Two Sakai Blues: Konosuke MM and Takada no Hamono Suiboku Reviewed

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timebard

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When I started accumulating nice kitchen knives, I gravitated pretty quickly towards the Sanjo region and style in my early pickups. I ran through the standard shortlist (Mazaki, Wakui, Yoshikane, Masashi, Toyama, Watanabe) and then detoured towards Western makers for a while without really trying out gyutos from Sakai. The one exception was a Konosuke GS+ that didn’t do much for me apparently isn't actually a Sakai knife, even.

However, the hype around Sakai craftsmen including Yoshikazu Tanaka and Naohito Myojin was impossible to miss. All the alter egos and secrecy around who’s who among different sharpeners didn’t help with determining what I wanted but given the number of members who’ve named Kono FMs, MMs, Takadas, and other permutations/collabs as favorites, I knew I needed to try one eventually. I finally bit on a trade offer for a Takada no Hamono in blue #1… which I immediately followed up by snagging a Konosuke MM in blue #2 from BST. Sounds like a recipe for a side-by-side review…

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First impressions: Takada no Hamono Suiboku
In hand, it’s a bit of an unassuming blade. It’s quite light at 148 grams and a spine thickness a little over 2.5mm at the heel, but it has just enough weight to feel nimble rather than wispy. At 225mm length, just a hair shy of 50mm at the heel and balancing almost exactly at a pinch grip, it feels extremely neutral–not big, not small, not forward or backwards balanced, just… right in the middle. For the right user, it’s very much a size that can disappear and become an effortless extension of your hand. The tradeoff is that if you want some heft and authority, look elsewhere. The profile has a smaller flat spot near but not all the way to the heel, and then a longer-than-average continuous curve to a slightly high tip. Grind looks very thin with no perceptible shoulder and quite a bit of convexity for a thin blade.

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One novel feature is that the choil is rounded very asymmetrically, with the eased radius going all the way through the width of the blade–it’s perfect for a right-handed user and would be really annoying for a lefty. Great spine rounding along most of the length of the blade. As I bought this secondhand I can't comment on out of the box finish, but the lovely contrast between the core and cladding continues to come through despite plenty of patina. The cladding takes just a gorgeous patina but at this point has become very stable without any noticeable reactivity in use. Handle is really crisp and has maybe the nicest horn ferrule I’ve handled. The wood is just a little bit proud of the horn on a few facets unfortunately but it’s pretty subtle. It’s a bit narrower than typical (which I like) but, as with so many stock handles, needlessly long for anyone using a pinch grip.

First impressions: Konosuke MM
Feels quite solid in hand. Thin for sure but with a respectable amount of heft through the spine, which is further emphasized by the denser ebony handle–together, these add a full 50g compared to the Takada (198g). While the Takada’s weight is very centered around the pinch, the Kono feels like there’s a lot of mass both fore and aft, despite the balance point being only a few mm further back. In terms of dimensions, it’s almost the same at roughly 227x50.5, but side by side it appears to be a significantly bigger knife, due mostly to a flatter profile that carries more blade height forward. It has a substantially bigger feeling sweet spot and a marginally lower tip. The choil shot shows it to be wicked thin immediately behind the edge, but thickens up more quickly than the Takada.

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The spine is a little over 3mm at the heel and nicely rounded (not quite as polished as the Takada, but perfectly fine) and the choil has the Konosuke signature chamfered easing. Finish is an elegant but simple horizontal hairline. It patinas more like typical iron cladding and has rather muted contrast between cladding and core. The Khii handle is really nicely executed with crisp edges, a taller/narrower shape than average, and a rounded butt end. I’m not a big fan of the machi gap generally but no complaints in how this one is installed.

