Aritsugu 300mm Honkasumi Yanagiba became my first truly high-end yanagi knife. Before that I did own 240mm( 9½") Mac yanagi. Once I realized I liked the knife, I've decided to go with a better knife. After looking around I've found suitable yanagi (or also yanagiba), which was 300mm Aritsugu honkasumi with rosewood handle. Except the dealer price was quite high for it, well over 600$. Little more search and asking around on knifeforums resulted in finding Takeshi's Aframes Tokyo. Pretty much a gold mine for someone like me. High end and budget authentic Japanese cutlery, at very reasonable prices. Long story short, Takeshi, the owner of the place, placed custom order for me with Aritsugu in Japan, in Kyoto shop as far as I am concerned, and few weeks later this beautiful and very long knife was in my possession. I've also learned that Aritsugu AoKo(Aogami) steel Honkasumi yanagis are in his Betsuuchi line. Important! ;) Total price came to 405$, which was quite a saving. Obviously not a lot of people shop around for 400$ knives, or feel that price is a bargain, but for what it was, trust me, it is a bargain ;) Even though I don't really a need fish slicer, or a sushi knife as yanagiba is known in western world, I really wanted to have it, and I was sure I'd find good use for it. After all, I managed to use Mac yanagi and liked it too.
General- I was relatively new to quality Japanese knives back then, and it was a pleasant surprise to discover nice box and packaging for the knife. Wooden saya and its pin were strapped to the box separately. Sadly, the says doesn't really fit the box ;) Anyway, the knife was well packed. Initial inspection was both, curiosity and really looking for the flaws. None of which was found. The blade was very well made, everything fitted perfectly and grind lines were very even. The knife is also very straight, that actually is an issue with very long and very hard blades like yanagis. One thing I would consider a deficiency while being picky is the rough grind lines around the machi. That spot preferably has to be smooth, because that's where your index finger join ends up in the pinch grip. No biggie, I've polished it myself.
The only problem I have discovered was the complete absence of the edge. There wasn't even any initial bevel on the knife. I've had to sharpen it myself. At that moment I didn't really consider that a problem. I am very used to the fact that 99.99% of the factory and semi-custom knives need sharpening out of the box. Had I known what it was like to sharpen 300mm long blade at 65+ HRC I might've been a bit more concerned, but about that later, in sharpening section. As for the honkasumi, or hongasumi, that is the highest grade kasumi line from Aritsugu and many other makers. Kasumi in Japanese means mist and in the context of knives refers to the hazy appearance of the line formed by hagane and jigane layers where they meet right above the bevel. Even though Kasumi technology, i.e. cladding steel hard core with softer stainless layer is used on multitude of Japanese knives, kasumi you'll see mainly on single bevel knives. At least I haven't seen it on anything else. Besides the visual cue of the kasumi line, I choose honkasumi knife simply because it was higher grade.
Blade- Honkasumi yanagi features 300.00mm(12") long, slender blade. It is 4.5mm at its thickest and 45mm wide at the heel. Visually, I think yanagibas are as elegant as it gets. Very simple blade geometry, yet very appealing to the eye. To tell you the truth, it was the looks and curiosity that made me buy this knife. Otherwise, with my cooking and eating habits I have no real need for a dedicated fish slicer. On the other hand, it is still a slicer and in experienced hands(mine aren't anywhere near that level, even after 10 month of using it), it can be a multipurpose knife like chef's knife or its Japanese counterpart - Gyuto. Blade finish was, what I would consider a rough satin. You can see slight grind marks on this photo. One might consider that wrong for the knife that costs over 400$, and that is a valid point too, but honkasumi line isn't a showpiece, it is a 100% functional tool, meant to be a real workhorse in the pro kitchen, a knife that can go full shift without sharpening in pro environment. If you think that's not impressive, then you probably don't know how sharp the knife must be to be used there, in other words what are the demands for those knives. For comparison, average western mainstream knife would loose that level of sharpness in couple hours or less ;) As for the kasumi line itself, it looks very cool and natural, unlike acid etched thingy on cheap imitations.
Handle- Handle is Rosewood with ebony ferrule. At that time I wasn't really aware of the possibility and choices with the custom handles on Japanese kitchen knives. In other words I didn't know Stefan Keller and his works. So, I've asked Takeshi to order with that handle. The other choice was magnolia wood, and I don't' really like that yellowish, too plain looking handle on the 400$ knife. That blade does deserve a better one. So, I've had to shell out extra $$ for the handle. Not so sure how much, don't remember now and the records I've kept, don't show the exact price for this type of handle, but what I do have is the estimate from Aritsugu for 360$ for the Ebony handle. As much as I'd love to have the ebony handle on that knife, I've decided to skip on that. I am glad I did though. Stefan has almost finished ebony handle which is much more custom design and more to my taste :) Anyway, for now, 06/2009 Aritsugu honkasumi yanagi still features its original Rosewood handle. Not for long though, and I'll update this section with mandatory photos, once the new handle is installed.
Last updated - 09/01/11