Masutani Hamono Spotlight
Masutani Hamono is run by Kunio Masutani, brother of the owner of Ryusen Hamono, in Takefu, Echizen. With 30 years of experience making knives, Masutani-san, a fourth generation smith, has taken the direction of a higher volume production of affordable, high performance knives for the home user. I wouldn't call Masutani Hamono a factory, but its definitely a good sized operation, though most of the staff are all family. 

Having worked with carbon steels in the past Masutani-san has focused the business to making mainly stainless steel knives. You'll find options in both V1-Gold and VG-10 at the moment. With the recent discontinuation of the hand forged line of knives with the departure of the smith they worked with, they are focusing on pre-laminated blanks they stamp into shape and take from there and finish by hand, which is not an uncommon method of production on more affordable knives. With that being said it is also important to note that even on most higher end hand forged knives, either a stamp, or sheering machine (kind of like a giant paper cutter from middle school, but for steel) is used to clean up the forged out blank to save time from removing that material with a sharpening wheel. This has absolutely no effect on the finished product but saves them time and you money as a byproduct. 

Being that Masutani-san focuses the business on the home user that often doesn't have a need, space, or money for a large set of knives they only make a few shapes, which also helps streamline the production, further bringing the cost down.

We got a chance to tour Masutani Hamono on our most recent trip to Japan in April of 2023, and were promptly greeted by a very friendly Masutani-san. Not a young man by any means, but you had to hustle to keep up with him! He showed us around the shop, which started at his sharpening station. 4 large vertical sharpening wheels from coarsest to finest up against the wall, with his grandson working away on the coarse wheel setting up the ground work for his grandfather, Masutani-san to adjust on the final wheel before getting sent off to be handled, and later the final edge sharpened. Having no sons to take over the family business, his daughters help run the shop with him and his son-in-law helps around the shop when he has time. His grandson has been working alongside Masutani-san and is no slouch when it comes to sharpening himself and is lined up to take over the business when Masutani-san retires in the next 5-10 years to have some well deserved time to relax. This was my first time meeting Masutani-san and it was very quickly apparent the passion and excitement that he still feels towards towards his craft, and that he is still learning and perfecting things to this day, so even after retirement its hard to believe that he won't be involved with the company for a long time to come. 

After our time at the sharpening station Masutani-san took us to see some new equipment he was very excited about, including his new stamping machine and heat treating machine. The stamping machine was a massive floor to ceiling behemoth of steel, making quick work of large batches, and the heat treating machine looked like something used to keep a Batman supervillain alive. A massive white metal box with a chasm in the middle used to heat salt until it liquifies that the knives are plunged into it. This gives a quick, consistent transfer of heat to the knives, super accurate temperature control and allows larger batches to come out without sacrificing consistency. Well this isn't necessarily a new technique for Masutani Hamono, he was using the communal machines at the Takefu Knife Village until just recently.

Masutani Hamonos knives are in our opinion completely unmatched value. At such affordable prices not much can compete wth the performance of these no frill knives. And while they're often a first knife before someone goes deeper into the rabbit hole, there is also a huge amount of our customers that this was a means to and end and were happy to retire the German knife block for a smaller, focused kit of two or three pieces that do everything they could ever need for an affordable price.

We do find that Masutani''s knives can get a bit of a bad rap sometimes because of how thin they really are. This is why these knives perform so well, and its the same reason a $500+ laser performs at a super high level. While they may not have the same edge retention as some of these higher end options they are also incredibly easy to sharpen.

That being said, a very different user tends to purchase higher end lasers who are experienced in Japanese cutlery and more confident in their technique as to reap the benefits of these thin grinds without the consequences of being too heavy handed or careless with them. Where as we find Masutani's are often gifts or first Japanese knives they are more likely to be put in a heavy hand that is used to a heavy, dull 15 year old German knife that you could pry a safe open with. We still strongly recommend these knives to beginners and home cooks alike, and we still think they can't be beat for price, but we do suggest starting slow and taking your time while you and the knife get to know eachother!