December. 17. 2021|Food

Ink on Water

Chef Chris Stewart and Royal Dinette head chef Eva Chin get a hands-on lesson in knifewear

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Japanese chef knives are fashioned by techniques that were originally developed centuries ago for making katana, or samurai swords The shift from swordcrafting began in the 19th century when sword carrying was banned in a governmental effort to “modernize” the country, leading blacksmiths to refocus their efforts to knifemaking.

In Vancouver’s Chinatown, Ai & Om offers a selection of Japanese knifewear crafted in this tradition by family-run blacksmiths, whose knowledge and techniques have been passed down through generations. Our culinary development chef Chris Stewart and Royal Dinette head chef Eva Chin visited owner and chef Douglas Chang for a hands-on lesson in knifewear.


Originally, all Japanese kitchen knives were made from the same carbon steel as the traditional Japanese swords, but forged with a different technique. Traditionally, the knives are made from forge welding two materials together: the hagane and the jigane. The san mai style of knife is constructed with the hard steel hagane forming the blade’s cutting edge and the soft, pliable steel jigane forming a protective jacket on both sides of the hagane.


In stainless versions, this offers a practical and visible styling known as suminagashi (墨流し literally, “flowing-ink”), referring to the similarity of the pattern formed by the blade’s damascus-like multi-layer steel alloys to the traditional Japanese art technique of dipping drawing paper in ink-covered water. The styling provides the advantage of a superb cutting edge with a corrosion resistant exterior.


Visit Ai & Om for knifewear, sharpening and workshops at 129 East Pender Street in Chinatown.

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