Shigeki Tanaka Spotlight
Shigeki Tanaka is a 4th generation blacksmith that works in Miki City, Hyōgo, Japan. Originally the shop was run by his great grandfather and produced sickles mainly during the Meiji period. The next two generations, his father and grandfather also both specialized in sickles. It was in 1996 that a young Tanaka-san headed to Echizen and found himself at the Takefu Knife Village. He spent three years there working under Shiro Kamo and the others at the shop before heading back to Miki city to work with his family.

Due to the decreasing demand for traditional sickles, Tanaka-sans father, Kazuyuki Tanaka, and uncle experimented and gained experience making knives. When Kazuyuki Tanaka passed away Shigeki took over the family business. Shortly after taking over Tanaka-san transitioned away from sickles and into almost exclusively kitchen knives, though there were sickles in various stages of production kicking around the shop during our last visit, the shop was in full swing production on knives. Seeing cases of every stage in production littered around every nook and cranny in the large, open shop. 

Tanaka-sans forge is tucked away in the back corner, opposite the entrance, overlooking the rest of the stations. During our last visit in April of 2023 we were lucky enough to be invited into the cockpit between the forge and the spring hammer and got to try our hand at forging out a knife. Let me tell you, its not nearly as easy as it looks, and it doesn't look easy. We recklessly hammered away at the steel, having a hard time controlling the delicate touch you need to maintain on the foot lever while being tossed around from trying to keep a firm grip on the billy tongs. Tanaka-san was in high spirits as he watched us try to tame the spring hammer, and tried to guide us. You can see more about this on our Youtube channel where you can find our visit there, including our attempt at forging, and watching him do it properly!

While Tanaka-san transitioned originally to kitchen knives he has been experimenting with some other products including kamisori, pocket knives, higonokami, knives designed for children with animal shape cut outs and round tips, and extravagant hunting knives with wings along the spine of the blade, and ornately decorated handles, which while seemingly made to be displayed by a collector, still boast a stainless clad R2(SG2) san mai construction.

With many diverse products he's been making, I'd say that his flagship line is his R2(SG2) Black Damascus. While its not the biggest deal in our opinion, these knives specifically, have yet to be beat for out of the box edges. And while that first edge will be fleeting, the heat treat is really impressive on them. At 63-64 HRC they're definitely going to hold and edge for a long, long time, but the feedback and response on the stones makes them sharpen up super quickly and deburr easily, giving you a very keen edge for very little work. They are some of the thinner knives we have in the shop and while some black damascus knives have been etched so heavily that the texture starts to cause drag with some ingredients, we havent found that to be an issue with these. 

If I had to pick the most popular line of knives from Shigeki Tanaka that would have to be his VG-10 Damascus. While it is a noticeable step down in edge retention from the R2(SG2) Black Damascus line, these knives have many of their own great features that include a hefty discount over the latter. What you'll find on these knives is a taller blade height on most shapes (especially on the larger gyutos), a thicker, more workhorse spine and a more aggressive convex grind. The thicker grind and slightly softer steel still have great edge retention and feel great on the stones, but that steel being a few points softer and more material to support the apex means these guys are tough. While Tanaka-san also makes some VG-10 and ginsan options with a hollow grind that are in a more affordable laser category, these are the ones I would feel confident throwing in my knife roll and taking into a Mother's Day brunch shift.