Who is the greatest Japanese blacksmith of our time still producing knives.

Discussion in 'The Kitchen Knife' started by Henry, Jan 12, 2020.

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  1. Jan 12, 2020 #1

    Henry

    Henry

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    In my quest to learn about Japanese knives, I have a question that will be controversial. However it could open up some discourse on what are good examples of Japanese blacksmithing. So here goes, "Which Japanese blacksmith still producing knives today will be considered the greatest of our time." To be more specific here is the criteria:

    1. Must be producing knives as of 2020
    2. Japanese
    3. Must be based on their history not their potential (that could be for another tread)
    4. Minimum 30 plus years of experience
    5. Only judge their work on the blade itself and not the fit and finish on the handle
    6. Limit comments to why a blacksmith is great and not why there are not.
    7. Use only their best line of knives to speak to their skills. For example TF use Denkas where he has the most input into the creation of his blade.

    I would like to see what people's short list are to learn and have a little fun. My apologies in advance to exclude non-japanese blacksmith. Perhaps we could do that for another thread region by region or world all-time tread. You can nominate more than one.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  2. Jan 12, 2020 #2

    Corradobrit1

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    Is this a trick question? TFTFTF
     
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  3. Jan 12, 2020 #3

    Henry

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    In my very limited experience, I would agree.

    But, there are so many knives I have not had the opportunity to own and use. I wanted to listen and learn from others more experienced and informed than I.
     
  4. Jan 12, 2020 #4

    Codered

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    You should have a look at poor adam92 thread and knife before putting TF in top 10. He got a knife with at least 2 overgrinds worse than moritaka and as bent and crooked as a snake. How does that recommend TF for top 10?
     
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  5. Jan 12, 2020 #5

    Corradobrit1

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    Not my experience of at least 5 TF blades. And things have improved a LOT in that dept recently.
     
  6. Jan 12, 2020 #6

    khashy

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    Simplest question to answer ever.

    It’s a tie between Hiroshi Ashi and Kiyoshi Kato.

    The end.
     
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  7. Jan 12, 2020 #7

    M1k3

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    Naokibot Toyomanabe.
     
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  8. Jan 12, 2020 #8

    TRPV4

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    Genkai Masakuni? or is he retired now
     
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  9. Jan 12, 2020 #9

    vMinh Nguyen

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    i'd say genkai masakuni as well.
     
  10. Jan 12, 2020 #10

    da_mich*

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    I think he is still in business. He´s 80+ ! Siraki Kenichi is retired and Ikeda Tasuo Died 2015. I like Yoshikazu Ikeda knives very much.
     
  11. Jan 12, 2020 #11

    Chuckles

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    My initial response to the thread title was to chuckle and immediately think Murray Carter. :)

    I really don’t know enough to have a strong opinion but I am hopeful that the thread stays informative and doesn’t turn into another debate about TF overgrinds.
     
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  12. Jan 13, 2020 #12

    Moooza

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    Tsukasa Hinoura, Heiji, Shigefusa. But the best overall smith is Konobu in my opinion (makes chisels and other tools).

    Iwasaki isn't currently producing knives, but is alive and is the true master in my opinion.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  13. Jan 13, 2020 #13

    osakajoe

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    Trick question. If you’re only judging on the blade itself and only the blade smith, none of you have seen the work. You would only be looking at a forged blank not a finished blade.

    You are looking at a few different craftsman for your finished knife. I don’t know how many times I state this on these forums when it comes to Japanese hand made kitchen knives.
     
  14. Jan 13, 2020 #14

    panda

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    heiji
     
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  15. Jan 13, 2020 #15

    Corradobrit1

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    Not sure that is true for Kiyoshi Kato. I think he's a one-man operation. Probably applies to Hiroshi Ashi too, at least for the Honyaki
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  16. Jan 13, 2020 #16

    thebradleycrew

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    I think there are a few amazing ones, all mentioned above. Highly subjective topic, for sure. Kato, Ashi, Toyama would be my top three, but I've never owned a Genkai Masakuni, and I'm one of the few who don't really like the Shigefusa knives, believing that my aforementioned three are all better 'smiths for my tastes (fit and finish aside).

    Also, agree that many/most makers are multi-person operations now.

    Edit: I think TF should be on here too, though it is well documented that his knives vary between superlative performance and poor QC.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  17. Jan 13, 2020 #17

    Keith Sinclair

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    This is like which wine is best. No answer it's what you like.

    Same with knives some here have more experience with many Japanese smiths. In my limited experience like Kochi and Watanabe. Nothing wrong with grind on my TF.

    As Osakajoe mentioned many knives are finished by several people.
     
  18. Jan 13, 2020 #18

    Chuckles

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    My real wish would be for a comprehensive guide to who the forger and sharpener are for the different brands by region. I have favorite Japanese knives but no idea who made them.
     
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  19. Jan 13, 2020 #19

    Luftmensch

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    Like them or hate them... Isn't it the same for Shigefusa? All in the family.... From bar stock to finished knives?
     
