Honoring Tradition with Knife Memorial Services

Cooks, chefs and other kitchen staff, much like any craftspeople may wind up using their tools for generations. For those in the kitchen, unsuprisingly that is normally the kitchen knife. Sharpening after sharpening, cut after cut, these knives become a part of the user themselves as they continue through their culinary journey.

But what happens when these knives are no longer usable? Perhaps they've been sharpened so much that they just cannot be sharpened anymore, or perhaps sadly they've succumbed to rust. Even with experts, this can happen.

Many people still want to honor old traditions and memorialise their tools, paying respect while giving thanks to those tools and their makers for guding the user for so many years.

This article will tell you all about these traditions and the art behind knife memorial services, and how you can engage in it yourself through us if you ever wish.

Instead of throwing a knife away, why not give it a memorial service?

There will come a time when a knife you've continued to cut with and care about for a long, long time will eventually no longer be able to be used. We understand, it can be hard to get rid of items we've grown attached to, even if they're worn. We may have memories associated with them, or feel like we've sunk endless amounts of effort, time or even money into them. We can sometimes feel like such items have a "soul," and this has been believed in Japan since ancient times.

So it would hurt to just dispose of these items like they were nothing. As a result, memorial services are held for all kinds of tools - knives being no exception! In Japanese, these services are referred to as kuyou (供養.) Not only do these services exist, sometimes monuments are erected dedicated to these tools. For example, at Mount Koya, Wakayama Prefecture there is a monument dedicated to all the calligraphy brushes ever used. This monument is located in Okuno-in, a very sacred and important cemetery in Japan - so it's clear people sometimes revere their tools highly.

Memorial services like this exist for kitchen knives too. They're a part of us, of Sakai and of greater traditional Japanese culture. These traditions are still implemented even today, infact the day this article was written three knives were sent to us for memorial service purposes.

When is best to hold a memorial service?

Many people find the most auspicious day to be November 8th of the year. This is also often called Knife Day, due to the play on words of 11 and 8 sounding like "good knife" in Japanese. Major kitchen knife and cutlery production areas use this day as their memorial service day, such as in Sakai, Seki and Echizen. Knife festivals are held all over Japan on this day too, often having knife memorial services paired with them in conjunction.

Not only kitchen knives, but cutlery knives, scissors and other items are collected from all over the country to honor their work, showing gratitude to the manufacturers, designers and end users for their care.

Of course, people hold memorials on other days too. Do what is best for you!

How can I get involved in a knife memorial service?

Of course, the option of coming to Japan and visiting one of the locations that does knife services during November 8th is a brilliant way to be involved. However, we understand that isn't always possible.

We accept knives sent to us for knife memorial services. Please contact us about this before you send your knives though, so we can make sure we can accept them and that they are recieved okay. Sending knives internationally can be difficult, so we tend to recommend only doing this within Japan - but feel free to reach out and check. You'll need to write "For Knife Memorial Service" on the package, as well.

Honoring traditional kitchen knife culture is a massive part of who we are and what we do, so we're always happy to recieve the knives you've finished up with for memorial services and will treat them with great care. We're thankful you'd entrust us to give your knives the appropriate final send off.