Buying Nakayama Stones from Ohira and Imanishi

Discussion in 'Hones/Honing' started by alx gilmore, Sep 11, 2014.

    It is still possible to buy really high grade stones from the smaller retailers, wholesalers and miners in Japan like Brooksie mentions, even by e-mail if you are lucky for a lot less then if you were to go to a stone boutique like Hatanaka-san has in Kyoto or Morihei in Tokyo. Some of the shops are now advertising true Nakayama stones from their old stock, some dating back to their fathers era. Although it was not openly discussed until the last 4 or 5 years and they were not stamping them as such, there are still a lot of Nakayama stock out there because it was the last of the major mines to have closed and Hatanaka was not the sole wholesaler for the Nakayama mine so stones did get distributed to other shops. I have been buying un-marked Nakayama stones for a few years now from Ohira and Imanishi, and a couple of others. Until recently it was frowned upon by the Kyoto Toishi Association to ink stamp stones with a Nakayama logo but now it is happening more and more. I bought this small koppa earlier this year from Imanishi, it is clearly marked Nakayama in ink on the right.


    These koppa can be for like Brooksie said purchased for a $100 or so, this is a hand held size and I bought if for reference and it is not for sale. The president of the Kyoto Toishi Association, Hitomi-san from Kameoka is also ink stamping his cache of Nakayama stones with the Nakayama kanji. I have bought Nakayama stones from Hitomi-san also, a really nice guy.

    I did sell a sort of imfamous Nakayama stone a few years ago that I bought from Ishihara-san, the owner of the Ohira mine. He has some Nakayama stock left over from when he worked for Kato-san in the 1960s. Ishihara-san is in this photo driving the bulldozer at the Nakayama mine site, part of his pay was a big load of raw shaped Nakayama stones.


    Ishihara-san also sells at shows like the Kezuroukai, one is coming up in Odawara on November 11 & 12th. I used to go up to his mine every trip and buy stones, Max from JNS has photos of the inside of his work/storage site. Max probably has bought Nakayama stones from Ishihara-san but because Max says that he cannot tell the different mines from the kawa skin he might not realize he has them. I have bought several Nakayama stones from Ishihara-san over the years, this is the largest and most infamous one that I bought. Weighed about 5 pounds.


    Here is a photo of Ishihara and his lovely wife stamping that stone for me.


    Really nice people and if you can drive up there to their workshop if you can call ahead they will be glad to see almost anyone. That large stone that I bought, the one by his right thigh is the stone that gets a lot of Air Time on a particuar European stone website, claiming in an covert way that some sellers in the U.S. are selling Ohira stone as expensive Nakayama stones.

    Buying Nakayama stones with ink stamps or without can be tricky, but if you know what to look or and or can return the stone there are some good deals out there.

    I hope this helps in someway.

    Last edited: Sep 12, 2014
  1. Here is the most common tell tale indicator of Nakayama stones, my little Imanishi has this kawa skin on the side. The black elements should sparkle with larger particles when looked at in sunlight. Not the tiny silica found in the stone, this is only on the skin and the sparkles are easily seen as individual grains in the black areas. Also Nakayama skin has a distinct coloration of ochers, umbers and burnt umber colors that have an almost leather like quality to them. And the black has to look sparkly when dry, without being wet. Looks almost like asphalt


    Last edited: Sep 12, 2014
  2. Thanks for the great info
  3. Alex, why don't I just start a direct deposit from my paycheck? Easier that way. :001_smile
  4. Alex, thank you for a wonderful and informative post!

    Cheers, Steve
  5. Thanks for sharing Alex.
    I really enjoy the part about the stone from Ohira magically transforming into a stone from Nakayama.
    That the best part. :thumbup:
  6. Keith
    You hit the nail on the point but not the head but I guess you were just trying to be funny .:thumbup1: There are really no magic or parlor tricks necessary to buy actual unmarked Nakayama stones if you are on the ground handling them like at a show or a shop. Buying on the internet it is more problematic but not impossible.

    Kato-san the previous owner of the Nakayama mine ink stamped so few stones out of the hundreds of tons of stone that he pulled out of the mine from 1930s to 1960s, and those ink stamps were only for a short period of time in the 1950 & 60s, the previous operators of the Nakayama mine did not remove the overy vast quanties that Kato did because of their lack of machinery, but I would guess that over the last hundred years for every 2000 pounds that were mined way less then 1 pound was ever stamped and those were all by Kato himself. He was a miner and not a retailer, he sold everything in bulk by weight so ink stamps were not a main issue or driving force for him, and as far as I can figure the ink stamps were more a response to Hatanaka the wholesaler and Iwasaki-san the blacksmith both of whom were looking to set some kind of standards beyond the "try the stone before you buy it" method that was traditional in Japan by creating a "we tested it for you already" method based on reputation. Iwasaki-san also created the same reputation retailing product scheme for the Mikawa nagura by encouraging Asano-san to test and ink stamp nagura. Mikawa nagura was not stamped before the late 50s and early 60s. So you can see that the possibility of buying unmarked Nakayama stones is not out of reach if you pay attention or unmarked Mikawa nagura if you are really skilled in judging them.

