About the Shape - This is also a multi purpose knife, but with a slight vegetable bias. Santoku means 'Three Virtues' or 'To solve Three Problems'. The virtues or problems are slicing, dicing and mincing. Santoku is usually found in 160mm - 190mm lengths. These are more and more popular in Western kitchens due to the unique shape and smaller easy to handle size.
About Yoshida Hamono: Yoshida Hamono are located in Saga prefecture, a very rural area on the island of Kyushu. Like many blacksmiths in rural areas, they specialized in making farming tools like sickles and hoes. The first generation of the Yoshida family was, like many, a swordsmith. After WWII, they decided to open a small workshop to produce smithed goods. In 1971, they expanded their production to fairly large scale production to meet large demand all over Japan. During this time they invested in a lot of modern machinery to allow for mass-production. This is one of the reasons why they have the ability to make their own clad-steel, rather than buying it pre-laminated. In 2017, they started making kitchen knives with ZDP189 core steel. Because Saga is not a major production centre for knives, they have built a facility that can handle the knife making process from start to finish.
These days their signature is making knives with ZDP189 core steel, which they weld to stainless steel in house. They also sub-zero heat treat their knives to purify the steel! Once the steel is quenched, it’s treated with liquid nitrogen to remove excess retained austenite which hasn’t been converted to martensite. This prevents the knife from bending with time by “stabilizing” its structure.
When the ZDP-189 became first available, Osamu Yoshida from Yoshida Hamono quickly purchased the steel and tried it out. He was amazed by how sharp the steel could get, so he started making kitchen knives using this super steel. This led to him developing a cult following when he was selling them at the Yasuki Knife Festival. He likes to use ZDP-189 because it allows the knife to have an incredibly sharp and long lived edge, and despite bring a hard steel to deal with, he feels a great sense of accomplishment when he forges with it compared to other steels.