There Is A Robust Market Of Japanese Pocketknife Makers. These Blades Stand Out As Some Of The Best.
Japanese knifemakers are among some of the best on the planet. With traditions dating back to the days of the samurai, makers in Japan have long known what it takes to make high-quality blades.
As the tastes of blade lovers have changed throughout the years, so too have the pieces made in Japan. Today, with pocketknives being one of the dominant styles, makers are creating EDC knives that wow.
What Sets Japanese Pocketknives Apart From Western Blades?
There is a traditional style of Japanese pocketknife that many modern models are still based on. The higonokami was first developed in the city of Miki in Hyogo prefecture in 1896. These knives operate as friction folders with no lock that open by the friction of the swivel or by using the thumb lever, known as the chikiri.
The blades of the knives set themselves apart from many Western-style knives due to their flat grind without a secondary bevel.
The name higonokami was trademarked by a guild in Miki so now only one maker, Nagao KameKoma, can officially use the name when marketing their knives. But many makers throughout the country still make knives in the style but simply call them “higo” knives or “made in the higonokami style.”
Best Five Japanese Pocketknives
As you’ll see, not all Japanese pocketknives are higonokami. But many high-quality blades are as they blend traditional design with modern construction.
KATSU Damascus Steel Higonokami Japanese Razor Knife
First up is this knife from Katsu. A contemporary take on the higonokami, the Razor Knife is a beautiful piece that shows why the higonokami style endures and the skill of the makers at Katsu.
The three-inch damascus reverse tanto blade is married to a damascus bolster and snakewood handle. The chikiri is damascus as well. Fully closed, the knife is 7.5 inches long and weighs just under four ounces. It’s a lovely piece to look at and use.
Moki Kronos Lockback
This folder from Moki looks like it wouldn’t be out of place in the catalog of many American companies and is an excellent representation of how the Japanese pocketknife market has evolved over the years.
The Kronos has a handle made of amber stag horn and a polished satin VG-10 blade. The drop point features a flat grind and is 2.75 inches in length. The knife opens with a nail nick and comes with an included leather-lined sheath. The Kronos has an august, regal look to it.
Moki has been making knives for over a century in Seki, the epicenter of Japanese knifemaking. The Kronos blends the old with the new in an elegant yet rugged construction.
Mcusta Tsuchi Large Pocket Knife
A stunning, modern knife, Mcusta’s large pocket knife is an eye-catcher. The hammered-patterned steel gives the handle a wonderful textured feel and the damascus stainless blade looks as good as it cuts.
Made with a VG-10 core, the drop point blade is laser cut so there are no mistakes in construction. Each Mcusta knife is assembled and finished by hand which means you’re getting what you pay for with this blade in the best possible way.
The pivot pin washer system allows the blade to move like a hot knife through butter, which this knife could cut through with ease even when ice cold. When it comes to factory Japanese pocketknives on the, please forgive the pun, cutting edge of style and tech, this piece from Mcusta is high on that list.
Albatross EDC Mini
Sometimes you want a small knife that packs a big punch. Look no further than the mini from Albatross. This 2-inch damascus blade is composed of 71 layers of steel around a VG10 core and hardened to a 58-60 HRC. The ergonomic ebony handle sits well in the hand and allows for easy, flowing movement with the blade.
Great for camping and the home, the Mini has a lanyard for easy carry and arrives in a lovely box, making it great to give as a gift. Yes, it’s a small blade, but when you’re camping you’ll probably be cutting mainly in tight quarters, making this knife the perfect choice for the job.
Oh, and it’s under $50, and you can never go wrong with a good knife at that price.
Nagao-Kanekoma MN-20B Original Higonokami
Our list concludes with an official higonokami from Nagao-Kanekoma. This small knife is incredibly strong. The Aogami damascus is hardened to a 60-61 HRC which gives the blade a rugged, durable edge that can handle far tougher use than you might expect from a knife weighing just under 2.5 ounces. The blade is connected to a sleek black-coated brass handle.
This feels like a time machine to some of the first Japanese pocketknives. You can see the craftsmanship in every inch of the knife and can feel the maker’s skill when you hold it. It’s smack in the middle of our list in terms of price so you won’t have to break the bank to have a piece of living history.
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