  20. Jan 13, 2020 #20

    ashy2classy

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    So Wakui and Toyama? ;o)
     
  21. Jan 13, 2020 #21

    danemonji

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    The answer is...whoever you like it to be.
    It is a very subjective question and to be honest one which I have asked myself many times. But the real answer to this question you will not find by asking this question here. There is too much ego and sometimes money at stake, for getting an honest answer. It's like asking who was the best athlete of all time :) and expect to get an honest answer when all nations are trying to promote their own.
    What historians typically do is check facts. Read articles, read reviews and there are plenty of them even here on this forum and other forums. Just search for yourself and you will see testimonals by people who actually used the knives. Japanese have magazines about knife makers and google translate can be useful to read through them. Make a short list of smiths and then try the knives for yourself. You can catch and release and make your own opinion. Bst will help you do this with a minimum investment on your part. I did all this and I know my own shortlist but will not make any nominations as I don' want to start the usual rants and hateful replies.
     
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  22. Jan 13, 2020 #22

    refcast

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    Depends on the audience's definition of 'greatest'. As a catch-all for other things, okay. . . but in terms of pure blacksmith work, only the a person who sharpens heat treated blanks would be somewhat positioned to answer that. . . those kind of first-hand people. Like greatest in heat treat? Greatest in forging to shape? 'Greatest' -- that only means stuff to the people deciding it. But heat treat is a conglomerate of properties. Plus, there's all sorts of qualifications to the criteria, 'blacksmith -- does forging, heat treat, and sharpening? Or only forging and heat treat? The quest is controversial because it's a bit misleading or ambivalent in 'greatest', 'blacksmith', and 'knife'. A knife does need great sharpener to actually function as a knife. . . and the knife has to be forged such that sharpening is made as viable as possible. If this was worded something of the sort, 'japanese knife craftsmen that produce outstanding product', it would be more productive, and importantly, less misleading to people who latch on to the term 'greatest' . . . though it does have it's use when used with more precision.
     
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  23. Jan 13, 2020 #23

    Codered

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    Why don't we ask the japanese this question? I mean they should know their best smiths. The top in japan might be very different from we westerners know.
     
  24. Jan 13, 2020 #24

    XooMG

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    I believe the greatest knifesmith was kidnapped by the Chinese and is now making Dalstrong knives.
     
  25. Jan 13, 2020 #25

    Barmoley

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    I don't think ego and honesty has anything to do with it. It's not like we all know and just don't tell people because we don't want to loose money on our investment. It is a silly question that can't be answered. For one, like @osakajoe and other people familiar with the industry keep telling us, we don't really know who exactly does what, it is a group effort. For another, the knife is not just a forging, we never see the forging and can't judge the quality of the forging. We see a knife, even so who is to say which knife is the best. It is not even that different knives are best for different people, it is that different knives are best for the same person over time since tastes and skills change as well as the jobs that the knife is used for change.
     
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  26. Jan 13, 2020 #26

    lemeneid

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    Probably Tanaka Sr. for me. Great forger of all steels, carbon and stainless.
    Close second would be Hinoura Sr. too.

    TF, Kato, Toyama, etc are all great too but only within a narrow spectrum.
     
  27. Jan 13, 2020 #27

    Henry

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    I think those who have criticized my thread are correct. I agree. My goal was to gain a little insight into vast pool of experience in this community. I am not looking for a definitive answer but to learn about great Japanese blacksmiths of our time and perhaps why. I am sure there are many new to this forum who could benefit from the experience and even the disagreements of its members. It is like debates about who was the greatest basketball player of our time. Yes it is somewhat subjective and depends on a lot of things but the same 8-10 names seems to pop up. There are far less Japanese blacksmiths then are NBA players so I was hoping to find out who the shortlisted blacksmiths are. Also it is a lot of fun engaging is this kind of discourse, at least for me. Already in the first hours of this post I have learned a lot.

    How about limiting comments to uplifting your blacksmith and not dragging blacksmiths names through the mud to prove your point. I will try to add that your the criteria if I can still make edits. Also most blacksmiths do not perform the entire process of the creation of the blade so perhaps I will add the high end of their knives that they have the most creative control over. The knives they would want to stand for their life's work For example for TF, it would be his Denkas.

    By the way, danemonji, I would love to see your short list. Mine would be in not any particular order, TF, Shigafusa, and Hinoura and lately I am starting to think perhaps Takeda (yes I know there is a lot of haters for Takeda san but his AS are amazing blades especially for food separation).
     
  28. Jan 13, 2020 #28

    Henry

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    I can also add my experience with 5 Denkas to be phenomenal.
     
  29. Jan 13, 2020 #29

    zizirex

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    Blacksmith and final products of the knife are a bit shady since not all blacksmith did the grinding. TF also not (always?) who forge the knife, but his apprentice is good. Same as Saji, Anryu, Shiraki, Hinoura etc. Shigefusa for example, the Blacksmith is not the best (Compare to Hinoura or Kato) but how they finish the knife (that time-consuming grind using Sen and the natural stone finish) what makes it stands out.
     
  30. Jan 13, 2020 #30

    Panamapeet

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    Just my opinion: single bevels: genkai masakuni (although he only forges and does not sharpen afaik), double bevels: kato.
     
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