Side-by-side testing:
My first impression when I put both knives on the board was sadly anticlimatic: the MM pretty much ran away with the contest. Not that the Takada is a poor cutter–it’s just that the MM is a really, really good cutter, I would say better all-around than my benchmarks for Japanese blades (Toyama and Yoshikane) and approaching my favorite westerns. If the Takada is very much in the typical Sakai lightweight category, the MM feels like that knife put on some serious muscle. With the added weight in play as well as a very thin grind towards the tip, it cuts a lot more aggressively and does it without feeling overly fragile. It outcut the Takada through a couple batches of mirepoix and some apples pretty handily, and I was ready to call it a hands-down winner between the two.

But then… after some more use and testing, especially on tasks like thin carrot and cucumber slices, the key compromise of the MM’s design started to become apparent while the Takada began to shine a bit more. Both knives are quite convex at the heel end, but the MM transitions around halfway out to a much flatter grind. This makes for a pretty effortless push cut, especially through denser product, but the tradeoff is that any food that ends up on the front half of the blade sticks on and doesn’t let go. This is especially apparent with thinly sliced wet product--if you initiate a cut from the tip rather than the mid-blade, release becomes remarkably poor. By contrast, the Takada continues its convex grind along the full length of the blade, allowing it to shed food quite a bit better–probably pretty close to the limit of what’s possible for a near-laser.

The other element that became more apparent--all performance considerations aside--is how Takada's suiboko finish really elevates the character the knife takes on with use. In addition to the darkened core steel, the patina the cladding takes is much more colorful and has more character than the muted, grey/brown patina that shows up on the MM. The photos below may exaggerate the difference a bit but it's very noticeable.

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I did touch up both knives briefly on a 6000 grit stone and was equally happy with the results on both. I am not an experienced enough sharpener to make a useful comparison between these two aogami variations and heat treats, other than to say I'd happily take either steel any day.

Wrapup:
Between these two knives, the Konosuke is the one that will stick with me going forward, but with use I developed more appreciation than I expected off the bat for the Takada. The craftsmanship of the blade is stellar and I can understand why it's a favorite for those who like a lighter gyuto. Alas, right now it’s serving as more of a pleasant alternative to my daily drivers than a go-to.

If you’ve gotten on the MM hype train after reading this, the bad news is that they haven’t been available in years and likely won’t be made again due to the smith Mori reportedly retiring. But Myojin is just getting started! My understanding from searching around here, without having handled one, is that the Tetsujin blue #2 line is quite similar in terms of grind and weight class to the MM... and as a bonus the banding and core steel finish is another step up from the comparatively understated MM. I hope to get my hands on one myself and do a side-by-side round two in the future. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy putting this thing to work.

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Postscript: I initially thought of this review as a comparison of two Sakai knives, but after doing some research (as is often the case) I ended up more confused than I started. Is the MM really a Sakai knife? Well... Myojin is based in Kochi prefecture, not Sakai, and I couldn't find any information on where Mori was based. Given that it's measured in the Sakai style and distributed by Konosuke Sakai (not under their Konosuke Sanjo line), I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt, but no doubt someone will correct me if I'm way off here.
 
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sumis

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cool.

i concur with regards to the mm (not having used a tnh).

mizuke mori worked and trained at shiraki i believe, so i guess the mm is a sakai + sakai blade. please anyone correct me if i'm wrong.

.
 

esoo

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Nice review.

I haven't noticed the sticking to the front of the MM, but maybe because I push cut from near the middle of the blade. I do prefer the MM for doing the initial cuts into an onion.

I would say much of what you say holds true from MM Blue to Takada Ginsan suiboku. The only thing is that at the 210 length the profile between the two is identical
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esoo

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cool.

i concur with regards to the mm (not having used a tnh).

mizuke mori worked and trained at shiraki i believe, so i guess the mm is a sakai + sakai blade. please anyone correct me if i'm wrong.

.

I'm not sure who said the connection to Shiraki before, but I just sent Nakagawa a message on instagram to see if there is any truth that Ms. Mori worked there.
 

Pie

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Awesome review.

