Hand-made Camping Knife and where to buy and sharpen knives.
Snow Peak is a famous camping equipment manufacturer from the Tsubame Sanjo area of Niigata Prefecture. It was started by the father of the current president as a manufacturer of carpentry and work tools. But Yukio Yamai, the founder, was an experienced mountaineer, so he decided that he should make mountain climbing and outdoor equipment, something he was familiar with and cared about. Over the past 50 years, Snow Peak has grown from that simple idea into one of the world's foremost manufacturers of tents, shelters, and other camping equipment.
The Sanjo area of Niigata is also famous for a wide range of tools and metalwork. The area started out on this path roughly 350 years ago, with the moving of Japan's capital from Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo). During this time, Edo grew not only in stature, but in the construction of new buildings to accommodate its newfound importance. Sanjo became the humble supplier of nails for the rapid urban growth.
Interestingly, Sanjo was not one of the areas in Japan known for the manufacture of swords, for example. While it did possess many of the mineral deposits used for iron, steel, and metalwork, it was not an area filled with sword-making blacksmiths, like the areas of Mino, Bizen, and Yamato. However, this proved to be a great advantage for the region, as it led to the development of small factories that produced greater numbers of crafted products, needed in a more industrialized world.
In particular, Sanjo moved quickly from making nails to tool-making, and then to farming and industrial tools. It made everything from hammers and saws to hoes and shovels, as well as a wide variety of kitchen tools. These tools included kitchen knives, for which the region is world renown today.
One of Snow Peak's wonderful camping tools is their Seppou knife, a hand-forged cooking knife for camp. (http://www.snowpeak.com/tableware/knives/seppou-knife-secs-010.html) Like most samurai swords, the blade uses more than one type of steel. It has 3 layers, with a very high quality Asuki Aogami steel core, sandwiched by two layers of stainless steel. The blade is hand forged at 950 degrees Celsius to harden it. It is also hammered, not to harden it, as people often mistakenly think, but to shape it. The knife also has a wooden handle which is, too, heated to harden it.
For many, a 0 camping or cooking knife may be a luxurious non-essential. However, for some, a great knife that will last for hundreds of years is an item of great value, providing economical, ecological, and cultural benefits spanning generations.