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Oct 8, 2012 08:34 PM

Please help me identify a Japanese knife?

The knife is old - perhaps 30~40 years - 10.5-inch blade - flat on one side and beveled on the other - appears to be carbon steel - blond wood handle and sheaf - light tan horn kakumaki (collar). Characters appear on the beveled side.

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  1. I have a co worker who is Japanese an I'll ask her to translate.

    Got a pic of the whole thing?


    1. That kanji is beyond my abilities, I can't even make out 2 of the characters :P When my fiancee gets home from work I will ask her.

      1. I can read a little bit, but I don't recognize the brand. That being said, I only know maybe 10-20 Japanese brands.

        The knife looks to be a yanagiba (willow blade) knife based on the photo and based on your description.

        1. 本焼 友米瓦
          is probably the kanji

          the first part 本焼 reads hon-yaki and indicates the manufacturing process, basically water hardened

          the second part is more difficult and I don't have an answer for it yet as I have to go to work now :P

          7 Replies
          1. re: TeRReT

            Usually, a knife is engraved by the name of the maker, but I am not so sure about this in this case. Like you said, the first two words are 本焼, which is Hon Yanki (True Forge) -- describing the highest steel processing in Japanese knife making. Thanks for translating this, TeRReT.

            A typical Honyaki knife is at least $300 if I remember correctly, and can cost more than $1000 dollars.

            The last three words are: 友 ?? I cannot be sure of the last two words. They could be what you said, or they could be 友次白. Is this the name of the artist? I have no idea.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Yeah the last character is the most difficult to read. The middle one could be either the one I saw or the one you put, but as far as how to read my fiancée is not sure. Kanji is difficult and there are many ways to read it and its not something she is familiar with. Will keep researching though.

              1. re: TeRReT

                <The middle one could be either the one I saw or the one you put>

                And could be tons others too. :) I do agree that the last one is most difficult to read off. Especially, the dude started to draw something (like grass) underneath the last character. :D

                Wait... could the entirety of the last "character" be a drawing (and not just part of it). My gosh, the whole thing could be a flower plant with some grass. So that would simply be

                本焼 友 ? and an engraved "flower plant surrounded by grass" drawing.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Could that be an icon as a signature?

                  1. re: usadsi

                    Very well could be a symbol. A lot of Japanese knife makers have symbols which they routinely use for their knives, but it probably it not a true icon because it is a bit too simple. I view it as a decorative symbol, but not a family crest. Or it could be one of those "merged" character between a drawing and a real Japanese kaji character, like this:


                    Since you said this knife was given to you for 30-40 years ago, there is a very good chance that the maker has long retired, and it may be more difficult to trace back to the maker.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Very interesting. Thank you for this.

            2. Thank you for assisting in identifying this knife. It cam as a gift from a dear friend.

              18 Replies
              1. re: usadsi

                Beautiful blade.

                My co worker says the characters on the bottom look more like classical Chinese and are hard to make anything of them. Her best guess is friend, long, stone.


                1. re: knifesavers

                  Yeah the 友 means friend individually, but combined it could mean something different and can either be pronounced tomo or yuu

                  Interesting that the last 2 characters have been read 3 different ways from 3 different people. Maybe of you could try another picture of the last 2 characters it might help. I will bug my fiancée tomorrow but she loses patience with my chow hounding :p

                  1. re: TeRReT

                    The guy may be a good knife maker, but he needed to writing class. :P

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      What's more annoying is that if it is friend and stone, friend has 2 pronunciations and stone has 4, so still difficult to figure out what it's saying, this is why learning kanji is killing me :P

                      1. re: TeRReT

                        This is a better picture of the markings.

                        1. re: usadsi

                          That's a much better picture but I am not skilled enough to get it, i will ask my fiancée again tomorrow, or my teacher since I have Japanese classes in the morning :P

                        2. re: TeRReT

                          I am pretty sure that the last two or three character is the dude's name. Considered that he did a great job of engraving the "Honyaki", I am surprised that he cannot write his own name. :P (joking).

                    2. re: knifesavers

                      Hey, good point. It does look like "Stone" as well

                      So it could be 友? 石.


                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Well my fiancée concurs that it could be 友次 but thinks its 友次百 with makes for an odd name because the last character means 100. It would also mean it reads tomotsugimomo or tomotsugihyaku. And I slept through Japanese class :p

                        I guess the tsugi could be ji as well or shi or tsugu

                        1. re: TeRReT

                          Apparently there is a knive brand Tomotsugu which could be the case here and the 100 might reference something else like model number。though I don't think it is the Tomotsugu I have found, the kanji is different, but at least it is an actual family name, so could still be that just a different family.

                            1. re: TeRReT

                              Very interesting - we're getting close. Anyway it is a good knife.

                              1. re: usadsi

                                I am at a bit of a roadblock with it, but I will keep trying, though I see Tanuki is on now so maybe he will be able to offer more help, I am sure his kanji is better than mine :P

                                1. re: usadsi

                                  It should be a good knife. Have you used it much in the 30-40 years?

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    The knife is a recent gift from the widow of it original user. My passion is cooking and she knew I would appreciate the knife. I have not used it yet, wanting to make sure I know what it is and adopt proper respect for the knife.

                                    1. re: usadsi

                                      Oh I see. Based on the fact that it is a Honyaki knife, it should be a high quality knife. I am 100% sure it is a carbon steel knife. Most likely a white steel Shirogami knife, but there is a small chance that it is a blue steel Aogami knife. It would never be anything lower than White or Blue, just because it is a Honyaki knife.

                                      Because it is a single bevel knife, the sharpening technique is different. It is a whole new topic. For now, just make sure that you don't put this knife into an electric knife sharpener. It will ruin the knife. Finally, this is a knife called Yanagiba, which specializes slicing fish filet for sushi.


                                      Have fun.

                                      1. re: usadsi

                                        If it needs sharpening it takes expertise and time. Single bevel Japanese knives are expensive to have sharpened properly.

                                        The 2 best are Dave Martell at


                                        and Jon Broida at Japanese knife imports. Jon is currently in Japan and will be back Oct 20th


                                        Jon or Dave could best tell you what it is made of and the care it will need.

                                        Simple answer is if you treat it as it were carbon steel and it isn't, nothing will be harmed. Carbon steels will rust in a blink if not dried quickly.