June 17, 2009

Shigefusa Nakiri Bocho/重房の菜切り包丁

I finally got one! A Shigefusa knife! Yesterday, I ordered a Shigefusa nakiri bocho (knife for cutting greens) from a shop in Tokyo, and I received it today.
Price: 13,200 yen (very reasonable!)
For an explanation of nakiri bocho, go to this Wikipedia entry.

Which angle would you prefer? (laugh)

First of all, I cut a tomato into wedges with this knife. The knife cut so well!

My other knives (top to bottom): Cheap sashimi knife from Kaijirushi (known as Kai in the United States), cheap deba knife, also from Kaijirushi, German knife (my wife's, actually), and Global santoku.
私の他の包丁(上から下へ): 貝印の安い刺身包丁、同じく貝印の安い出刃包丁、ドイツの包丁(実際は妻のです)、グローバルの三徳。

To maintain the Shigefusa knife properly, I need to buy a better whetstone and a better sharpening tool.

More on this Shigefusa nakiri after I shred cabbage and cut a daikon!


pink said...

Wow, that's a nice looking knife!

When I was in Japan a few years ago, some of the people we were traveling with kept talking about finding and buying a specific knife. I wonder if it was similar to this.

Hiroyuki said...

pink: Shigefusa (whose real name is Tokifusa Iizuka) is one of the best knife makers in Japan. The knives he makes are both practical and artistic.

Maybe a "gyuto" or a chef's knife? All other types of Japanese knives (sashimi, takohiki, deba, nakiri, usuba, etc.) are not useful unless you are to follow Japanese cuisine.

Towkay said...

Hiro: I tracked down and ordered a 180mm shigefusa santoku, in the same black-forged kurouchi finish as what you have. Although, I paid quite a bit more than you did (close to the equivalent of 20K yen), I am extremely fortunate to have found it IN STOCK with one of the 3 online retailers here in the United States, it should be here soon. I am still interested in the 180mm suminagashi petty from yoshizawa's, since it will slice better than a santoku and not to mention it will be dazzling.

By the way, while researching the suminagashi finish, I found some incredible information about damascus steel. While it's true that large scale commercial production has ceased since 1750 due to lost techniques and exhausted special ores; it has been credibly re-discovered in the 1800s in Russia where is was known as Bulat Steel and largely experimentally re-created since the 1980s in France and here in the United States. So it is entirely possible to make a closely recreated damascus blade today using contemporary materials and techniques. It should be possible to make a bocho using modern wootz ore ingots, by using the honyaki technique. The suminagashi san-mai bocho were never meant to be damascus replicates but rather uses the traditional samurai sword laminated construction technique. In order words, suminagashi knives are made by san mai laminates not because they can't be made in nearly true damascus fashion but because they are intentionally made as laminates!

Hiroyuki said...

Towkay: Congratulations! 180-mm Shigefusa santoku for 20,000 yen? Don't you think it's a good buy, considering the shipping cost?

As for suminagashi and Damascus, I'm not sure of their correct definitions. I googled, only to find that different people use those terms differently. (BTW, Yoshizawa uses the term kitaeji not suminagashi on their website.)

Don't forget to tell us about your Shigefusa knife on your blog or somewhere else!

Towkay said...


The price doesn't concern me at all, I am very lucky to have it. I had the opportunity to procure a kyotop gyuto from kyocera; which is the best ceramic knife currently available for a great price, but I rather spend it on the shigefusa.

The damascus info is very interesting to me. To the best of my knowledge, from what I have read, true damascus technique is not traditional to nihonto/bocho making and was never used in Japan. It relied on obtaining wootz ore from India (high carbon steel ore with vanadium), and forging using Persian techniques under low heat (which turns some of the vanadium into carbide), and air tempering. Again, this has been replicated several times since the 1750s, and modern swordmakers have approximated the process up to the molecular level.

True damascus actually shares some characteristics with the kyotop ceramic knife. The cutting edge in both is made of the same carbide molecules (think zirconium diamond hardness). But in the case of true damascus, the rest of the blade is steel, so it also has the added flexibility of steel. The pattern in true damascus is formed by veins of carbide "swimming" in the steel core.

Kitaeji or suminagashi laminate is made by folding 2 metals (1 light and 1 dark) together into many layers and then selectively polishing it to expose the alternating bands. 2 kitaeji laminates are then used to sandwich a high carbon layer to form a san-mai laminate blade. But the cutting edge is only from the exposed middle high carbon layer. This is traditional to nihonto technique. In other words, kitaeji was never meant as a replacement for true damascus, but it's own separate technique. But modern marketing probably intentionally confused the two to confuse consumers like you and me. In other words, kitaeji should cost more, because it takes more effort to make. BUT it doesn't change the cutting properties (unlike true damascus), it only makes the sides of the blade more beautiful.

Hiroyuki said...

Towkay: Thanks for more detailed information.
What puzzles me is stupid descriptions in English that could be interpreted to mean that kitaeji is synonymous with Damascus.

Towkay said...


Got my knife in, it's a beauty. Looks like a cousin of your knife, with the same finish. The ho wood handle is extremely light, so I feel the weight of the knife, it wants to lean forward. It is razor sharp. The cutting edge is mirror-smooth.

One can tell, that it was polished three times. First, a rough polished, then treated in light acid to get the black kurouchi finish. Second, a finer polish over the inferior half of the blade to give a Kasumi Haze. Lastly, a fine polish to give a mirror surface of the cutting edge. Working hard this weekend, but will post pictures asap.

Over time the kurouchi finish will probably fade, and I will send it to Korin here in new york to have it polished to a honkasumi haze,

Hiroyuki said...

Towkay: This is becoming more interesting! Be sure to post some photos somewhere! I think I'll post some photo of mine, which has gotten a little rusy but still cuts as good as new. I really, really have to improve my sharpening skill so I won't ruin my precious Shigefusa knife.

Towkay said...

Hiro: I'm planning on oiling the blade with mineral oil (not sure about the japanese equivalent), and then keeping it between uses in a vacuum canister (I have extra large foodsaver canisters that I may be able to fit). need to get a saya first though, so it would slice open the vaccuum canister. Hitachi or some other big firm has a patent on storing metal in vaccuum to prevent rust believe it or not.

Hiroyuki said...

Towkay: Great care for the great knife! I will show you how I keep my Shigefusa in a day or two.

Towkay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Towkay said...


Here are some photos of my knife. It is basically a new york cousin of your knife.