Japan is world-renowned for making some of the highest quality knives and there is a significant reason for this -- Japan has a long history of bladesmithing, the art of making blades. The oldest steel swords found in Japan date back to the 4th or 5th century and the technology for swordsmithing is believed to have travelled from Ancient China to Japan by way of Korea. Bladesmithing was developed and perfected over many years and by the 16th century, Japanese bladesmithing became so well-respected throughout Asia that the Japanese began manufacturing swords on a large scale as an export to China.In 1876, after the Meiji Restoration, the Haitorei Edict prohibited people from carrying swords in public in an attempt to modernize Japan (with the exception of former lords, military personnel, and law enforcement officials). Because of this edict, as well as the demise of the samurai class, the number of swords produced in Japan greatly declined. After World War II, sword-making was completely banned. It became legal again in 1953 to preserve swordsmithing as an art form, but under specific restrictions.After understanding this history of sword-making, it makes sense that Japan is now a world leader in knife-making. After the Haitorei Edict, the majority of swordsmiths had to repurpose their skills and tools to cutlery production, or else these craftsmen would have been out of work. Some of the earliest knife-making started with the production of steel tobacco knives in Sakai, Osaka in the 16th century, when tobacco was introduced to Japan by the Portuguese. In later centuries, deba bōchō, pointed carving knives primarily for cutting fish, were manufactured, followed by a wide range of other styles of kitchen knives.In modern-day Japan, there are two places that are known for bladesmithing. The first is Sakai in Osaka prefecture, and it has been the capital of samurai sword manufacturing since the 14th century. This art form is still practiced today, but swordsmiths are still only allowed to manufacture two swords per month by law. Because of this, some Japanese bladesmiths travel to Taiwan or China to make extra swords for the export market as foreign-made swords are also illegal in Japan. Most sword-smiths in Sakai also produce kitchen knives for this reason. However, Seki in Gifu Prefecture is considered the home of modern Japanese kitchen cutlery, and is known internationally for producing world-class stainless and laminated steel kitchen knives. In fact, the major cutlery-making companies are based in Seki and they produce the highest quality kitchen knives in both traditional Japanese and Western styles.