Dating back to the 5th century, Sakai has a long history of ironware production. Large burial mounds (kofun) characterized by their unique keyhole structure were built in the vicinity for individuals of high status at the time, such as emperors and princes. The most famous of them all is the Tomb of Emperor Nintoku (Daisen Kofun), a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ironwork production started in the area in part to meet the increasing demand for the construction of these massive tombs.
With the increase of military action throughout the Heian period (794-1185), blade smiths also began creating katana, Japanese swords. A shift towards producing smaller blades as cutlery occurred in the Edo period (1603-1868), when tobacco was introduced into Japan from Portugal, and knives were used to cut it. Tobacco was eventually cultivated in Japan which led to an increase in demand for manufacturing tobacco knives. The knives produced in Sakai were sharper than those that could be imported—in order to ensure the quality and exclusive sales rights, producers were granted permission by the Tokugawa Shogunate to stamp each piece with the “Sakai Kiwame” seal.
In 1982, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (currently operating under the name of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) designated Sakai Blades as a traditional craft, thanks to the traditional methods used when forging knives. In 2007 the brand name “Sakai Uchi-Hamono” was registered in order to distinguish knives forged in Sakai from those made elsewhere. These specialty knives are coveted by chefs and other industry professionals.