Aritsugu Kamagata Usuba 210mm(8.5")
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

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Aritsugu Kamagata Usuba 210mm(8.5")


- The original handle was Magnolia wood, which is quite popular, if not standard choice for a basic handle on Japanese kitchen knives, at least from what I have seen, and I've seen quite a bit in last few years. The handle that the knife came with was D shape. In short, this is the basic handle, magnolia wood, D type. Aritsugu does offer handle options, although reluctantly. They don't say no officially, but the prices are very steep, and options are too few. So, directly or indirectly they force you to look for more advanced handles elsewhere. Fine by me, Stefan is far easier to work with and offers tons of choices. The new handle that he made is pretty colorful and very rich in texture or whatever that is, pattern I guess. Looks beautiful in short. As Stefan told me it's a buckeye burl wood. If you want the details, then it goes like this, Buckeye(Aesculus glabra) is a wood type, and the burl describes the section of the wood has been deformed and knotted. Aesthetically it looks very pleasing, except it is that much harder to work with. So, yeah, I do appreciate again and again the work that went into that handle, every time I look at it. The handle has been coated with protective wax, and once in a while I use mineral oil to coat it. Holds up just fine, and it's been over 2 years since I got it. The density of Buckeye the wood is definitely higher than that of the magnolia wood, and dunno if it is because of all the post processing, but in the end, the new handle is smoother and less porous compared to the original. As far as preventing absorption and retention of the moisture is concerned, the new handle is way better. The feel of the new handle is also way better compared to the original. In short, I like the new one better in all aspects, including octagonal shape which is definitely the preferred choice for me when it comes to Japanese kitchen knives handles.

Usage - Edge 10° inclusive

- I've been using usuba on and off, can't say it's my primary use kitchen knife, simply because of its specifics and lack of my expertise with it. Still, it is a very interesting knife to play with and I use it either as delicate cutter or on occasion, as a primary knife when preparing salads, which means I cut about 16-18 lbs of vegetables in one session, about 20 different types. Although that takes longer time vs. using one of my favorite Gyutos or Chukabochos, it is a good training exercise to improve my skills with Usubas. As a guide, I use Nozaki's book - Japanese kitchen Knives. It does have quite a few intricate patterns that can be done with usuba and I try to follow the directions. Can't say it's to easy, but practice makes it perfect :) I figure, it doesn't make much sense to describe how do I try to train with Usuba. Instead I'll briefly describe how it works for the ingredients I work with and that'd be it. Keep in mind that I am not an expert user as far as usubas are concerned, and some of the cutting I'll describe isn't exactly suited for Usuba knives. However, besides learning proper usuba use, it is interesting how does it perform as a general vegetable knife and how does the knife hold up overall. Well, it does hold up very well with very thin edge.

Usuba Specific - Well, not much. The main technique I am learning is katsura muki technique. Usubas are theoretically the best knives for katsura muki, and compared to other types of knives I find it easiest to use for katsura muki. Another job where usuba definitely shines is chiffonade. Mainly thanks to very thin, straight edge. Kamagata style blade allows for more refined tip work as well. Although, I have hard time figuring out what is traditional Usuba techniques and what is not. Anyhow, the tip works well and that's all I can say. I've picked up few other relatively complicated cuts from Nozaki's book, and in all cases very thin, chisel edge, make things easier. At least for those decorative cuts. In hands of an experienced chef, I mean experiences with Usuba, it can do wonders, but I am far form that level. What I can tell you is that cutting performance of the knife is exceptionally high, currently the edge is about 10° total, and the edge holding on the vegetables, using quality end grain board has been nothing short of exceptional. For advanced usuba techniques you will need to find a better source.

General Food Prep - Like I said above, I do use Usuba for massive vegetable cutting sessions, however, that's for practicing purpose, and at least for now, while my usuba skills are lacking, it doesn't work well, or as well as Gyutos and Chukabochos in that area. It isn't designed for that, so don't blame that on the knife, that's just me. Besides practicing, I hear that Usuba can be used as a do it all knife in the kitchen, in hands of a very experienced chef. Can't say I strive to become one, I just like knives and using them, but I'm curious, and experience is experience no matter how you look at it. However, as a disclaimer or warning, be aware of the fact that even stock usubas come with very thin edges, that is unless you get them straight from Japan, when they might come with no edge. It is very easy to damage delicate edge on the usuba if you don't be careful. I have to say all that because most of the people have no problem whatsoever putting sizeable dents and nicks in 58HRC, 40° thick edges. The same treatment will definitely put multiple chips on the usuba edge super fast.

