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Review: Toyama Noborikoi 210mm

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ModRQC

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Chance smiles. Wanted to try this knife, and a BST providentially came with a decent price for a barely used unit. Seems the JNS naming scheme literally means “climbing” or “jumping carp”, while culturally in relation with koi fish where “koi” is informal for the colored variants of a species of carps, bred and kept for decorative purpose, some emblematic of specific aspects of personal growth and well-being. Sorry for this very general and probably distorted explanation of something of no real consequence: whatever good there is comes from a thread here on KKF, for misinformation blame Wikipedia and shady alternative sources. I’m just trying…

Syuuji Toyama is a seventy-some master working alone in his shop – see that incredible YT video of him making a Deba:



Start.JPG


MAKER
Toyama
TYPE & LENGTH
Gyuto 210mm
FINISH & STEEL
Kasumi Aogami #2
WEIGHT / BALANCE
174g / +30
HANDLE MATERIAL
D-Shape Ho Wood & Buffalo Horn
TOTAL LENGTH​
370​
BLADE LENGTH​
223​
EDGE LENGTH​
210
HEIGHT AT HEEL​
50
HEIGHT AT MID BLADE​
43​
HEIGHT 35mm TO TIP​
29​
SPINE THICKNESS
(4.7 out of handle)
HEEL​
4.1
MID BLADE​
2.2​
35mm TO TIP​
2​
10mm TO TIP​
1.4
THICKNESS OVER THE EDGE
@ 10/5/1mm (Choil=True*)
HEEL + 10mm​
1.1 / 0.6 / < 0.1​
MID BLADE​
1.1 / 0.6 / < 0.1​
35mm TO TIP​
1.1 / 0.6 / < 0.1​
TIP**​
1.1 / 0.6 / < 0.1​
* True in line with Heel +10mm. False is significantly different - see choil shot.
** Nearest to tip with still 10mm perpendicular up the edge just below the spine.



Box.jpg

Box is pretty typical, albeit very nice: sturdy, tight friction fit, carton sheath protecting and keeping the blade in place.

In this new review formula, box isn’t counting towards score anymore. The general criteria otherwise stay the same while the scoring gets dumbed down to five points total – which makes each affect toll more aggressively. Performance criterion will still show and discuss the profile but no more score goes towards that neither, since profile is the most personal thing to like or dislike, and has always been the most inconsequent aspect to brute performance within this criterion.


Handle: 0.5/1
Aesthetics & Ergonomics

Handle.jpg

Does the job. For the price I was tempted to give bottom mark, since it’s the cheapest of handles on one hand, but more importantly puts the balance 30mm forward the heel, walking the fine line of overdone for a 210mm. It however feels quite nice in use with that balance point, enough to admit that it essentially still suits the knife’s profile and warrants the average score. I wonder how it would translate on any of the longer Gyuto though…


Blade: 0.5/1
Choil & Spine

Blade.JPG

Choil semi-eased, spine partially rounded at the pinch. Only but warrants average score again – and apparently Maksim asks for superior F&F on these, which is probably a good thing. However, a look at the video tells you just how much of a single-handmade knife you get, and apparently amongst the best treatment of Blue #2 – so I guess under this light, price is pretty good, handle and rougher details disputable only if you’re really picky.


Finish: 1/1
Aesthetics & Maintenance

Finish.jpg

Every day maintenance for this knife will be on the easiest side of carbons, kasumi pattern is nicely done enough to please the amateur of plain looks in me, and as a big plus, makes for the easiest of long-term maintenance where you’ll be able to naturally blend additional stone work with it.


Performance: 2/2
Geometry & Grind

Choil.jpg

It’s the place to shine, and the Toyama does it rather awesomely. First, counting mild use from original owner, this knife is nicely sharp OOTB and thin behind the edge, especially just above it, performing superbly already. Yet you have that great beefy geometry and, accordingly, quite nice food release. In cutting reminiscent of Yoshikane, but what you won’t get with a Yoshi is the taller blade that combines a still tall curving to tip area with pretty nimble tip work despite the bull nose and absence of fine tapering at the tip. In all absolute I prefer a finer tip, but here can’t complain with the equilibrium befitting profile, especially where that kind of tip provides benefits of its own.

Grind_L.jpg
Grind_R.jpg

Grind is kindly asymmetrical, a more abrupt shift pretty obvious 15-20mm behind the edge. We have some dramatic spinal tapering out of the handle, but over most of the cutting edge there isn’t much to speak of, and even getting to the tip the spine keeps relatively thick. There’s accordingly about no longitudinal tapering of the blade itself. Nice convexity to the cutting side.

Profile.jpg

Not much flat spot for the 210mm unit, but I kind of dig them that way as long as the belly is sufficiently progressive to act as a flat spot until mid-length at least. Most of my last purchases have this kind of profile and I find them a tad more natural in use than a long straight flat spot, although having one or ten of these is always a good thing too.


Overall Score: 4/5

End.JPG


There are an overwhelming lot of good things about the Toyama, but F&F and handle for the asking price are somewhat… aaaah… crude. However, for the overall quality and cutting ability, a Toyama sits in the zone still where value is concerned. For now, it is very carefully balanced between keeping it for a longer run in my home rotation, and selling it back fast to hunt for the next new experience. Next couple weeks should be decisive for that matter. Seeing the maker at work has almost convinced me of just keeping the knife forever, but deep admiration and true recognition of what I have in hand is still insufficient reason to keep a knife that doesn’t stick in use – and I don’t know yet if it does. What I know is that it’s made to make someone very happy and proud for a long time.
 

