The cult of the handcrafted Japanese kitchen knife continues to grow in the U.S., and with it has come an increasing number of specialist importers and a much wider selection of makers. One of the better-known venders is Japanese Knife Imports of Venice, California. Their “Zakuri” line, in particular, caught my eye about a year ago. Zakuri is actually a collaboration of bladesmiths located in Tosa, Japan, who are better known for the forestry tools they forge for the local industry. However, they are also said to be especially interested in preserving traditional knifemaking techniques. A few touches of the keyboard and I had a 150mm blue steel No. 1 wa (traditional straight wood grip) handled petty and a truly massive 270mm Aogami Super blue steel Gyuto on the way to my door.

The Petty

Though they may seem a little large by Western standards, petty’s are the Japanese version of a paring knife. Not having perfected their special knife skills for using the pattern, I use mine as general purpose blades for trimming and slicing meat, fileting small fish, cutting peppers open and similar tasks. The Zakuri blue steel No. 1 model is a very lightweight knife, slightly over 2 ounces, but it does a great job for its intended purpose. Blue steel No. 1 is one of the basic alloys used by Japanese cutlery makers with a relatively high carbon content of 1.24 to 1.35, a little chromium, and a small amount of tungsten but not much else. While it isn’t considered the ultimate cutlery alloy among Japanese makers, its high carbon content and normally 60+ working Rockwell places it light years ahead of the average European food prep blade. The thin blade proved very easy to resharpen on a series of waterstones, but like all simple carbon knives, it will stain and rust if not cared for. The retail price on this model runs around $125.

The Gyuto

When you first take the Zakuri 270mm gyuto out of its box your first thought is going to be, “Wow, this thing is huge!” Not only is the blade 11.88 inches long when you count the tang, but also the wa handle is a full 6 inches long. The handle is also of larger than normal diameter, so it may not fit a small hand very well. Despite my doubts about the knife’s size, I quickly found the long handle actually balances the blade perfectly. It proved to be one of those blades that I would often continue to use when I might have picked up a smaller knife for a particular task. Despite its size, the wa handle construction keeps the weight down to a manageable 8.5 ounces. The current retail price runs around $240.

For more information, visit japaneseknifeimports.com or call 310-399-0300.

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