeal to the eye. By expressing historic Japanese culture through modern craftsmanship, our products are part of a tradition that is doubly Japanese.
7. How does sustainability fit into the work that you do?
I see sustainability as understanding the relationship between raw materials, technology and emotion.
We value the material we use—metal for the blade, wood for the handle, indigo for the dye etc. We are creating goods that are environmentally friendly by using materials derived from nature with no chemical alteration. In addition to the naturally responsible production process, by being long lasting and hygienic our knives directly contribute to reducing consumer waste.
In Japan and around the world we are witnessing traditional craftsmanship become obsolete as it is replaced by industrialized mass production. Our job is to discover traditional craftspeople in various fields and provide new opportunities for them to apply their skills to contemporary needs. What I do is not charity – I believe that traditional creative disciplines are extremely valuable, and by incorporating those disciplines in different fields, we can create opportunities for craftspeople to practice and pass down their trade.
While materials and technology are critical pillars of our tactical business plan, both myself and our craftspeople are ultimately driven by emotion. We believe the hand-crafted product has its own soul and inspires empathy and imagination. Valuing this experience in our products reflects our hope for a more sustainable society.
8. Where do you hope to see the company in 10 years?
We are focusing our energy into two different avenues to save craft culture in Japan. The first is creating digital content using cutting edge technologies such as NFTs and digital art to protect their value as premium products. The second is spreading the techniques of traditional Japanese craftspeople and teaching our skills to developing nations to enable and enrich their communities.
As we’ve discussed, indigo dye is perfect for insect repellent and antibacterial purposes. It might take a while, but our long-term vision is to use our technology and skills with sustainability in mind to create a more peaceful world. We have big ideas to merge traditional Japanese craftsmanship and modern technology. We will continue to provide something exciting in the future.