ModRQC

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tostadas

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You made mention to similarities with the Yoshikane. The specs also sort of reflect that. How would you say the grinds compare in terms of performance during regular use? Theres a bit of price premium associated with the Toyama, so I'm curious how the thinner SS version compares to other thin midweights.
 

ModRQC

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It's Santoku-ish would be the main difference with a Yoshikane. In cutting, both will feel very similar for how they go through, but for Gyutos Yoshi is not very high, all about flat spot, so similarity ends there. Toyama is more autoritative than the Yoshi - handle notwithstanding the blade is approximately 25-30 grams heavier I'd say and that changes a lot of thing - in my hand the Toyama really feels like a heavyweight - more than weight and balance forward can bargain for. In fact in terms of forward balance and weight it reminds me much more of my Shi.Han, but you couldn't imagine two knives being so very different in cutting than those two.

I'll receive my Yoshi soon and intended to make a comp review since I've already reviewed one Yoshi and since I didn't feel like Kono HD2 was review material to me, but worth discussing in light of other knives, because it's pretty good too. One thing I can say from the Yoshi Santoku is this, and I expect in can make a dramatic difference in versatility of a blade once you go into 240-270mm realm: Yoshikane does have longitudinal tapering. Spinal tapering for one thing is much more consistently tapering than Toyama, but the blade also follows that to some extent from about mid-length to tip, where you get a really, really thin tip, and last third of the blade to a lesser extent.

From there, IDK how one profile or another, or this difference above, may or may not play with anyone's feeling of a knife, especially below 240mm. Can say that the tapering to tip with the Yoshi 184mm Santoku was already nice for how it enabled the tip to really really go into fine cuts and quick swipes through - say horizontal in onions and that kind of things. Any knife can do that if sharp enough and not a clunker, but there are great variations as how this cut and other types of tip cut will feel and Yoshi's tip was splendid there. Still, Toyama is a close call for the same kind of tip too, but soon I'll get to compare that with the Yoshi Gyuto finer tip, and I expect I will love the Yoshi tip a whole lot more. Flat profile perhaps not as much. If a combination of both is your fix than the Yoshi is a no brainer.
 

ModRQC

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Edit of the above:

Conjecture: assessment of the Toyama blade being 25-30 grams heavier relates to Yoshi SKD Tsuchime which weighs about 145 grams with a similar handle. Nashiji SKD are heavier, though they come with a wenge handle, and I don't know if handle alone accounts for the weight being closer to Toyama. I do know that Tsuchime is at least as thick, if not a bit thicker, at the spine than Nashiji, from regular vendor specs.

Flat spot: my views change dramatically when going fully 240mm, where I expect to see a healthy flat spot. I've been wanting to buy a S. Tanaka 240mm for a while, and sole thing that puts me off is I don't even know if there's at least as much flat spot on it than on my former Kawamura Y. Tanaka which was at the limit of having a short flat spot/progressive belly for 243mm long. S. Tanaka is slightly more curvy, and majorly slanting upwards, which might or might not make it work. I didn't see a Toyama 240mm profile up close, but suspect it wouldn't be my thing especially with the bull nose.
 

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Question: how do you know this is blue 2? The JNS website just lists it as blue, curious how you know the specific type. Also for his WS, do you know if he is using WS2?

Also, thanks for the reviews, they're great.
 

ModRQC

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Question: how do you know this is blue 2? The JNS website just lists it as blue, curious how you know the specific type. Also for his WS, do you know if he is using WS2?

Also, thanks for the reviews, they're great.
Perfectly justified. In fact, I wouldn't have known better than you, if not for the consensus over here that Toyama excels with Blue #2 and Maksim supposedly asked of him to use his best steel and bring a focus to F&F. But hey, I could be dead wrong in the end. It sure acted exactly like I would expect Blue #2 to act with acidic stuff. That's no AS for sure. Could it be B#1? Possibly I guess.
 

Moooza

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B2 definitely makes sense, just like WS2 is far more likely. Thanks for the info, I'll put it in the most likely bucket, but not necessarily confirmed.
 

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I’m surprised no one chimed in at this point to add to this. I’d say lack of visibility so post a thread about it. White #2 is often used in Sanjo so it would be a reasonnable assumption.
 

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And buy a maker not a steel. Even if the Toyama was Yellow steel, it would just mean it’s been HT’ed by an expert to behave as nice as this. My only regret in selling it is never having got around to sharpen it. It didn’t need it at all. Top 3 best edges OOTB I ever experienced for sure, off my head could contend or tie for very best.
 

Moooza

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Agreed. I already have a few Toyama's, was just curious about the steel, and ended up here.
 

ModRQC

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Great and thorough review 😊. Did you get to compare it to the yoshikane gyuto?
Aaaah the Yoshi was sold pretty fast. Just didn't work nicely with me - except the edge and a lot of things, but no these are too short for me.

No direct comparison per see. If I could have had a Yoshikane tip and grind/true tapering with Toyama's height and Blue #2, I'm sure I would still have it... and like would sing it a lullaby every night.
 

ModRQC

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Agreed. I already have a few Toyama's, was just curious about the steel, and ended up here.
Ah well you might know more than I do already then.
 
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