My MM looks a bit different, sort of a masashi shape with a less aggressive mazaki angled flat spot. Might be due to 270mm length. Regardless, spot on assessment! I agree one of the great features of the MM is how solid and ready it feels in hand combined with laser performance through almost anything.

It’s one knife that comes out for every prep because it never wedges, and regardless of how beat up my edge is, the geometry remains godly.

This review hits home especially hard after yesterdays prep, during which I realized I use too many knives, the MM basically powdered an onion.
 

blokey

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Thank you for another great review! One thing though, if I remember correctly Konosuke GS+ is also a Sanjo knife, Bernal list them as Sanjo.
 

timebard

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Thank you for another great review! One thing though, if I remember correctly Konosuke GS+ is also a Sanjo knife, Bernal list them as Sanjo.

Huh, interesting! The Site That Shall Not Be Named also mentions it as Kono Sanjo. I had thought that the GS+ was Sakai given the super light weight and running a bit short of the stated length (I think my 240 was about 235)... but you know what they say about assumptions.
 

ModRQC

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Not a novel feature easing more on the right side.

And especially not from Takada… if I’m correct thinking he’s behind the relatively modern Kono HD2 iterations. Or most of them HD2 to begin with, but I’d rather be surer that he’s been the grinder since he established his own shop and some deal yonder.

So let’s say not novel from Sakai at least…
 

esoo

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Not a novel feature easing more on the right side.

And especially not from Takada… if I’m correct thinking he’s behind the relatively modern Kono HD2 iterations. Or most of them HD2 to begin with, but I’d rather be surer that he’s been the grinder since he established his own shop and some deal yonder.

So let’s say not novel from Sakai at least…

I'm pretty sure the HD2s are done by Ashi Hamono, so there is a link there. However I don't think they are done by Takada directly.
 

chefwp

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Nice review. I've always been curious about that Takada gyuto, I have a nakiri in that line and it is sublime. I've restrained myself from acquiring one as I feel it would be overkill to add it to the Kagekiyo and Tetsujin I have, two knives I'd love to know how you feel stack up to the ones you reviewed.
For a while I was on the hunt for a Konesuke as well, but can't bring myself to pay the premiums their retired lines get in the marketplace and Konesuke's production of new knives seems to have hit a snag and come to almost a standstill, part of the reason I jumped on a couple of Tetsujin's when I was able to, as they seem very similar on paper.
 

timebard

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Nice review. I've always been curious about that Takada gyuto, I have a nakiri in that line and it is sublime. I've restrained myself from acquiring one as I feel it would be overkill to add it to the Kagekiyo and Tetsujin I have, two knives I'd love to know how you feel stack up to the ones you reviewed.
For a while I was on the hunt for a Konesuke as well, but can't bring myself to pay the premiums their retired lines get in the marketplace and Konesuke's production of new knives seems to have hit a snag and come to almost a standstill, part of the reason I jumped on a couple of Tetsujin's when I was able to, as they seem very similar on paper.

Well, I'm always willing to do a review round 2 if someone wants to send a worthy contender my way for testing... *waggles eyebrows*

I very much hear you on the Konosuke secondary market--I had mostly written off their premium lines as too pricey and lucked out in grabbing the MM at a friendly price through BST. (Thanks @dwalker !)
 

Cliff

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I concur about the MM. Mine is a tad shorter, but it's one of the best all around knives I've ever tried. It has a fairly low grind while being extremely thin behind the edge, so it feels substantial but never wedges.
 

dwalker

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Well, I'm always willing to do a review round 2 if someone wants to send a worthy contender my way for testing... *waggles eyebrows*

I very much hear you on the Konosuke secondary market--I had mostly written off their premium lines as too pricey and lucked out in grabbing the MM at a friendly price through BST. (Thanks @dwalker !)


You're welcome. I sold it for the price I paid on BST. I don't like the idea of marking up prices to forum members on knives I bought from forum members. I'm glad it got a good home.
 
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