This month we welcome Tokyo-based Jikuu Japan founded by Mayuko Rutledge and Ali Buford. I'm so privileged to know these two savvy business women in person, the loveliest knife sellers in Japan.
Tell us a bit about your business.
We make handcrafted knives and other kitchen items from Japan. We blend traditional Japanese artistry with newer technologies and design to make modern treasures.
How did you meet?
We met at our children's’ school and discovered a common love of food, travel and all things made by hand. We also had a surprising history: Mayuko, from Shimane prefecture, was an exchange student in the United States at the same time that Ali, from the US, was part of a travel program in Japan including Shimane.
We had the dream to share our love of Japanese things with our friends and family in further flung places (including Tokyo!). Mayuko had relationships with makers in her hometown and once she started introducing Ali to the goods, especially those knives, she was hooked and an idea was born!
What's the story behind the knives?
We want to help in our small way to breathe life into the tradition of Japanese craftsmanship by connecting people to our products. Our chief artisan’s family has been making knives for centuries and samurai swords before that. There is something special about things that are made by human hands, repeatedly over time.
In what ways do you help your customers?
Japanese artistry is in a league-of-its-own but can be difficult to access - especially for foreigners. We want to connect our customers to products they love as well as give them information so that they can make the best purchasing decisions for themselves. And finally, we help customers understand how to care for their knives so that they can last a lifetime (or a very, very long time).
What sets your business apart from others?
Everything is handmade in a tradition centuries old, but re-imagined for modern kitchens. For example, our knives are typically made from high-speed carbon steel so that customers can have a super sharp knife but also one that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance (no oiling needed!)
We also provide quality customer care (e.g. generous warranty; classes for sharpening and knife skills; handle replacement for a small fee) so our customers can buy and own with confidence.
What's your best seller?
Our all purpose knife, the Santoku, and our vegetable knife, the Nakiri are our best sellers and our cornerstone products. We always tell our customers that you can get 99% of basic kitchen tasks completed with these two knives. And, they seem to listen to us!
Get in touch with Jikuu
Shop online: www.jikuujapan.com
Reach out to see our knives in person in Tokyo: firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is Shelley Sacks and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa. I am an Australian citizen having lived there for 14 years and I am now a Permanent Resident in Japan, after 15 years of an interesting life here.
I live in Azabu Juban and I am the owner of Ohana International School, a truly amazing International preschool in Minato-ku, Tokyo.
What I love about Japan
I love the cleanliness and the order, which makes standing in line for a short person just wonderful. I never have to worry about not being seen or served.....phew. I also love the nature in the countryside of Japan and in particular the rotenburo (outdoor bath). Sitting in an outside onsen in the snow is something extremely special.
Why I buy Bikudesigns
I buy Bikudesigns for friends and they all absolutely adore their gifts. One of them in the USA who lived in Japan many years ago said that wherever she goes, people remark on her stunning necklace.
I love my Bikudesigns brooch and am so happy that Victoria could use the kimono material that I sent her for this and other jewellery that people may purchase.
Tell us about your philosophy
A huge part of the philosophy/mission statement of my school is "giving back to the community". I love how we give back and share our blessings with others. By giving kimono material that has been in our storage for a long time to someone who I know will use it; by building a kindergarten classroom in rural Cambodia called 'Ohana Learning Tree'; by participating in Place To Grow Santa Soul Train event every year and giving gifts to the children there; by building a home for a family who lost theirs in Typhoon Hainan in Philippines.
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I'm Victoria, the founder, designer and creator at Bikudesigns, a vintage kimono accessories brand in Tokyo, Japan.