Shigefusa 270mm kasumi yanagiba with custom, by me, desert ironwood handle

16 Nov 2010

My current collection of yanagiba knives

As I have mentioned earlier, out of all the Japanese knives the yanagi knife is the one closest to my heart. I just love the lines and the balance in well made yanagiba. The way it instantly becomes an extension of my hand almost feels like magic. The feel of a well sharpened blade easily slicing through fish leaving a shiny, almost oily surface totally free of tear and damage to the delicate flesh is really satisfying. Here is a picture of my current collection of these fascinating knives.

I will describe them briefly starting at the top:

1. Keijiro Doi 80th anniversary 300mm hayate kengata mirror finished yanagi. Number 4 of 5 made. White steel #1 (Shiro ichi ko). Octagonal Macassar ebony handle with blonde water buffalo horn bolsters. Collection piece, never used. Hardness HRC64-65.

2. My latest project. A refurbished 40++ years old 300mm mirror finished yanagi. Claimed to be true tamahagane steel, but more probably very high quality blue steel #1 (Aoko). Custom made (by me) octagonal Macassar ebony handle with silver inlays and black water buffalo horn bolsters. Hardness HRC63-65?

3. Sakai Gyutoko 300mm Honyaki mirror finished yanagi by master blacksmith Kasahara. From the shop of Tomohito Iida, Iida tools i Japan. If you are in the market for professional tools from Japan, I can recommend his shop. Excellent service, excellent tools, very reasonable prices. .The knife has a beautiful ripple line on both sides two thirds up the blade, so I have a lot of hardened steel here. A blade to pass down through several generations. My go-to yanagi. Gets incredibly sharp and stays sharp "for ever". White steel #2 (Shiro ni ko). Octagonal Ho-wood handle with black water buffalo bolster. Hardness HRC63-65.

4. Shigefusa 270mm kasumi yanagi by Tokifusa Iisuka. Special Swedish steel alloy by Shigefusa. Beautifully polished with Japanese natural stones to a silky matte finish.  Custom (by me) octagonal handle of desert ironwood with silver inlays and vlack water buffalo horn bolsters. Absolutely perfectly balanced and a fantastic knife. Hardness HRC64-65?

5. Masahiro 240mm kasumi yanagi. My very first Japanese style knife. I bought this more than 10 years ago and for many years this was my only Japanese style knife. Started out as a yanagiba but after 10 years of sharpening it looks more like a fuguhiki. Blue steel #2 (Aoko). Custom (by me) octagonal Macassar ebony handle with black water buffalo horn bolster. A very light and easy knife to use. Hardness HRC62-63.


  1. So what is you favourite ???? :)

  2. That, my friend, is an impossible question to answer. Which of my children do I prefer? They are all very special to me in their own way. My first, my precious, my own handicraft, my honyaki, my collection piece...I must admit that the Shigefusa gives me a really special feeling when using it. The balance in the Shig is unsurpassed. I have just briefly tried the refurbished yanagi on some arctic cod fillet, and it performs really exeptionally well... but it is something special about the Shig that I can't really explain. If I could save only one, it would obviously be the Doi due to its value and the fact that Doi is retired and will not make any more knives, but I would then probably cry over the Shigefusa :o)

  3. Harald,

    I am an amateur chef and I am starting to make my first steps in sushi and sashimi. I already started a small Japanese knife collection (Usuba, Kiristuke and big Gyutoi from Takeda, Deba and usuba from Yoshohihiro (2 blue and dammascus vg 10), and a fillet knike from shun.

    I am prepared now to buy my first yanagiba. And I decided to go for a 270mm blade and I am between the sakai takayuki byakko in White 1 and the yoshihiro bue Steel damascus (beautifull). Which one would you suggest to buy? Both are in the 500 dólars range. Do you think are they good choices?

    Santiago from Argentina.


    1. Hi Santiago. I believe you will be very happy with either one. Damascus or not is a matter of personal taste. While very beautiful I believe the pattern is more of a Visual treat than of any practical function. Blue or white steel is pretty Equal in performance if heat threated properly and you need to be an exceptionally skilled chef to feel any difference between the two. Congrats on your collection and good luck in your endeavours.

  4. I find your passion for Japanese knives enviable. I have a growing collection. Can you help me to find a new, original Teijiro Doi 270mm Fugubiki knife ? I am from Sydney, Australia but spend much time at my house at Jervis Bay where dolphins still choose to swim. Jervis Bay has wonderful fish and I frequently prepare the the most fresh sashimi with my Doi Yanagi - blue steel #2 (Aoko).