Kiwami Japan, a mystery YouTuber known for making kitchen knives out of strange materials like cling film and fungus, may sound pretty out there, but both he and his 2.68 million video subscribers think he’s onto something. Hive Life sat down with the mad scientist to get a glimpse into how he got into his curious art, and what he plans to make next.
Having started his YouTube channel almost three years ago, mysterious Tokyo-based YouTuber ‘Kiwami Japan’ (not his real name!) rose to notoriety thanks to his extremely unorthodox experiments in turning everyday materials (think a flimsy piece of cardboard or mushy tofu) into usable kitchen knives. It might sound bizarre, but, with a following of 2.68 million, this material alchemy, packaged in bite-sized 15-20 minute video clips, regularly keeps fans glued to their screens. Experimenting with bioplastics, Kiwami aims to not only entertain his viewers, but also educate them. “Originally, I was interested in testing the limits of existing materials. But, in recent years, I’ve become really interested in biodegradable alternatives. I want to use knife-making as a vehicle to educate my viewers on the different characteristics of these materials, and let them see things that they rarely get to see.”
It takes months of experimentation and dedicated hours for Kiwami to concoct his knives out of things like aluminium foil, tofu, smoke, carbon fibre, and even fungus. In his videos, you can see him comparing their suitability by putting them through various stress tests. He uses one of his most out-there experiments as an illustration – the time he made a knife out of tofu. “Tofu itself is soft and sticky. You can’t make anything from it,” explains Kiwami. “I found that, by changing the concentration of soy milk in tofu through heat, I could optimise the hardness and stickiness of tofu. But, as a result, the tofu cracked after drying. With that in mind, I thought about using a centrifuge to extract soy concentrate from the soymilk instead, and it worked!”
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It’s this sort of ingenuity that captures the imagination of his following. “My toolset is cheap and simple, so I have to make up for it by using creativity. For example, one of my harder projects was making a ring made out of fingernails. To do this, I had to apply 150 kg of compression to the nail mixture while keeping it heated at 150ºC for 90 minutes. Without the proper equipment, this can be hard to do. But I achieved it by squashing it inside the nut of a car tire and putting it in the oven!”
Not everyone is convinced by Kiwami’s concoctions. “A small portion of people say my work is fake. Some people judge things without trying or thinking, and even after I spent eight hours in front of reporters turning aluminium foil into a knife, I couldn’t change their opinions.” He’s adamant, however, that not only is what he does real, but that his techniques could also be used in real life. Already, he’s sharing his research into keratin with a university that wants to spread the word of bioplastics to the world, and helping out different organisations such as a food manufacturer experimenting with making biodegradable cutlery. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll all find knives made of tofu in our kitchens in time.