    Now you used the word "transforming", I am not sure what you meant by that but what I think you mean is the idea that a Ohira suita stone can transformed into a Nakayama suita just by person calling it that. Of course that is impossible. This type of deception is surely attemped but I have no examples, and if anyone does have samples I would like to examine the stone myself either by photos or you can send it to me. I have never transformed stones by attribution myself although I have been anectotally blamed for doing it as mentioned before which is very hurtful and mean spirited, and I have not seen it done on a big scale as of yet. But I can tell you that the Nakayama mine has been closed for about 50 years now, therefore no one is directly now walking from the mine to the retailer and ink stamping along the way within the hour of mining and all the time being documented by an impartial third party.

    All of the Maruka EP stones on the market are freshly stamped, and it seems that there is an endless supply of these Maruka stones, but where is the proof, the stone above sold by Imanishi-san is freshly stamped, but where is the proof. It is ludicrous to demand that unless someone carries a stone from the mine itself that it cannot be deemed as a true Nakayama, Oozuki, Okudo, Shinden, Ohira or Narutaki stone. All those stones that you or I have sold these past years calling them Okudo, Oozuku or from whichever mine, unless you consider the geology as a science these cannot be proven as authentic simply upon the word of a famous or old family retailer/exporter in Japan. Again, this is just geology, the proof comes from the examination of the sample side by side with formally known examples. If you can do this then you or anyone else can teach themselves how to buy unmarked Coticlues, Arkansas or whatever. Some fellows can even tell which vein a particular Coticule has come from, I believe this, and I do because I believe in the science of geology.

    I hope this helps to clarify the mystery somewhat.

    Last edited: Sep 12, 2014
  7. Lovely pictures Alex, love that 010 stone-send my way for proper disposal
  8. Alex, great write up as usual. I think most of us don't really care about the stamps other than the 'cool factor' that they bring. Most people just want a stone that fits their requirements. If the history/exact location of the stone can be known then it's neat, yes, but does it matter? Nah. Comparing the methods of identifying these stones to coticules, arks, thuringians, etc is a very valid point and don't really see how it can be argued either.
  9. Jeremy,

    it seems that things have changed over the past 4 years and that is just evolution and it cannot be denied, and people do care about ink stamps. More fellows here now are buying stones that are less than rectangular, are thinner and colored and softer for honing razors. The ink stamping model has taken off big time and the buzz words Nakayama and Hatanaka have exploded in the lexicon of razor forums leaving the cold hard Oozuku gray monolithic stones on the second shelf down to the left.

    Hatanaka-san the owner of a small boutique retail store in Kyoto has passed away at a fairly young age, and has left a void in the marketplace that will likely never be filled. Ishihara-san of the Ohira mine has now passed and the fine gentleman that he was is sadly missed as he was the last of the old time miner/owner/operators who had actually crawled on hands and knees and represented the Kyoto Miners Union as a survivor of the trenches to the end.
    I attended the 2017 Kyoto Miners Union annual meeting and there are now only 4 members, with Mrs. Ishihara representing the continuation of their mine.

    The Union was a type of gentleman's club, you could only become a member if you owned and operated a mine within a prescribed boundry. There are still mines in operation like Maruoyama in Kameoka but this "newer" mine was not included in the original boundaries and no newer members have been accepted for decades. The Union members followed a self-serving agreement to maintain certain standards, and ink stamping stones was an early topic. Although the stamps were not registered with the Japanese Government as copyrighted signatures or names, the Union members unanimously agreed to not infringe upon each others ink stamped names or designs for the good of each other. For instance Ishihara-san did not own or use a Hatanaka stamp and conversly Hatanaka did not own or use an Ohira stamp. They relayed upon each others integrity to continue on as a group. Hatakana did not create or invent the Maruka stamp but instead rented it from the Kato family. The Maruka stamp was Kato's personal stamp and when the Kato family rented the mineral rights to Hatanaka, and sold them the stone inventory they also transferred the stamps from the Kata family to the Hatanaka family with the rights to use them.

    With Hatanaka's demise the mineral rights were reverted back to the Kato family, who owns the mountain but the Hatanaka family has retained the stone inventory that they bought from Kato. The Maruka stamp created by Kato was not, apparently copyrighted with the Japanese registry, so this stamp and symbol are for, in my estimation, a non-subject in the Union's purvey.

    If Hatanaka's family wishes to use any of the old stamps, create new ones, loan or sell any stamps or stones that is their business to pursue with no penality. If a person from Russia or the United States wishes to create new stamps that are similar, or use old stamps with or without the permission of the Hatanaka family then that probably has very little risk of penalty.

    The Old School of nine Union members 12 years ago who like Ishihara refused for conscientious reasons to stamp the Nakayama stone he was selling me with a Kato or Nakayama stamp because he did not own the mine or the stamp; to 4 years ago when wholesalers began to use the Nakayama stamp because seller reasized the value of the name and the fact that no one actaully owned the word naka yama, to today 2018 when mass stamping of all colors and sizes are being used on lower grade stones with attributions to "Kato", "Maruka", "Hatanaka", "Hatahoshi", "Nakayama" and who knows what is next. I suspect that even though the owner of the Maruichi company who is still alive and owns (his father created) that brand "Maruichi", his stamps might be at risk too.

    Alex Gilmore
  10. A Cut Above

    A Cut Above Contributor

    Just got a Nakayama from Alex. What a great stone. Really versatile using Tomo or DMT to make slurry. Gives excellent results sharpening my razors.

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