Ok, now about the veggie cutting. First up, the broccoli. Mincing crowns was very easy, the blade length was not an issue, extreme sharpness helped a lot. With broccoli stems I was far more careful, since they're thick, rather harsh, so I didn't try slicing in the air, went with the board and sliced in sub millimeter pieces. Now that was easy, and Usuba really shines in that area. I just had to pay extra attention not to twist the knife, as the lateral loads are primary source of the dulling in the kitchen at least. I've also tried chopping on the board, not an axe style, just lay the edge on the bunch of sliced broccoli and tap on the spine. Mainly I was concerned with super sharp edge biting into the wood and then twisting the blade sideways. Sure was to form a roll, but I've managed to that without any edge damage. To be precise, I do that exercise quite often, just to train precision and hand coordination. Another interesting chore, mincing red radish. That one is easy, usuba is definitely the knife to work on that. Slice and dice into 1mm thick pieces, then into cubes. Smaller knives like Watanabe small nakiri do that job just great, just thinner, chisel edge on usuba is a better performer, however, Aritsugu Usuba is also heavier and thicker. So, I am not entirely sold on that, if I have to work long time with very small veggies I might still choose smaller and lighter knife. Again, this is my lack of experience with Usuba, I am sure no self respecting Japanese chef would do that, no matter how tired, or may be I dunno what they would do anyway ;)

I already mentioned chiffonade, which was used for Basil leaves. In short, very nice. Actually, most of the time, when I am not in a hurry, I always pull out Aritsugu usuba to do the chiffonade. Even with rather thick stack of the leaves, Usuba manages to cut through the whole stack very cleanly, hardly any damage to the leaves. Mincing green onions is another fun thing to do, again very sharp edge makes it easy, just hold the knife light and it glides through. Another ingredient that usuba worked well was tomatoes. Same reason, you don't want them squashed, cuts need to be as clean as they can get. Mincing soft leaves was alright with the usuba, but gyuto does it faster, because of the longer edge and thanks to the curved blade one can utilize rocking motion as well. Chukabochos also let me work faster for the same for, because they are wider, offering better protection and support for the guide hand. Same deal with the bell peppers, I just need to mince them, no complicated cutting, so bigger knives work better. Brussels sprouts are a trouble, at lease when you try to mince them like I do. Harsh stuff, and even though usuba is a very sharp knife, I still need to apply more force then I'd like, in short it's not a delicate job, so unless your skills are very high, better left for other knives like gyutos and chukabochos. Overall, about 20 different types of vegetables are in the mix, and every once in a while I go through all that with Aritsugu usuba, except for avocados. In the end, it's much more of an experimenting, learning and mistakes for me and my Aritsugu usuba than anything else. So, I'll skip the details, because whatever didn't work too well, it's either because the Usuba wasn't designed for it, or because I wasn't experienced enough. I don't want to judge the knife dedicated to specific tasks based on my lack of the specific skills :)


- As far as the knife itself is concerned, Aritsugu wood pattern kamagata usuba displays remarkable cutting performance and edge holding ability. Build quality was very good except for the imperfection of the blade, the section which wasn't exactly straight resulting in difficulties with sharpening. Can't say it was detrimental to overall knife performance, because the edge was not affected, but still it shouldn've been that way. After all it was 400$ knife. Well, it wasn't worth returning it for that reason alone. And after almost 2 years of use, I'm sold on it, just y its sheer performance alone. After all the experimenting and training with it, I've never had any significant problems with the knife, I had a single chip in 2+ years, and that's a 65HRC+ blade, with 10° inclusive angle on it. Of course, I was careful with it, but I used it a lot, and very often for the jobs that weren't very delicate either. Still, it performed very well and held up great. I'm glad I have it and happy with its performance. Now, if you are reading this review to decide on usuba purchase, I'd have to remind you that usuba is a highly specialized knife, requiring considerable skills to use it properly. If you are sure about that part, or like me just want to experiment and learn, then as far as Aritsugu usuba's knife properties go, you are in for a treat. Just be sure you can sharpen and maintain the very hard steel. it's performance was definitely better compared to Tadatsuna Shirogami kamagata usuba I've had before, although sharpening Aritsugu is more challenging than Tadatsuna, that's for sure. Decide for yourself whichever suits your needs better.

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  • Blade - 210.00mm(8.27")
  • Thickness - 5.00mm
  • Width - 49.00mm
  • OAL - 353.00mm(13.9")
  • Steel - Aogami 2 65HRC
  • Handle - Buckeye Burl Wood
  • Weight - Original - 259.40g(8.77oz), Custom handle - 290.00g(9.81oz)
  • Acquired - 06/2009 Price - 400.95$

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Last updated - 05/19/19