We’ve long been impressed with Japanese culture and world renowned craftsmanship. It all started with buying our first japanese knife, progressed to getting to know all there is about the tradition, technology, materials that go into making an exquisite piece and observing some of the best chefs cutting, chopping, mincing their way through the kitchen. Designing our own knife felt like a natural progression. ZDP-189 Bunka Black is still our pride and joy, but the time felt right for a second one. Introducing Bunka Black Damascus!
Produced by Suncraft in Seki, a town in Japan with a long tradition of knife making, it’s blade is made of VG-10 steel and clad in a black damascus pattern. The handle is made of a beautiful, dark brown, octagonal-shaped pakka wood and suitable for both hand users. To be able to safely store it or have it with you anywhere you go we designed a unique saya to separate it from all other knives in your knife roll. We wanted it to represent this union of two different countries on either side of the world, of idea and its realisation, of research and traditional ways.
There are many things connecting Japan and Slovenia, SharpEdge team’s small and beautiful home country. Besides both being on planet Earth, they each have a language most foreigners find impossible to learn, have a high life expectancy, similar landscapes (though Japans spans several climatic zones), they share a love of wearing slippers at home (and even have a pair for guests), festivals and… dragons.
Many legends exist surrounding the establishment of Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana, and none is as romantic and had such a lasting influence on the city's look than that of the Ljubljana’s dragon. Before explaining where these fire breathing scaly beasts fit into this story we must begin with a well known Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts.
After procuring (stealing!) the golden fleece from the King of Colchis (part of present-day Georgia), Jason along with the king's daughter Medea and his team of Argonauts (named by their unsinkable ship Argo) flee the pursuing fleet by sailing up the mouth of the Danube river, instead of southwards into the Aegean Sea. Hoping to get back home to Greece, they continue into the Sava river until they finally get to the source of the river we call Ljubljanica today. With shallow waters forcing them to disembark, and winter fast approaching, Jason and his companions decide to make a settlement until the weather permits them to carry the disassembled ship to the Adriatic sea to continue the journey home. Unwittingly though, they had stumbled into the hunting ground of a dragon. The marshy shore of the lake hid a terrible moor monster which Jason, in order to save the lives of Medea and his teammates, had to fight and kill. When spring came, most of the Argonauts carried on their journey south, but a few remained and built a life with the locals. The myth states these were the earliest inhabitants of Emona, later named Ljubljana.
There are reminders of the dragon all over the city - being the symbol of Ljubljana you can find it on the town’s coat of arms, flag, river walls, manhole covers, and even on the crest of the local soccer team. Tourists flock to the Dragon bridge; its corners guarded by four menacing dragon statues - teeth bared, wings spread and the scaly tails coiled around the stone base they are perched on. According to local legend, when a virgin crosses the bridge, the dragons will wag their tails.
Cue to the other side of the world, to the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan, where Kojiki (a collection of myths, legends, songs, genealogies, oral traditions and semi-historical accounts concerning the origin of the japanese archipelago, dating from the early 8th century) introduces Yamata no Orochi (八岐大蛇 – ヤマタノオロチ, "8-branched giant snake"), a legendary 8-headed and 8-tailed Japanese dragon.
According to Kojiki, the storm god Susanoo was thrown out of heaven and descended to Earth at Mount Torikama where on the banks of the Hi river he encountered a grieving family of kunitsukami (gods of the land) headed by Ashinazuchi (足名椎). When Susanoo inquired of the reason for their sadness, Ashinazuchi told him that his family had been decimated by the fearsome Yamata no Orochi. It had consumed seven of the family's eight daughters and was now coming for his final daughter, Kushinada-hime (奇稲田姫). Susanoo investigated the creature, and returned with a plan to defeat it. In return, he asked for and was granted Kushinada-hime's hand in marriage. Transforming her temporarily into a comb which he placed in his hair to have her by his side during battle, he detailed his plan into steps. He instructed that eight vats of sake be prepared and put on individual platforms positioned behind a fence with eight gates. The dragon took the bait and put one of its heads through each gate. After drinking the sake, the monster fell into a deep, drunken sleep, which was when Susanoo attacked and slew the beast. He first chopped off each head and then proceeded to the tails. The carnage was so great that the Hi River flowed with blood. In the fourth tail he chopped off, he discovered a great sword inside the body of the serpent which he called Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi. He presented the sword to the sun goddess Amaterasu to settle an old grievance.
Dragons have fascinated people for centuries, appearing in stories and legends (of which our two accounts are just two instances), being a part of popular culture and symbols of cities, sports clubs and now our very special Bunka Black Damascus. Since our new knife is a collaboration between us and Japan, where a dragon is a majestic and mystical creature of Japanese mythology, we found engraving it on the saya (knife sheath) to be a nice symbolic bridge between our two cultures.