Moving Beyond Butterscotch

Today I tried to get a man to tell me which of his fellow craftsmen he hated the most.

Today was the Tokyo Folding Knife Show which meant I met up with my Canadian friend and we perused the suddenly expensive fare.

Last year’s show suffered from blandness. Every knife was either a lockback or a slipjoint with the occasional odd locking mechanism from knife maker “Captain” Koyama who makes beautiful and expensive knives with locks named “the pitch lock” and the “Lock-and-Roll”. It reminded me of what Anthony Sculimbrene of Everyday Commentary calls “The Butterscotch Club” based on the habit of some older knife makers to set out bowls of candy at their tables. (Which also happens in Japan.)

This year, though, there was a bigger variety of knives, including flippers and button locks and side locks. The problem was 1) although they are fun to play with, I’m not a huge fan of flippers as they tend to scare the hell out of non-knife people; and 2) most of the flippers were disturbingly expensive. The cheapest of the cool knives was a flipper from Kazuyuki Sakurai that was only 65,000 yen (US $546).

Kazuyuki Sakurai's flipper. A steal at only 65,000 yen.

Kazuyuki Sakurai’s flipper. A steal at only 65,000 yen.

I was also a big fan of a Koji Hara/Marfione collaboration (that I got video of but neglected to take a picture of). It was only $2,350.

The most expensive knife, though, and I’m shocked the man let me touch it was the Raptor, a two blade slip joint from Toshiyuki Miyame. It had ATS-34 steel blades, carbon fiber scales. anodized titanium bolsters, silver pins and stainless steel liners. All for only 1,400,000 yen ($11,765).

Only $11,765. I tried to order two, but he said it's one of a kind.

Only $11,765. I tried to order two, but he said it’s one of a kind.

Part of what made it so expensive was the incredible file work he’d done on the back spacer:

Beautiful, but is it really worth $11,765?

Beautiful, but is it really worth $11,765?

We also chatted a bit with To-un Ihara, who’s pretty much become our friend.

To-un Ihara's lockback knives.

To-un Ihara’s lockback knives.

Although I had a good time, I didn’t buy anything. We didn’t even stay for the free drawing, partly because that would involve spending a couple hours hanging out near all those knives and, slowly but surely, justifying the prices whilst reaching for our wallets.

I would have even been tempted to buy an ivory handled slipjoint just to hear the sounds of heads exploding when I mentioned to some of my friends that I had one.

An ivory handled knife for only $420 and a short trip to hell.

An ivory handled knife from Miyamae for only $420 and a short trip to hell.

As always, everyone was friendly. In fact my friend Wes pointed out that all the knife makers seemed to be friends, even when, as in the case of Captain Koyama and Kazuyuki Sakurai, they were making knives in similar styles.

We pointed that out to Kazuyuki Sakurai and he agreed. That’s when I asked him which of his fellow knife makers he hated the most. As he is a gentleman (something I’m still working on) he wouldn’t tell me. He also didn’t betray anything with his eyes by quickly glancing in a knowing direction.

Oh well, maybe next time.


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